YEAR: 2011


Smoken Up had little more than a good blow-out, running the 2700m mobile close on six seconds slower than it took Themightyquinn to beat Washakie in the Second Heat. Once Luke McCarthy parked Mr Feelgood, the others could do little more than sit and hope, and that's what they did.

The sprint home took Smoken Up 55.7 and the quarter 26, which effectively ended the contest. Villagem did hugely well to make ground for third, and Captain Peacock ran out of the pack and made the placing close. Justice left the course thinking how easy it had been. "I was waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. It would have been a pain if Auckland Reactor was in it, and that made it easier."

Justice said he had been particular in his preparation of running the horse the Auckland way. "I've given him lots of training ... the wrong way. I thought nothing would beat him the way he worked before this. Even Themightyquinn would be lucky to come home as quick as we did tonight. He's in the right frame of mind for this - both of us are. What's so special about this horse is that he doesn't know how to not try. Sokyola was the same. They just don't like other horses going past them." Justice has been home and returned. "I flew back to Adelaide on Saturday for my son Robert's wedding, and came back on Sunday."

Lisa Miles, the trainer/driver of Villagem and on her first visit to NZ, was pleased with his third. "He's not as seasoned as some, so he was always going to benefit from the race. From where he was, Lance was never going to hammer the horse."

Monkey King finished in the pack, running on late like most of the others. Ricky May didn't beat about the bushes. "I had my chance to pop out and I didn't. It was a negative drive. I knew I'd made a mistake." Trainer Benny Hill wasn't that concerned. "He's pulled up super - I'm happy."

Brent Mangos finished a place ahead - in fifth, with Franco Jamar. "I've never known a Heat to go so slow," he said.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 30Mar2011


YEAR: 2011


There is not a horse to match Smoken Up for brutal, gloves off, pound for pound slugging. Lance Justice decided at Alexandra Park last Friday night that if anyone had forgotten, it was time for a stern reminder. "I thought I'd give a message to the opposition - we're going good."

Smoken Up held out Washakie for the lead. Smiling Shard was put in the hunt, sitting parked for more than a lap and Blacks A Fake dropped back but again looked on target with another bold finish. Justice opened the throttle before the 500m and Smoken Up broke away and soon cleared out.

"He's got Sunday and Monday off, that's why I gave him this," said Justice. "He needed a good hit out. I'll have to change the bearings on the cart - they were 'smoken'. I've never had him going better. I don't think Themightyquinn could do that, going that speed, but I wouldn't like him within two or three lengths of me, so it will come down to the draw," he said. Justice said it would make people "take a breath and think what he can do".

Justice recalled that he always wanted a horse by Tinted Cloud ... "I don't know why. I looked at a few and then saw a tape of this one. I told the guys that if they wanted him, don't make an offer, pay what they want. I'd only had him three weeks when I told Adam (Hamilton) I had something special ... a horse who could be very good. The same people had Smooth Crusa, and it was soon Smooth who? But he's always had a bad hitch that I've trained him out of; but even tonight, when he got a bit crowded, you can feel it."

Smiling Shard had to front up and he did, though the Australian mountain has doubled in size with six making the cut. "He went huge," said driver Dexter Dunn. "We were all done at the quarter, but I'm rapt in the way he's kept at it. We'll need a good draw and a decent run - that's our only chance because the Australian horses are that good."

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 6Apr2011


YEAR: 2011


The $800,000 Skycity Inter-Dominion Pacing Grand Final was a clinical triumph for the powerful Australian contingent. Had it not been for the courageous effort of nuggetty little Smiling Shard, it would have been a first four finish. The best endeavours of the Kiwi team could not match the grinding pressure that is the Australian calling card. In the end, it was not even close, even amongst the visitors.

Smoken Up was never really put to the test by Themightyquinn and won by three-quarters of a length. In the same manner Themightyquinn was unchallenged for second, but Blacks A Fake was in a squeeze for third, and only got there by a neck from Smiling Shard. Mr Feelgood was a luckless fifth and a good margin ahead of the second bunch.

Natalie Rasmussen pretty much determined the pattern of the race, sending Blacks A Fake on a fast move out of the gate. Luke McCarthy, who had moved Mr Feelgood on the first lap to sit parked, expected her to stay there, so he'd be covered when Lance Justice came up with Smoken Up. Much to McCarthy's alarm, Rasmussen let Justice go by. "She said she was going to hold up." McCarthy was disgruntled. "He's no sitter. I should have gone on myself," he said.

