Day At The Track

Australia - 600 seconds of pacing perfection

09:41 PM 12 Jan 2013 NZDT
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Smoken Up
Smoken Up

The raw majesty of harness racing and it's unique, irreplaceable role in the Australian sporting landscape was both exposed and illuminated in 10 electrifying minutes spanning two states tonight.

In Adelaide, a bastion of harness racing that has produced so many of the sport's most enduring dynasties, the nation's greatest pacer performed not one, but two magical feats in front of the biggest Globe Derby crowd since 2007.

While mere minutes later, the most exciting young pacer this century announced his return to the big-time with a Bendigo Cup win which may have major ramifications for the upcoming Nights of Glory carnival.

First let's focus on the legend that is Smoken Up.

Already the winner of 11 Group 1 races, including three previous SA Cups, Lance Justice's iconic 10-year-old headed back to Adelaide tonight with a brave second placing clearly on the cards.

His impossible gate seven draw combined with the presence of Victoria Cup-winning tyro Caribbean Blaster would surely conspire to rob him off a fairytale fourth SA Pacing Cup success.

Yet it was conspicuously clear within 50m of the start that nothing, not even those tricky Globe Derby bends would stop Smoken Up tonight.

Off the inside and into the running line before the mobile was out of sight, Justice took full advantage of Caribbean Blaster's chequered early passage to stay in front of him in transit before rolling to an effortless lead.

Quickly joined by Caribbean Blaster at his girth, ‘Trigger' was a much different horse to the one who sat up early in last Sunday's shock Horsham Cup failure.

Tonight it was war. It was a last-man-standing affair.

Roaring through final mile fractions of 29.7, 30.4, 28.3 and 28.4 to follow a 78.5-second lead time, Justice and his champion went from in control to beaten, to done like a six o'clock dinner with alarming, almost crippling speed.

You knew he would fight back, but this was to be the straw that broke the camel's back - surely.

Oh ye of little faith.

No sooner had these two outstanding pacers entered the straight than Smoken Up began to lift, to ask questions of Caribbean Blaster so few have been able to answer with Trigger breathing down their throat.

In the end, the champion's will once again saw him home.

That Smoken Up equalled Gammalite's record for SA Cup wins in the process paled against the magnificent purity of the contest in which he had just prevailed but nevertheless added to his ever-growing legacy.

Across the border Sushi Sushi quietly indicated that his Kiwi sojourn has matured him from a boy into a man with a display of arrogance reminiscent of his breathtaking three-year-old season in the the Bendigo Pacing Cup.

Nothing could match what had just transpired at Globe Derby, but Sushi Sushi's renaissance ahead of the Ballarat Cup, a race which changed everything for him 12 months ago was just as big in its very own way.

Smoken Up

by Jason Bonnington

Harness Racing Victoria

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