SUSHI Sushi has been installed as a short-priced $2.20 favourite for the group 1 $150,000 Ballarat Pacing Cup on Friday night after drawing gate one.
While the cards fell Sushi Sushi’s way in yesterday’s barrier draw yesterday, all-time great Smoken Up was not so lucky. He drew 12 – the outside of the second row.
Smoken Up had a similar outcome last year when his clash with Sushi Sushi in the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup was billed as a match race.
Smoken Up came out of an awkward draw of nine.
Sushi Sushi led from outside the front row, and from barrier one is expected to lead without having to work anywhere near as hard.
A now more mature and seasoned racehorse, the five-year-old and his driver Greg Sugars are out to make amends for a last-stride loss to Highview Tommy.
Smoken Up is out to improve on his third 12 months ago.
His trainer Lance Justice had to watch from a wheelchair on the occasion as he recovered from broken legs, but he will be back in the sulky on Friday night and his aggression will ensure Sushi Sushi again has to earn his stripes.
Each of the leading contenders makes the trip to Ballarat at the top of their game.
Sushi Sushi returned to his scintillating best to take out the Bendigo Pacing Cup and Smoken Up is coming off his fourth South Australian Cup victory.
While there is no Highview Tommy this time – he takes on a cup-like field in The Pure Steel on Friday night – there are plenty of other contenders that could easily upset the two main rivals.
Hometown hope Decorated Jasper leads the charge after getting an ideal draw in eight – right behind Sushi Sushi.
As long as Sugars retains the lead, Jodi Quinlan and the Paul Rowse-trained Decorated Jasper could get a last crack at the frontrunners.
Mah Sish and Auckland Reactor will provide the New Zealand factor in the cup, although a strong Kiwi interest will not be there.
Mark Purdon is chasing his second consecutive Ballarat Pacing Cup win with Auckland Reactor after steering home Highview Tommy.
Sushi Sushi had an extended campaign in NZ last year in the care of Mark Purdon, while Devil Dodge was NZ-based before being transferred to the stable of Grant Dixon in Queensland last year.
Devil Dodge and last start-Menangle winner Mach Alert from New South Wales make up the interstate contingent.
NZ’s Four Starzzz Flash was the only one of the 13 nominations not to accept for cup.
Ballarat and District Trotting Club has programmed 12 races, including two group 3 Australasian Trotting Championship heats and a Victorian Monte (saddle trot) Championship heats, with the first event at 5.33pm