Smoken Up has become synonymous with the word pressure in the trots.
When he is in a race, there won’t be any loafing, that’s something you can count on.
But in his first two runs this time in he has had to sit parked from second row draws and the message from trainer Lance Justice this week is that there is something left in the engine.
“(He feels) pretty good. I haven’t actually let him right down and driven him out as tough as I have in the past but in saying that it was his first and second run up from a spell.” Justice told RSN Winners Nadia Horne on Wednesday.
“They’ve been fairly well spaced, he needs a couple of races a week apart to get him right on top of his game but he will be a lot better Friday night. It’s a strong race and I’ll have to drive him fairly strong.”
The stalwart of 128 starts, and 67 victories, recently turned 11 and to still be competing at Free For All level at his age is almost unheard of.
There are, of course, the typical rumblings that he should be retired but his first two runs have dispelled that theory and the barrier has given renewed hope to his Melton trainer.
Having said that, Justice does not underestimate his challenge this week as he takes on the horse that is arguably coming to take his throne as Victoria’s number one pacing seed.
That’s Caribbean Blaster of course, and despite his second row draw, HRV form analyst Jason Bonnington still has last year’s Victoria Cup winner an outright favourite at $2.20 from Smoken Up at $2.50 in a virtual two-horse race.
“He’ll be there, he’s got a good barrier draw for a change and if he gets beat Friday night then he’s not going as good as he was, but he is 11 years old,” Justice said.
The Markovina Free For All has produced differing results for the favourites too.
Caribbean Blaster will share fond memories of the race following his win in the race last season while Smoken Up will be looking to avenge his defeat when a long odds-on favourite in 2010.
To listen to Lance Justice’s full interview with Nadia Horne simply click here.
By Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)