Low-key Greenbushes farmer Ray Jones is an easy-going casual character from the bush who shuns the limelight but occasionally dares to dream.
He was a contented man after his champion colt Lavra Joe had annihilated the opposition in the $50,000 Pearl Classic for three-year-old colts and geldings at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
With champion reinsman Chris Lewis describing Lavra Joe’s effortless all-the-way victory by just over two lengths from Otis as “a nice easy workout,” Jones said that the colt would have two more runs before going for a well-deserved spell.
Then Jones rubbed his head and said he was now giving some serious thought to setting Lavra Joe for the $200,000 Victoria Derby at Melton on October 9.
“Lavra Joe has done a lot of racing for a young horse and hasn’t shown any ill-effects, so it’s quite possible that I’ll take him to Victoria for the Derby,” he said. “We’re lucky this year to have an extended season, giving him the opportunity to race an extra six months as a three-year-old.”
The 66-year-old Jones owns and trains Lavra Joe, who has all the credentials to be a worthy contender for the Victoria Derby, a classic first run in 1914 and a race won by numerous superstars, including Tactile, Welcome Advice, Paleface Adios, Gundary Flyer, Bag Limit, Westburn Grant, Holmes D G, Courage Under Fire, Lombo Pocket Watch and Lazarus.
Jones, who purchased Lavra Joe as a yearling for $22,500, owns and trains the colt who now has raced 33 times for 20 wins, seven placings and stakes of $290,523, as well as several more thousand of dollars in Westbred bonuses.
Before his win in the Pearl, Lavra Joe had won four other feature events as a three-year-old, the Caduceus Club Classic, the Western Gateway Pace, the Battle of Bunbury and the Country Derby.
If Lavra Joe maintains his outstanding form and travels to Melbourne for the Victoria Derby, Jones will be aiming to create history by being the first West Australian trainer to prepare a WA pacer for victory in the Victoria Derby.
Former star trainer-reinsman Rod Chambers went within a whisker of this achievement when he drove Mon Poppy Day to finish as half-head second to Mark Purdon’s New Zealand star Sharp And Telford in the 1996 Victoria Derby.
Lavra Joe, from the No. 1 barrier on Friday night, was a hot $1.04 favourite and Lewis gave the handsome colt an easy time with a moderate lead time of 37.4sec., followed by opening quarters of the final mile in 31.2sdc. and 29.2sec.
Lavra Joe then was still coasting as he dashed over the final 400m sections in 28.2sec. and 27sec. to win at a 1.55.6 rate over 2130m. Otis ($21) trailed him throughout and finished second, a length ahead of the $12 second fancy Mighty Ronaldo, who raced in the one-out, two-back position before finishing solidly, despite a punctured sulky tyre over the final 250m.
Jones said that Lavra Joe would have one more start, probably in a fortnight, before contesting the $100,000 Westbred Classic for three-year-=old colts and geldings at Gloucester Park on June 18.
by Ken Casellas