Trainer Wez Hunter is delighted with the condition of Smokin’ Joey ahead of his return to racing in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on February 22.
Smokin’ Joey performed strongly during the 2013 Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, winning the Group 3 Tab.Com.Au Stakes (1400m) and finishing second in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m), and according to Hunter has returned from a stint in the spelling paddock in excellent condition.
Hunter told Sky Racing HQ that Smokin’ Joey spent just over three weeks away from the stable and said that he was happy to be able to start from scratch with the son of Encosta De Lago after acquiring him from Mick Price during his spring campaign.
“He came home pretty much straight after Perth, I think he was home by the Tuesday, and he went straight the paddock,” Hunter said.
“He had just over three weeks off and he did very well.
“He is a really big horse and he gets pretty fat pretty quick.
“It has been great to have him from scratch and we have been able to poke along with him.
“He has done a heck of a lot of work on the beach and has galloped on the course proper at Mornington on the grass there.
“He has come to hand really well and, if you look at him, he is a real standout.
“I am a bit excited to be honest.”
Smokin’ Joey showed that he was capable of mixing it with some of the best milers in Australia during his spring preparation and Hunter believes that his star galloper has the talent to be set for the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick on April 12.
“That is the aim at this stage; whether we get to that is another story,” Hunter said.
“I think that his form warrants having a crack at a race like that and if he comes back like he was in the spring I expect him to be really competitive.”
Hunter revealed at the end of last year that Smokin’ Joey would have his first-up start in the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) and the Mornington-based trainer confirmed that the six-year-old is still on track to contest the Group 1 sprint.
“It is usually a high-speed race and we are hoping that he can do a bit of a Woorim and sit back last and come home,” Hunter said.
“It is just a starting point for him and he will be better over a little further.”