Smokin Bird Wins Southland Oaks

Opportunity occasionally springs from unexpected sources and there was a certain amount of irony involved when Jonny Cox picked up the winning drive on Smokin Bird in the Nevele R/Macca Lodge Southland Oaks at Ascot Park on Sunday.
Top southern drivers Cox and Matthew Williamson were suspended last week for their parts in a duel when driving Cerato and The Shakey Mistress respectively at the Central Otago meeting back on 2 January. For Williamson it meant missing the rich Diamond Days fixture on Sunday but Cox was allowed to defer his suspension so he could continue his long association with Jaccka Justy in the open trot. Jaccka Justy failed to fire but nevertheless the day was still profitable for Cox, and he's got Williamson to thank.

Williamson had driven the Kevin Court-trained Smokin Bird in all her previous starts. A replacement was required, Cox seized the opportunity and achieved the result.
“Matthew text me on Monday, I rang Kevin and got the drive,” said Cox whose experience in the sulky behind Smokin Bird was limited to a couple of trials in January. After leading out, Smokin Bird handed up to second favourite Donegal Khalum after about 700 metres. She then trailled that runner to the turn, took the passing lane and scooted to victory.
“I got the perfect run,” said Cox in something of an understatement.

Bred and raced by Court and his wife Patricia, Smokin Bird by Bettor's Delight is the sixth foal of Who's The Bird. The first, Whose Escaped, won three in New Zealand, seven in New South Wales and one in Queensland; the second, Slick Bird, a full sister to Smokin Bird, won ten in Western Australia; the fifth High Courage has won 10 of 31 in Western Australia, the latest at Gloucester Park in February.
It was the first Southland Oaks win for the Courts but they had previously won a Southern Supremacy Stakes, taking the 1990 edition with Seafield Inca. The winner of 11 in New Zealand before his export to the United States, Seafield Inca also scored group two thirds behind Honkin Vision and Christopher Vance in both the John Brandon Three Year Old Flying Stakes and the John Brandon Championship. It was the first win for Cox in either feature.