Having Blacks A Fake and Mr Feelgood where he wanted them, and knowing Themightyquinn had not travelled up, Justice didn't have much on his mind. "I drove him a bit quiet early, used a bit of patience," he said. "I knew I had a bit of grunt left in the straight. I was waiting and holding him. I saw Themightyquinn run out of steam alongside me. He got to my girth and then I knew I had it."

Justice said winning races at this level was the pinnacle of being a trainer. "The horse came into this series with only one race in two months, so his fitness was always going to get better. He can race the way he does because of the way in which I manage him between them. But he doesn't get beaten in a dog-fight. He'll be dead on his feet and keep trying. There was no need for that this time."

There has barely been a bump in his career since Canterbury standardbred agent Paul Davies arranged the sale for $60,000 after sending Justice a video of the horse. "He had a paddock accident once when he tore a muscle in his back and missed the Miracle Mile. That's been it."

An 8-year-old by the In The Pocket horse Tinted Cloud, Smoken Up is very much a one-man horse. "He's always a pleasure to work," said Justice. "I've got to be pretty crook or away somewhere if I don't work him every day. If they're good enough to take away you should go with them. I always like to make sure they're happy. He's called 'Trigger', after the horse Roy Rogers had. When I call him, he comes. And I think he must hold some sort of record for the number of apples he eats."

The key players in the ownership are Alex Kay and Peter Gadsby, who race Smoken Up with Kay's son Ryan, Danny Locastro, Vince MacDonald, Michael Van Rens and Allan Bonney. They won over $400,000 with Smooth Crusa, who was trained for them by Paul Fitzpatrick, and then engaged Justice after being impressed with his management of the ageless star, Sokyola.

Having top horses is nothing new for Kay and Gadsby, Kay having a share in the big West Australian winner The Falcon Strike, and Gadsby with Miracle Mile winner and $1.2 million earner, Double Identity.

Smoken Up has long since topped their commendable earnings, having now won 47 races and more than $2,6m.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 13Apr2011


YEAR: 2010

Prime Minister John Key making presentation to Robert Famularo

Not everyone had given up on Monkey King. Benny Hill hadn't, nor Ricky May, or 'the Addman' - farrier Adam White, and not the Famularo family. And when Hill heard the noise of the crowd when May brought Monkey King onto the track for the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup, he knew they were not alone. The Monkey faithful were back at Addington. It came again when May took Monkey King level with Smoken Up on the corner of the Cup, and the rumble became a roar when Monkey King drew clear.

For the little black horse, it was his second Cup win. It was easier than last year's when he held out Bettor's Strike by a neck. This time it was decisive, by a length and a half. It was slower than last year because of a stiff easterly wind. And again it came from a show of patience, calculation and confidence by May.

Instead of being off and around in the early stages, he waited. Rather than moving in the middle stages, when he could have, he waited. It was not until the last lap, when others had been and gone, that he made his solo run at the front. At the 800m he was second, in easy striking distance outside Smoken Up and Stunin Cullen, with Sleepy Tripp, Bondy and Kiwi Ingenuity nearby.

Turning in, Monkey King soon got down to business. May knew Monkey King could stay better than Smoken Up. He'd seen it happen before - at 5.20pm-ish at Addington this time last year. And he suspected Stunin Cullen had run along too keenly to have a kick at the end. That's when he knew he had another New Zealand Cup on a 'C V' that is already bulging with Cups, Trophies, Group wins, headlines and simply great drives. As simple as it was, this was one of them.

"I was pretty confident at the corner," said May. "Stunin Cullen had over-raced, but I was still expecting him to come at me, and I was going better than Smoken Up. I sent him at the two hundred. I was pretty happy early on because he got past four or five at the start. And that wind was a bit strong so I was happy to wait a bit. I waited until they went as slow as they did. And Benny has done just a big job to peak him at the right time."

Benny's done it before, and this occasion again emphasised how well he does it. "The racing he had this time was planned," Hill said. "The time he went away he won, and twice since then he didn't. At home, I kept an eye on his weight. I like to see their heads down, but I don't feed big." Hill had a racing weight of 430kg in mind for him, and he knew he was within an ounce of it when he "had a little blow" after a solid run in the Cup Trial. "I knew we were back...I knew we were right on track," he said. "It's just a guideline, one tool I have for getting him where I want him." Another is whether Monkey King has the shakes or not. "He's not in the zone if he does."

