Tackling interstate G1 events is hard enough but just getting NSW sensation Jungle Deuce to the boxes for Saturday night’s Maturity Classic heats (525m) at The Meadows has been a challenge for easy-going Forbes trainer Ray Smith.
Jungle Deuce, the winner of 13 of his 20 starts, highlighted by the G2 Flying Amy Classic in Brisbane last month, is one of only three interstate Maturity contenders, another being his kennelmate Miss Ezmae.
The superbly-related son of 2012 Maturity winner Barcia Bale and Serena Fly High, making him a half-brother to G1 Australian Cup hero Tommy Shelby, is a warm $1.95 favourite for Heat 3 (Race 6 at 8.20pm) and shares the second line of ‘All In’ betting at $8.
Smith is already well-attuned to the fact that interstate travel in COVID times is complicated, ever-changing and sometimes just not possible, having recently missed out on a crack at the G1 Brisbane Cup.
“I won’t be satisfied until I see him go into the boxes,” Smith said.
“Usually, you worry about the race but first we’re worried about getting there and then we’ll think about the race!
“I’ve got all the necessary passes and the plan is to meet James Shaw at the border and he’ll take the dog for us. But things are changing all the time and you can only do what you can do.”
Jungle Deuce will be on debut at The Meadows but he’s raced at Sandown Park previously, finishing unplaced in the heats of the G3 Launching Pad in March.
Since that defeat, Jungle Deuce has won eight of his next 11 and Smith is hopeful he can surpass his cult hero Feral Franky, which ran third to all-stars Sennachie and Whiskey Riot in the 2019 Maturity.
Feral Franky returned to The Meadows later that year to finish runner-up in the G1 Topgun.
“Jungle Deuce is up there,” Smith offered.
“Similar type of dog to Feral Franky in that he’s not fast early.
“‘Feral’ was a back-marker – that’s the only way to describe him – whereas this dog isn’t a ‘lid-pinger’ by any means but he can hold a spot.
WATCH: Boom NSW sprinter Jungle Deuce (1) defeats Victorian star Do It (5) in the G2 Flying Amy Classic at Albion Park on June 10.
“It depends on where he’s drawn and he needs a bit of room but so far on the nights that have counted he’s put himself in the picture early on.
“But when you’re not quick off the mat, you’re in the lap of the gods.”
Smith was able to give Jungle Deuce a crucial ‘look’ at The Meadows ahead of his Maturity assault and was delighted with his 29.83sec trial.
“I was really happy with his trial and he’s drawn okay in three,” Smith said.
“He’s a top grade dog and he’s back to his own age so he ticks a few boxes.
“They’ve backed him in from $2.10 to $1.95, so somebody thought he was ‘overs’.”
Smith doesn’t travel for the fun of it, particularly in this day and age, and has an interesting ‘second stringer’ in the lightly-raced Miss Ezmae, winner of four from eight, including a scorching 29.67sec (BON) victory at Wentworth Park two starts back.
Miss Ezmae is a $13 chance in the second and one of the toughest heats, where she’ll face the might of star local duo Koblenz and Aston Fastnet.
“Nobody is talking about her but she goes alright, although it’s a very tough heat,” Smith said.
The last NSW-trained sprinter to win the Maturity was Rocka Cockatoo, prepared by Patricia Chaker, in 2002.
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