While the focus will be firmly on Smoken Up on Saturday night, it seems appropriate that another of harness racing’s superstars will also be honoured at Tabcorp Park Melton.
One of the great pacers of the modern era, Smoken Up is having his 143rd and last start for trainer Lance Justice in what is the end of a sensational career for the evergreen 12-year-old.
Successful at 15 tracks across Australasia – collecting 13 Group Ones along the way – Smoken Up is aiming for a fairytale ending to his career as he chases his 34th win in town.
The gelding’s 33 triumphs break down to 12 at Moonee Valley and 21 at Melton, making the son of Tinted Cloud Victoria’s most successful metropolitan pacer.
Victory this weekend will see Smoken Up fall one short of True Roman’s ‘all-comers’ record in town.
Among the best trotters produced in the Southern Hemisphere, True Roman won an amazing 35 races at the Valley.
True Roman’s tally consists of an incredible 34 metro and one country success. Better yet, his country win was in a pacers’ event!
The squaregaiter’s crowning moment came in the 1988 Trotters’ Inter Dominion, which has led to this weekend’s True Roman Free-For-All as part of the Melbourne-based/Victorian-trained Inter Dominion winners’ features.
A pacing-bred son of True Duane and Romanda, True Roman was trained by astute horseman Graeme Johannesen after being purchased by Johannesen and close friend, Roger Dalton, from Ron Pocock, who originally bought the youngster at a Sydney yearling sale in 1981.
Sixth upon debut at a Wedderburn non-TAB meeting, True Roman broke his maiden status at his fourth outing when driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang.
That was the beginning of a formidable partnership, with Lang partnering True Roman to top shelf triumphs such as the Australasian Trotters’ Championship, two V L Dullard Cups, two South Australia Trotters’ Cups, four Cochran Cups, three Freestone Cups, three Chris Howe Cups and two Grand Slam Finals during the next nine seasons.
Lang was also in the cart when True Roman accounted for Fair Tally and Simon Katz in the Moonee Valley Inter Dominion Final to complete a clean sweep of the time-honoured Championship.
Like Smoken Up, True Roman was still performing solidly as a ‘greybeard’ before being retired as an 11-year-old with record earnings of $530,732 thanks to his 73 wins and 36 placings from 137 starts.
As for this weekend’s event in True Roman’s honour, top trotter My High Expectations is the one to beat for trainer David Aiken despite drawing wide in barrier six.
The American-bred son of Ken Warkentin has been kept fresh since his second in town on August 15, which followed a pair of impressive wins.
- PAUL COURTS