Victorian jockey Jason Benbow has a chance to win the second Group 1 trophy of his career when he partners with the Railway Stakes 2013 favourite Smokin’ Joey in Perth this weekend.
Benbow tasted the sweet glory of a Group 1 feature race win when he rode the Peter Moody-trained mare Sky Cuddle for their upset win as a $50 outsider in the 2004 Emirates Stakes.
He was only an 18-year-old apprentice at the time and with the three kilo claim rode the daughter of Snippets on just 49kg.
It’s been nearly a decade since then and while he’s racked up three more minor Group 1 placings, he’s keen to taste success again.
“You never forget the taste,” he said of the Group 1 win when speaking to Racing Victoria.
He gets that chance on Saturday at Ascot Racecourse with the Wez Hunter-trained Encosta De Lago six-year-old Smokin’ Joey in the $1 million Group 1 Carlton Draught Railway Stakes (1600m).
Benbow first jumped on the back of the progressive gelding on November 9 at Flemington after the horse’s previous jockey Chris Symons said he would struggle to get down to their light weight for the Group 1.
Backing up just seven days later after their win in the Group 3 TAB.com.au Stakes (1400m) over Galah when ridden by Chris Symons, Smokin’ Joey was brave in defeat when coming within a long neck of the winner Boban for their Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) second.
“I was riding work with Daniel Stackhouse at Caulfield and Daniel said Wez had asked him to ride him at 52.5kg and he said it was going to be a bit of a struggle for him so he suggested I give him a call,” Benbow explained.
“Having had that established relationship with Wez, I called him up and things went from there.”
Now they get a chance to break their Group 1 maiden, hand Hunter with his first elite level trophy and break Benbow’s decade long drought in the Railway having been called upon for the ride again.
“I don’t think you really ever doubt yourself, but it’s hard to win them (Group 1’s) without opportunities and I’m forever grateful to Wez for providing me with a good Group 1 opportunity,” Benbow said speaking of his friend and former golf buddy.
“This is a game of opportunities and when they come along you’ve got to make the most of them, so that’s what I’m planning on doing on Saturday.”
They are well fancied to do so too with Smokin’ Joey sitting top of the Railway Stakes odds at a quote of $4.60.
Drawn in gate seven, six with emergencies out, they should get a gun run.
Although they will need to have improvement in them as they go up from their 52.5kg Emirates weight to 56kg for the Perth classic.
“The barrier draw was very good,” Benbow said.
“It makes it a whole lot easier and he’s a funny horse to ride, so I’m glad that he did draw where he did.
“He’ll come out of six, that’s the same barrier he jumped out of in the Emirates, and generally in Perth they run along at a bit stronger tempo and that should allow us to get the ideal position.”
Smokin’ Joey’s main Railway Stakes dangers according to the bookies’ markets are then Brisbane mare Longport ($6) coming off a good Flemington win, the Peter Moody-trained Plucky Belle ($8) also coming off a Melbourne victory and the Rob Heathcote-trained Myer Classic minor placegetter Fire Up Fifi ($9).
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