Honour Roll

1967

ROBIN DUNDEE

INTEREST was certainly at fever pitch when the six invited runners stepped on to Harold Park for the inaugural Craven Filter Miracle Mile on March 3, 1967.

One of the first Australian races to be sponsored, it was also one of the first shown ‘live’ on television through the ABC and regional stations.

The field contained three New Zealand pacers – Robin Dundee, Rocky Star and Southern Song; two local Sydney pacers, Tongue Twister and Rachel McGregor and the Victorian mare Angelique.

History was made on that balmy March night.

A crowd of 20,287 gave eight-year-old mare Robin Dundee (4/5 favourite) a champion’s ovation in her lap of honour after she scorched over the Glebe circuit in 1:59 with Robert Cameron in the sulky to record an effortless 25-yard victory over Tongue Twister (9-2) with Angelique (10-1) three metres further back in third spot.

Australian harness racing had come of age.

The inaugural Miracle Mile did more to put Australia and New Zealand on the centre-stage of the world scene than any other individual event.

Five of those six pacers eventually went on to race in the US. Angelique was the only one to stay home.

 

1968

HALWES


Some keen judges including Kevin Newman and my journalist colleague Harry Pearce consider Halwes the finest pacer ever to grace Harold Park.
This NSW bred but Tasmanian-owned and trained super horse went a long way to proving it that March night in 1968 when he absolutely strolled to a 20 metre triumph in the Craven Filter Miracle Mile.
His 1:58.6 clipped 0.4 seconds from the record set a year earlier by Robin Dundee.
The $15,000 he earned was the highest prizemoney won by a horse at Harold Park to that time, the basic prizemoney for first being $7,500 plus $2,500 for going better than two minutes, plus another $5000 for setting the record.
Halwes had made a remarkable recovery from the hoof infection, which forced his withdrawal from the Auckland Inter Dominion Final two weeks previously.
Aub Wesley (part-owner and trainer) and driver Kevin Newman applied all manner of poultices to Halwes's sore hoof and the great eight-year-old stallion was fit for the big Mile event in which he drew barrier two.
Newman, driving confidently because he knew Halwes had plenty "on" his five rivals, allowed his horse to drop back to the rear making no use of barrier two in the first 400 metres.
Halwes came to the outside before the bell, sprinting to the front at the 400-metre mark to win easily.
This out and out champion was pure dynamite that night, simply outclassing First Lee (Kevin Robinson) which had won the Inter Dominion at Auckland after Halwes's shock late withdrawal only two or three hours before the race.
New Zealander Great Adios (Ray Norton) was a distant third. Cardinal Bruce (Barry Stocks) fell approaching the home turn and Paddy's Night (Alf Phillis) and Macaree (Les Chant) were inconvenienced, however, the fall made little difference to the result.
Halwes started at 9-4 on, his presence virtually stifling betting on the Miracle Mile but the crowd was gratifying (19,859) and the TAB turnover on the seven-race program was a record $433,588 plus $196,534 through the on-course tote.

1969

ADAPTOR

SUCCESS followed success with the Miracle Mile this year . . . 1969 saw 19,593 attend the third Craven Filter Miracle Mile on March 14.

Basic prizemoney was increased to $12,500, plus a further $2,500 if the winner equalled or bettered two minutes – and a further $10,000 to equal or better the 1:58.6 track record set by Halwes a year earlier.

Victorian speedster Adaptor (1-2 favourite) driven by his trainer Jack Hargreaves, took the lead after going two furlongs (400m) and was untroubled to beat Twinkle Hanover (6-1) by seven yards, after running his final quarter in 29 seconds. Viking Water (8-1) was five yards away third.

Adaptor, which had to be scratched from the race a year earlier after injuring a check ligament, ran the mile in 1:59.2, while Twinkle Hanover clocked 1:59.8 – the first time two runners had gone better than two minutes in a race in Australia.

The exodus to the US continued . . . three more Miracle Mile starters were later sold to race in the Northern Hemisphere – Adaptor, Twinkle Hanover and Cocky Raider, which finished fourth in 2:00.6.

The American export tally was now 11 – and climbing.

 

1970

LUCKY CREED

Lucky Creed was an indomitable Queensland trained horse with an equally determined Harold Park legend to steer him - Vic Frost.

They combined to win the 1970 Miracle Mile, Lucky Creed being a trailblazer for the northern State which has sent out a succession of top liners in recent times including Be Good Johnny (Miracle Mile winner, 2005 and 2006) and the one and only Blacks A Fake.

Lucky Creed, owned and trained by Merv Wanless, was Australia's most publicised pacer during the 1969-70 summer, the dashing Queenslander winning a then record 24 successive races before Cocky Raider got up to beat him in the last stride of the 1970 Australia Day Cup at Harold Park.

After that, Lucky Creed won a heat of the 1970 Inter at the Melbourne Showgrounds before failing to the free running Victorian, Bold David (Alf Simons) in the Final.

It was different in the Miracle Mile.

Bold David led, tracked on the rails, by Lucky Creed.

Alf Simons dashed Bold David clear coming to the home turn allowing a clear run for Lucky Creed which gradually gained the upper hand. He stopped the clock in 1:59.0.

Bob Cain, writing on the history of the race in his book "Harnessing A Miracle" commented: "The most significant factor about that Miracle Mile, apart from Lucky Creed's superb win, was that the first four horses all got below two minutes. It was the first time this had happened in a race in Australia."

Lucky Creed subsequently campaigned in the USA for Wanless and Frost and later for Stanley Dancer who leased him for a period.

Certainly, Lucky Creed was one of the toughest pacers ever to win the big mile.

 

1971

MOUNT EDEN

ONLY a phenomenon like Mount Eden could have won the fifth Craven Filter Miracle Mile before a captivated crowd of 24,492 on March 12, 1971.

This freak pacer from the "Golden West" really wanted to trot, it being his diabolical habit to trot away before being tugged into a pace.

The first time he lined up behind the mobile for the 1971 Miracle Mile, Mount Eden simply refused to pace despite the efforts of his driver E.J. (Jack) Miles of Cloverdale, West Australia.

"False start!" declared the starter Jack Mooney as Mount Eden's backers (he was the 6-4 favourite) groaned.

He was at least 50 metres behind the other five starters - Stella Frost (D Townley), Neutrodyne (C King), Bay Foyle (C.Parsons), Manaroa (A Harrison) and Deep Court (Joe Webster).

The next time, Mount Eden lost "only" 30 to 40 metres at the start.

It seemed the champion was as good as out of the race . . . for sure.

The distance was only a mile flutter and Mount Eden was, after all, a conservative 10 lengths behind the second last horse.

Stella Frost (Doody Townley) and Bay Foyle (Charlie Parsons) led out and Stella Frost could have gone to the lead on her own but was eased behind Bay Foyle which immediately steadied the pace going over the first half-mile in a minute flat.

So Miles took off on Mount Eden.

He circled the field in what was an electrifying burst of speed and he shot right away in the back straight as the tiring Bay Foyle dropped back on Stella Frost.

Amid unprecedented crowd scenes, Mount Eden scored pulling up by 15 yards in a fast 1:58.8. Harold Park had never seen anything quite like it.

This incredible four-year-old had fractured two minutes despite losing more than 30 metres at the start.

There is no doubt Stella Frost, which finished fourth, would have extended Mount Eden had she not given up the lead to Bay Foyle.

She was full of running with nowhere to go for all of the last half-mile.

Mount Eden was sold that year for something like $250,000 (the McArdle brothers, Bob and John and Eddie Sims organised the deal) to an American owner but the big bay stallion broke down before returning home for stud duties at which he had only had moderate success.

1972

BAY FOYLE

BAY FOYLE, trained at Bankstown by Charlie Parsons, gave New South Wales its first win (at last!) in 1972 when he sprinted clear of a pocket at the top of the straight to down three great horses, Reichman, Manaroa and Welcome Advice at Harold Park Paceway.

This was one of the best-performed fields ever to be selected for the race:  Reichman (R. Hocking), Deep Court (Joe Webster), Monaroa (D Dove), Bay Foyle (C Parsons), Welcome Advice (A Harpley) and Manaroa (A Harrison).

