BEN Melham made the perfect return to race riding in Adelaide on Saturday – guiding Smokin’ Joey to a win in the group 1 $500,000 Goodwood Handicap, 1200m.
Goodwood Day was Melham’s first race day in the saddle since mid-November, when he had hip surgery.
Smokin’ Joey ($41) charged late to deny Platelet ($7.50) a special place in Goodwood history. She was attempting to be the first back-to-back winner of the South Australian sprint classic since Musket Belle in 1911-1912.
Ironically, Melham rode Platelet to victory in the race for his former master, Ballarat trainer Darren Weir, last year.
Platelet appeared to have the race in her keeping when she burst to the lead after straightening for home, but she had no answer for Smokin’ Joey’s finish.
Melham, who grew up and launched his riding career in Ballarat, settled the six-year-old near the rear and with 400m to run had just two runners behind him in the 19-strong line-up.
Smokin’ Joey is trained by Wez Hunter at Mornington and now has more than $1m in earnings with just the six career wins.
Morphettville has been a happy hunting ground for Melham.
Melham has ridden six group 1 winners – five of them on the Adelaide circuit.
His other group 1 came on champion mare Black Caviar in the Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington in the 2010 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
The Goodwood gives Platelet three seconds in as many starts in Adelaide this autumn carnival.
Weir said post-race that with Platelet racing so well, she might now head to the Brisbane Winter Carnival.
Platelet is one of Weir’s two nominations for the group 1 $650,000 Doomben 10,0000, 1350m, at Doomben on May 24 and group 1 $1.36m Stradbroke Handicap, 1400m, at Eagle Farm on June 7.
He has also entered Lonhspresso, which resumed with a fourth at Flemington on Saturday, for the Stradbroke.
CAULFIELD/Ballarat trainer Robert Smerdon is also looking to Queensland.
He has his sights set on the group 1 $400,000 Queensland Oaks on May 31 with Rezoned ($3.60 favourite) after the three-year-old took out the group 3 $115,000 SA Fillies Classic, 2500m, on Saturday.
Stablemate Every Faith ($5) finished third.
Smerdon has nominated Every Faith and Rezone for the Queensland Oaks, and Every Faith and Synthetic for the group 1 $500,000 Queensland Derby, 2400m, at Eagle Farm on June 7.
Weir is also looking to the Oaks with SA Oaks winner May’s Dream.