Harness racing superstar Smoken Up faces a tough challenge in his bid for a farewell victory at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night.
Due to be retired after his appearance in the Casey Classic, Smoken Up has drawn awkwardly in gate nine for trainer Lance Justice.
Admitting the barrier has hampered the prospects of a final win, Justice stated the outing is “more about enjoying the moment” with the sprightly 12-year-old.
“If he wins, he wins and if he doesn’t it’s not the end of the world,” Justice declared. “Saturday is more about enjoying the moment as he says good bye to racing.
“We’ve been fortunate to have won 72 races with him, so one more will only be some sweet, sweet icing on the cake.
“Naturally, I would love to see him go out on a high, but from the draw it may not be possible.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still think he can win, and no matter what happens, I know he will do his best as always.
“Overall, it is going to be very emotion as it’s the end of an era.”
Justice was fortunate to enjoy a perfect end to former stable star Sokyola’s career at Moonee Valley on June 22, 2007 when the son of Soky’s Atom accounted for The Warp Drive and The Phantoms Guest.
“We were lucking enough to have a happy ending with Sokyola and with a bit of luck we can enjoy the same with Smoken Up,” Justice said.
“A win would also bookend his career with me as he won on debut at Yarra Valley in March 2007. To begin and end with a win would be a fairytale.”
Smoken Up has registered 72 victories and 48 placings from 141 starts with Justice for earnings of $3,588,949 to be Australasia's third richest pacer behind Blacks A Fake ($4,575,438) and Im Themightyquinn ($4,567,456).
His wins include two Miracle Miles, four South Australia Cups, four Len Smith Miles and the Victoria Cup, with his best time of 1:48.5 coming at Tabcorp Park Menangle on April 30, 2011.
The son of Tinted Cloud has claimed 13 Group Ones across the Southern Hemisphere, won at 15 tracks and set numerous records, including becoming the first standardbred on this side of the equator to better 1:50.
While his favourite track is Menangle due its spacious 1400-metre circuit, Smoken Up has registered the majority of his wins at Melbourne’s two metropolitan tracks.
In fact, the gelding boasts the record for the most wins at headquarters, with his 33 triumphs breaking down to 12 at Moonee Valley and 21 at Melton. That total also equates to 32 metropolitan wins and one country front.
Former top mare Make Mine Cullen held the previous record thanks to her 30 wins between the two tracks. The daughter of Christian Cullen won 29 at Melton and one at Moonee Valley for Glenn Douglas.
Her tally breaks down to 25 city and five country wins, with one of her provincial fronts coming at the Valley.
Sokyola was credited as Moonee Valley’s leading performer with his 29 wins, which splits to 26 metro and three country.
Former outstanding pacer Dusty Miller is believed to have won 27 races at the Ascot Vale Showgrounds, however, there are no in depth records to verify his stats.
To put things into another perspective, the immortal Popular Alm notched 21 wins at the Valley, while his arch-rival, Gammalite, had 24!
A farewell victory will also see Smoken Up fall a win 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 breaks down to an incredible 34 metro and one country success.
“To have Sokyola as the most successful metro horse in numbers and now Smoken Up is amazing,” Justice said. “Now with a bit of luck Trigger can match old Soky by bowing out with a win.
“Like I said, it’s going to be an emotional night and we will both be out there doing our best.”
- PAUL COURTS