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Ken Casellas | Photo: Gloucester Park Harness Racing

Brilliant four-year-old Lavra Joe has recovered fully from a damaged nearside front suspensory ligament, and he made a wonderful return to racing after a 55-week absence when Chris Lewis drove him to an effortless victory in the 2130m Beau Rivage Xmas In July Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

During his recovery period Lavra Joe was gelded, and owner-trainer Ray Jones declared that the gelding is now better than he was in his pomp as a two and three-year-old.

“On his work at home, galloping, compared with what he was doing as a three-year-old, he is a better horse and does his work more easily now,” said Jones. “He still has plenty of spirit and holds his condition really well.”

Remarkably, Lavra Joe was kept in work by Jones throughout his recuperation. “He has been in work for 12 months,” said Jones. “I never turned him out, because he doesn’t like going in the paddock. He will go into the paddock for two to three hours, but then he wants to get back into his stall.

“I was jogging him for nine months before starting his galloping work in preparation for his comeback to racing. He has had the hopple on only twice (in two recent trials). Jogging didn’t affect his injury or interfere with his recovery. His legs are now as clean as a whistle.

“I was a bit nervous before tonight’s race, because it was such a long time out. He has had a lot of work at home, and I was hoping that I had got it right. And I’m relieved that he got a nice soft race.

“He will probably race again next Friday night, and I’m going to take each race as it comes, heading towards the Golden Nugget.”

Lavra Joe was great value as the $1.70 favourite from the prized No. 1 barrier. Lewis gave him an easy time in front before he dashed home with final quarters of 28.5sec. and 27sec. and won by 4m from Typhoon Banner ($2.40) who trailed the leader throughout. He rated 1.55.9 and his record now stands at 35 starts for 21 wins, eight placings and $308,188 in prizemoney.

Delighted to watch Lavra Joe in action for the first time for about two years was part-owner Sayjai Sakaew, who was stranded in Thailand due to COVID protocols until she was able to return to Western Australia two months ago.