Day At The Track

Rishi fancied in Sokyola sprint

08:15 AM 26 Dec 2020 NZDT
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Rishi,Harness racing
Stuart McCormick photo

Veteran trainer-driver Lance Justice still has fond memories of his superstar pacer Sokyola, who won 78 races and close to $2 million in a glittering career that came to a close in 2007.

More than a decade on, the former New Zealander's racetrack legacy remains up in lights thanks to a $24,000 free-for-all feature named in his honour.

And Justice will turn to another ex-Kiwi in his bid at landing a third win in the race.

Rishi is one of the fancied runners in a small but select field of six, which will tackle the Ballarat 1710m journey on Boxing Day night.

For the first time, the Sokyola Sprint will be run at a circuit where Justice's champion enjoyed plenty of success. In his 15 trips to Bray Raceway, the son of Sokys Atom won six races but was never able to claim the Pacing Cup from three attempts.

Rishi has not won since bursting the bubble of pin-up pacer Ride High in the group 2 TAB Smoken Up Sprint in early October, when he surged home under the urgings of Michael Bellman to win at odds in excess of $100.

Justice, who will take the reins this evening, has his fingers crossed for a fast speed.

"He's a really hard horse to train and I haven't quite got him right," Justice told Trots Talk. "When I have got him right, as you saw in the Smoken Up Sprint, he can beat anybody.

"He's going to need the race to be run at break-neck tempo - around the 1.50 (mile rate) - for him to get over the top of them. If they have to stop-start, he's not quite a stop-start horse yet.

"I'm sure with a little break, he can come back and he'll be in the grand circuit next year. It's a pleasure to have him in (the Sokyola Sprint), he's a very good horse, but I would just like him to be a little bit more consistent and just work it out. Eventually he will get there."

Rishi, like Sokyola, started his career in New Zealand before being purchased and then trained by Justice here in Victoria. Since arriving on our shores in late 2017, the son of Bettors Delight has won 13 races and taken his career prizemoney well over the $200,000 mark.

He faces stiff opposition this evening from the likes of Anthony Butt's Wolf Stride, who looks a Group 1 winner in the making after a run of recent form that includes three victories from his last four outings, and the consistent Code Black, who beat home Rishi and Somebeachshadow when second in the VHRC Caduceus Classic earlier this month.

"I do think he'll run a good race and I'm sure he'll be in the placings, but unless they go really, really hard, it's going to make it hard for him. He has to have the speed right on," Justice said.

The Sokyola Sprint is race eight on tonight's nine-event card and is scheduled to go at 9.58pm.


2007 Cincinnati Kid NZ Mark Peace
2008 Smoken Up NZ Lance Justice
2010 Smoken Up NZ Lance Justice
2011 Decorated Jasper Jodi Quinlan
2012 Decorated Jasper Jodi Quinlan
2013 Jaccka Clive NZ Greg Sugars
2014 Five Star Anvil NZ Gavin Lang
2015 Franco Ledger NZ Geoff Webster
2015 Keayang Steamer Glen Craven
2016 Metro Mike Jason Lee
2017 John Of Arc NZ Nathan Jack
2018 Shadow Sax Mark Pitt
2019 Phoenix Prince Greg Sugars


HRV - Tim O'Connor

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