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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Champion reinsman Chris Lewis is bubbling with enthusiasm and is confident that Lavra Joe will make a successful return to racing after a 55-week absence when he starts from the No. 1 barrier in the 2130m Beau Rivage Xmas In July Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

“I’m looking forward very much to driving him on Friday night,” said Lewis. “He has felt good in his two recent trials at Bunbury. There is a lot of upside in the early stages of his comeback.

“It’s always hard to come back and into a harder class. He’s got a bit of a break, not having to go in the fast-class race. And he’s got another break, drawing barrier one. It’s all to his advantage, and I expect a good showing.

“In the trials he still showed the same aggression out of the gate. He wanted to get out as quickly as he could and was happy to run home as quick as he wanted to. He is a gelding now, but he has still got that fire.”

Lavra Joe, owned and trained at Greenbushes by Ray Jones, is now a four-year-old who will be making his first appearance since finishing second to To Fast To Serious at Gloucester Park on June 11 last year. At his previous start he won the three-year-old Pearl Classic from Otis and Mighty Ronaldo.

Lavra Joe, a winner at 20 of his 34 starts, has recovered from a damaged suspensory ligament, will clash with trainer-reinsman Dylan Egerton-Green’s crack five-year-old Typhoon Banner, who has won in dashing style at four of his past five starts and looks a threat to Lavra Joe when he starts from barrier No. 2 on Friday night.

Typhoon Banner possesses excellent gate speed, but Lewis is confident that Lavra Joe will be able to hold any early challenges for the lead, saying: “I wouldn’t have any hesitation in saying he will hold him (at the start). I don’t think there are too many quicker horses out of the gate than Lavra Joe.”

Lavra Joe began from the outside barrier in a field of seven in a 2100m trial at Bunbury’s Donaldson Park on June 14 when he burst straight to the front and was not extended in setting the pace and winning from his stablemate Been Scootin, rating 2.0.6, with final quarters of 28.9sec. and 29.7sec.

Then, a week later Lavra Joe led from barrier three in a four-horse trial and won by five lengths from Always An Angel, rating 2.0.3, with final quarters of 28.5sec. and 28.1sec.

Ragazzo Mach, the only other four-year-old in Friday night’s race, will start from barrier five and should be improved after leading and finishing second to Blitzembye last Friday night. That run followed his third behind Typhoon Banner the previous week when he trailed the pacemaker all the way.

“I’m looking forward to Ragazzo Mach running against Lavra Joe,” said trainer Mike Reed, who will also be represented by the in-form and well-performed five-year-old Caveman. “Ragazzo Mach has pulled up well after last week’s run and he is capable of running a good race. If the race is run upside down, he will be flooding home.

“Caveman is likely to race in the breeze, and Ragazzo Mach will be looking to slot in somewhere.”