Manaroa was a mighty New Zealand stayer unsuited by the short journey but it was widely anticipated that the mobile start would help him as Manaroa was a risky barrier proposition from a standing start.

The betting plunge on Manaroa was confident and sustained and this writer remembers big-spending media magnate Kerry Packer also plonked a small fortune on him, the "ugly duckling" as Manaroa was called, firming from 9-2 to 5-2 favouritism while Reichman was also heavily supported from 4-1 into 3-1 while Bay Foyle ‘blew’ from 2-1 to 5-1 in what was a tremendous betting race.

Charlie Parsons, much revered in trotting circles as one of the sport's finest horsemen, drove the race of his life to get Bay Foyle home by a head in the last few strides from the brilliant Victorian Reichman (Rex Hocking), which was to go one better just 12 months later.

Bay Foyle's time of 2:00.6 was the slowest "MM" time at that stage with the track being badly rain-affected.

Manaroa's chances were dimmed when Reichman set a relatively slow pace, the big sprint developing into a dash from the bell lap.

Manaroa and Welcome Advice, which was to win the 1972 Inter-Dominion at Albion Park, both finished fast for third and fourth respectively.

The on-course crowd of 24,214 wagered $306,637 on the tote at the track while the TAB turnover was a record $774,640 thus taking the combined tote turnover to more than a million dollars for the first time in the history of Australian harness racing.

Len Smith and the New South Wales Trotting Club committee, headed by Jim Reeves, were more enthusiastic than ever about the Miracle Mile and its future.

 

1973

REICHMAN

SOUTH Australian-bred champion, Reichman (Rex Hocking) came up from Ballarat to score in 1973 giving Sydney fans one of the finest displays of sustained speed ever witnessed anywhere.

His all-the-way triumph in 1:58.4 was probably equivalent to a 1:54 mile by today’s standards, as it was in the modern era of a considerably faster Harold Park track, plus much lighter sulkies.

Reichman's time clipped 0.2 seconds from Halwes's Australian race record and the big, direct sire line descendant of the immortal Globe Derby, did it all the way. (He was by Chief Spring, by Springfield Globe by Globe Derby).

So fast did he go that Reichman paced the first half-mile in a sizzling 58.4s, then surged home in a minute flat.

The previous year Hocking had slowed the field in front on Reichman only to be overhauled by Bay Foyle.

A month after his Miracle Mile win, Reichman went to Adelaide where he is entrenched in the history books as the horse that won the main event, the Free-For-All, on the night the new track, Globe Derby Park, opened for racing on April 14, 1973.

Long before the Miracle Mile, Reichman proved he was a world-class pacer in February, 1972 when he won a one mile mobile FFA in a sensational 1:58.6 (equalling Halwes's Australian record) on the tiny 600m Melbourne track.

Assuredly, Reichman holds a high place in harness racing's hall of fame.

Several top-class pacers followed him home in the 1973 Miracle Mile - Royal Ascot (NZ), Manaroa (NZ), Welcome Advice, Just Too Good and the West Australian, Yankee Rhythm.

The unlucky Royal Ascot had finished second to Hondo Grattan in the Inter Dominion Grand Final at Harold Park only a couple of weeks before the Miracle Mile.

This top class New Zealander was later to prove his worth in the US, where he won a string of races.

 

1974

HONDO GRATTAN

FEW race finishes in Harold Park's 59-year history created such excitement as the head-and-head struggle between those two household names, Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios, in the 1974 Miracle Mile.

Amid scenes of unrestrained euphoria, ‘Little Hondo’ got up in the last couple of strides to defeat the mighty ‘Paleface’ in a 1:59 mile rate.

Mitchell Victory was six metres away third, followed by the nine-year-old Reichman, which was a heavily-backed second favourite at 9-4.

Four-year-old Paleface Adios (Keith Pike) - backed from 5-2 to 6-4 in what was a tremendous betting race - set the pace from barrier two, going solidly over the first half in 59.6s then home in 59.4s with Hondo Grattan (Tony Turnbull) - 5-2 to 7-2 –finding a one-one trail (from barrier four) until it was time for the tenacious five-year-old to challenge.

It was only in the final two or three strides that Hondo Grattan, under Turnbull’s desperate driving, poked his head in front.

The TAB turnover that night was $916,975 on the eight races.

This was Paleface Adios's first appearance in the Miracle Mile. He was to start six more times but more about that later.

Hondo Grattan which had won his second Inter Dominion Final at Gloucester Park at his previous start, actually lined up in three Miracle Miles for one win, a third and a fourth.

His prizemoney was $11,500 for winning plus a $5,000 bonus for breaking two minutes.

A study of the racebook from that night shows 78 bookmakers serviced the 22,448 patrons/punters in attendance.

Among the luminaries of that profession that night were Bruce McHugh and John Waterhouse junior who bet on interstate events only. There was also Bill Waterhouse, Harry Barrett, Keith Free, Gordon Grant, Homer Jones, Peter Kafataris, Arthur Mulry, Mick Rowlands, Trevor Stuckey, Don Todd and Mick Rolfe, who was in the Leger enclosure.

Mick Rolfe who went on to become a well-established, respected bookie at the gallops, was, of course, the father of the successful present day trainer-driver, Mark Rolfe.

1975

YOUNG QUINN

MANY of the ‘so-called experts’ considered the 1975 field was the most select, best-performed group of horses ever to line up in a Miracle Mile.

Young Quinn made a late dash from New Zealand, arriving the night before the race, his trainer-driver Charlie Hunter not being all that bothered by that or the fact the champion had barrier six, from which no horse had won the Miracle Mile.

The big bay gelding which had won the Inter Dominion Final at Auckland at his previous outing, was opposed by Adios Victor, Royal Gaze, Mitchell Victory, Paleface Adios and Hondo Grattan.

What a line up that was!

Some of the sceptics didn't think Young Quinn could win, largely because of the barrier and small track, which he wasn't used to.

Some big punters, aware the champion had overcome his knee knocking problem, backed Young Quinn from 3-1 to 2-1 but he was only second favourite to the Kevin Newman-trained chestnut Mitchell Victory, which had finished third the previous year.

Tony Turnbull (suspended) couldn't drive Hondo Grattan, his young son, Greg, took the reins on the "Bathurst Bulldog."

Well, it was a muddling-run affair, Mitchell Victory (10-9 favourite) being caught in a hopeless pocket on the fence with Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios posted wide most of the way, while Charlie Hunter took off at the 400m, went around them, to win easily by six metres over Mitchell Victory and Royal Gaze. Hondo Grattan, Paleface Adios and Adios Victory completed the finishing order.

Because Arthur Bray (Adios Victor) had slowed the pace to only 60.3 seconds for the first half-mile, the overall time of 1:58.8 was just outside Reichman's track record.

The $24,000 he earned, took Young Quinn's earnings to more than $200,000, gaining the distinction of being the first pacer in Australia/New Zealand to pass the $200,000 milestone.

 

1976

PALEFACE ADIOS

IT was third time lucky for one of Australia’s favourite pacers Paleface Adios . . . the sublime, one-in-a-million baldy-faced chestnut from the wheat fields of Temora.

No horse in the 59 years of night racing at Harold Park has entered the hearts, minds and the home lounge rooms of the public in quite the same way as ‘Paleface’.

His popularity had something to do with television, the ABC providing coverage of the last three races in colour, starting in 1975 when he was in peak form.

Paleface Adios, possessing Hollywood-style looks and appealed to people who knew little or nothing about harness racing and its complexities.

He was a thing of beauty as he paced at full stretch, in his own style for his trainer-driver Colin Pike, who transported him from Perth to Cairns for races and to give the fans their opportunity to meet and salute this champion.

When he won the 1976 Miracle Mile, six-year-old Paleface Adios was having his 109th start.

And that was his 60th win!

He was Australia's top money-winning pacer on $216,000 and he earned a further $32,500 that March night in 1976.

Paleface, favourably drawn in four, led all the way in a record-equalling 1:58.4.

He defeated his top-class Sydney rival Don't Retreat (Lawrie Moulds) by three metres with Hondo Grattan a further 10 metres away third in front of Royal Gaze, Wilbur Post and Micron.

Paleface Adios was to line up in seven Miracle Miles from 1974 to 1980, the champion registering one win, four seconds, one third and a fifth.

