The Curtain Falls on Champion Smoken Up

07 September 2014 | Len Baker
Smoken Up farewells the crowd at Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 6 September 2014

Smoken Up farewells the crowd at Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 6 September 2014

Harness racing’s favourite standardbred of the modern era - Smoken Up faced the starter for the final time in an illustrious career at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday September 6 and Victorian fans plus numerous interstate visitors turned out in force to say goodbe.

Although not a fairytale ending, the old boy at twelve years of age gave those in attendance something to cheer about as trainer/driver Lance Justice wasted little time in sending him forward from a one/one spot entering the straight at the bell to tackle Exciteusinthecity for the lead, but was unable to do so.

Not shirking the issue, Smoken Up refused to give in, finishing a gallant fourth, with only Kotare Legend (three back the markers – behind winner home turn) and Savesomtimetodream which came from last to finish third.The mile rate 1-53.9 (last half – quarter )

It was always going to be a task for the champ from gate two on the second line, with the gate speed of Exciteusinthecity a telling factor.

A Kiwi bred gelding by Tinted Cloud from Carnlough Bay, Smoken Up leaves the racetrack boasting 74 wins and 54 placings from 153 race appearances.

While all eyes were focussed on Smoken Up, the victory of Exciteusinthecity could not be denied after defying all challengers.

A Metropolitan/Excite gelding raced and trained by Terang publican Darren Cole and driven to perfection by youthful stable reinsman Tim McLean, Exciteusinthecity has been no slouch since first gracing the tracks, recording 17 wins from 81 outings.

Fully American bred Ken Warkentin/Kovel eight year old rig My High Expectations continued his dominance in the trotting ranks when successful in the $20,505 (Group 3) True Roman Trotters Free For All over 2240 metres, much to the delight of Avenel owner/trainer/driver David Aiken, last season’s leading Metropolitan trainer.

Leading easily from gate six, My High Expectations coasted at the head of affairs to score untouched by four metres in a mile rate of 1-59.3 (last half 58.4 – quarter 28.7) from the outsider Trappers Puzzle which ran the race of his life after trailing. Tender Don used the sprint lane from last on the markers to finish third.

Another feature on the night was the $20,505 Harness Breeders (Vic) Blossom Lady for mares M0 to M3 class over 2240 metres, which saw longshot Stylish Jasper victorious at Supertab odds of $38.90, giving owner Tony Moody a night to remember as earlier in the evening, Classy Guy ($29.50) saluted the judge in the Lance Justice Pace for M0 class over 1720 metres.

Trained at Cranbourne by Vivian Tomren, Stylish Jasper relished the tempo, coming from four back along the markers with regular reinsman Josh Duggan in the sulky to swamp her rivals out wide, scoring by one metre over another roughie Alina (three back the markers),with the pacemaker Glenferrie EJ 1.8 metres back third after leading and kicking clear on the final bend.

The hot favourite Tandias Bromac was most disappointing after moving to face the breeze at the bell, dropping out to finish fifth. The mile rate 1-56.8.

At this time every season, the claimers become prominent with both the Battle Of The Claimers and Claiming Masters Series programmed and on Saturday, three heats of the Tabcorp Park Melton Battle Of The Claimers took place.

Catch Your Breath (claiming price $12,000) a much travelled eight year old gelding by Blissful Hall from Course She Can made a one act affair of the first heat, leading virtually throughout from gate five, returning a mile rate of 1-55.2 in accounting for the roughie Jaxon Fella along the sprint lane from three back the markers and Our Eastwood Cullen which raced in the open from the bell.

Trained at Lara by Amanda Grieve, Catch Your Breath has fronted the starter 73 times for 23 victories.

Heat two saw another well travelled eight year old gelding Caesar Supreme ($9,000) score in identical fashion.

Trained and driven by Rockbank’s Gaita Pullicino, Caesar Supreme (Julius Caesar/Lavra Supreme) travelled under a tight rein and kicked clear on turning to defeat the heavily supported Rustle Murray (one/one – three wide last lap), with Giveusagrin third after trailing the winner. The mile rate 1-54.9.

The third and final heat went the way of nine year old Mach Three/Vance Royale gelding Brookfield Ruler ($12,000) who has also seen lots of the country for Melton based Tony Calabria with veteran reinsman Brian Gath in the sulky.

Trapped three wide from gate six, Brookfield Ruler pressed forward to park outside the leader Livin It Lovin It (gate two) which had worked extremely hard to retain the front running after Maywyns Storm almost crossed.

Surging to the front on the final bend, Brookfield Ruler bounded away in the straight to score by 8.3 metres from Maywyns Storm (one/one), with Gallymont Cohort now trained in South Australia after doing his recent racing in Queensland third. The mile rate 1-54.6.

Horses could not be claimed from the heats, but can be in next week’s $20,275 Final.

Other winners on the program were Enjoy A Coldie (David Van Ryn & Haydon Gray) and Asoka (Alison Chisholm).