Trainer Wez Hunter has conceded Group 1 winner Smokin’ Joey is the forgotten horse in Saturday’s 2015 Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) field but is confident that will play directly into the strengths of the talented gelding.
Smokin’ Joey returned to racing for a credible fourth in the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on January 24th; taking out the Group 3 Carlyon Cup (1600m) before running a close second to Suavito in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) on February 28th.
Having since finished fourth in the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) before failing to make anything of an impact in his defence of the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m), Hunter remains confident the Doomben conditions, particularly this late in the Brisbane Winter Carnival will suit the son of Encosta De Lago to the ground.
“I hope he’s the forgotten horse because that’s generally when he bobs up,” Hunter told Racing Victoria.
“Two of his three wins for me have been at $41 and generally these sort of races have a lot of hype surrounding them and he tends to be overlooked but that suits me.
“It was pretty hard to make ground that day in Adelaide and nothing really made ground where he was all day.
“But he’s back and he’s bouncing. Chris Symons galloped him last week and his work was really good and he flies to Queensland on Tuesday night.
“He’s going really well and I’ve got no doubt he’s right to go.
“Everyone I speak to tells me that the Doomben 1350m won’t suit him but that track has had a fair bit of traffic on it now and you’d think that if they’re ever going to be getting off the fence and running down the outside then it’s going to be in the Stradbroke with a big field.”
Undoubtedly finding career-best form to date over the 2013 spring and 2014 autumn, Smokin’ Joey ended a standout spring campaign an agonizingly-close second in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m); taking a maiden Group 1 victory in The Goodwood most notably in autumn.
Smokin’ Joey is currently available at 2015 Stradbroke Handicap odds of $31 for success with leading online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au.
The 2015 Stradbroke Handicap final field and barrier draw is due to be completed and released by midday, Wednesday.