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


Prior to Cup Week this year, Monkey King was like a lot of other horses in the record books of the elite.

He'd won a New Zealand Cup, and a Free-For-All, but put himself in pretty select company by doing both in the one season last year - not to mention adding an Auckland Cup and the Miracle Mile to his Horse of the Year season of 2009/10. But now he's claimed a piece of history that may never be repeated again, because he's done the 'double-double'.

Monkey King's dual Cup Week successes in consecutive years are an amazing achievement, and no amount of accolades that he's received or praise he's been showered with in the interim are unbefitting to the little black pacer from Dancingonmoonlight Farm who's known affectionately as 'Sam'. Quite simply, he's turned out to be one of the greatest pacers this country's ever produced. If not the greatest.

Sam's trainer Benny Hill admitted to being "pretty nervous" on the morning of Show Day this time around. "The Cup was a bit different because we'd been there and done it already, but after winning that and having a chance to do the double again, that's when I felt it," he said. "We were pretty happy to do it once, and never dreamed that we could repeat last year. I suppose I put the pressure on myself though - that's part of my job."

Hill thought Monkey King might've been a sitting duck in front in the $200,000 Group 1 Woodlands NZ Free-For-All, but in the end he didn't need reminding that it's usually his pacer that zooms home past the opposition - not the other way round.

For the 8-year-old's now regular driver Ricky May, who's partnered Monkey King in 23 of his 38 career victories and tallied up nearly $2.7 million in stakes while sitting behind him, he never stops being astonished. "I don't know where he gets all his 'muscle' from,"May said, shaking his head as Monkey King was led away for a wash after the Free-For-All. "He's a very clever little horse. He dropped the bit down the back today when Lance (Justice, on Smoken Up) was up alongside him. I almost had to scrub him up - but he just knew it wasn't time to get serious yet. Round the home turn when Lance stared yelling at his horse, that's when Monkey grabbed the bit again and took off."

May was the star driver on the big stage during Addington's glamour carnival, as he also won the Dominion with Stylish Monarch and snared a unique double of his own. "It's been an unbelievable week. You can never not be confident with Monkey, but he needed everything to go his way to win the Cup; in the end it didn't, but he still won."

May will join forces with Monkey King again at the end of next week, when they'll be shooting for their second consecutive Miracle Mile title across the Tasman. With what we've just witnessed over Cup Week, who says they can't put another one of those in the 'CV' again as well?

Looking way down the track to next year's Cup carnival in Christchurch, Hill says all going well he'll be back again with Sam - which means the rest of us could be reaching for those record book one more time. Australia might well have their Inter-Dominion freal Blacks A Fake - but we've got the 'Monkey'. "Age will catch up with him someday," Hill says matter-of-factly. It's just a case of looking after him. But we'll be trying, for sure."

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 17Nov2010

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