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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Brilliant young driver Emily Suvaljko is in isolation after a positive coronavirus test, forcing her to forego several drives at Gloucester Park on Friday night, giving champion reinsman Chris Lewis a wonderful opportunity to win the $50,000 Cowden Ltd Empress Stakes for a record ninth time.

Suvaljko is the No. 1 driver for trainer Nathan Turvey, she is Savvy Bromac’s regular driver, and she has driven the talented mare for six wins.

Turvey has engaged Lewis to handle Savvy Bromac, who is handily drawn at barrier No. 3 on the front line in the group two Empress Stakes over 2536m. Lewis has driven Savvy Bromac three times, for an all-the-way win over 2130m at Gloucester Park in October 2020, for a strong finishing third behind Sheez Our Hope at Gloucester Park in February and for an unlucky fourth behind Diego in the 2692m Pinjarra Cup three starts ago.

Lewis has won the Empress Stakes with Candy Nacray (1988), Armbro Lucy (1992), Meggie Dear (2001), Classical Mover (2002), Shes Royalty (2007), Ima Spicey Lombo (2011) and Sensational Gabby (2014 and 2015).

Savvy Bromac has started off the back line at her past three outings and has not had much luck, having raced four back on the pegs and being held up for a clear run when fourth in the Pinjarra Cup, racing three back on the pegs before finishing strongly to be a very close third behind Purest Silk and Miss Mucho in the Golden Girls Mile (1684m) at Pinjarra, and then settling last in the 2569m Bunbury Cup last Sunday before racing five back on the pegs at the rear and then being badly hampered for room when an unlucky sixth behind Mighty Ronaldo.

Savvy Bromac possesses good gate speed, and Lewis will keep his options open before determining his tactics after the mobile barrier releases the twelve mares on their way on Friday night.

Two of Savvy Bromac’s most serious rivals, Bettor Get It On (Gary Hall jnr) and Miss Mucho (Ryan Warwick) have drawn inside her at barriers one and two, respectively.

Both are in good form, with the Justin Prentice-trained Bettor Get It On settling at the rear before sustaining a spirited three-wide burst from the 1000m to the 400m mark before finishing a sound third behind Eighteen Carat and Booraa over 2130m last Friday night.

Prentice is seeking his fourth win as a trainer in the Empress Stakes — after scoring with Major Reality in 2016, The Parade in 2017 and Pick My Pocket in 2020. Hall has won the Empress Stakes with Aussie Made Lombo in 2013 and The Parade.

Hall gives Bettor Get It On an excellent each-way chance, saying: “She can grow a leg in front, and if we can happen to hold the lead, she will be hard to beat.”

Miss Mucho, to be handled by star reinsman Ryan Warwick for leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, is racing with admirable enthusiasm and looks set to fight out the finish. She raced wide early and then without cover when a neck second to Purest Silk in the Golden Girls Mile at Pinjarra.

That followed wins over 2130m at Gloucester Park at her two previous outings — when she finished powerfully to beat Livy Jay, and when she raced wide early before setting the pace and beating Vivere Damore by four lengths. Warwick and the Bonds combined to win the 2021 Empress Stakes with Wainui Creek. Warwick also drove Asian Paradise to victory in this event in 2005.

The prospects of Golden Girls Mile winner Purest Silk faded when she drew the outside barrier (No. 9) on the front line. She will be driven by Colin Brown, who won the 2004 Empress Stakes with the brilliant Sand Pebbles.

Shane Tognolini’s veteran mare Angel In White is in sound form, but reinsman Shannon Suvaljko is concerned at her ability to be dangerous over 2536m.