This was an amazing record that historians suggest will never be equalled.

 

1977

ROYAL FORCE

NEW South Wales had two top liners, Paleface Adios (barrier six) and Don't Retreat (barrier four) as a strongly fancied pair, but West Australia appeared to have the upper hand with the favourite Pure Steel (barrier two) and Royal Force (barrier five) to keep the West's flag flying.

Royal Force, the outsider of the Perth pair at 7-1, scored at what was at that time, the longest priced Miracle Mile winner.

Pure Steel, the 2-1 favourite, driven by his then Fremantle trainer, Jack Retzlaff, was in superb form and he had the advantage of barrier two.

This magnificent NSW-bred pacer blotted his copybook by hitting his knee and breaking badly a few metres after the start as Retzlaff urged him hard to take advantage of his inside alley.

So the mighty Pure Steel was out of the race by the time they reached the first turn.

Royal Force, well driven by Dudley Anderson (a Perth blacksmith), enjoyed the run of the race and was good enough to hold off Paleface Adios by one metre in 1:59.5.

A dashing seven-year-old black stallion, Royal Force's victory was no fluke.

A few weeks before the Miracle Mile, this powerful son of Johnny Globe (grandson of Globe Derby) set an Australian race record of 1:57.0 for the mile winning from Paleface Adios at Moonee Valley and he had also finished third to Pure Steel and Paleface Adios in the Hunter Cup.

A group of Perth punters won handsomely on Royal Force, backing him from 8-1 to 7-1 for the big mile event.

Paleface Adios, which raced without cover for most of the race, may have won had driver Colin Pike not dropped his whip at the top of the straight.

Old Paleface used to respond to the whip when things were desperate.

Pure Steel finished last, a very disappointing favourite indeed but this tough as teak champion from the west was to have his revenge one year later.

 

 1978

PURE STEEL

Champion WA pacer Pure Steel redeemed himself for his Miracle Mile failure a year earlier when he returned to Sydney to win the race in 1978.
One of the toughest stayers Australia has known, Pure Steel was last to finish when sent out 2/1 favourite in 1977, but there were excuses for the failure as he broke soon after the start, losing all chance.
There were no such mistakes the following year. "Steelo" won most of his 68 races from 126 starts by grinding his rivals into the ground, and that's precisely what he did in the 1978 Miracle Mile, which was worth $50,000 plus $20,000 in bonus prizemoney for record times.
After starting from barrier one, Pure Steel dropped to the rear early, but was always travelling well for driver Ted Demmler. Sent forward three-wide at the halfway mark, the six-year-old kept pressing on relentlessly until he had his rivals beaten.
Second favourite at 5/2, he scored by four metres from Paleface Adios (7/2) which finished on well, with 40/1 outsider Michael Frost third. Michael Frost was first reserve, but gained a start when NSW star Rip Van Winkle had to be scratched because of a hoof infection.
Victorian pacer Markovina was sent out favourite at 2/1 in advance of the winner, but an incident inside the last lap when he clipped Pure Steel's wheel and nearly fell, put him out of contention.
Pure Steel's time, 2:00.4 made him only the second winner of the race (to that time) not to break two minutes for the mile. But winning is the name of the game and owner Russell Roberts, his trainer son, Mark and driver, Ted Demmler all went home happy men.
Pure Steel, which boasted 1947 Inter Dominion winner Bandbox as his grand-dam, will long be remembered as one of the all-time greats of harness racing.
By Toledo from Pure Bands, he was bought by Russell Roberts, a Perth bookmaker, for only $2400 at the 1973 Sydney Yearling Sales. By the time he retired, he had earned $952,941 in prizemoney, a staggering amount at that time.
Pure Steel's first trainer and driver was Fred Kersley who won nine out of 15 starts with him before taking him to Adelaide for the 1976 Inter Dominion. But after winning a heat and running second, as favourite, to 40/1 outsider Carclew in the final, the pacer was transferred from Kersley and given to Roberts' son, Mark to train.
Neither Kersley nor Roberts spoke publicly about their split and each went his own way to achieve further fame in the racing world.
Kersley, of course gained legendary status, not only in harness racing, but also in the thoroughbred field where he has trained many winners including the great Northerly, while Roberts went on to win numerous Group One races with Pure Steel as well as the 1982 Inter Dominion in Perth with Rhett's Law.
Pure Steel was no one-man horse, winning for eight different reinsmen during his career. As well as Kersley and Demmler, he was also successful with Phil Coulson, Les Poyser, Jack Retzlaff, Mark Roberts, Steven Shinn and Lawrie Moulds in the sulky.

1979

THE SCOTSMAN

AFTER only 12 years, the Craven Filter Miracle Mile had become Australia’s most internationally-famous pacing event.

The race had gained fame throughout the world, at times even upstaging the time-honoured Inter Dominion Championship in the eyes of American trotting administrators.

The reason for the increased American interest in the race was quite obvious: it was contested over a flying mile – the yardstick by which Americans gauge their champions.

From the outset, in 1967, when Robin Dundee won the inaugural Miracle Mile in 1:59, the first sub-two minute mile in the Southern Hemisphere, trotting in Australia came of age.

Since Robin Dundee’s trailblazing victory, that barrier was broken by no less than 27 Mirale Mile competitors in the ensuing 11 years.

It hardly came as a surprise when 16 of them eventually found their way to the US.

Included in that group were five Miracle Mile winners – Robin Dundee, Adaptor, Lucky Creed, Mount Eden and Young Quinn.

Other top pacers such as First Lee, Twinkle Hanover, Cocky Raider, Stella frost and Royal Ascot also ended their racing days in America.

The Scotsman, the winner of the 13th Craven Filter Miracle Mile on April 6, 1979, also finished his racing days in the US.

That year’s Miracle Mile carried basic prizemoney of $60,000, plus $20,000 in time incentives and was run as the first leg of a TAB feature double with the STC’s Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill the following day.

Trained and driven by Graeme Sparkes, The Scotsman (3-1) finished strongly to beat Paleface Adios (5-1) by a metre and a half. Lord Module (13-8 favourite) was a neck away third after locking wheels with Paleface Adios 50 metres from the finish line.

The Scotsman paced the mile in 2:00.7, which was 2.3 seconds slower than the race record, shared by Reichman and Paleface Adios.

It is still the slowest winning time in Miracle Mile history.

 

1980

LOCARNO

A record that probably will never be broken was set in the 1980 Miracle Mile won by New Zealand visitor, Locarno, the rank outsider of the field at 20/1.

To this day, Locarno remains the longest-priced winner of the race, but that could easily change in the future. What is unlikely to alter is the record set by the third placegetter, Paleface Adios which, incredibly, was contesting the Miracle Mile at the age of 10 for the seventh year in succession.

No other pacer has got close to that many starts nor is any likely to in the years to come, (Paleface's record from his seven appearances stands at one win, four seconds, a third and a fifth placing).

Locarno, like Paleface Adios, was a striking chestnut. Bred in Christchurch by Ernie Francis, he was by Local Light from Bravine and was trained and driven by Robin Butt.

In winning Locarno gained the dubious distinction of being the third pacer in successive years to score in slower than two minutes. But while his time, 2:00.4 was nothing to write home about, the manner in which he took out the race had the crowd of 22,238 screaming with excitement.

Only the second winner to come from the extreme outside draw in barrier six (Young Quinn in 1975 was the first), Locarno was restrained by Butt at the start and allowed to drop out to last in the early stages.

He was still last at the bell but 300 metres from home Butt began winding him up for a big finish. Four-wide around the home turn, Locarno powered home over the top of two previous Miracle Mile winners, Pure Steel and Paleface Adios, to score by two metres and take home the $42,500 first prizemoney.

Fellow New Zealander Lord Module was favourite for the second successive year but failed to beat a runner home.

This time though, it was not through waywardness he was beaten, but through an error made by driver Cec Devine who elected to remain on the rails at a vital stage of the race.

As a result Lord Module failed to get a clear run in the straight, much to the disgust of punters who demonstrated angrily against Devine after the race.

Locarno followed his Miracle Mile victory by winning a heat and finishing second to Koala King in the final of the 1980 Inter Dominion at Harold Park before returning home to New Zealand.

