BEN DORRIES – The Sunday Mail (Qld)
DAMIAN Browne flashed a cheeky grin when quizzed why he hadn’t ridden at Ipswich for three years. “I’m always suspended at this time of year,’’ he said, tongue firmly in cheek.
The elite Queensland jockey might have had no great fondness for Ipswich but that could be changing after Eye Liner Stakes winner Smokin’ Joey headlined his Ipswich treble on Saturday.
Smokin’ Joey was the class horse of the Eye Liner, already having a Group 1 to his name, and has now earned a shot at the Emirates Stakes during the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
It capped a superb day for Caloundra-based Browne after his earlier wins on Wicked Intent and Rock Royalty.
“I might leave it another three years before I ride here again and see if I can come back as good,’’ Browne said. “I like the Sunny Coast but it’s great to come here on such a big day and get some of the spoils.’’
Bookmakers had been prepared to risk Smokin’ Joey because of his get-back racing pattern but class shone through as he outgunned North Queensland galloper Daph ’N’ Alf in the straight. Ulmann flew home for third and arguably would have won if the tight Ipswich track was more expansive.
Victorian trainer Wez Hunter knew it would take an aggressive and ugly ride to get seven-year-old Smokin’ Joey to the finish line first around Ipswich.
“You can’t ride him pretty, he is a big horse and he probably wants further than today’s distance,’’ Hunter said. “A lot of jockeys aren’t really game to do it — you might get ridiculed if you get rolled — but Damian pulled it off.’’
Hunter told how Smokin’ Joey had been the making of him as a trainer. He has travelled the former Group 1 Goodwood winner as his flag-bearer all over Australia.
“He has been the difference for me,’’ Hunter said. “I went from having four horses in work to now having 30. Before he came along I was probably just bludging a bit in my training career.’’
Browne was full of praise for Wicked Intent, who rounded out his juvenile season the same way it had begun and presented trainer Chris Munce with a welcome dilemma on where he should aim next time in.
A delighted Munce said Wicked Intent would be spelled immediately after winning Saturday’s Bundamba Plate and he will then weigh up what preparation to embark on.
Options include Melbourne for the spring or wait until the rich Magic Millions Day, where the $1 million 1000m Sprint could prove a worthwhile target.
Wicked Intent has won four of his eight starts and more than $325,000 in prizemoney.
“He’s a little beauty,” Munce said. “There was a lot of expectation coming here today as the short-priced favourite and he’s done it well under the big weight.
“We had to try 1350m (in the Sires) and we found out that day he’s obviously just a speed horse and we know to keep him to the shorter trips.”
Browne believes if Wicked Intent grows during his spell Munce and connections will have some nice options open to them.
“He has the attributes of a really nice horse but I would love to see him just grow a touch and fill out a bit more in his break,” Browne said.
“He has a great action and a great attitude. He was always in control, but in saying that, he’d want to be as well against those if you’re thinking about better races.”
TAB BIG BETS
EYE LINER STAKES
SMOKIN’ JOEY went out as the punter’s pal — he held the most money of any runner in the race. He was $4.80 in to $3.90 at one point during the day, but went back out to start at his opening price. ULMANN was $5 to $4.60. BIG BET: Smokin Joey $5,000 @ $4.80
DANCHAI was very popular with TAB customers although it did drift late in betting ($5-$6). HI SON was backed from $21-$7 and was a very good go, while Banca Mo was specked late ($16-$15) and narrowly missed getting the cash.
GAI WATERHOUSE CLASSIC
REAL SURREAL was hit late by TAB customers and the move paid dividends as the former Magic Millions winner scored a last stride win. BIG BETS: Real Surreal $1,000 @ $3.50, $4,400 @ $3.40 and $3,000 @ $3.40