There isn’t a lot prominent harness racing owner Robert Watson hasn’t achieved in the sport, but this weekend he, and two of his star pacers, have quite a mountain to climb this weekend.
On Friday night, Watson’s up-and-coming two-year-old Franco Edward will look to secure his first Group 1 win in the Pearl Classic Final (2130m) at Gloucester Park.
On Saturday night, Soho Tribeca begins his campaign aimed towards the Len Smith Mile and Blacks A Fake Championship in the Italian Cup (2240m) at Melton.
After the races are run and won, Watson boards a flight to South Africa for a fortnight where he will climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
“I like challenging myself,” Watson said of his reasoning behind climbing the 5,895m mountain.
“It’s an eight day trek up the mountain, and it’s minus 20 at the top of the mountain.
“I’ll then explore Tanzania for another four days.”
Watson’s trip to South Africa means he will miss Soho Tribeca’s run in the Len Smith Mile on July 1, while he has the chance to be crowned the Grand Circuit Champion if he wins the Blacks A Fake Championship on July 21.
The WA Pacing Cup champion will be seen on the track for the first time since March 24 on Saturday night, where he starts from the outside of the second row in the $20,000 Italian Cup.
Watson said he expected Soho Tribeca, now under the care of Mick Stanley, to win on Saturday night, and also expected him to be very competitive in Queensland.
“He’s back, he’s really good,” he said.
“He won’t be at his top, but we do expect him to win.
“We want him to peak in Queensland.”
Although the three start campaign in Queensland is at the front of Watson’s mind for Soho Tribeca, plans for a trip to the New Zealand Cup in November are well and truly underway.
Soho Tribeca took part in a standing start trial earlier this week, as he looks to qualify for the New Zealand Cup, with Watson looking to win a Group 1 in New Zealand with the pacer to boost his stallion credentials.
On the other side of the Nullarbor, Watson’s hopes of winning the Pearl Classic on Friday night at Gloucester Park received a significant boost when Franco Edward drew barrier one for the two-year-old feature.
Franco Edward was, arguably, the most impressive of the three heat winners for the Pearl Classic last Tuesday night.
Franco Edward has been installed as a $1.50 TABtouch favourite for the $100,000 event, ahead of the two other heat winners from last Tuesday night Bletchley Park ($3.20) and Shockwave ($10).
Watson said while he did think Franco Edward would feature prominently in the finish, he was full of praise for this year’s group of two-year-olds.
“It’s the best crop of two-year-olds I’ve seen race at Gloucester Park,” he said.
“I’ve been in the Pearl before, and generally there’s only one smart horse in there.
“This year there’s Its Rock And Roll, Smart Fortune, Shockwave, The Embezzler, Bitcoin, Bletchley Park and Franco Edward.
“Those seven on the front line are all extremely good.”
Watson said he hoped trainer-reinsman Kyle Harper would be able to hold up with Franco Edward from gate one.
“Leading is half of the battle at Gloucester Park,” he said.
“Hopefully we will hold up from the one.
“He has got a lot of diversity though, he can race tough or on the speed.”
Watson also has star two-year-old filly Soho Nolita, a sister to Soho Tribeca engaged in heats of the Vicbred series next week.
The Pearl Classic Final gets underway at 7.20pm on Friday night.