Trainer Wez Hunter believes that Smokin’ Joey will be stepping back-up to his ideal trip in the 2014 Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
Smokin’ Joey broke through for his maiden win at Group 1 level in The Goodwood at Morphettville on May 10 over 1200 metres, but has recorded four of his six career wins over 1400 metres including his memorable win in the Group 3 Tab.com.au Stakes at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day last year.
Hunter told RSN this morning that Smokin’ Joey has shown plenty of versatility during his racing career, but is confident that the 1400 metres of the Stradbroke Handicap is the pet distance for the son of Encosta De Lago.
“I think that he is pretty adaptable,” Hunter said.
“We put the blinkers on him and went back to 1200 last time and it was a great run.
“I believe that seven furlongs is his ultimate trip because he just seems to be able to switch off and be the one finishing off.
“The ones that don’t run out seven furlongs are getting tired and he is running over the top of them.
“They will go pretty hard I am tipping and I hope they do because he has drawn a little awkward there.
“We just want to be back and wide with a barnstorming run.”
Smokin’ Joey has not been seen at the races since his win in The Goodwood almost a month ago, but had a tune up for the Stradbroke Handicap in a barrier trial over 800 metres at Cranbourne on May 26; with Hunter confident that the six-year-old will be at peak fitness for the Group 1 event this weekend.
“We backed off him after The Goodwood,” Hunter said.
“He came home and we kept working him, but he spent a fair bit of time in the paddock and plenty of time down at the beach.
“He had a trial at Cranbourne last Monday over a half mile and that just kept him up to the mark.
“He is fit, healthy and ready to go.”
Smokin’ Joey is currently available at Stradbroke Handicap odds of $17, despite his last start Group 1 victory, and Hunter admits that the enigmatic gelding will need to be at his best to claim back-to-back victories.
Hunter expects luck in running to play a key role in deciding the winner of the Stradbroke Handicap, but believes that Spirit Of Boom, Srikandi and Rebel Dane are the horses to beat in the $1.36 million race this weekend.
“The toppy (Spirit Of Boom) is going super and he is in red hot form,” Hunter said.
“Ciaron’s filly Srikandi could not be going any better and Rebel Dane is a top class Group 1 horse.
“I think that they are the three, not including mares like Red Tracer who has been Group 1 consistent for years and has just drawn a bit awkward.
“I think that it is an open field and whichever horse gets the right run will be the winner.”