Trainer Wez Hunter has revealed that Smokin’ Joey is likely to make his return to racing in the Group 1 2014 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 22.
The Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) on the same day looked as though it was going to be the first-up target for Smokin’ Joey, with Hunter hopeful that the six-year-old could sit at the tail of the field before finishing in the same vain as Woorim in the 2012 edition of the race, but the Mornington-based trainer told TVN that he is worried about the a possible on-pace bias on the Caulfield track.
“I was going to go to the Oakleigh track, but the way it is racing makes it is going to be hard to make ground,” Hunter said.
“I reckon on the same day, the Futurity Stakes over 1400 metres will suit him better.
He’s fit, he only had three weeks off after Perth, so he has that residual fitness.”
Smokin’ Joey made a slow start to his 2013 Spring Racing Carnival campaign, finishing at the tail of the field in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on October 5, but improved significantly when transferred from the stable of Mick Price to that of Hunter.
The son of Encosta De Lago broke through for his first race win for almost eighteen months in the Group 3 Tab.Com.Au Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day and was narrowly denied a maiden win at Group 1 level when he finished second behind Boban in the Emirates Stakes (1600m) a week later.
After his strong Emirates Stakes performance, Smokin’ Joey went into the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot on November 23 as a clear favourite, but became unsettled when caught between runners and finished at the tail of the field.
Hunter is confident that Smokin’ Joey can bounce back from his disappointing Railway Stakes performance and believes that the inconsistent gelding is taking career best form into the 2014 Autumn Racing Carnival.
“Jason (Benbow) said he’s going better than during the spring and I think he’s going better than ever,” Hunter said.
Smokin’ Joey is also a chance of contesting the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on March 8, the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 29 and the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick on April 19 during his autumn campaign.