Howard Hughes is a WA Derby Hope

Inexperienced New Zealand-bred colt Howard Hughes is poised to notch his third victory in the space of 14 days by proving the master of his eight rivals in the Mondo Doro Smallgoods Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

A victory for the Greg and Skye Bond-trained three-year-old would enhance his prospects in the $200,000 WA Derby on April 3.

He arrived in Western Australia on January 3 after his two starts in New Zealand produced an easy win over 2000m at Addington on October 18 and a head second over 1980m on November 12 on the same track.

On his debut Howard Hughes, driven by Blair Orange, started out wide at barrier eight on a heavy rain-affected track. After settling in fourth position five lengths from the early leader, he dashed forward to take the lead 1150m from home before winning by just under two lengths from four-year-old The Guild at a 2.2.4 rate.

Then, at his next start, he was not bustled early from out wide at barrier seven by reinsman Anthony Butt and after settling in fifth place he moved to the breeze after 450m outside the pacemaker Tiebreaker before getting to the front 500m from home and fighting on grimly when a head second to Ascalabus, who rated 1.56.6 over 1980m.

He led from barrier two, and though at a disadvantage when the hopple shortener cord wrapped around the hopple, he was untroubled to win by more than four lengths from Lord Rosco at a 1.58.6 rate over 2185m at Pinjarra last Monday week.

Then, at Pinjarra on Monday, he began speedily from the No. 6 barrier, but was unable to wrest the early lead from the polemarker Tyron Terranova. He then obtained a perfect trail in the one-out, one-back position before finishing powerfully to win by 5m from Tyron Terranova, with a final quarter in 27.3sec.

Howard Hughes in the 11th and last foal out of the Falcon Seelster mare Heavenly Franco and is closely related to the Holmes Hanover gelding Franco Hat Trick, who won the 1998 Chariots of Fire at Harold Park before a successful career in America and retiring with stakes of $659,210. Howard Hughes is also related to Franco Heir, the winner of the New South Wales Derby in May 2001.

On Friday night Howard Hughes, to be handled by leading reinsman Ryan Warwick, will start from barrier five. Among his rivals are Tiffany Rose, trainer Justin Prentice’s talented gelding Manning, Coolup trainer Kristy Elson’s smart quartet of Jasperbellabeach, Secret Operation, My Agera and Telk Tayte and Pinjarra trainer-reinsman Shane Young’s promising gelding Longreach Bay, who resumed after a spell in style with a strong-finishing and easy victory over 2242m at Narrogin on Sunday.

Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed is looking forward to Tiffany Rose, the only filly in the race, tackling the seven colts and geldings. She will start from the outside in the field of nine and certainly has the ability to beat her male rivals.

“Unfortunately, there are no races for fillies and we want to get her ready for the New South Wales Oaks,” said Reed. “So, we decided to test her against the colts and geldings this week.

“After this race Tiffany Rose will contest the $50,000 Daintys Daughter Classic on February 7 before travelling by air to Sydney for the $200,000 NSW Oaks on February 29. Then she will return to Perth, have a freshen up and then get ready for the $150,000 WA Oaks on May 1.”

Star Sydney reinsman Luke McCarthy will handle Tiffany Rose in the NSW Oaks, with Reed explaining: “He trains there, he knows the track and he knows the opposition.”

Michael Grantham has driven Tiffany Rose in her six starts in WA for five wins and a last-start third behind Double Expresso and Suing You over 21230m at Gloucester Park last Friday week when she charged home from last at the bell and finished a half-length from the winner.

“It’s a good field on Friday night,” Reed said. “I believe she’s up to it. She is very good and can beat the boys. I clocked her at 54.6sec. for the last half and she was still coming on the line.”