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
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
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
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
2009 CHRISTCHURCH CASINO NZ TROTTING CUP
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