Four wins and five seconds from his eleven starts as a three-year-old is an accurate indication of the ability of Sweet Lou colt Otis, who looms as a major contender in the $100,000 Westbred Classic for colts and geldings at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
His winning prospects increased with the untimely injury to the outstanding colt Lavra Joe, who has been scratched after owner-trainer Ray Jones discovered a swelling in his near foreleg.
Otis, trained at Byford by David Thompson, will be handled by his regular driver Dylan Egerton-Green, who was most unlucky in last year’s Westbred Classic for three-year-olds when he drove $34 chance Manifestly Excessiv, who started from the No. 9 barrier, raced in the breeze in the first lap and then gained the one-out, one-back trail, but was badly blocked for a clear run and finished a very close fourth behind Longreach Bay, Poisedtopounce and Gardys Legacy.
Otis, who is favourably drawn at barrier three on the front line, trailed the pacemaker Lavra Joe when a fighting second to that star pacer in the Group 2 Pearl Classic at his most recent outing four weeks ago. He then warmed up for this week’s event when he led in the middle stages and finished an excellent second to Shockwave in a 2150m trial at Byford on Sunday morning.
Egerton-Green tasted success in the Westbred Classic event in 2019 when he drove the Colin Brown-trained and $1.95 favourite Patrickthepiranha to victory over Gee Jay Kay. This week Brown will be hoping for another victory in the rich classic when he drives his promising gelding Arma Einstein from out wide at barrier No. 7.
Arma Einstein bounced back to his best form with a fast-finishing victory over Per Ardua Ad Astra last Friday night.
Finvarra, prepared by Gary Hall Snr, is sure to have a big following and prove very hard to beat despite his inexperience of just five starts and an awkward draw at barrier six. He has resumed after a spell in grand form with impressive wins over 2185m at Pinjarra and over 1730m at Gloucester Park when he rated a smart 1.53.7 after racing without cover.
Hall Snr has won the Westbred Classic as a trainer and driver with Berkley Road in 1991 and as a trainer with One Off Delight in 2018. Gary Hall Jnr, who will handle Finvarra, has been successful in this event with Paddy Hannan in 2004, Truckers Ruffnut in 2009 and with One Off Delight three years ago.
Last-start winner Talks Up A Storm will be driven by Kyle Harper from the outside of the back line. The gelding’s trainer Murray Lindau is hoping for a second success in this classic. He trained and drove Let Me Decide when he was successful in 1997.
Star trainers Greg and Skye Bond will be represented by Aussie Scooter (Ryan Warwick; barrier No. 5) and Give Us A Wave (Deni Roberts; barrier four), with Aussie Scooter, a good last-start winner at Pinjarra, appealing as the better prospect.
Henley Brook trainer Robbie Williams is delighted that his two runners have drawn the two inside barriers. He will handle Overjoyed, a winner of five races, from the No. 2 barrier, while Maddison Brown will drive the polemarker Seeryanfly, who raced in the breeze before winning at his latest appearance.
Brown has sound prospects of winning the race for the second year in a row. She was successful 12 months ago with Longreach Bay.
by Ken Casellas