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Herald Sun Form Guide : January 28th 2012
40 Herald Sun, Saturday, January 28, 2012 heraldsun + + PAGE 40 DHS 28-JAN-2012 FIRST C M YK HARNESS BALLARAT CUP Great Scot backs Cobber Mates: Alan Wood with Backas Cobber. Jason Bonnington HE may rate below Jimmy Barnes and Angus Young on the list of famous Scottish- Australians, but Ballarat- based trainer Alan Wood is a hometown hero all the same. A proud septuagenarian who arrived here from the Highlands north of Aberdeen more than 60 years ago, Wood is riding high with brave local squaregaiter Backas Cobber. Too good in the Horsham and Ouyen cups within a week this month, the improv- ing five-year-old was consid- ered a smoky for this year's Inter Dominion series. But after reaching a career high when he was three wide for a lap, yet still finished third behind I Can Doosit last weekend, Backas Cobber may be the giant-killer this championship needs. ''He is tough as old boots,'' Wood said with a laugh. ''A lot of people tell me I run him too often, but I reckon that just helps him be tough. He's always had the speed, but now he's got the guts and that's what wins you these big races.'' Having worked on cattle and sheep stations in Vic- toria's Western District after arriving in Australia as a 14-year-old, Wood knows more than most about dura- bility and courage. Successful with pacers such as Napoleon Boy, Victor Boy and Armchair Kid, Wood turned to trotters after buying unraced broodmare Supasans almost three decades ago. A dynasty of talented squaregaiters has followed, the best being Sundons Gift's slayer Backa Beyond and new hero Backas Cobber, both named in honour of his dual hemisphere heritage. ''Coming out on the boat way back in '48 was such a life-changing experience and I'll always remember my mother saying, 'I don't care where you take me, just don't leave me out the back of beyond','' Wood said. ''That's where Backa Beyond came from and this guy (Backas Cobber) is an even greater nod to my Aust- ralian side. Your cobber's your mate, and he's my mate.'' After next Saturday's final, he may be more than that again. However, before Wood and his son of Conch Deville make it to Melton and that $250,000 decider, they must negotiate heat four of the series at Ballarat tonight. Drawn barrier seven in a preliminary that includes highly rated Kiwi cam- paigners The Fiery Ginga and Vulcan, things will not be easy for the local star. ''If we could sneak into the final and draw the front, he can finish off in 56 seconds and not many can,'' Wood said. JASON BONNINGTON IF there was any doubt that horseman Greg Sugars was harness racing's hottest com- modity, the past fortnight has erased it for good. At Ballarat tonight Aus- tralia's most talented standardbred, Smoken Up, faces four-year-old pacing sensation Sushi Sushi in the most anticipated ''match race'' for more than a decade. On paper, the two cham- pions could scarcely be less similar. Smoken Up is an imposing veteran, a throwback to har- ness racing's halcyon days whose brutal racing style and will to win have endeared him to followers at all levels of the sport. Sushi Sushi is a pacing prodigy, an electrifying per- former with speed to burn and the scope to become Australasia's most cel- ebrated talent. They are master and apprentice with only one con- spicuous bond --- Sugars. Having driven Sushi Sushi in each of his 16 straight tri- umphs, the 27-year-old pilot also partnered Smoken Up to SA Cup success with trainer and regular reinsman Lance Justice sidelined by injury. But while the tug-of-war for his services has proved flattering and frustrating in equal measure, Sugars's loy- alty and commendable fore- sight will see him board the Sushi train once more at Bray Raceway tonight. ''I was always going to stick with Sushi, the commitment factor there is just so strong,'' he said. ''It's a little bit tough knowing Smoken Up will head to the Inter Dominion in Perth and I may not be with him now. To have the drive on Australia's two most exciting horses and have to give one up is not ideal. ''I'm looking towards the long-term future with Sushi though. I've got 100 per cent faith he's going to make it to that level and race in Inter Dominions himself. Not this year, but we'll be there soon enough.'' With a harness heritage that precedes him as the son of legendary South Aus- tralian horseman Ross, Sugars was earmarked as a star of the future soon after coming to Victoria more than seven years ago. But while the smiling assassin of the sulky already had four Group 1 victories and three straight century- winning seasons on his CV, it was not until last term he would make the quantum leap from adroit to elite. And Sushi Sushi was with him every step of the way. Way too good winning the Alabar Victoria Derby this time last year, Freddy Taiba's electric son of Art Major went on to present Sugars with more than half of his Group 1 successes for the season. SMOKEN UP Gelding by Tinted Cloud out of Carnlough Bay SUSHI SUSHI Gelding by Art Major out of Sabilize 9 AGE 4 104 starts, 56 wins, 34 placings CAREER RECORD 31 starts, 23 wins, 7 placings $2,896,368 STAKEMONEY $898,641 1min 48.5sec FASTEST MILE 1min 54.1sec 2010/2011 Miracle Mile 2011 Victoria Cup BEST WINS 2011 Victoria Derby 2011 Breeders Crown Final 2011 Great Northern Derby v SWEET AS IT GETS Reinsman Greg Sugars is in such hot demand he had to choose between champion Smoken Up and young star Sushi Sushi in tonight's Ballarat Cup SMOKEN UP
January 27th 2012
January 30th 2012