Brought back to Sydney for another crack at the Miracle Mile the following year Locarno suffered a leg injury three weeks before the race but was still able to finish second to Friendly Footman.

Later that year he was retired to stud and was only aged 10 when he died suddenly in 1984.

 

1981

FRIENDLY FOOTMAN

FRANK Day's decision to "sack" himself as the driver and put Kevin Newman in the sulky paid off when Friendly Footman scored a surprise win at 10/1 in the 1981 Miracle Mile.

There's nothing to say Friendly Footman wouldn't have won had Day taken the drive himself. But the Goulburn trainer considered the engagement of Newman, a multiple winner of the Harold Park drivers' premiership, could only improve the pacer's chances.

Newman, who had won the race previously on Halwes in 1968, didn't let the side down.

Despite being forced to race without cover outside pacemaker, Satinover, for most of the trip, Friendly Footman was rated perfectly by Newman who took him to the front near the home turn before going on to win by five metres.

Defending champion Locarno (5/1) finished second after having every chance while Koala King (4/1) was three metres away in third place.

Frosty Imp, favourite at 5/2 in an open betting race, finished fourth after leading the field early then taking a trail going into the back straight the first time.

Five-year-old Friendly Footman clocked 1:59.2 on a rain-affected track and according to Newman would have threatened the race record (1:58.4) had the going been better.

Unlike many top performers Friendly Footman had very few injury problems during his career that lasted for eight seasons.

Miracle Mile time, in particular was a good time of the year for him: He started four times at Miracle Mile meetings and won at three of them.

As well as the big race itself he also won the Simpson Sprint on Miracle Mile night in 1979 and the Ansett FFA at the corresponding meeting in 1982.

When he retired in 1984 he had banked $210,000 in prizemoney for his owners Cliff and Ken Friend as a result of 42 wins and 46 minor placings from 138 starts.

Being sired by The Footman and owned by the Friend brothers of Goulburn, it could be assumed Friendly Footman was named after his owners and his sire.

But, according to Ken Friend, it was more because he was such a well-tempered foal that he was given the name Friendly.

 

1982

GUNDARY FLYER

FOR THE first and only time in Miracle Mile history the field for the 1982 race comprised all New South Wales-trained pacers.

Several New Zealand and interstate horses were on the shortlist for inclusion but all fell by the wayside after succumbing to injuries in the weeks leading up to the event.

The race went to Gundary Flyer, trained by Michael Day, who followed in the footsteps of his father Frank, who prepared Friendly Footman to win the previous year. But unlike his father, Michael drove the winner himself.

It was a wonderful effort by Gundary Flyer, whose time of 1:56.9 broke the race record by 1.5 seconds, earning connections a $10,000 bonus in addition to the $55,000 first prizemoney.

But had the race been run under a rule implemented four years later, The Flyer would not have contested the event at all; he would have been scratched by order of the stewards at the barrier.

Gundary Flyer caused two false starts before winning and under the rules then, was sent from his original draw (one) to the extreme outside (six).

However, the same situation would not have applied under the new rule four years later which allowed for the automatic withdrawal of any horse that caused more than one false start.

After being banished to the outside, Gundary Flyer, well backed at 7/2, was still badly away when the field left the barrier at the third attempt and lost several lengths.

But he gradually made up ground before racing around the field to sit outside the leader 1200m from home. From then on, he was simply too strong and was going away at the finish to beat Frosty Imp (7/4) with the 5/4 favourite Double Agent close-up in third place.

Double Agent, which was to win the race two years later, set a sizzling pace going through the first quarter in 26.5s and the half in 57.8s, which contributed to the winner breaking the race record.

Raced by Goulburn service station proprietor, Ray Moroney and his wife Gail, Gundary Flyer was not well-bred on his dam's side: by Good Flyer he was out of Siletta, a mare that had failed to produce a winner from seven foals when Moroney bought her for only $600.

Her first foal for Moroney was also a failure, but her second, Gundary Flyer made the $600 outlay money well spent.

Although generally regarded as a risky barrier proposition, Gundary Flyer wasn't lacking in the heart department.

When he retired his record stood at 28 wins (including a Victoria Derby and an Australian Derby as well as the Miracle Mile) from 50 starts for more than $215,000 in prizemoney.

 

1983

POPULAR ALM

IT was while he was campaigning with Kotare Knight in the 1981 Inter Dominion series in Hobart that Vin Knight boasted he had Australia's next superstar “back home” in his father's stables at Kilmore.

Knight, the flamboyant but tragic reinsman who died by his own hand in 1991, declared the one at home even better than Kotare Knight, which had qualified for the Inter final that year by winning two of his three heats.

Vinny, of course, was right.

The horse to which he was referring was Popular Alm, which went on to win the 1983 Miracle Mile as the shortest-priced favourite on record at 9/2 on.

‘Poppy’ was adored by harness racing fans Australia-wide and to this day is still regarded by many as the greatest pacer this country has produced. Certainly very few Victorian harness racing fans would disagree with that.

Unplaced only three times in 62 starts, Popular Alm won 49 races and $710,833 in prizemoney before he retired through injury in 1985.

In winning the Miracle Mile, Popular Alm beat his archrival Gammalite in one of the most exciting contests on record. The pair simply packed too many guns for their rivals and turned the race into a two-horse war from start to finish.

Gammalite, one the best stayers in the land, led in the race.

But Popular Alm beat him at his own game by racing on the outside of him for the last half-mile and actually outstaying this mighty stayer in the run home.

The winning margin was one-and-a-half metres and Popular Alm was timed to pace the mile in 1:57.7. The rest of the field was well beaten and was headed by Bill's Student, which finished nine metres behind Gammalite.

It was one of Poppy's greatest performances. In fact Kevin Robinson, who drove Gammalite, could scarcely believe it.

“I didn't think it was possible that a horse could sit outside Gammalite and outstay him,” said ‘Robbo’ after the race.

Popular Alm fractured his off-hind pastern after winning the 1983 Winfield (now Victoria) Cup for the second year in succession and was off the scene for 10 months.

He won another two races at Moonee Valley when he resumed, but went sore again, this time in the off foreleg.

Despite several attempts to get this mighty champion back on the track, he never raced again

 

1984

DOUBLE AGENT

PRIZEMONEY was increased to $130,000 for the 18th Craven Filter Miracle Mile on January 27, 1984, consisting of $100,000 basic stakemoney, plus a $5000 oil painting of the winner if he, or she, equalled the track record of 1:55.9.

There was also an additional $10,000 for the Australian race record of 1:54.5, plus $15,000 for the winner to eclipse the Australian time trial record of 1:53.2.

At that stage all records were held by Popular Alm.

Although the entire field went inside two-minutes in 1983, a year later, only the winner, the durable 12-year-old gelding Double Agent (1:59.6), and runner-up, Bundanoon (1:59.6), went better than two minutes. Double Agent is still the oldest winner of the big event.

Driven by his 61-year-old trainer, Joe Ilsley, Double Agent (6/1) showed his younger rivals a trick or two when he won.

Emotions overflowed as Ilsley and `Old Dub’ added a fairytale chapter to the 18-year-old history of Sydney’s premier sprint event.

The large crowd of 20,076 cheered themselves hoarse, as Ilsley drove with all the vigour he could muster over the last 50 metres to get the old gelding home by a half-head from Bundanoon (7-1), driven by Brian Hancock.

Some suggested Hancock had grounds for a protest – but he was never going to spoil one of the greatest and most popular victories ever recorded in the Miracle Mile.

 

1985

PREUX CHEVALIER

PREUX Chevalier, an abject failure at odds-on in the 1984 Miracle Mile, returned from his home State of WA the following year to claim revenge.

"The Frog" as he was known in WA, not only blitzed his rivals but clocked 1:56.7 to clip 0.2 sec off Gundary Flyer's race record.

Trained and driven by media-shy Barry Perkins, Preux Chevalier was never in the hunt when sent out at 11/8 on the previous year. Rumours were rife as to his fitness for that race and he was spelled when he pulled up sore after the event.

However, there were no doubts he was ready to fire 12 months later.

Arriving in Sydney with nine wins from 10 starts for the season Preux Chevalier again started an odds-on favourite for the race, and from barrier one, never looked like getting beaten.

