Arguably finding career-best form over a long and busy 2014 racing calendar, trainer Wez Hunter has been pleased with the form displayed by veteran Smokin’ Joey since his return to work and believes he is ready for a return in Saturday’s Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley.
The winner of six starts from a total 45 competitive appearances on course so far, Smokin’ Joey has not been seen at the races since finishing a credible fourth in each of the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) and Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) during the Perth Summer Racing Carnival.
Having reportedly taken well to his brief time in the paddock, Hunter is confident Smokin’ Joey’s experience means a pre-race barrier trial is not necessary, and that the 2015 Australia Stakes figures as an ideal first point of call.
“It was either this or hold off for the seven furlongs at Caulfield, but he’s pretty much ready to go so we figure it might be a good chance to have a crack at six furlongs with him,” Hunter told Racing Victoria.
“He had three weeks in the paddock after Perth and he’s freshened up really well.
“We haven’t given him a trial, just done a fair bit of work, and he’s ready to go.”
Following up an impressive 2013 Spring Carnival highlighted by a close second to champion miler Boban in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m), Smokin’ Joey was unable to make much of an impact over the early stages of the 2014 Autumn Carnival; finishing eighth in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) first-up before failing to beat a single runner home in the Listed Super Saturday Stakes (1400m).
Running third in the Macaulay Handicap (1400m) on April 5th, the Encosta De Lago gelding was luckless when blocked for a run and sixth in the Group 3 Victoria Handicap (1400m) on April 19th, but responded in the best way possible when breaking through for a maiden victory at the highest level in the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville.
Steadily building to the task over spring, Smokin’ Joey ran fifth in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) and seventh in each of the Group 3 Yellowglen Stakes (1400m) and Emirates Stakes leading into his west coast tenure.
A final field and barrier draw for the Australia Stakes is due to be completed and released on Wednesday morning.