Otago Harness Racing Awards

By Tayler Strong

Australian trainer-driver Lance Justice, who has been associated with the champion pacers Smoken Up and Sokyola is the guest speaker at the Otago Harness Racing awards function in Dunedin on September 30.

Justice, who is based at Melton (Victoria) was inducted as a Caduceus Club Living Legend in 2016 with a record of 19 group one wins as a trainer and 17 as a driver.

Sokyola won 78 races from 161 starts and $1.9 million in stakes. Smoken Up amassed $3.6 million with 74 wins in 153 starts.

Sokyola won the Miracle Mile at Harold Park in 2003 and 04. Smoken Up won that race at Menangle in 2010 and 11. He set a a record for Australia and New Zealand when he won the Len Smith Mile at Menangle in 1.48.5 in 2011.

Sokyola (Soky’s Atom –Maudola) was bred  by the late Gordon McCullough, of  Balclutha ( 80km south of Dunedin). The gelding joined Justice after he won at Invercargill as a 3yr-old on March 3, 2000 at his fourth start when trained by Merv Todd at Gore.

“Lance was at my place the day after he won and drove Sokyola around quietly. He liked  the way he went and took him,’’  recalled Todd.

Sokyola won his first start for Justice and new owner Colin Croft at Globe Derby Park  seven weeks later. He won his last race at Moonee Valley  in June, 2007.

Smoken Up (Tinted Cloud – Carnlough Bay) was bought  as a  4yr-old after he had won two races from the Cambridge stable of John and David Butcher.

Justice had had numerous trips to New Zealand as a driver, trainer or buyer. He  led the team that won the trans-Tasman drivers series in Invercargill in 2016, He was the leading individual driver for the series.

Eamon Mguire is front runner to take the award of Otago Harness Horse of the year. The 3yr-old trained by Graeme Anderson, won the Southern Supremacy Stakes Final and  six other races from 13 starts. He also finished third in the NZ Derby.

The awards function in the Forbury Park function and events centre will follow a similar format to last year when the annual event was upgraded. Jess Smith, of Trackside television and radio, is master of ceremonies. A three course meal will follow a cocktail hour from 5.30pm. Tickets at $50 (including some refreshments) are available from Jemma Bartrop (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Some door sales are available on the night.

Eamon Maguire is  the front runner to win the Otago Harness Horse of the Year award.

The award will be announced at a function at Forbury Park raceway on Saturday, September 30.