Franco Edward Set to Sizzle in the Pearl
Rival reinsmen Kyle Harper (Franco Edward) and Shannon Suvaljko (Bletchley Park) are excited at the sheer brilliance of their colts who look set to make the sparks fly in the $100,000 Princi Smallgoods Pearl Classic at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The New Zealand-bred Franco Edward earned favouritism after drawing the prized No. 1 barrier in the 2130m Group 1 classic for two-year-old colts and geldings but Bletchley Park has drawn favourably at barrier three on the front line and will have a legion of admirers, particularly after he rated a sizzling 1.53.6 when he gave a dazzling frontrunning display to beat Euphoric Moment by four lengths over 1730m at Gloucester Park last Friday night.
The Victorian-bred Bletchley Park was not extended in speeding over the quarters of the final mile in 28.5sec., 28.9sec., 28.2sec. and 28.5sec. and his rate smashed the 1730m track record for two-year-olds, the 1:55.0 rate set by El Barcelona in May 2016.
Franco Edward and Bletchley Park are by American stallion American Ideal and will be meeting in a race for the first time, with Harper upbeat about his colt’s prospects in the Pearl, declaring after driving him to a superb victory in a qualifying heat on Tuesday of last week that “I think that he’s a bit special.”
Franco Edward, who had set the pace and won easily at a 1.54.2 rate (with final quarters of 28sec. and 27.2sec.) over 1684m at Pinjarra at his previous start, was surprisingly beaten out from barrier one in the qualifying heat but there was a particular reason for that: The colt was racing with a splash sheet on for the first time and he became scared when the sheet touched him on the rump in the mobile score-up.
“So, I had to nurse him out of the gate and this allowed him to be crossed,” said Harper. “And then when we got to the first corner I had to ease him when the sheet touched him again. He ran out with a little bit of fright and then when we got to the breeze he over raced a bit. To his credit, all these things went wrong and he still won and did a fantastic job.”
Franco Edward’s gross time in the 2130m heat was 2min. 35.1sec. which was considerably faster than the time recorded by Bletchley Park (2min. 38sec.) and quicker than the other heat winner, Shockwave (2min. 35.3sec.).
However, Suvaljko was full of praise for Bletchley Park’s heat win and then with the colt’s superb performance over 1730m last Friday night when he was unextended and scored with ridiculous ease.
“Bletchley Park is probably the best two-year-old I’ve driven, better than Jumbo Operator,” said Suvaljko. “I didn’t pull the plugs and he had plenty left and was still going strong on the line. He’s a versatile horse who is suited by rolling along in front, but he can also come from behind as he showed when he came from second-last to win his heat.”
The WA-bred Jumbo Operator was unbeaten at two starts as a two-year-old in August 2008 before having ten starts as a three-year-old for seven wins, two seconds and a most unlucky fifth in the WA Derby. He was retired with earnings of $313,175 from 24 wins, eight seconds and one third from 43 starts.
Bletchley Park is trained by Mike Reed, who has won the Pearl twice with Rich And Spoilt in 1999 and Willowleaf Boy in 2003.
Shockwave, a Mach Three colt trained and driven by Ryan Bell, notched his third win from seven starts when he began from out wide at barrier eight and raced in seventh position before starting a three-wide burst approaching the bell in his qualifying heat. He dashed over the final 400m in 28sec. and beat the talented Its Rock And Roll by almost a length. Shockwave has the ability to overcome his wide draw (No. 7) in the final.
Its Rock And Roll, trained and driven by Colin Brown, has impressed with his three wins and three seconds from six starts. He is speedy and tough, but has fared poorly in the random draw and will need all the breaks to overcome the disadvantage of the outside barrier (No. 9) on the front line. Brown drove the David Thompson-trained Isaiah Artois to victory in the 2014 Pearl.
Bitcoin, to be driven by Ryan Warwick for trainers Greg and Skye Bond, is racing keenly, with two wins and two seconds from five starts and, from barrier four, will have friends.
Three starts ago, Bitcoin finished powerfully to win from the Barry Howlett-trained colt Smart Fortune over 1609m at Bunbury. Smart Fortune, a winner at Alexandra Park in December, faces a stern test from barrier eight, but cannot be underestimated with Chris Lewis in the sulky.
Lewis has won the Pearl four times with Lombo Laredo (1994), Mitemptation (1995), Argent Treasure (2007) and Jack Mac (2017).