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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Major Freeway finished ninth behind Mr Fantastic in the Higgins Memorial last week, but champion reinsman Chris Lewis is bullish about the six-year-old’s winning prospects in the Group 2 $50,000 Direct Trade Supply San Simeon Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

“His run last week wasn’t all that bad, he has drawn a lot better here, and if we can take advantage of the inside draw he will go pretty good,” Lewis said. “Major Freeway did a bit of work early before dropping right back and then making up good ground.”

Major Freeway, trained in Busselton by Barry Howlett, was a $26 chance from the No. 6 barrier last Friday night when he was trapped three wide for the first 1100m before he was restrained back to the rear. He was still last in the field of 12 300m from home before he finished with a solid burst.

Howlett and Lewis are hopeful that history repeats itself this week and that Major Freeway carries the No. 1 saddlecloth to victory. The No. 1 horse has been successful after leading all the way in the San Simeon Pace in the past three years —with Lewis scoring with One Off Delight in 2019, Ryan Warwick driving $1.06 favourite Patronus Star to victory in 2020 and Aiden de Campo winning with $1.50 favourite Alta Engen last year.

Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, who prepared Patronus Star for his San Simeon win two years ago, hold a strong hand in this week’s event. They will be represented by Vulcan Star (barrier two), Socrates (three), Himself (six) and Markham Eyre (12).

Warwick has given punters a strong lead by choosing to drive the lightly-raced New Zealand-bred four-year-old Himself, who is unbeaten in Australia, with convincing victories in standing-start events at Bunbury, Northam and Gloucester Park. Colin Brown will drive Vulcan Star, Deni Roberts will be in the sulky behind Socrates, and Mitch Miller will drive Markham Eyre.

Himself revealed excellent fighting qualities last Friday night when he galloped at the start and then worked hard in the breeze before beating the pacemaker Cooper. Socrates was hampered for room when a close-up fourth behind Mr Fantastic last Friday night, and Markham Eyre caught the eye when he charged home from the rear to finish second in that race. Vulcan Star has won at nine of his 27 starts and is favourably drawn at barrier two.

Gary Hall Jnr said that a wide draw at barrier eight would make life tough for Mr Fantastic. “However, you can’t write him off, not the way he is going,” he said. “I don’t think that he has peaked yet; he’s still on the way up.”

Four-year-old The Good Life has finished fourth and sixth behind Mr Fantastic at his past two outings, following a hat-trick of easy victories, and De Campo is looking forward for a strong showing on Friday night.

“The Good Life will start from the inside of the back line, and this is a good draw for him,” said De Campo. “I was happy with him last week when he got caught wide early and then got back in the field. He was last at the bell and I pulled him wide late, and he got to the line good. Drawn the rails this week is a big help for us.”

Baskerville trainer Ryan Bell is predicting a prominent performance from his four-year-old Sound Wave, who will start from barrier four and will be handled by Kyle Symington.

“Sound Wave is racing really well, and I think I was a bit easy on him, leading into last week’s race (when he trailed the pacemaker Pocket The Cash and finished third to that pacer),” he said. “So, we’ve upped his work. His form has surprised me. There’s nothing of him, and he seems to thrive on the week-to-week racing. And he still gets drilled at home.”