TJ Smith Stakes An Acid Test For Eleven Eleven

Trainer Greg Hickman hasn’t picked an easy assignment for Eleven Eleven’s first Group 1 attempt but how the gelding performs in next Saturday’s $2.5m TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) will shape the rest of his season.

Eleven Eleven, $26 with TAB in the all-in market, will be asked to take on the likes of Nature Strip, Bivouac, Eduardo, Masked Crusader and company in the sprint feature of The Star Championships.

He hasn’t raced since winning three straight in the summer, culminating in the Magic Millions Cup in January, and Hickman said the timing is right to throw him in the deep end.

“It’s going to be a pretty hot race this year, no walk in the park for anyone,’’ he said.

“His preparation has been pretty much perfect, he’s worked well (Saturday) morning and looking enormous.

“If he comes out and runs a really good race then we change our plans. If he doesn’t we’ll go on and probably have a go at the Stradbroke.”

Hickman’s former star Pierata ran fifth in the 2019 TJ Smith and fourth in the race behind Nature Strip last year but Eleven Eleven has been more a work in progress than his now retired ex-stablemate.

“He is a slow maturing horse, he was a handful as a colt, and it’s taken a while to have a bit of trust in everyone and do the right thing,’’ he said.

“It’ll be a hot pace and he’ll be hitting the line.”

– Racing NSW

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