It was the "fastest" field to have contested the Miracle Mile to that time with the six runners having posted a total of 34 sub 2:00 times.

That meant nothing to Preux Chevalier. After trailing the speedy Dyama which led the field in a 57.9-second first half, 'The Frog' surged away at the 600-metre mark before running home an easy winner.

Paleface Bubble, attempting to emulate his sire Paleface Adios, the 1976 winner, was nine metres away in second place with top Queenslander Wondai's Mate running on well for third money.

Paleface Bubble, driven by Colin Pike, was prepared by Lou Cini who was only the second trainer to that time to be represented by two runners. His other starter was Karamea Duplicity, raced by Noel Simpson and driven by Robert Martin.

Karamea Duplicity was a well-fancied second favourite at 5/2, but was not helped by her wide barrier draw in six and finished fourth.

However all honours were with the winner.

Bred in New Zealand, Preux Chevalier, by Lumber Dream from Heather Frost, was foaled in Perth and sold there as a yearling for $6000 to Ken Lavin and his wife Wendy.

One of many bargain buys in harness racing, he went on to further major wins including the 1985 Inter Dominion at Moonee Valley in which he made a clean sweep of the series, winning all three of his heats as well as the final.

 

1986 (January) & 1987 (November)

VILLAGE KID 

     

WEST Australian superstar Village Kid earned himself a special place in Miracle Mile history when he became the first pacer to win the great race twice.

‘Willie’, as he was affectionately known, won in 1986 and '87, but because of a change in race programming, the wins were not consecutive.

After The Kid's first victory in January, 1986, the NSW Harness Racing Club decided to switch to an end-of-the-year date for the race, resulting in the following Miracle Mile being run in December the same year.

Village Kid also contested the December edition and was unluckily beaten into third place after a torrid run outside the leader. He then made amends by returning to win for the second time in 1987.

Village Kid started an odds-on favourite in all three of those Miracle Miles, such was his dominance in harness racing in that period.

Prizemoney had increased to $125,000 (plus $30,000 in bonuses) when Village Kid posted his first Miracle Mile win before a crowd of 21,227 excited fans.

From barrier one, the five-year-old gelding gave Chris Lewis an armchair drive leading throughout before coasting home by 13m from Atashy Luck with Paleface Bubble third in a 1:56.9 mile rate.

Lewis said later that had the pacer been extended even slightly he would have broken Preux Chevalier's 1:56.7 race record.

Village Kid's second success in the race was just as easy.

The champ had won 12 races on end leading up to the Miracle Mile and trainer Bill Horn (who admitted to being superstitious) was nervous over the omens associated with the "unlucky 13".

He needn't have worried. Coming out of barrier two this time Village Kid got to the lead easier than anyone expected.

Rated perfectly by Lewis, he swept to the front rounding the first turn and dictated the terms throughout.

Coming home the last half in 57.6s, he won by three metres from the fast-finishing Happy Sunrise, stopping the clock at 1:57.7 to collect the $113,750 first prizemoney.

Another WA pacer, Jay Bee's Fella ran third, a half head behind Happy Sunrise.

Horn, a Fremantle butcher, only took up horse training when challenged to do so.

It happened at a race meeting one day after a horse owned by Horn was beaten.

Horn criticised the trainer and was told in no uncertain terms: “Try [training] yourself if you think you can do better.”

He did, and later produced the horse to win first-up. The rest of course, is history.

A few years later Horn and his wife Norma formed a partnership with Gordon Cox and his wife Cecilia and bought Village Kid as a three-year-old in New Zealand for $40,000.

While they had high hopes, they could hardly have imagined just how big a superstar Willie would become.

In fact few champions of the past 50 years could match his record.

Racing until the ripe of old age of 13, Village Kid bowed out with a record of 93 wins (including 13 Group Ones) from 160 starts for $2,117,870 in prizemoney.

He made his last appearance at Gloucester Park in October 1993 when he time-trialled in 1:55.1 to set a world record for a 13-years-old pacer.

 

Dec 1986

MASTER MOOD


Christchurch milkman, Kevin Williams, had plenty to celebrate when he brought Master Mood to Sydney to win in 1986.
Not only did Master Mood score in race record time but in doing so, completed the rich New Zealand Cup - Miracle Mile double, having won the first leg at Addington a month earlier.
Village Kid was in the unique position of being in line to win the Miracle Mile for the second time in a calendar year and it seemed the only way he could be beaten would be if he was "taken on" for the lead.
That's exactly what happened much to the delight of Williams. While Village Kid was forced to do it the hard way, Master Mood enjoyed a great run throughout and stopped the clock at 1:56.1 to clip 0.6 seconds off Preux Chevalier's record.
As expected Chris Lewis on Village Kid tried to lead from barrier four but Jim O'Sullivan driving My Lightning Blue had other ideas.
Showing brilliant early speed, My Lightning Blue flew out of the three gate and the race was on. Driven hard, My Lightning Blue held out the WA star as they went through the first quarter in 27.4 and the half in 58.0 seconds.
While this was going on, Master Mood was enjoying the run of the race behind the leader but was hemmed in a pocket. However, when O'Sullivan attempted to steal a winning break on My Lightning Blue turning for home, Master Mood got clear and charged home to win by two metres.
Returning home to New Zealand, Master Mood made it a major race treble for the season when he took out the Auckland Cup two months later.
Raced by Williams and his wife Bonnie (a daughter of top NZ horseman Cec Devine) in partnership with Frank and Stephen Wong of Dunedin, Master Mood was a five-year-old at the time of his Miracle Mile triumph on December 6, 1986. He scored his 27th and final win almost to the day two years later at Alexandra Park, Auckland.

 

1988

OUR MAESTRO 


THE words controversy, Miracle Mile and ubiquitous are words which alphabetically could never be found in close proximity in any dictionary.
When it comes to discussions embracing the Miracle Mile though, they fit like a hand in a glove because it seems controversy is ubiquitous, if not synonymous, with Australasian harness racing's principal sprint contest.
The year 1988 was no exception as directors of the NSW Harness Racing Club controversially withdrew an invitation to the connections of WA star Village Kid, the winner of two of the previous three editions of one of the pillars of Australasian harness racing's Grand Circuit.
Village Kid was the first horse invited that year but the invitation was withdrawn when connections, after unsuccessfully seeking an unprecedented gratuity, declined to have him join the other Miracle Mile invitees in a promotional parade and barrier draw function at Rosehill Gardens on the Saturday before the race was scheduled to be run at the Paceway.
Defending Inter Dominion champion Our Maestro had failed in a rare bid for an Australian triumph in the New Zealand Cup a few weeks earlier, but his second in that highly revered contest was sufficient to earn him one of the first two berths.
The other early invitation went to Luxury Liner, which had shrugged off the impediment of a 10-metre handicap to post a world record 4:00.4 (mile rate 2:00.9) for the 3200 metres of New Zealand's "Holy Grail" on the way to downing the Victorian.
When he lined up in the Miracle Mile that year, Luxury Liner was attempting to emulate the feat of fellow Kiwi Master Mood, which a year earlier, had snared the New Zealand Cup - Miracle Mile double.
Our Maestro and Vin Knight though, were there to spoil his party and reverse the finishing positions of their previous encounter.
Assuming control after travelling about 400 metres, Knight was able to dictate terms with Luxury Liner on his outside before crossing the line with seven metres to spare from the New Zealander, while Thorate came from near last for third, four metres farther away.
Knight, who steered Popular Alm to victory in 1983, had joined Kevin Newman (Halwes, 1968 and Friendly Footman 1981) and Chris Lewis (Village Kid in two editions in 1986) as the only drivers with multiple Miracle Mile victories.
And Our Maestro had become one of the rare few to successfully complete the Inter Dominion - Miracle Mile double.
Other members of that exclusive club were Hondo Grattan which completed the double in 1974, Young Quinn (1975), Preux Chevalier (1985) and Village Kid when he won at each end of 1986.

1989 and 1990

WESTBURN GRANT 

  

THE 1989 renewal will long be remembered as the night when two trainer-drivers boasting multiple premiership wins at Harold Park, Brian Hancock and Vic Frost had the usual large crowd on edge witnessing an incredible dice for supremacy through the first quarter.

