Futurity Stakes Likely First-Up for Smokin’ Joey

Leading trainer Wez Hunter has revealed that well-trialled gelding Smokin’ Joey could make his 2014 debut in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 22nd rather than the previously outlined Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m).

Smokin' Joey looks set to return to the track in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes on February 22nd

Smokin' Joey looks set to return to the track in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes on February 22nd. Photo: Race Horse Photos Australia

Initially believed to be a serious chance for the day’s shortest Group 1 event, Hunter said the pattern of racing in each event at Caulfield on Orr Stakes day last weekend was of concern as it did not suit the slow starting/fast finishing style so often displayed by the son of Encosta De Lago.

“I was going to go to the Oakleigh track, but the way it is racing means it is going to be hard to make ground” Hunter told TVN.

“I reckon on the same day, the Futurity over 1400 metres will suit him better.

“He’s fit and he only had three weeks off after Perth (Railway Stakes) so he has that residual fitness.”

Jockey Jason Benbow partnered Smokin’ Joey in an exhibition gallop at Mornington on Wednesday, and reportedly said the six-year-old feels in better form than that which delivered a largely successful 2013 Spring campaign.

“Jason said he’s going better than during the Spring” Hunter added.

“I think he’s going better than ever.”

Having made his racing debut in 2010 with victory in the Listed Sapphire Stakes (1200m), Smokin’ Joey has maintained a busy career that, while only featuring five wins from 33 starts, can be ranked as one of the most consistent of any current Australian sprinter.

In a largely successful 2013 Spring campaign, Smokin’ Joey claimed a well-constructed win in the Group 3 TAB.com.au Stakes (1400m) before blazing home to finish a close second behind talented miler Boban in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) on November 9th.

Following the Futurity Stakes, Hunter revealed the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) on March 8th at Flemington and Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) on April 5th at Rosehill as likely targets for the talented six-year-old.

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