ALL-TIME great Smoken Up and young gun Sushi Sushi will renew their rivalry in the $150,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup on Friday, January 25.
The champion duo set the scene for another titanic clash with breathtaking victories on Saturday night – Smoken Up in the South Australian Cup and Sushi Sushi in the Bendigo Pacing Cup.
Ballarat and District Trotting Club chief executive officer Paul Rowse confirmed Smoken Up and Sushi Sushi would again be going head-to-head in the group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup.
“It’s an exciting prospect,” Rowse said yesterday.
“They set the harness racing world alight with their performances just minutes apart in Adelaide and Bendigo,” Rowse said.
Smoken Up out-gunned another rising star Caribbean Blaster in a classic duel, while Sushi Sushi was devastating in his biggest win in open company on Australian soil.
Trainer of Smoken Up Lance Justice said the horse had pulled up well from his SA Cup triumph and is desperate to draw off the front row in the Ballarat feature to allow Smoken Up to take up his customary role in the lead.
“It’s really hard to say how good he is going, but he’s definitely going as good as he was last year, that’s for sure,” Justice said.
“I think he’s won just about everything, but I know he hasn’t won a Ballarat Cup.
“I’ve tried to win it a few times and keep getting knocked off on it. It’s a race I’d like to win.”
Billed as the heir apparent to the ageing Smoken Up’s crown, Sushi Sushi stepped up into grand circuit company for the first time in last year’s Ballarat Pacing Cup to take on the king.
The anticipation was huge.
As well as attempting to conquer Smoken Up, Sushi Sushi was chasing a 15th consecutive win.
There was no shortage of confidence in either camp in the lead-up.
The stars pacers did not fail to deliver either on Cup Night.
Sushi Sushi and Smoken Up had a grand battle, and although Sushi Sushi took the honours in the head-to-head contest, New Zealand visitor Highview Tommy was the spoiler in the pursuit of the title.
The Mark Purdon-trained and driven Highview Tommy caught Sushi Sushi right on the line to win. Smoken up had to settle for third.
With Highview Tommy again likely to line up at Bray Raceway, the Lance Justice-trained Smoken Up and Freddy Taiba-trained Sushi Sushi have a score to settle.
Smoken Up and Sushi Sushi have met only one other time – but that clash went almost unnoticed as they finished seventh and eight respectively in last year’s Victoria Cup at Melton.
This will be much different.
Sushi Sushi has spent a large part of the past 12 months in NZ, ironically prepared by Purdon. The now five-year-old had six starts there for a win in the group 2 Kaikoura Cup and third to Terror To Love and Highview Tommy in the group 1 $600,000 NZ Trotting Cup.
The Ballarat Pacing Cup field will be declared at a breakfast at Bray Raceway on Tuesday, when the barrier draw will also take place.