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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Shannon Suvaljko, the State’s leading reinsman this year with 65 winners, is bullish about Dardy Boy’s prospects in the $50,000 Team Bond Pearl Classic for three-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he aims to set the pace and test the brilliant Swingband.

Dardy Boy, prepared by astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed, was the slowest of the three winners of the qualifying heats on Tuesday of last week, recording a gross time of 2min. 38.2sec. over the 2130m, a time considerably slower than the 2min. 34sec. recorded by Swingband.

But with Dardy Boy drawn perfectly at the No. 1 barrier, and with Swingband at No. 2, Suvaljko is planning to lead in a bold bid for victory.

Reed and Suvaljko combined to win a qualifying heat with Hoppys Way in a time of 2min. 37.2sec., but when that colt drew out wide at barrier eight Suvaljko had no hesitation in choosing to drive Dardy Boy.

“Dardy Boy is Shannon’s pick,” said Reed. “He said that Dardy Boy won his qualifying heat easily when he led, and he (Shannon) didn’t pull the plugs. Shannon said that Dardy Boy should lead — and that the others have got to beat him.

“I like Hoppys Way, but from barrier eight he faces a hard task.” Suvaljko has driven Hoppys Way at his past ten starts for four wins and three seconds. The Art Major colt will be driven for the first time on Friday night by Suvaljko’s daughter Emily.

Swingband is the best performed runner in Friday night’s group 2 feature event, having had 14 starts for eight wins and three placings. He will again be driven by Michael Grantham for Baskerville trainer Ryan Bell.

In a qualifying heat Swingband was tardy in the score-up and settled down in fifth position before going forward to race in the breeze, with Soho Santorini setting the pace. Swingband gained the upper hand 400m from home and led by a length at the 200m mark before he held on grimly to beat the strong-finishing Loucid Dreams by a nose, rating a smart 1.56.3.

Bell was satisfied with Swingband’s performance, saying: “Recent hard runs will do him good. His speed and strength are good assets. He only does what he has to. In trackwork he is a shocker; he always lets the other horses go past him. He is still a big baby.”

Soho Santorini, who was having his first start for 43 days, wilted to finish a well-beaten third behind Swingband in the heat. He will start from the No. 3 barrier in Friday night’s final in which he will be driven by Mitch Miller.

Trainer Kim Prentice is happy with Soho Santorini’s progress, saying: “He will definitely improve on his heat run. He has trained on real good, but from barrier three I don’t know where he will end up out of the gate.

“Swingband hasn’t been getting out fast from the gate, so hopefully we can cross him. Dardy Boy will lead, and if we can get across and get a pozzie, hopefully that will put him in the race.”

Paul Edward, who finished a half-length second to Dardy Boy in a heat, is favourably drawn on the inside of the back line and should obtain a perfect passage behind Dardy Boy on Friday night.

Dylan Egerton-Green trains and drives Paul Edward. He drove Loucid Dreams when that gelding finished a short half-head behind Swingband in a heat. Banjup trainer Colin Brown will be in the sulky behind Loucid Dreams on Friday night when the gelding will be tested from his awkward draw at barrier seven.