Can Lewis make it No. 9?
Champion reinsman Chris Lewis has won the $50,000 James Brennan Memorial a record eight times and he has not given up hope of recording his ninth victory in the Group 2 2536m feature event at Gloucester Park on Friday night despite Our Corelli drawing the outside barrier (No. 9) on the front line.
Our Corelli, trained by Lewis’s wife Debra, is in superb form and has been most impressive in recording effortless all-the-way victories over 2130m on the past two Friday nights when he started from the prized No. 1 barrier.
Lewis admitted that the lightly-raced five-year-old faced a stern test from the wide barrier but said that the gelding could not be written off as a winning prospect.
“He keeps on improving and has stepped up in the past couple of starts,” he said. “The saving grace this week is that the race is over 2536m and that gives us some chance.”
Our Corelli, who has won at seven of his ten starts for the Lewis stable, possesses sparkling gate speed, but Lewis is unlikely to use this ability in a bid to outpace the eight runners drawn on his inside.
“There’s nothing like leading,” Lewis said. “But he comes home strongly from behind, and we will be reliant on a good solid pace.”
Lewis was philosophical about Our Corelli drawing the outside barrier, saying: “We’ve had a fairly good run with draws in recent times until Deb has got three runners on Friday night and they have all drawn barrier nine in random draws.”
Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond have high hopes of turning the tables on Our Corelli after Vampiro gave a fighting performance to finish a 7m second to Our Corelli in last Friday night’s group 3 York Cup. Vampiro raced wide early and then worked hard in the breeze and battled on gamely, with the final 800m being covered in 54.9sec.
Vampiro will start from the outside (barrier two) on the back line and should settle down in a handy position in the one-wide line for star reinsman Ryan Warwick. Vampiro raced without cover before finishing determinedly to snatch a half-head victory over the pacemaker Our Corelli in the 2536m August Cup four weeks ago.
Vampiro, a winner of one raced from seven starts in New Zealand, has been a wonderful performer in Western Australia with 18 wins and 15 placings from 42 starts. He was hot favourite at 3/1 on when he started from barrier three and dashed to the front after 120m before setting a solid pace and sprinting over the final 800m in 55.9sec. when he won the 2130m Brennan Memorial from stablemate Our Jimmy Johnstone and Tricky Styx last November.
The Bond stable will again be represented by 11-year-old Our Jimmy Johnstone as well as seven-year-old El Jacko in this week’s feature event. The evergreen Our Jimmy Johnstone will start from the No. 1 barrier with Bailey McDonough in the sulky, with Dylan Egerton-Green handling the talented El Jacko from the inside of the back line.
Adding interest to this week’s race will be the return of the smart Ross Olivieri-trained seven-year-old Motu Premier, who will be making his first appearance since he had a tough run in the breeze before winning the 2536m Media Guild Cup 50 weeks ago, beating King of Swing and Vampiro in a desperately close three-way photo finish.
Lewis has driven Motu Premier for seven of his eight wins from 26 starts in WA. Chris Voak will handle the New Zealand-bred seven-year-old for the first time in a race. He handled the gelding in three recent 2150m trials at Byford for two wins and a third placing.
Motu Premier was driven by Lewis when he finished powerfully from sixth at the bell to be third behind Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca in the 2536m Brennan memorial two years ago.
“The 2536m is not ideal for Motu Premier first-up,” said Olivieri. “His trials have been good. He will probably need a run or two to reach his peak, but he should be thereabouts. We’re ready to go and his main mission will be the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup in January.”
Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall Snr will be represented by smart five-year-olds Speed Man (barrier four) and King of Swing (five). Stuart McDonald will handle King of Swing, who was driven by Gary Hall Jnr when he enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, and fought on well when third behind Our Corelli last Friday night. Hall jnr has opted to drive Speed Man, who started from barrier nine and raced at the rear when eighth behind Our Corelli last week.
In-form Andrew de Campo-trained six-year-old Handsandwheels is awkwardly drawn at barrier five and Aiden de Campo is likely to keep his options open regarding his tactics. Handsandwheels, a winner of three races in a row last month, is capable of fighting out the finish.
Ravenswood trainer Nathan Turvey is hoping for a strong performance from Simba Bromac, who is ideally drawn at barrier two. Lewis drove Simba Bromac to an all-the-way win from the No. 2 barrier over 2130m at his latest appearance, six weeks ago.