Benfica Believers Back TJ Smith Upset

There remains a plethora of punters still keen to take the now generous odds on Peter Snowden’s Lonhro colt Benfica for today’s TJ Smith and Snowden has warned non-believers and rivals to beware.

Peter Snowden

Peter Snowden believes Benfica can bounce back in the 2011 TJ Smith

Snowden and the Darley Racing operation are out today to attempt a five-from-five clean sweep of this year’s Group 1, two-year-old features and Benfica is the horse they hope to do it with.

Having previously saluted in the Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper with glamour colt Sepoy, while talented stablemate Helmet went on to win the AJC Sires Produce Stakes – Champagne Stakes double, Snowden and Darley hold high hopes for Benfica to complete the dream in today’s $500,000 Group 1 TJ Smith (1600m) at Eagle Farm’s Stradbroke Handicap Day.

Benfica was the raging TJ Smith favourite earlier in the season following the boom youngster’s emphatic three and a half length success in the Listed Hampden Stakes (1200m).

The two-year-old, however, failed to fire last Saturday when finishing six lengths away sixth behind now TJ Smith favourite Hot Snitzel in the Group 2 BRC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m).

With stablemate Free Wheeling uncharacteristically rearing in the barriers and subsequently falling and lodging themself under the gates before the BRC Sires Produce, Benfica was slow away from the gate beside them and was the flop of the race.

“I think once he got that far back, he missed it by four, he was really slow into stride,” Snowden said of Benfica’s unlucky last-start run.

“He worked through the field but he panicked a bit around the 500 metres.

“He died in the run in the last 150m.”

Snowden said Free Wheeling was better than expected after the disaster last week, but the trainer was still in shock over the horse’s behaviour.

“Free Wheeling is a bit sore and sorry for himself,” he said.

“I can’t believe he did what he did, it’s just not like him at all.

“It’s not in his make up to do what he did, it was very dangerous what he did.

“He’s come out of it pretty good.”

Benfica is now the $5 third favourite behind Hot Sniztel ($2) and Anthony Cummings’ last-start Listed The Phoenix winner Fontelina ($4.20) for the Patinack Farm TJ Smith.

Snowden, jockey Kerrin McEvoy and plenty of others still remain confident Benfica can bounce back this afternoon and return to form with an upset victory.

“It’s a different case tomorrow,” Snowden said of the TJ Smith yesterday.

“Totally wipe that (the BRC Sires Produce) from your head.

“His work’s been good.

“He’s come through in good order and from gate six I think he’ll be in the first three or four.

“I know he’s got the ability to run well.”

Paul Vincent, chief bookmaker at Luxbet, also has Benfica as the top pick in the TJ Smith and has taken Snowden’s suggestion in forgetting their last start failure.

“Total forgive for last week after missing the start,” Vincent told Races.com.au.

“Will be on pace and can atone here.”

Of Benfica’s mile quest, stepping up the 1600 metres for the first time today, Snowden is unconcerned.

“It’s (the distance) a question mark for all of them, none of them have been there before,” he said.

“It will be a sprint home, if we are in the back of that in the first three or four we’ve got a good chance.”