Trainer Wez Hunter is confident that veteran sprinter Smokin’ Joey is in the right form to successfully defend his crown in the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on Saturday week.
A Group 1 winner having taken out the 2014 edition of The Goodwood, Smokin’ Joey failed to make anything of an impression through four autumn starts this year, and has not been seen at the races since finishing a forgettable sixteenth at Morphettville on May 21st.
Hunter told Racing Ahead the Encosta De Lago gelding has thrived in his time away from racing and believes the horse is in the right form to return to racing a winner in the 2016 Bletchingly Stakes.
“The old fella is up and he’s ready to run in the Bletchingly and try to defend his title next week,” Hunter said.
“He had a jump-out this morning, Chris Parnham rode him over 900m at Mornington and he was glowing with his trial and report.
“Fingers crossed, but I think I’ve got him back.
“In the spring (2015) he got bitten by a spider and his who near-side leg blew up like a tree trunk and just took a long time to get right. That can end pretty poorly, so we were lucky to get him back.
“I wasn’t convinced he was the same horse in the autumn, we gave him a break after The Goodwood and he’s really turned a corner and is back to his normal self now.
“He can go to the Bletchingly again and run well. He’s doing all the things he does when he’s feeling pretty good, so he’ll have a pretty quiet week and we’ll go in fresh and well.”
Smokin’ Joey has posted nine wins and a further eight minors through a long and busy fifty-nine start career, since debuting for Lee Freedman in 2010.
Having passed through the stables of both Anthony Freedman and Mick Price on his way to Hunter’s Mornington operation, Smokin’ Joey returned to racing in 2015 in typically smart form; winning the Group 3 Carlyon Cup (1600m) before running a close second in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) most notably.
Winning the Listed Eye Liner Stakes (1350m) leading into his Bletchingly Stakes triumph, Smokin’ Joey missed the majority of the spring season, and has beaten only a handful of runners home this year.
The 2016 Bletchingly Stakes field and barrier draw is due to be completed and released by midday, Wednesday July 27th.