Trial Points to Franco Ecuador

A dashing performance by Franco Ecuador in a 2150m trial at Byford last Sunday week was a strong indication that the big, powerful colt is close to his peak and has excellent prospects of remaining unbeaten by winning the $40,000 Caduceus Club Classic at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Franco Ecuador, trained and driven by Kim Prentice, started from the back line in the 2150m trial in which he enjoyed a perfect passage, one-out and one-back, before bursting to the front 450m from home and careering away from his rivals to win by 20 metres from stablemate Soho Major Player at a 1.58.9 rate after sprinting over the final 400m in 27.7sec.

Franco Ecuador was purchased for $28,000 at the 2018 New Zealand premier yearling sale by Rob Watson, who hopes the colt will reign supreme at his first appearance at Gloucester Park and help relieve the disappointment of Franco Edward’s unplaced run in last year’s Caduceus Club Classic.

Franco Edward, a half-brother to Franco Ecuador (who was bought by Watson for $17,000 as a yearling), started from the outside of the front line in last year’s classic and was restrained to last before charging into the breeze position 1100m from home and then wilting to seventh behind the hot favourite and pacemaker Patrickthepiranha.

Franco Ecuador has a better barrier this year at No. 4 on the front line and Prentice will determine his tactics as the mobile barrier sends the field on its way. Franco Ecuador possesses good gate speed, but it is problematic whether he will be able to get to an early lead, with speedy beginner Al Guerrero favourably drawn at barrier two.

Franco Ecuador is the least experienced runner in this week’s race, having had only two starts, both at Pinjarra in December, when he led and won by more than ten lengths over 2185m and when he raced three wide and then in the breeze before winning by three lengths from four-year-old My Carbon Copy at a 1.54 rate over 1684m.

Kyle Harper gives Al Guerrero, trained at Serpentine by Kyle Anderson, a good chance, saying: “He’s got very good gate speed and is very good in front. It’s a classy field and obviously it is a step up in class for him.

“His best chance would out in front, and that’s what I’ll trying to do. If he leads, he‘s a really good winning chance. He’s one of the nicer horses I’ve driven out in front.”

Al Guerrero is in excellent form, winning at four of his past six starts. His only defeat at his past four outings was two starts ago, over 2130m at Gloucester Park when he led and was beaten by the fast-finishing Major Martini. “Al Guerrero was very unlucky, with Major Martini racing three back on the pegs and getting clear at the 300m when another runner bubbled and enabled Major Martini to get off the trail,” Harper said.

“He beat us for speed when he ran home in 55sec. Not many horses run 55sec. in front and get rolled. Kyle Anderson has done a terrific job to get Al Guerrero where he’s at, at this stage. All reports are that all cylinders are firing.”  

Major Martini’s prospects on Friday night diminished when he drew the outside (No. 9) on the front line. A winner at four of his ten starts for Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice, Major Martini has explosive speed when held up for a late charge. He will be driven by Prentice, with Gary Hall Jnr sticking with stablemate Gardys Legacy, who will start from barrier five.

Gardys Legacy won five races in a row before finishing sixth as a $1.70 favourite behind Valentines Brook last Friday night when he went forward from barrier eight, raced three wide for the first 550m and then in the breeze before fading to sixth.

“He looked a bit disappointing last week, but I don’t reckon he was,” said Hall. “He was absolutely barbecued for the first 150m.”

Hall has won the Caduceus Club Classic six times and certainly has reasonable prospects of notching his seventh victory. He has been successful with Latte (2003), Ulrich (2004), Alberts Fantasy (2006), Gracias Para Nada (2012), Northview Punter (2013) and Beaudiene Boaz (2015).

Chris Lewis, who has won the classic behind Almagest (1990), Flashing Star (1993), Classy Claude (1996), Saab (1998), Johnny Disco (2016) and Golden State (2018), will handle the brilliant Double Expresso, who will start from the inside of the back line for trainer Ross Olivieri. She is the only filly in the event and should obtain ideal passage.

Olivieri, who prepared Saab for his win in 1998, said: “It was a hard decision to decide whether to race the boys or keep Double Expresso racing against the girls. But I thought she deserved a chance. If she gets out, she’ll make her presence felt. On her times, she should go good. Her work since her latest run (working in the breeze before winning the Dainty’s Daughter Classic at a 1.56 rate over 2130m last Friday week) has been the best she’s ever worked.”

Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed, who has won the classic with Rich And Spoilt (2000) and Golden State (2018), will be represented by Valentines Brook (a brilliant all-the-way last-start winner), Caveman (a winner at four of his five starts) and Yourshoutrocky, a former Victorian performer and winner at four of his ten starts.