Jockey Ben Melham is excited by the prospect of partnering Smokin’ Joey in this weekend’s featured Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) at South Australia’s Morphettville Racecourse, despite the well-trialled gelding featuring as a rank outsider for success.
Making his comeback to racing after undergoing hip surgery several months ago, Melham told the Herald Sun he is hopeful of defending his 2013 Goodwood title, having strolled home to win aboard Platelet 12 months ago.
“It’s worked out well. I didn’t consciously throw myself in the deep end but it’s great I’ve got the faith of the trainers like Wez Hunter to go out and get the job done” Melham said.
“I’m keen as mustard, raring to go. Before the operation I was in a bit of pain when I was training and it tends to affect your concentration, but I’m 100% now.
“Platelet’s obviously going great again but Brad’s going to have to find a way from a bad barrier and I reckon I’m perfectly drawn on Smokin’ Joey, who doesn’t like drawing in and racing inside horses.
“He wore blinkers in trackwork the other morning and it’s really sharpened him up.
“There looks to be good speed and he’ll get back and be running on. Hopefully he can get into the finish.”
Claiming five wins and seven places from 37 competitive starts to date, Smokin’ Joey arguably hit career best form over the spring of 2013; comfortably winning the Group 3 TAB.com.au Stakes (1400m) before almost causing one of the biggest upsets of the season when finishing a short nose behind talented miler Boban in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) most notably.
While yet to hit peak condition in four race starts this time in, the Encosta De Lago gelding has steadily built in form and will be more than a chance in figuring in good position upon finding The Goodwood’s final straight.
Given little chance of success, Smokin’ Joey is currently offered at particularly generous odds of $26 in betting markets for success in the 2014 The Goodwood, or $6 for a place.
Claiming a maiden Group 1 victory in the Robert Sangster last time out, Driefontein is currently outright $7 favourite to claim The Goodwood crown, ahead of Miracles Of Life ($7.50) and Platelet ($8).
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