While Hill and his staff at Dancinonmoonlight Farm knew they had Monkey King just where they wanted him, they knew it was over to the Cup King to handle the start, where within a second or two he could win it as easily as he could lose it. "I just kept him jogging, keeping his mind active," said May. "He loves Addington and loves two miles. For what he's done - two New Zealand Cups, an Auckland Cup, running 1.50, winning the Miracle Mile - he's got to be the best. And one of his best runs was when he was beaten into fourth in the Victoria Cup."

Hill is wary of Monkey King when he is well, as he has been this past week or so. "He can be a little shit at home. He tried to take a nip out of one of our girls the other day and it wasn't feed-up time. And it can be more than a nip. But it's not something you'd want to knock out of him. It's part of his character."

While Hill was over the moon with the Cup win of Monkey King, he was quick to rate the run of Power Of Tara, who rattled into fourth after being near last at the corner. He qualified as an unlucky runner after losing his place inside the last 1000 metres. "I really love the horse and he has settled into out barn so well since he arrived. He has been getting home so well in his races, and is just a neat wee horse. Stephen (McNally) has done a great job with him," he said.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 11Nov 2010


YEAR: 2009


Robert Famularo didn't mind who knew - he was emotional before the running of the $1m Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway.

After it was over, he had the immense pleasure of reporting the news to everyone. Because minutes after he stopped crying listening to the National Anthem, Monkey King brought a new wave of tearful joy by winning the Cup with a swooping run wide out on the track. "I was crying before the race and I cried after it."

That was after Monkey King, which he races with his wife Kerry and daughters Sara and Michelle under the Cavalla Bloodstock banner, had delivered the killer blow to the Aussie hopes, Smoken Up and Karloo Mick. No sooner had he done that when Bettor's Strike whistled out of the pack, slipping between the weakening Karloo Mick and a tiring but trying Kiwi Ingenuity, to close quickly and run him to a neck.

Famularo knew that if one horse deserved a reward at this high level, it was Monkey King. "It would have been a travesty if he endeed his career without a triumph such as this." Monkey King had gone close before, beaten a whisker by Flashing Red two years ago. Last Year, it was more of the same for Cavalla, beaten with Baileys Dream by Changeover. "It's been a difficult two years, coming to this one. I made a real effort to stay calm and collected. I love Monkey King and I'm so proud of him."

In fact, Famularo cast his passion net much further, praising his pivotal pair, trainer Benny Hill and driver Ricky May. "I can't underestimate the great strength that Benny brings to our operation. He loves these animals and so does Ricky. What's so wonderful about Ricky is that we are always presented with a racehorse each time when he gets back."

Famularo, who inherited his interest in racing from his father who liked a bet and his involvement from a successful company in the building industry, bought his first horse 30 years ago and has expanded to create a boutique breeding and racing establishment in North Canterbury. Monkey King came as a $20,000 purchase by initial trainer Steven Reid from the Premier Yearling Sales, and Famularo later bought his sire, Sands A Flyin.

Famularo is the first to admit that Hill and May have greater responsibilities than he has. "I can afford to be detached, and balance emotion with the objective. They must finish the business." In that respect, he has his horses in kind and clever hands. But Famularo has his eye on wider targets. "There has got to be another challenge. Whatever it is, we have got a long way to go."

Unlike the quiet and retiring Famularo, it is a flamboyant ambition but one they could well achieve.



Benny Hill has arrived in harness racing's fast lane quicker than he thought. Not so long ago, he was a loyal offsider for Steven Reid, then a training partner. But less than two years ago, when Reid threw in with Graeme Rogerson, Hill was left with the pleasant burden of looking after Monkey King, Baileys Dream, Harley Earl and some others with tidy connections.

Hill had done six years as a junior with Reid and had schooled well. "Four years ago my life changed. My wife and I split up. It was a big move to come south, and certainly a bit nerve-wracking. When I took over Dancingonmoonlight, it was really an extension of what I had already been doing," he said.

Having driven Monkey King in 2006 and in every start over the past 18 months, May was already part of the team. His patient style appeared to suit Monkey King, who has a lightning sprint but was always toey at the start. At the Met's Easter Meeting, Monkey King looked more like the professional racehorse he promised to be. "From that time onwards, you could notice a change. The stands were still a concern, but not the major worry they were."

Hill was so happy with the horse that he said he could do nothing more to improve him. Midway through the afternoon, he left the course with fellow trainer Laurence Hanrahan for a raspberry and coke. "But I was relaxed. It was only when I heard the National Anthem that I got a bit nervous."

