Day At The Track

Howlett seeks another Derby runner

03:59 AM 30 Mar 2017 NZDT
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El Barcelona
Trainer Barry Howlett is hopeful that one of his trio can beat the favourite El Barcelona
Ian Munro Photo

Three years ago, Busselton trainer Barry Howlett achieved his greatest success in harness racing when 17/1 tote chance Three Blind Mice led all the way and won the WA Derby. Now he is hoping to have a runner in this year’s $200,00 Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday of next week.

He has three promising but lightly raced New Zealand-bred geldings engaged in the WA Derby prelude at Gloucester Park on Friday night and is hopeful that one of them can cause an upset and beat the favourite El Barcelona, another comparatively inexperienced but talented New Zealand-bred pacer in the stables of Gary Hall sen.

Howlett, who races Punters Dream, Im The Best and Heza Head Honcho in partnership with his wife Lyn and son Jim, admits that El Barcelona will be hard to beat from the prized No. 1 barrier. But he is sure his three runners will be strongly competitive.

Punters Dream makes good appeal as the pick of the Howlett trio. He is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line and will be driven by Chris Lewis. Im The Best is awkwardly drawn at barrier six and will be handled by Colin Brown, while Morgan Woodley will drive Heza Head Honcho from the No. 2 barrier on the back line.

Punters Dream, placed at one of his four starts in New Zealand, has shown good promise at his three starts in WA, with two wins at Pinjarra and a last-start third behind Hoiho at Bunbury. “He’s still on the way up and is very inexperienced,” Howlett said. “But he’s pretty tough.

“Heza Head Honcho went well when he won at Bunbury last Saturday night, but he’s still on the rise.

“Im The Best has a lot of speed and if he had drawn in a bit he could’ve crossed to the front. He’s a nice horse, but is a light-framed little thing who needs a bit more time to strengthen up.”

Im The Best is a full-brother to smart mare Quite A Delight, who finished a half-head second to stablemate Major Reality in the 2015 WA Oaks and has earned $112,189 from nine wins and eight placings from 26 starts.

El Barcelona, who has won at four of his 11 starts, will be a short-priced favourite on Friday night, despite finishing ninth behind Mitch Maguire in the Western Gateway Pace last Friday night.

Reinsman Clint Hall advised punters to disregard that performance, saying: “He lost a bit of ground at the 600m last Friday night and when we went to make up the lost ground a horse galloped in front of us, causing us to check and go wide. Despite that, he was beaten by just a little more than ten metres.

“This week he gets a chance to lead and win. He’s working really well.”

Last-start winners Messi and Davinci Diamond face stern tests after drawing out wide, while the improving Andrew de Campo-trained Handsandwheels should enjoy an ideal passage behind the likely pacemaker El Barcelona after drawing the inside of the back line.

Ken Casellas

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