Co-trainer Ross Price says exciting sprinter Smoko will be close to his top and can overcome a wide draw in the Corry Amato 30th Birthday Handicap (1000m) at Belmont on Saturday.
A similar gate position in last fortnight’s Beaufine Stakes (1000m) brought about the undoing of Smoko who suffered his first life time defeat in the Listed feature.
Racing first-up since November and without the benefit of a trial, Smoko was trapped wide but fought on gallantly when one length second to Pininci.
“He had a couple of hiccups going into the race and I had hoped to have a trial or race to harden him up,” said Price on Tabradio.
“I thought to run second after such a hard run and everything that went on was a pretty gallant effort.
“Naturally you would like to win but I wasn’t too disappointed.
“He has done everything right since the race and I think he is pretty close to Saturday.”
Price has opted to replace William Pike and go with the claim of talented apprentice Chris Parnham who rode Smoko to the first of his six victories last year.
Smoko, with 58.5kg, has drawn barrier 10 in the field of 11.
“If he had 58 or 59kg I might have left Willie on,” said Price.
“I don’t think he has to lead.
“He can sit outside the leader and be ok.”
If Smoko comes through unscathed he is likely to target the Belmont Newmarket (1200m) on August 9.
Stable mate Hop On Hop Off is in line to claim her fourth consecutive win in the Westspeed 3YO Handicap (1000m).
The Universal Filly, drawn in gate five for Natasha Faithfull, resumes after defeating Mad Brad at Belmont 38 days ago.
Mad Brad has progressed to win two of his next three starts including Wednesday’s narrow defeat of Portonian.
“She has done everything right this preparation and is a real little speedster,” said Price.
“I expect her to show that again on Saturday.
“She is just a plain type and doesn’t excite you in anything she does at home.
“But she turns up on race day a different horse.
“They are good horses when they are like that and save everything for race day.”