Handsome colt Lavra Joe will start from the outside barrier in a field of seven, but he has the ability to overcome this disadvantage and win the $18,000 Off The Track Pace for two-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
He gave a sample of his class when he worked hard in the breeze before winning from the fast-finishing Beat The Bank at a 1.57.4 rate over 1730m on Tuesday of last week.
If Lavra Joe lives up to expectations, his owner-trainer Ray Jones will set him for the $50,000 group 2 Champagne Classic on April 24 and will look further forward to four rich group 1 features, the Diamond Classic on May 29, the Pearl on June 12, the Westbred Classic on June 26 and Golden Slipper on July 10.
“He’s a beautiful colt and I’m very lucky to have him,” said Jones, a 65-year-old Greenbushes cattle farmer who has just resumed his interest in harness racing after a three-year break from the sport.
“I went to Kevin Charles’s place to look at another yearling early last year, but I didn’t like him. This one (a colt by American stallion Roll With Joe and out of the New Zealand-bred mare Lavra Florence) was running around in a paddock, looking a million dollars. So, I thought, maybe, I’ll buy that one.
“But I didn’t go to the yearling sale where this colt was passed in at $25,000. However, as an afterthought, I bought him for $22,500. I’d been away from the sport for three years. I went through a stage being disillusioned with it all, so I just gave it away. I woke up one morning, feeling sick of working horses.”
Before his last-start impressive victory, Lavra Joe (who is part-owned by Jones’s partner Sayjai Sakaew) the colt had performed soundly with two thirds and a fourth from three starts. “Then he had a trial at Bunbury in which he rated 1.56.2 and I was very confident about his chances at Gloucester Park,” Jones said.
Lavra Joe, a $3.40 chance from barrier three in a field of four, began speedily, but was unable to cross the polemarker, the Justin Prentice-trained Adda Something. Shane Young then was content to race in the breeze and Lavra Joe dashed to the front on the home turn and won by just under a length from another Prentice-trained gelding Beat The Bank, who was last at the bell and finished strongly.
It was 20 years ago when Jones was in the spotlight as the trainer of outstanding youngster Disco Force, who was unbeaten at his eight starts as a two-year-old, including easy victories in the Pearl, Golden Slipper and Sires Stakes Classic.
Disco Force went on to have 99 starts for 27 wins, 20 placings and $268,416 in prizemoney. But he never reached the heights he attained as a two-year-old.
“I have no thoughts of gelding Lavra Joe,” said Jones. “We gelded Disco Force as a three-year-old and he never came back as good. That was disappointing; it’s a matter of once you take that spirit away…”
Interestingly, Kevin Charles and his wife Annette bred and own two of Lavra Joe’s rivals on Friday night in Lets Rock Tonight and Justanextragrand. They also bred the David Thompson-trained polemarker Rich American, who has been placed at three of his four starts and will have admirers.
Beat The Bank looks a progressive type and is sure to be improved by his strong effort when second to Lavra Joe at his second start in a race. He will begin from barrier six with Dylan Egerton-Green in the sulky. His stablemate Adda Something (Gary Hall Jnr) also should have derived considerable benefit from his debut performance when he set the pace and finished third, a length behind Lavra Joe.