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A number of setbacks led to a forgettable season for Wez Hunter’s Group 1 winner Smokin’ Joey but he hopes the veteran can salvage some of his spring when returning in the 2015 Kevin Heffernan Stakes at Sandown on Saturday.
Winner of last year’s Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) in Adelaide as a 40/1 outsider, Hunter’s now eight-year-old son of Encosta De Lago has had just the one run this campaign.
After taking out Ipswich’s Listed Eye Liner stakes (1350m) in June and the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) by two lengths at Caulfield in August, Smokin’ Joey ran last time out in the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) in mid-August.
He failed to beat home any of his rivals when ninth to subsequent Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) winner Mourinho, beaten four and a quarter lengths.
After suffering an internal bleed during the PB Lawrence run, the classy $1.5 million earner was sent out to recover with the $150,000 Group 3 Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1300m) on Zipping Classic Day at Sandown Hillside on Saturday set to be his first race since.
Originally the Mornington-based Hunter planned to run Smokin’ Joey in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m), but the horse was scratched at the barriers.
He also missed a run in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) over the mile at Flemington due to a hamstring strain and then a spider bite forced Hunter to abandon plans to target the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) run and won last Saturday.
“It’s just been one thing after another and then more recently we were aiming him towards the Emirates Stakes and he was bitten by a spider,” Hunter told Racing Victoria.
“It’s been a bit frustrating but we’ve got him back now and I’m pretty happy with him.
“He’s a resilient old horse. After the spider bite his leg was the size of a tree trunk but he’s all good now and hopefully we can salvage something out of the spring.”
A winner of nine of his 54 starts to date, Smokin’ Joey is one of 23 horses nominated for the weight-for-age Kevin Heffernan Stakes on the weekend.
It will be his second run at the track following his victory over 1400m here carrying 60kg to an impressive two and three quarter length success back in late February.
He geared up for his second run at the course with a Cranbourne trial over 990m on Monday morning with his jockey for the Bletchingly Stakes and PB Lawrence Chris Parnham guiding to a half-length second behind Osteria.
Hunter was pleased with the hit-out, but said the Kevin Heffernan was likely the last run of the year for Smokin’ Joey who was originally being considered for a Perth campaign during the summer.
“We were thinking about going to Perth with him but I’m not sure about that now, we might pull up stumps after Sandown but we’ll just see how he goes on Saturday,” he said.
“I think the 1300m fresh will suit him, I thought his run in the Bletchingly when he won fresh was really good.”
Other headline Kevin Heffernan Stakes nominations include the Darren Weir-trained 2014 Melbourne Cup fourth placed Signoff, Peter Moody’s four-year-old Sebring mare Bring Me The Maid, last start Group 3 Chatham Stakes fourth placed Hussonet six-year-old Charmed Harmony and Famous Seamus who hasn’t won since the Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) in Sydney last October.
The fields for all of the Sandown races are out on Wednesday so stay tuned.
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