Hancock had the advantage of the inside running and intended to utilise that advantage, hoping for an all-the-way win with Thorate.

“I'm holding”, Hancock yelled, indicating his intentions to Frost as the pair went shoulder-to-shoulder out of the home straight and around the first bend.

“Victor took absolutely no notice of that,” Hancock recalls.

“He merely turned the stick around planted one on Westburn Grant's rump and yelled ‘Get up Spot’ (Westburn Grant's stablename).”

The pair had put the first quarter of the race behind them in 26.2 seconds, the fastest any horse had ever traversed that section at Harold Park.

“Sure, I wanted to lead but when I looked at the in-field timer and saw 26.2s in the frame, I thought it was hopeless to keep going,” said Hancock.

“Vic would probably have persisted and neither of us would have got home.”

Playing that trump card paved the way for Frost to become the latest dual Miracle Mile-winning driver with Westburn Grant scoring by eight metres from Thorate with Jodies Babe another three-and-a-half metres away, third.

The least experienced of any previous winner, Westburn Grant fronted up that night with a record of 15 wins from 17 starts and emerged as the third four-year-old to succeed in Harold Park's signature event.

Spelled after some lacklustre performances towards the end of that season, Westburn Grant returned to racing in fine form and was the first horse invited to contest the 1990 edition.

Among his wins leading into the race were the Newcastle Mile, Queensland Pacing Championship and Legends Mile.

Finishing last in the Australian Pacing Championship heading into the Mile, Westburn Grant showed he had taken no adverse effects from the arduous trip which contributed to his downfall that night when he returned to Harold Park a fortnight later for his second successive Miracle Mile triumph.

Aiming up behind the number two gate, he secured the front yet again, this time from pole marker Thorate, before setting a track record-breaking 1:55.6 on the way to scoring by six metres from the luckless Almeta Boy, a nose in advance of Kiwi, Defoe.

Only Village Kid could previously boast multiple Miracle Mile wins but Westburn Grant was the only horse to get his couple in succession, in the process making Frost the most successful driver in the history of the race with three wins after accompanying Lucky Creed to victory in 1970.

 

1991

CHRISTOPHER VANCE 

A freak accident in which he fractured the near hind pastern only days after winning the Group One WA Pacing Cup a few months after that historic Miracle Mile win threatened to curtail Westburn Grant's racing career.

The miracle of modern veterinary science appeared to have enabled him to return to racing as well as ever and stake his claim to a start in the 1991 Miracle Mile.

First-up for nearly 10 months, he was victorious in the Newcastle Mile which is traditionally a strong influence on the selection panel.

He reinforced his claim to an opportunity for an unprecedented third successive victory by winning the Group One Australian Pacing Championship in Hobart a month later.

After being caught outside the leader for most of the trip though, he was left vulnerable and faded into third place as Christopher Vance rushed past him after coming from last to score by five metres with Defoe emerging from behind Westburn Grant to be runner-up, six metres in advance of him.

That race though, will forever be remembered more for the drama revolving around the controversial inclusion in the field of the freakish New Zealand three-year-old, Chokin - a stablemate of Christopher Vance.

His invitation sparked heated debate on either side of the Tasman Sea with opinions divided as to whether a relatively inexperienced three-year-old should be assigned the formidable task of tackling more seasoned campaigners in a race like the Miracle Mile.

Even the two men in the best position to be aware of the potential superstar's capability, co-trainers Barry and Roy Purdon, weren't keen to throw him into that sort of intense competition.

Barry Purdon put it simply when he said starting Chokin in a Miracle Mile as a three-year-old was "like throwing a teenager into the ring against Mike Tyson."

Unfortunately, their fears and those of other critics against "sending a boy on a man's errand" were realised when Chokin appeared to be over-awed by the occasion and galloped as the starter released the field, then doing plenty of work in the run and racing erratically before falling exhausted on the home turn.

Punters, subdued as attendants rushed to assist the stricken Chokin and driver Brian Gath, applauded loudly as the horse rose slowly to his feet in front of them.

It was louder applause than that afforded the winner.

 

1992

FRANCO TIGER 

EARLY speculation on the annual guessing game of selecting the field for the 1992 Coca-Cola Miracle Mile was dominated by a then relatively unknown Western Australian pacer named Jack Morris. “Jack Who?” screamed the banner headlines, as few people outside Perth had heard of the Sean Harney-trained star.

Sensational times at recent starts, however, including some startling wins, had Jack Morris primed for a late invitation to compete against the best pacers in Australasia.

Harney had already tasted Grand Circuit success, guiding Tarport Sox to victory over Whitby Timer and Jodie’s Babe in the 1990 WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park.

Stakemoney for the 27th running of Australasia’s most prestigious sprint remained at $300,000, with an additional $100,000 in bonuses.

The field could boast earnings of $4,685,937, the result of 168 wins, 73 seconds and 32 thirds from 352 starts.

The Glen Tippet-trained Franco Tiger, driven by Brian Gath, surged to his third consecutive Grand Circuit victory for the season in the most open Miracle Mile on record.

Franco Tiger (13-4) led throughout to win by two-and-a-half metres from Christopher Vance (3-1), with Jack Morris (8-1) five metres away third.

Franco Tiger clocked 1:56.7, leaving his opponents with no excuses, although a history-making protest by Harney on behalf of Jack Morris may have suggested otherwise.

It was the first protest in the 27-year history of the Miracle Mile with Harney alleging interference by the winner on the first turn had cost him the chance of leading, and ultimately, his chance of winning.

After a hearing that lasted nine minutes, the objection was dismissed.

After that controversial third, Sean Harney declared the gelding would get better and we would be hearing a lot more about Jack Morris.

He’s was right . . . .and we heard a lot more about Harney, too.

Jack Morris was voted Australian Harness Horse of the Year for 1992-93.

He was also the leading stake earner in the country with $526,430 from 11 wins from 18 starts that season.

 

1993 and 1994

CHOKIN 

CLOSING that season after winning the Inter Dominion at Albion Park, West Australian star Jack Morris returned to racing in a similar vein back in his home state before heading east for an assault on the Queensland Pacing Championship at Albion Park on October 16.

After failing by a half-head behind Warrior Khan, runner-up to him in that Inter Dominion at the same track five months earlier, Jack Morris then headed to Victoria to snare the Group One Australian Pacing Championship at Moonee Valley and secure an invitation for the 1993 Miracle Mile.

Far from the usual practice of keeping everybody in suspense, frequently until the last week, directors of the NSW Harness Racing Club had this time played their first card a month before the big race, one of the earliest invitations ever.

Jack Morris did his part to confirm their decision, backing his APC win with success in The Legends at Moonee Valley a week later before crossing Bass Strait to take the Group One Tasmanian Pacing Championship before returning to Sydney for his Miracle Mile tilt.

His superiority on the Australian Grand Circuit trail that season had him a pronounced $1.70 favourite but, in one of the most sensational episodes of Australian racing history, he was withdrawn literally seconds before the race was due to start after the club's veterinary surgeon detected blood trickling from one of his nostrils.

Harney pleaded with stewards to allow the horse to start, claiming the trickle of blood was the result of Jack Morris striking his head in his stall after becoming agitated by a pre-race fireworks display.

His plea fell on deaf ears though, with chief steward Roger Nebauer telling Harney the stewards were not qualified to argue against a vet's advice.

The looks on the faces of administrators were similar to those of an investor seen watching their portfolios rapidly diminishing on the stock exchange shown on nightly TV newscasts, as the win pool halved after Jack Morris was withdrawn and the Superfecta, the exotic bet type requiring punters to pick the first six horses in correct order, was cancelled because there were only five starters.

With Jack Morris out of the way, a more mature Chokin was able to make amends for failure at his premature entry on the Australasian Grand Circuit two years earlier with an all-the-way win in 2:00, the slowest time for 13 years and only the fifth winner on record not break the 2:00 standard.

Chokin experienced fluctuating fortunes throughout his remarkable career but none of the deepest troughs in his roller coaster ride could be compared to his lead-up to the defence of his Miracle Mile crown in 1994.

