Smoken Up leads the pack at Victorian awards

11:38 AM 26 Oct 2011 NZDT
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Smoken Up and Lance Justice winning
Smoken Up and Lance Justice winning - the 2011 Interdominion Grand Final at Alexandra Park.
Duane Ranger photo

Smoken Up capped an all-conquering season when he was tonight crowned as 2010/11 Victorian Horse of the Year at Tabcorp Park, Melton. The Lance Justice-trained harness racing superstar won 12 of 18 starts at home and abroad, including the Inter Dominion, Miracle Mile and a successful defence of the Len Smith Mile, netting over $1 million in prizemoney in the process.

Upon receiving the award, Justice reflected, “I knew straight away that Smoken Up was going to be special.

“You see a lot of good horses come and go, but the hardest thing I’ve found about training a good horse is to keep them sound and racing for as long as you can.

“Sometimes I’ve been a little too soft on Smoken Up and he’s probably lost a couple of times because of it, but longevity is the name of the game. I did the same with Sokyola and I’ll do likewise with Smoken Up. Thanks to everyone who has made this possible.”

For the first time, Victorian Horse of the Year award criteria was adjusted to include races staged around Australia and overseas, giving the judging panel a plethora of prestigious titles to take into account.

Smoken Up narrowly prevailed from Sushi Sushi who displayed a perfect 13 for 13 record throughout his sophomore campaign in the kind of term that’s seldom seen at this level and may have won him the title in any other year.

At just four years of age and with highlights including the Alabar Victoria Derby, Great Northern Derby, Breeders Challenge and Australasian Breeders Crown, the sky is the limit for this young star.

Sundons Gift claimed the Victorian Trotter of the Year title in a close battle with stablemate Let Me Thru.

The defending Victorian Horse of the Year tasted victory on six occasions last season, including a jaw-dropping fourth SEW-Eurodrive Australian Trotting Grand Prix and maiden victory in the Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Mile; the only title missing from this star’s glittering CV.

Trainer-driver Chris Lang said, “Voting must have been very, very tight because both Sundons Gift and Let Me Thru were worthy nominations and either could have won.

“They are two great horses and it’s an honour for us to have one of them, let alone both.

“I think Sundons Gift did an amazing job last season and I hope it’s not over for him yet. He won a fourth Australian Trotting Grand Prix which I think is an amazing achievement and something I don’t think we’ll see repeated.

“I’m hoping we can try to win number five, but we’ll take it as it comes because there are a lot of good trotters out there.

With 10 wins from 17 starts, including the Group 1 Bathurst Gold Crown, Soho Valencia took out the 2YO Pacing Colt of Gelding of the Year. The Jayne-Davies trained three-year-old also notched APG and Vicbred Final podium finishes, which was enough to edge fellow standout performer, Charlie Machsheen.

La Machane prevailed as 2YO Pacing Filly of the Year on the back of seven wins while Shes An Image took out honours as 2YO Trotting Filly of the Year. The freshman swept both heat and Final of the lucrative Vicbred Series before a gallant fourth and fifth in the Redwood Classic and Australasian Breeders Crown respectively.

The Chris Lang-trained Aldebaran Shades was named 2YO Trotting Colt or Gelding of the Year after a season that included four wins and two Group 1 runner-up finishes in his six starts.

Bellas Delight was triumphant in the 3YO Pacing Filly of the Year category by virtue of her stunning success in the Vicbred Super Series and Australasian Breeders Crown. With six wins and almost a quarter of a million in stakes, the future is bright for this four-year-old.

Despite just missing out on top overall honours, Sushi Sushi was a standout winner of the 3YO Pacing Colt or Gelding of the Year. With 13 wins from 13 starts, perfection was a joy to watch throughout the season as the son of Art Major set about enjoying the greatest three-year-old season witnessed in over a decade.

Adhesive proved to be no sticking point for the judges as she was voted 3YO Trotting Filly of the Year. Brilliant in winning the Glenferrie Farm Trotters Oaks, Adhesive backed up to win a heat of the Victorian Trotters Derby and an Australasian Breeders Crown repechage against the boys.

With dual-Derby success among his six seasonal wins, The Bohemian was a deserving recipient of 3YO Trotting Colt or Gelding of the Year. Excellent in claiming the NSW Trotters Derby in May, he added victory in The Holmfield at Group 3 level before scaling a career peak by winning the prestigious Victoria Trotters Derby at Maryborough on Redwood Day.

Make Mine Cullen claimed one of the new awards introduced at this year’s ceremony by taking out Mare of the Year honours. The Strathfieldsaye superstar burst out of the blocks winning six of her first seven starts for the season, also becoming the first ever mare to win the Kilmore Cup.

She was pushed all the way by Broadways Best whose main highlight included victory in the Group 1 Ladyship mile among seven wins for the season.

Also honoured on the night were:

  • Daryl Douglas (Leading State Driver)
  • Glenn Douglas (Leading Metropolitan Trainer)
  • Chris Alford (Leading Metropolitan Driver)
  • Ellen Tormey (Leading Concession Driver)
  • Heather Anderson (Owner of the Year)
  • Kerryn Manning (3000 wins)
  • Jodi Quinlan (1500 wins)
  • Greg Sugars (1000 wins)

arness Racing Victoria Chairman Ken Latta said, “Tonight’s ceremony provided us with an opportunity to recognise the true elite performers of our industry and pay tribute to those who have amazed and inspired us throughout the course of the 2010/11 season.

“Congratulations to all of our award winners and I’d like to thank to all of our owners and participants for their efforts throughout the course of last season.”

Alistair HOGG

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