Evergreen nine-year-old As Happy As Larry is fighting fit and in peak form for the testing challenge of overcoming the back mark of 50 metres and winning the $50,000 Easter Cup over 2902m at Gloucester Park on Friday afternoon, according to Henley Brook trainer-reinsman Robbie Williams.
“It’s very hard to win off 50m, but he’s definitely up for it,” said Williams. “He is a true stayer and the 2902m suits him; that’s his ideal trip.”
The New Zealand-bred As Happy As Larry has a losing sequence of 17, stretching back to April of last year when he was the sole backmarker off 50m in the Easter Cup. He was a $10.40 chance and he quickly made up ground to enjoy an ideal passage in sixth position, one-out and two-back, before being switched four wide at the 250m and bursting to the front on the home turn on his way to an emphatic one length victory over frontmarker Where Ya Bin.
Twelve months before that, As Happy As Larry was an $8 chance off the 30m mark when he met with early interference, was tenth in the middle stages and seventh (three wide) at the bell before finishing powerfully to be second, beaten a nose by Mighty Conqueror (off 20m) in the 2019 Easter Cup.
Williams is confident that As Happy As Larry has a great chance to become only the fourth pacer to win the Easter Cup twice since the event was first run in 1912. Quartz won the Cup in 1925 and 1926, Big Smoke was successful in 1933 and 1935 and Magic Flute won in 1957 and 1958.
“As Happy As Larry was very unlucky not to have won the Cup two years ago, and it would be nice to win the race again this year,” said Williams. “Starting off 50m is not ideal, but he is ready to run a strong 2900m. I wish the race was over 3300m because the longer the distance, the better he is suited.
“He is in as good shape as he was this time last year, and his past two runs in this campaign have been exceptional. His Northam Cup run (when third behind Babyface Adda) was very good, probably one of his career-best runs, coming off the 50m handicap over 2560m and going down by not all that much.
“Then, his run in the 2536m Free-For-All last Friday night (when he ran on from eighth at the bell to finish fourth behind Mighty Conqueror) was exceptional, too. Glenledi Chief looks hard to beat in a race in which some of the runners are unknown quantities over 2900m.
“I’ll probably drive As Happy As Larry the same as I drove him last year’s Easter Cup. I’ll probably try to catch them as quick as we can, probably in the first 500 to 600m and then let him find his feet, balance him up and let him get into rhythm. Once he gets into rhythm, he’ll travel.
“In these longer races you can generally see most of the runners and how they’re travelling, especially leading into the 600m mark.”
Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond have a good record in the Easter Cup in recent years, winning with Assassinator in 2017 and Mighty Conqueror in 2019 before Where Ya Bin started from the No. 1 barrier in last year’s Cup and finished second to As Happy As Larry.
This year the Bonds will be pinning their hopes on four-year-old Glenledi Chief, the youngest runner in the race who will start from barrier No. 1 on the front line, and six-year-old Lawrence, who will begin off the 10m line.
Star reinsman Ryan Warwick has driven Glenledi Chief at his four starts in Western Australia, all in stands, for four wins one at Narrogin and three at Pinjarra and he has given punters a valuable lead by choosing to handle Lawrence, with Dylan Egerton-Green engaged to drive Glenledi Chief.
Lawrence warmed up for the Cup in fine style with a smart first-up victory in a 2130m mobile event last Friday night when he dashed to the lead after 220m and sprinted over the final 400m sections in 28.4sec. and 27.4sec.
Gary Hall Jnr, who has won the Easter Cup with The Falcon Strike in 2003, Patches in 2006 (when he dead-heated with OK Windermere), Uppy Son in 2012, Rebel Scooter in 2013 and Znana in 2016, will drive the Michael Grantham-trained Mista Shark off the 20m mark. Eight-year-old Mista Shark showed a welcome return to form two starts ago when he led and won a 2130m mobile event from One For Dave Andme.
Runaway Three, who finished eleventh in the 2019 Easter Cup, will start off the 40m mark for trainer-reinsman Corey Peterson. The seven-year-old will have admirers after a second to Texas Tiger and a third behind Mighty Conqueror at his past two starts.
By Ken Casellas