Seemingly well-placed with a three-wide trail a lap from home, he was retired from the race after literally stopping to a walk 800m from the finish of that year's New Zealand Cup in Christchurch.

Directors though, still had him under consideration and made one of the most contentious decisions in Miracle Mile history when they invited him to Harold Park for the big race after club president Keith Adams had made a special trans-Tasman trip to watch him perform in a special trial at Alexandra Park in Auckland.

Although the horse had not had any fast work in the fortnight since returning home to his North Island base since that shock failure in Christchurch, trainer Barry Purdon was told Chokin's prospects of a Miracle Mile invitation hinged on him breaking 2:00, including a quick last half mile in his trial.

A half mile (800 metres) in 57s was enough to clinch that invitation, which he then reinforced when winning a workout at Pukekohe coming off 40m, rattling off a 56.8s last half (last quarter in 27s).

One of the most contentious selections in many years, it maintained the tradition of controversy attached to the Miracle Mile . . . but there was more to come.

Dr David Evans, the veterinarian whose opinion led to Jack Morris being withdrawn the previous year, was again under the spotlight after declaring New Zealand Cup winner Bee Bee Cee was lame.

Wishing to avoid the debacle of the previous year when connections of Jack Morris argued they should have had the opportunity of securing a second opinion, stewards sought the advice of Dr Peter Knight, who was on duty elsewhere at the track that evening.

After Peter Knight provided a contrary diagnosis, much debate ensued before both vets watched Bee Bee Cee warm up then passed him fit to start.

Fit he certainly was!

Had he shown a touch more early speed and not had to come from last to get second, a metre behind the winner and a half-head in advance of Golden Reign, his name would probably be on the honour roll instead of Chokin's.

 

1996 (June)

NORMS DAUGHTER

THE great Harness Racing sprint was not held in 1995. In June, 1995, it was announced that the Miracle Mile, scheduled to be run on December 1, 1995, had been `put on hold’ until June 28, 1996, to allow the NSWHRC to complete extensions to the track and facilities. With the postponement, it meant there were two Miracle Miles in the calendar year of 1996.

Harold Park, which had hosted eight Inter-Dominion carnivals, was closed for nine weeks while a revolutionary new circuit was constructed. The circumference of the track was enlarged to 804.5 metres - an exact half-mile - with the width increased from 13 metres to 17 metres.

With the increased track size, the distance of the Miracle Mile was also increased from 1996. It was now the Miracle Mile over 1760 metres.

Stakemoney remained at $400,000, including time incentives of $50,000 if the Australian mile race record of 1:53.9 held by Thorate, was broken by the mile rate, plus a further $50,000 for the world record of 1:50.8 held by Silver Almahurst.

The incentives, if won, would be distributed between the elite six, which could boast earnings of $4,858,406, the result of 137 wins and 81 placings from 311 starts.

Kellie Kersley, born the same year Robin Dundee made history by winning the inaugural Miracle Mile in 1967, became the first reinswoman to win the time-honored sprint with a daring drive behind Norms Daughter.

The champion WA mare drew gate five, a difficult one to cross from as it required tremendous speed to do it with comfort before the first turn. Kersley knew, however, that her best chance, indeed her only chance, was to use the mare’s greatest commodity - stamina. Lurking at the back, making a mid-race move wide out or near the end, was not an option.

Crossing the reins and giving the mare a couple of hard cracks with the whip, Kersley and Norms Daughter charged out in search of the lead. Her actions at the start resulted in a $50 fine, but the penalty would have been more severe if her judgment had been out by as much as a centimetre on the first turn.

Kersley cut it fine, just clearing Il Vicolo, which was not quite sharp enough to hold her out. Once she reached the front, Norms Daughter was always going to be hard to run down.

Running the first quarter of the last mile in 29.4 seconds, Kersley steadied the pace with the second quarter in 30.7, and still had a firm grip on the reins through the third section in 28.6. Sprinting the final quarter in 28.2, Norms Daughter (13-2) downed Il Vicolo (4-5 fav.) by two metres, with Beefy T (7-1) four metres away third.

The five-year-old daughter of Northern Lights covered the 1760 metres in 2:06.4, a mile rate of 1:55.6, equalling Westburn Grant’s 1990 race record.

 

1996 (December)

IRAKLIS

CONTROVERSY again surged to the fore in this running of the Miracle Mile when directors made the incredible decision to include restricted-class pacer Manaville in the elite line-up after his track-record breaking win in a support race a week before the Miracle Mile.

Despite winning one of the Qantas Sprints, one of the races regarded as a stepping stone to selection a week before the Miracle Mile, a horse called Our Sir Vancelot, which won three Inter Dominion Championships in a highly-decorated career, was declared the first reserve.

Not the first time one of his horses had been controversially omitted, Brian Hancock came out with a point to prove and gave Our Sir Vancelot his head to win the Bohemia Crystal Free-For-All (2160m, 400m longer than the Miracle Mile course) in a world record 1:55.4 mile rate.

New Zealand trainer Robert Cameron, forever in the annals after accompanying Robin Dundee in that historic inaugural Miracle Mile, renewed his association with the prestigious contest by producing Iraklis to win the December 1996 edition, claiming it as a more satisfactory result as he part-owned Iraklis.

Despite being impeded by a flat tyre for the last half of the contest, Iraklis confirmed his superiority over his rivals, posting a course record 1:54.2, which was never bettered at Harold Park.

There was certainly an element of luck attached to the win as Iraklis looked set for certain defeat before Manaville, which was racing three-wide to his outside, broke on the home turn.

Manaville's indiscretion permitted Iraklis to ease out from the one-one and unleash an incredible sprint to down the pacesetting Il Vicolo by three-and-a-half metres, with mighty mare Sabilize (also from the Brian Hancock barn) two-and-a-half metres away third.

While they won't admit it, directors of the NSW Harness Racing Club must surely have been embarrassed by Our Sir Vancelot's career after his omission from that contest.

He reinforced the universal claim he should have been invited by closing out the season as Australasian Grand Circuit champion, winning the Treuer Memorial at Bankstown (in which three Miracle Mile horses were also engaged), the WA Pacing Cup and Inter Dominion Championship (the first of his three), in which Iraklis finished third at Globe Derby.

 

1997

OUR SIR VANCELOT

FAR from disgraced when luckless in top class company on his return to racing, Our Sir Vancelot was one of the first two when the selection panel prepared for the 1997 renewal of the Miracle Mile.

The other was Iraklis, invited to return to Sydney to defend his crown after being headed in the straight but coming again to win the New Zealand Cup at the expense of outsider Smooth Dominion and Sovereign Hill.

Joining Iraklis in the New Zealand team was the inexperienced Christian Cullen, a veteran of a mere dozen starts and only the second three-year-old in history to be considered worthy of a Miracle Mile invitation.

Christian Cullen though, wasn't given that opportunity as he was withdrawn by order of the stewards after analysis of a pre-race urine sample tested positive to a banned substance.

With an (OD) alongside Our Sir Vancelot's name after a barrier indiscretion in the Invitation Mile at Newcastle two runs earlier, driver Howard James (deputising for suspended driver, trainer Brian Hancock) was earlier inclined to retreat from the early speed battle.

Christian Cullen's withdrawal though, demanded a dramatic change of plans and Our Sir Vancelot led all the way in beating stablemate Quantum Lobell (Mark Tracey) by three metres, with Iraklis battling on bravely for third a similar margin away after sitting outside the leader.

It gave Howard James the distinction of winning two of the most keenly-sought races on the Australasian harness racing calendar after earlier winning the Inter Dominion with the Brian Hancock-trained Thorate in Adelaide in 1990.

