Group 1 winner Smokin’ Joey is one of ten sprinters in the list of nominations for the Group 2 $200,000 Jeep Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Trainer Wez Hunter gave Smokin’ Joey a short freshen up after collecting two fourth placed cheques in a trip to Perth at the end of the Spring Carnival.
Smokin’ Joey was beaten less than a length when fourth to Elite Belle in the Group 1 $1m Carlton Draught-Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot on November 22 then finished fourth again to Moriarty in the Group 1 $500,000 TAB Touch – Kingston Town Classic (1800m) at Ascot on December 6.
“He had three weeks in the paddock after Perth and he’s freshened up really well,” Hunter told racing.com.
“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 said.
“We haven’t given him a trial, just done a fair bit of work, and he’s ready to go.”
Smokin’ Joey recorded his only Group 1 victory when he came from near the tail of the field on the home turn to win the 2014 $500,000 The Tapestry Wines Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville in May.
The Moonee Valley Racing Club was forced to extend the nominations for the Australia Stakes until 10am on Tuesday after only receiving ten entries.
Premiership winning trainer Peter Moody has entered his two Group 1 winners Dissident and Moment Of Change while trainer Robbie Laing has nominated three, Audino, Boomwaa and Lord Of The Sky.
Last year’s Australia Stakes winner Richie’s Vibe looks set to defend his title while Blackie, It Is Written and Tudor make up the rest of the early entrants.
The Paul Beshara trained Richie’s Vibe beat Moment Of Change and It Is Written last year but has been unplaced at three runs since and is resuming after not having raced since finishing seventh to Flamberge in the Group 3 $135,000 The Heath (1100m) at Caulfield on August 30.
The Moody trained Dissident is also resuming after serving an enforced lay off after suffering a bleeding attack when sixth to Fawkner in the Group 1 $400,000 Cathay Pacific Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield in October.
While stablemate Moment Of Change has had a freshen up since running sixth to Magnifisio in the Group 1 $750,000 Crown Perth-Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in Perth on November 22.
Trainer Robbie Griffiths is stepping It Is Written back up to Group 2 company again following his last start win in the $80,000 National Collision Centre Handicap on December 12 over the same course and distance as the Australia Stakes.