Josh Osborn with Cobla Stuie at Newcastle Paceway last year. Picture Jonathan CarrollWESTON driver Josh Osborn hopes to steal a break on Lauren Panella in the Newcastle premiership race tonight after edging ahead with a double on Thursday.
Osborn, who won the drivers’ title in 2010 after three junior crowns, will drive two of his own pacers, Broken Spoke and The Prestige, tonight on the 10-race card. The final three races are non-TAB.
The grandson of late harness racing legend Dick Osborn starts the meeting with a two-win advantage over Panella, who is serving 18-day and eight-week suspensions which started after the Interdominion grand final on March 2.
Osborn hopes to build on his Newcastle premiership lead tonight and over the next few weeks before Panella, the No.1 driver for leading trainer Shane Tritton, returns.
Amazingly, Panella still leads the metropolitan drivers’ title with 27 winners, eight clear of her nearest rival, despite not competing for six weeks.
She is fourth on the state standings with 85.
‘‘I think that puts me two in front of Lauren and she’s got a month left, so hopefully I can get a few up on her before she gets back,’’ he said.
‘‘She will no doubt get plenty of winners when she gets back so I’ve got to try and get a head start.’’
Osborn was level with Panella at Newcastle before Thursday when Set In Stone, trained by Osborn’s second cousin Cameron Davies, won a heat of the Menangle Country Series (1609m) as the $2.30 favourite, earning a place in the April 27 decider. It beat home Martin Howell’s long shot, Holly’s Fantasy.
The Rex Spencer-trained Always Smart ($7.70) won race two (2030m).
Osborn was second in the other country series heat with Clayton Harmey’s Black Belt.
Mickey McRooney won the heat with Michael Formosa in the sulky. Formosa also won with Ultimate Art at the meeting.
‘‘Set In Stone’s going good and he’s always shown plenty of ability,’’ Osborn said.
‘‘With Always Smart, I’m dating [Spencer’s daughter] Laura at the moment, so it was good to get a winner for them.’’
The victories moved Osborn to 55 wins for the season across the state and 31 at Newcastle.
Broken Spoke, which is in race three (2030m), is a last-start winner at Newcastle and appears Osborn’s best hope tonight. The Prestige races in the fourth.