SUNBURY trainer Freddy Taiba fought back tears after Sushi Sushi’s stuning win in Saturday night’s $50,000 PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup.
Written off by many pundits after failing to fire in a stint in New Zealand, Sushi Sushi returned to his brilliant best on Saturday night.
Sushi Sushi was forced to do all the work three wide for the final lap, but still managed to sizzle home in a last half of 54.7 seconds, including his final 400m in 26.9 seconds.
He defeated gallant Kiwi pacer Mah Sish by a head, with Auckland Reactor running home well for third. Last year’s winner Decorated Jasper finished fourth.
“When you’ve got a champion like him that tapers off in form, people tend to jump off him a bit,’’ an emotional Taiba said after the win.
“When he comes out and performs first-up like that... it’s defintley exciting and a relief.
“We don’t knock him, we know what he’s capable of and we were quite confident he’d run well tonight.
“Running a last half of 54 three-wide.. he really had to earn it and like a true champion he stood up when it was time to be counted.”
Winning driver Greg Sugars won 14 consecutive races on Sushi Sushi as a three and four-year-old, including the Victoria Derby and Breeders Crown final.
But Sugars rated the Bendigo Cup win as Sushi Sushi’s career-best performance.
“I was always worried from gate nine we’d have too much work to do from the back,’’ Sugars said.
“With a lap to go I only had one option and that was to put him into the race three-wide.
“The leaders had a pretty good run out in front, so I wasn’t overly confident.
“For him to run a time like that three-wide and win the race... I think it’s the best win he’s had.”
Taiba said the decision to send Sushi Sushi to New Zealand to be in the care of leading trainer Mark Purdon had paid dividends, even though the horse was below his best on the racetrack.
“We sent him to New Zealand to toughen him up physically and mentally,’’ Taiba said.
“Even though he didn’t run to expectations over there, I have no doubt the trip has helped him.”
Next stop for Sushi Sushi is the Ballarat Pacing Cup on January 25.
In the corresponding event last year, Sushi Sushi’s 14-race winning streak was snapped.
“We’re going to take it one step at a time with him,’’ Taiba said.
“We’ll go to Ballarat next and then the Hunter Cup.
“If everything goes to plan we’ll then go to the Inter-Dominion.”
The well-backed Mustang Mach choked down and fell heading into the back straight the last time, but was cleared of injury.
The fall hampered Bendigo pacer Heza Trick and Bellas Delight.
Bellas Delight did well to recover and finish fifth.