Hill said May gave Monkey King a drive that suited the horse. "It was perfect. I just hand him the reins. But he comes and gets to know our horses, and he came up and drove four at the workouts for us last week: his job, not mine."

For Hill, Monkey King has now raced 10 times for seven wins and two seconds.



Super-cool Ricky May has become one of only two to drive the winners of four New Zealand Cups. He won with Monkey King on Tuesday, which followed those of Inky Lord, Iraklis and Mainland Banner. Todd Mitchell has won four, with Just An Excuse(twice), Homin Hosed and Gracious Knight, and they are both one behind the great Cecil Devine whose five wins were with False Step(three), Van Dieman and Thunder.

May's first hurdle was to get Monkey King off the mark, and he stood slightly ahead of Awesome Armbro to be on the safe side. He was away in good order, but settled well back while Pembrook Benny set off hard and Karloo Mick carried it on, and so did Smoken Up. So the Australians ran to the mile one and two, Pembrook Benny placed nicely three-back, while Washakie and Mr Feelgood were at times parked.

With a lap to run, Power Of Tara moved round, bringing up Kiwi Ingenuity and Monkey King caught the back of her. Near the 500 metres, Kiwi Ingenuity made her move, circling wide. May could see Smoken Up and Karloo Mick lower on the track, working hard, and the worring signs of Pembrook Benny looking strong behind them. "I was still back a bit on the bend, and I didn't know whether we'd be able to pick them up or not. I'd had a good run till then, but felt they were running along a bit - what time did we go? I could have sat longer, but I could see that Robbie (Holmes) was a bit flat and I looked up and saw the others were further ahead than I thought."

This is what Monkey King loves best - to spring from cover, a chase and a hard sprint. It was a Tua-type blow. Just when he had done that, Dexter Dunn found a gap for Bettor's Strike between Karloo Mick and Kiwi Ingenuity, which appeared to incovenience the mare when Karloo Mick ran out. Driver Greg Bennett was later fines $500 for it. "I've never been so excited," May said. "I'm so rapt for the horse. He's never had the accolades he has deserved."

Like Hill, May said he saw the change in Monkey King start six months ago. "He's great over two miles, and he is really quite versitile. Inky Lord was one-dimensional, in that he had to sprint. Iraklis was a bit like that, and Mainland Banner was tough but did not have the speed that he has."

May was later fined $500 for overuse of the whip and Lance Justice, the driver of Smoken Up, was fined the same for the same offence.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 12Nov09


YEAR: 2011


Lance Justice can look back on November as being bad but not awful. While the Inter-Dominion Pacing Grand Final is a loss in waiting, the Victorian trainer still left New Zealand and the Cup carnival with enough to be cheery about. Smoken Up followed his game New Zealand Cup second with a better effort to beat Franco Emirate in the Woodlands New Zealand Free-For-All, ending the gloomy possibility that he could have been placed but beaten in every Addington start.

Before the relief and happiness that brought, Justice had sent home the promising 3-year-old Mark Dennis and Discrimination, a lucky find in Southland. Discrimination could be the mirror image that Justice thought might happen but never would. He is an unraced 4-year-old gelding by Tinted Cloud and the tenth foal from the Vance Hanover mare, Disbar. The half-brother to big winner Disprove (11 wins) was bred by Michael House, and sold to Justice clients by Tony Barron, who qualified the horse in April.

"He reminds me of 'Trigger' in every way - his looks, his manner, the way he hangs; everything about him is so similar," said Justice. "He's going to win heaps of races. And he's four. You know you can't do anything with Tinted Clouds until they're that age."

After his free-for-all win over New Zealand's best except Terror To Love, Smoken Up is obviously still a long way off letting his star fade. "Now that he's nine, I thought it would only be a matter of time when he started on the downhill slide. I'm not sure he's ready for that yet," he said. "He was a totally different horse today than he was for the Cup. He had 18 hours in transit on his way here and he just stood there when I painted his feet on Cup morning. On Friday he was all over me, pushing and playing. And in the prelim I knew he wanted to be there - he never lets a horse go past him in the warm-up, and that's what he was like. He was just so much sharper."

Justice knows that great success and pleasure from it is not an everlasting condition. "I had a call from the owner of Sokyola a fortnight or so back wanting to know why I didn't take on the New Zealand Cup with the horse. Well, as we know, Sokyola was a Sydney horse and won two Miracle Miles. That was his race. And with Smoken Up, he's learn't to travel. It was not put to me all that lightly."

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 16Nov2011

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