When Robert Smerdon sets his sights on a race he rarely comes away disappointed.
Smerdon has Arch Fire contesting the Galleywood Hurdle on Wednesday, the feature jumps race on day two of the Warrnambool carnival.
A winner of four of his seven starts over jumps including last season’s Australian Hurdle at Ballarat, Wednesday’s race has been one of the early targets for Arch Fire since returning to racing from a summer break.
“He’s going terrific,” Smerdon said.
“Throughout his whole preparation this has been his first major target.
“He went around in a handicap hurdle which meant he had to give them all weight last time and the set-weights and penalties serves his purpose a lot better this time.
“And with a wet track, it’s all the better.”
Arch Fire has had a good grounding for the first feature hurdle of the Victorian jumps season, having had four flat runs and a last-start second behind Gingerboy in a hurdle at Sandown on April 20.
He meets Gingerboy, a winner of his only two starts over hurdles, on 2.5kg better terms.
Smerdon said he was considering switching Arch Fire to the bigger jumps.
“His first couple will be over hurdles and we’ll see how he’s going,” Smerdon said.
“It did look like the hurdling ranks were going to be strong this year, and they may still be, but there’s a few that have had setbacks.
“All of a sudden the depth may not be there so he might stay hurdling, but we’ll keep the switch to bigger jumps as an option.”
A $300,000 bonus is up for grabs to any horse which can win any three races of a selected six races through the season.
The Galleywood Hurdle forms part of the series with the Australian Hurdle and Steeplechase later this month and the Grand National Hurdle and Steeplechase in August completing out the bonus.
“The bonus is enticing but no-one has ever got it,” Smerdon said.