Connections of in-form veteran Smokin’ Joey may be keen to stretch the galloper out in distance this Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival but trainer Wez Hunter has a Blamey Stakes 2015 back-up plan if things don’t work out.
Mornington-based Hunter confirmed to TVN on Thursday morning that owners of Group 1 winning Encosta De Lago seven-year-old Smokin’ Joey were keen to see how he goes up over 2000m this campaign.
If he does show ability up over that distance then the target will obviously be the $1 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington Racecourse on Super Saturday, March 14.
“The owners are keen to stretch him out to 2000 metres,” Hunter said.
“So he’s in the Australian Cup but we’ll see if he gets there.”
2015 Australian Cup nominations closed this week with Smokin’ Joey one of 69 early entries for the weight-for-age classic.
A 46-start warhorse, Smokin’ Joey has only ever been stretched out to 1800m.
That was two starts back in early December in Perth when he ran a handy fourth to Sydney’s Moriarty in the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) at Ascot.
Before that he also ran fourth to the ill-fated Elite Belle, who was to become his stablemate joining Hunter in Victoria before she tragically died 15 minutes into her flight across the country, in the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m).
Best known for his upset win as a 40-1 outsider in Adelaide’s Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville in May last year, Smokin’ Joey returned to racing last weekend on January 24.
First-up Hunter ran him at Moonee Valley in the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m), a race that saw $41 roughie shot Mourinho beat home his better fancied rivals.
Smokin’ Joey was just outside the top three when fourth, beaten only one and three-quarter lengths.
The run was exactly what Hunter was hoping to see, the trainer knowing his horse was never going to be suited to the tight turns at Moonee Valley.
“He’s just such a big lanky bugger, he costs himself about half a length on every corner so the Valley was never going to suit,” he said.
“I was really happy with him so he’ll step up in distance now.”
He’s confident that middle distance galloper will be improving with each run this autumn as he prepares for a possible Australian Cup run.
If not the Australian Cup Hunter will still run him at the same meeting but in the $220,000 Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) over the mile.
“If not (if he doesn’t make 2000m) there’s the Blamey on the same day,” Hunter said.
“But I’m really happy with how he’s come back.”
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Melbourne Cup winning German import Protectionist is sure to lead betting along with the likes of Paul Beshara’s Mackinnon Stakes winner Happy Trials and the Chris Waller-trained Mackinnon runner-up He’s Your Man.
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