Following a smart Cranbourne trial on Monday morning, Smokin’ Joey looks better than ever ahead of the 2014 Stradbroke Handicap in Brisbane Saturday week according to their trainer Wez Hunter.
The Mornington-based Hunter is super excited over the prospects of his Encosta De Lago six-year-old in this year’s $1.36 million Group 1 AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) running at Eagle Farm on June 7.
“I can’t wait to get up there,” Hunter told AAP.
“It’s exciting to have such a good horse and I think he’s a real live chance in a race like that.
A veteran of 38 starts, Smokin’ Joey boosted their career earnings to over the million dollar mark last time out during a successful Adelaide raid.
At Morphettville on May 10 the smart sprinter – miler scored a massive upset, rounding up the leaders and flying to the line for an easy win in the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) as a 40-1 outsider to hand Hunter with his maiden elite level trophy.
Now they will attempt back-to-back Group 1 wins, this time travelling to Queensland for another Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.
Smokin’ Joey has had plenty of runs in the Sunshine State, but Brisbane has proved a bit of a hoodoo for them.
Their last Queensland appearance was in June last year when second last behind Galah in the Group 2 QTC Cup (1300m) when prepared by Mick Price.
The year before their season also ended in disaster at Doomben when dead last finishing 16th behind Tiger Tees in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) under the preparation of their first trainer Anthony Freedman.
Now with Hunter connections are hoping for a change of luck in Brisbane this year, Smokin’ Joey looking spot on for the Stradbroke.
They proved they’d lost none of their Goodwood fitness when a solid third in an 800m Cranbourne hit-out yesterday and will only improve getting back up over 1400m for the big one.
“Seven furlongs (1400m) is his pet distance and with hot speed on where he can be the one finishing off should really suit him,” Hunter said on Monday.
“We just took him to Cranbourne today for a clean out.
“We left the blinkers off him but gave him a nice little hit-out and he trialled really well.”
Current Stradbroke Handicap 2014 betting markets are led by Srikandi, Ciaron Maher’s progressive young filly a late entry into the race after a succession of wins including two stakes victories in Brisbane this time in.
Smokin’ Joey, due to fly into Brisbane Wednesday week, meanwhile can be found further down the odds at a current quote of around $21, not quite as juicy as their Goodwood price but still generous.
The 2014 Stradbroke Handicap weights and the order of entry were released yesterday, Smokin’ Joey exempt from ballot so assured of a spot in the 18 starter field.
They were originally allocated 55kg but that will go up half a kilo when the weights are raised to coincide with the non-acceptance of topweight Buffering (59kg), a weight Hunter believes they can handle.
“He carried 56 in Adelaide and 55-1/2 will be no problem,” he said.
Ben Melham is booked for the ride staying on after taking the saddle in The Goodwood and yesterday’s trial.
To get behind Smokin’ Joey to win the Stradbroke at their current futures price, and check out the full markets on the classic, visit our preferred online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au!