Trainer Wez Hunter has confirmed that the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) will be the major goal for rejuvenated galloper Smokin’ Joey during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
Heading into the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival Smokin’ Joey had not recorded a race win since he took out the Group 3 Victoria Handicap (1400m) at Caulfield on April 7 2010 but returned to his best form when joining the small stable of Hunter.
Smokin’ Joey failed to beat home a single runner in his final race start for Mick Price in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on October 5 but completed a rapid turn-around in form with an impressive win over Galah and Strike The Stars in the Group 3 Tab.Com.Au Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day.
The Encosta De Lago gelding was stepped up in class to contest the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day and stormed home late to finish second behind Boban despite being caught wide throughout the race.
Smokin’ Joey was taken to Perth for a crack at the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) and started the race as a clear favourite but was caught towards the tail of the field and tired badly to finish a distant last behind Luckygray.
Hunter is confident that Smokin’ Joey can replicate the form that he showed in the Tab.Com.Au Stakes and Emirates Stakes during the 2014 Autumn Racing Carnival and has set him for a path that will include a crack at Group 1 level in both Melbourne and Sydney; with the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on February 11 and the $3 Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick both on the agenda.
The rising trainer told AAP that he will be giving whoever rides Smokin’ Joey during the autumn strict instructions so that there is no repeat of what happened when he was caught between runners in the Railway Stakes.
“He’ll go first up in the Oakleigh,” Hunter said.
“It will be too short for him but it will be a good clean out for him first-up.
“To get him to run his best you have to ride him pretty poorly and give him plenty of room
“He’s such a big striding bugger, he needs plenty of room.”
“It doesn’t look pretty but it’s effective.
“It’s hard to get a jockey to do that because it makes them look bad but it’s the best way to ride him.”
Smokin’ Joey will be returning to Sydney for just the third time in his racing career after finishing second in the Group 3 Sebring Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens and eighth in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick earlier this year.