Champion reinsman Chris Lewis is planning similar tactics that have been successful in the first three Pearl Classics for three-year-old colts and geldings by setting the pace with star colt Lavra Joe in the $50,000 Group 2 feature event at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Lavra Joe, owned and trained by Ray Jones, will start from the prized No. 1 barrier and Lewis is bubbling with confidence, saying: “He felt like a machine and did it with consummate ease when he led and won his qualifying heat on Tuesday of last week.
“He was on his game and felt better than he did when fourth in the Derby at his previous start.”
Lewis won the inaugural Pearl Classic for three-year-olds when he set the pace with the $1.04 favourite Jack Mac in 2018. The 2019 Pearl was won by the $2.35 favourite Theo Aviator, who started from the No. 4 barrier before Aldo Cortopassi dashed him to the front after 400m and went on to win by a length from Its Rock And Roll.
In last year’s Pearl Gardys Legacy was the $1.08 favourite from barrier one when Gary Hall Jnr drove him to an easy all-the-way victory over Valentines Brook.
Lavra Joe looks virtually unbeatable this year to improve the race record to four favourites leading and winning.
He rated 1.53.8 when he won his heat by just over five lengths from Machnificent and giving his rivals no hope of catching him by sprinting over the final 400m sections in 28.3sec. and 27.1sec.
Jones was ecstatic at the colt’s performance and said that Lewis had told him the colt could have gone a second faster. “It was my fault that he was beaten in the Derby (when he raced in the breeze and wilted to fourth behind Mighty Ronaldo). I just under did him for the Derby and was too nice.
“He came in after the Derby with a heart rate of 95. In the heat it was down to 75. I took it a bit too easy on him before the Derby, but he’s been to the workshop since then.”
Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice, who prepared Gardys Legacy for his win in last year’s Pearl, admits that his brilliant WA Derby winner Mighty Ronaldo faces an extremely difficult task of beating Lavra Joe.
“Drawing barrier three is reasonable but certainly not ideal,” he said. “I will leave the tactics to Junior (Hall jnr) and it will be hard to beat Lavra Joe from barrier one.”
Otis, trained by David Thompson and to be driven by Dylan Egerton-Green, should be prominent. He will start from the inside of the back line, immediately behind Lavra Joe, and should enjoy the run of the race. He impressed in a qualifying heat when he raced without cover and fought on grandly to win by a half-head from the fast-finishing Mighty Ronaldo.
Busselton trainer Barry Howlett, who prepared Jack Mac for his three-length victory over War Club on a rain-affected track in the 2018 inaugural Pearl, will be represented by Sugar Street (barrier two) and Lil Happy Fella (four).
Sugar Street will be driven by Chris Voak, who has handled him in recent placings behind Jumpingjackmac, Mighty Ronaldo and Lavra Joe. Lil Happy Fella (Aiden de Campo) faces an extremely tough task and will be at long odds.
Machnificent, trained by Katja Warwick, is a winner of three races and was an encouraging, but well beaten, second behind Lavra Joe in a heat. He worked strongly in a 2150m Byford trial on Sunday morning when he led and sprinted over the final 400m in 27.8sec. in beating Ideal Whitby by seven lengths. He will start from the outside of the back line.
by Ken Casellas