Leading trainer Lee Freedman said conditions looked perfect for his six-year-old imported galloper Fanjura to return to form and salute as the narrow favourite in the Premier’s Cup at Doomben this Saturday.
Having come up trumps with the inside alley, Marju gelding Fanjura is set to be ridden by top hoop Corey Brown in the $125,000 Group 3 Premier’s Cup (2200m) on Doomben 10,000 Day.
A winner of six of their 24 starts and having shown recent good form over distances from a mile to 2000m, Fanjura has opened as the $4.80 Premier’s Cup favourite.
Fanjura has had five runs this prep finishing out of the money just twice and Freedman said it has been a frustrating time with the string of minor placings but never the win.
“The horse is due for a change of luck,” the Mornington-based Freedman said.
First-up at Flemington on March 12 they resumed with a solid third to Whobegotyou in the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) then backed up a fortnight later running fourth in the Albury Cup (2000m).
“He ran a great race in the Blamey,” Freedman said, Fanjura beaten just two and a half lengths.
Next start on April 16 Fanjura was second to the now Melbourne Cup-bound Niwot at Flemington over 2000m.
On Easter Saturday they were just beaten in the final stride when a nose away second to Paddy O’Reilly in the Group 3 Easter Cup (2000m), a race Freedman said they were unlucky to win.
“He was beaten a nose in the Easter Cup which was a bit of a wrench, he was pretty much perfect,” he said.
Last start Fanjura ran ninth to Dysphonia in the Listed Scone Cup (1600m), a race Freedman suggests is best ignored as they were badly held up throughout the run and never had a chance.
“He basically went there (to Scone) and had a barrier trial,” Freedman said.
Now the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival is the focus for Fanjura.
“Smarter for him to hit north (with the) better prize money,” Freedman said.
With the ideal draw and the step up to 2200m, Freedman believes it will take a good horse to beat Fanjura in the Premier’s Cup on Saturday.
“Will want to take up a more forward position from that gate,” he said.
“I wouldn’t think the 22 (2200m) would be any drama for him.”
When told of the expected Dead (4) rating for Doomben on Saturday, Freedman said: “That’s good to hear, I don’t think he’s a soft tracker, I’d prefer him on top of the ground.”
Another horse in Freedman’s stables that hasn’t got much of a mention of late is Encosta De Lago three-year-old Smokin’ Joey.
The gelding made an exciting debut back in May last year, winning the Listed Blue Sapphire Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield by two lengths.
After such a promising start, however, Smokin’ Joey has been disappointing since, his next 10 runs producing just one second place finish.
“He’s been an absolute heartbreak horse for us,” Freedman said.
“We had a great expectation for him in the spring.
“Then he struck really heavy tracks.
“When he came back as an autumn three-year-old, he didn’t want to try at all.”
Most recently Smokin’ Jockey ran a distant 11th behind Shamrocker in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on March 5.
Freedman made the decision to geld Smokin’ Joey after the Australian Guineas, or remove his “wedding equipment” as the likable trainer described.
The horse is now set to resume at Doomben on Saturday in the opening race at the meeting, the $50,000 Ambassador Travel QTIS Three-Years-Old Handicap (1200m).
Like Fanjura, Smokin’ Joey has come up trumps with barrier one for their Saturday start giving jockey Corey Brown all the favours.
Stepping right back in class, Smokin’ Joey is well liked in the early Doomben Race 1 markets paying $7, looking nice and fresh even without a trial.
“We’re hopeful,” Freedman said of Smokin’ Joey on Saturday.
“Knowing that he can handle the right handed track….got a good barrier and has no weight on his back.
“It’s a big day for the horse’s connections to see if he gets back to somewhere near where we think he’s capable of.”