Mornington’s Wez Hunter has described his Group 1 winner Smokin’ Joey as “way overs” in the 2014 Kingston Town Classic betting markets for the Perth showdown at Ascot Racecourse on Saturday.
The seven-year-old Encosta De Lago gelding pays $14 through Ladbrokes.com.au to win the final elite level of the 2014 calendar year – WA’s $500,000 Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) running as Ascot Race 8 on the weekend.
Drawn ideally in barrier seven, which will likely become gate four with the emergencies out, Smokin’ Joey has his regular Victorian rider Ben Melham in the saddle.
Melham was over in Perth for Smokin’ Joey’s Kingston Town Classic lead-up when a close fourth behind the local Grant Williams-trained mare Elite Belle in the $1 million Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m).
Smokin’ Joey, winner of the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville as a 40-1 outsider back in May, was beaten only a length that day when going out at $12 in betting.
On Saturday he faces the winning Railway Stakes trifecta that beat him home, all three much shorter in the Kingston Town Classic odds.
Elite Belle is the market mover in from $7.50 to $7, Peter Hall replacing William Pike in the saddle of the in-form Canny Lad six-year-old who is looking to become just the fourth mare to win the Kingston Town Classic.
Railway Stakes runner-up Balmont Girl is then at $7.50 after a wide barrier 16 draw while the markets are led by third over the line in the Railway, Chris Waller’s Sydney raider Moriarty at $4.
The price difference between those three and Smokin’ Joey has Hunter baffled, the trainer pleased with his galloper’s lead-up run and his work since over the past fortnight.
“Doesn’t make much sense to me,” Hunter told the Herald Sun.
“One of them (Moriarty) is favourite and the other (Smokin’ Joey) a longshot and there was nothing between them last start.”
The only query for some is the distance, Smokin’ Joey stepping up over further than a mile (1600m) for the first time.
Hunter though is unfazed by the distance test.
“He’ll run it no problem,” he said.
“The barrier is perfect. Ben (Melham) can put him to sleep, sit, sit, sit, then hopefully peel out when they straighten.”
The Kingston Town Classic is a race Hunter would love to win for both sentimental and monetary reasons.
Having grown up on the Mornington Peninsular, Hunter grew up beside a farm owned by billionaire David Hains.
An astute business man, Hains was also a prominent racehorse owner who had Kingston Town stabled on his property up until his death in 1992 only a year before Hunter and his family moved to the adjoining property.
“Every time my old man drove us past that paddock he’d say “that’s where Kingston Town had lived’ Hunter said.
“I guess I was a huge fan of Kingston Town because of it, like a lot of kids back then, even after he’d died. Funny thing too, it’s David and Helen Hains and my parents are David and Helen.”
He said his desire to win on Saturday was then that childhood sentimentality mixed with the prize money on offer.
“It’s worth $500,000 — that’s another reason,” he added.
Smokin’ Joey arrived a supposed spent force with Hunter back in the spring last year having previously been trained by Lee Freedman, Anthony Freedman and Mick Price.
If he wins the Kingston Town though he’ll take his stakes money earned for his most recent trainer over $1 million.
Hunter is already looking further ahead too with a possible shot at the $2 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) in Brisbane during the winter after a title defense in The Goodwood in Adelaide next year.
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