In the process, Our Sir Vancelot completed the rare Inter Dominion - Miracle Mile double

 

1998

CHRISTIAN CULLEN


Recently crowned Australian Harness Horse of the Year for the second successive year and fresh from backing up his APC win at Albion Park with victory in the Legends at Moonee Valley, Our Sir Vancelot was the first horse invited to contest the 1998 edition of the SEW-sponsored Miracle Mile.
After outclassing Iraklis in their eagerly awaited initial clash, Christian Cullen clinched the second invitation when he again relegated the Miracle Mile record holder to second with his record-equalling New Zealand Cup win at his next appearance.
With Christian Cullen drawn barrier three and Our Sir Vancelot the outside gate, former leading bookmaker John Kennedy installed him $1.80 favourite and even offered an innovative Kiwi vs. Aussie betting medium, with the Kiwis at $1.70 and Aussies at $2.20.
The result was decided in the first 50 metres as Christian Cullen had little trouble leading into the first turn and his young driver Danny Campbell never had to turn the whip around as he proceeded to belt his rivals, scoring by 20 metres from Tailamade Lombo with Our Sir Vancelot four metres away, third.
Trainer Brian O'Meara later lamented the previous years forced defection declaring the horse was even better prepared for that race.
"If he had won the race last year as a three-year-old, the only horse ever to do it, he would have had the greatest start to a stud career any horse has ever had," he declared.
Not that he could have had a better start to a stud career.
There has been no more dominant stallion in this part of the world in recent years than Christian Cullen, recently voted New Zealand stallion of the year after another record season in which he became the first horse to produce the winners of more than $3 million in a single season when his progeny banked more than $4 million for the term.

 

1999

HOLMES DG


If anything, the 1999 edition of the Miracle Mile was one of the most uneventful in the race’s history.
Top Kiwi Holmes DG was issued one of two early invites and after winning the NSW Derby and Chariots Of Fire on the Harold Park track, had done more than enough to convince selectors of his inclusion.
The other went to West Australian star Shattering Class, who had registered 13 straight wins going into the Mile, including a win in the Newcastle Mile a fortnight earlier.
NZ Cup winner Homin Hosed was missing due to injury, while Safe And Sound was invited a little later than the first two.
The others who made up the field were Sports Tonight Sprint winners Breenys Fella and American import Slug Of Jin, while Ladyship Mile winner Tailamade Lombo was given the last spot.
Trainer Barry Purdon, having won three Miracle Miles already with Christopher Vance and Chokin (two), had luck on his side at the draw, coming up with the pole.
That is all he needed and come race time, Holmes DG showed good enough speed out of the mobile to lead and dictate terms. Slug Of Jin, settling one-one, sprinted hard over the final quarter, but couldn’t get any closer than two metres, with Breenys Fella putting up a good effort for third after going off stride at the start.
Shattering Class, who was the subject of pre-race discussions as to whether he could show his blistering gate speed and lead, was next in, while Safe And Sound and Tailamade Lombo made up the rest of the field and came in in that order.
It was Purdon’s first win as a reinsman in Australasia’s premier sprint, as Tony Herlihy had driven his previous winners.
It also meant that Holmes DG became the first, and only pacer until this point, to complete the Harold Park treble of winning the NSW Derby, Chariots Of Fire and Miracle Mile.

 

2000

HOLMES DG

THE previous year’s Miracle Mile may have been low-key, however, the 2000 version was the total opposite!

A dramatic finish, then an even bigger sensation after the race has made this particular edition of the Mile one of the most controversial on record.

Two great warriors – Holmes DG and Atitagain – hit the line locked together, with nothing separating them to the naked eye. After viewing the photo-finish for several minutes, Holmes DG’s number came up.

The official margin – a nose.

Believing their horse had not lost, or won, connections of Atitagain, including trainer-driver Dennis Wilson, wished to see a print of the finish.

“I honestly thought it was a dead-heat,” Wilson has always said.

Atitagain had sat three-wide and then outside of Holmes DG for most of the final lap, showing tremendous strength and stamina to push the Kiwi, who drew barrier one again, to the limit.

The mile rate of 1:54.6 is one of the fastest times ever recorded at the Glebe circuit.

A hot field, the duel at the back of the pack between Brian Hancock (Courage Under Fire) and John Justice (Shakamaker) was also fierce, with both drivers jostling for a spot on the back of the three-wide, Atitagain. Both drivers let each other know exactly how they felt after the race.

This tussle would prove each horse’s undoing. Tailamade Lombo (Chris Alford) would eventually finish third, with Shakamaker, Courage Under Fire and Ablazin Star (Brian Gath), who won a Sprint a week earlier, fading to last after sitting outside the leader.

The theatre and drama of having the first dead-heat in Miracle Mile history gone, Wilson had a point to prove in the Treuer Memorial the following week, scoring a runaway success.

There was further controversy about the photo-finish of the Miracle Mile shortly after, when Wilson was credited with quotes that weren’t flattering to the decision, or that of the NSWHRC and the Harness Racing NSW stewards.

The quotes, however, were taken out of context and were made at a function and in private and were in no way, meant to be repeated in the media.

 

2001

SMOOTH SATIN   

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HOLMES DG was attempting to become the first horse to win three Miracle Miles, all consecutive, and remarkably, drew barrier one again - for the third straight year!

Courage Under Fire, known as ‘the people’s horse’, showed too much early toe from barrier four for the ageing Holmes DG, and found the front after a brief battle.

Brian Hancock, had, of course, won Miracle Miles as a trainer previously, but was never in the sulky himself, and many believed that this was his time to shine.

Controversy again hit the Miracle Mile, this time with the inclusion of gun five-year-old Smooth Satin. No one could begrudge him a spot in the field, after all, he had won the Chariots Of Fire and two Sires’ Stakes finals at the track.

The problem came when he was beaten in a Cordina Sprint the week before the big one by Leftrightout.

Believing he had blown his chance to gain an invitation to the Miracle Mile, trainer-driver Steve Turnbull left the course immediately.

 

To his shock, and also for the connections of Leftrightout, Turnbull received a phone call on his truck phone as he was returning to Bathurst to tell him he was invited at the expense of Leftrightout.  Turnbull gained the one-out-and-one-back trail in the big race and the pair produced a sizzling finish to outgun Courage Under Fire down the straight, with New Zealand Cup winner Yulestar third.  Shakamaker and Kyms Girl were next in, just two and four metres behind the winner respectively, while Holmes DG was the last of the six runners.

 

2002

DOUBLE IDENTITY

DOUBLE IDENTITY’S rise to become a multiple Grand Circuit winner is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Trainer-driver Harry Martin, in the twilight of his career, became the oldest driver to win a Miracle Mile at the age of 62.

Double Identity hadn’t found his way into Martin’s stable until he was four.

Making his way through the grades, he left Martin’s stables for a brief period before returning at the start of 2002.

Not afraid to test the waters, Martin pushed hard for a Miracle Mile invite by traveling to Queensland and snaring a host of features, along with the Queensland Pacing Championship.

A second to Jofess in the Newcastle sealed his invitation, along with the winner.

Smooth Satin, whose form wasn’t up to its usual high standard since resuming, was at the centre of debate once more, but directors of the NSW Harness Racing Club thought it appropriate that he be in the field for a shot at defending his title.

Young Rufus, the brilliant New Zealander, Hearts Legend (Legends Mile) and Seelster Sam made up the field, with Yulestar back for another shot at the premier sprint.

Earlier in the year, the decision by directors to increase the size of the Miracle Mile for the first time in history, from six to seven, ultimately helped ease the selection pressure of including Smooth Satin.

Not that the horse didn’t perform, in fact, Turnbull and ‘Socks’ almost stole the show again, coming from barrier seven to go down by a short half-head to Double Identity, who raced with a one-out and one-back trail.

Jofess was brave in defeat and was third, just a neck further back, giving NSW a trifecta finish and underlying once more what a fabulous generation of pacers the state was blessed with at that stage.

All three were the same age and came through the NSW Sires’ Stakes system at the same time.

 

2003

SOKYOLA

THIS particular running of the SEW-Eurodrive Miracle Mile was particularly historic; it being the first that contained eight runners.

Having extended the field the previous year to seven contestants, Directors of the NSWHRC were that impressed with the increased turnover and interest generated in the larger field size, that only an eight-horse field would do the Miracle Mile justice in this day and age.

One of the least fancied runners in the 2003 Miracle Mile, and the last to gain an invitation to the event, Sokyola flew the gate and led from start to finish.

It wasn’t an easy task though, as he was pressured for a majority of the trip by West Australian star and Newcastle Mile winner, The Falcon Strike.

Applying the pressure ultimately cost The Falcon Strike in the end, as he dropped out, but Sokyola kicked, and despite late challenges from Jack Cade, Double Identity and Baltic Eagle, the Victorian held on to score in a mile rate of 1:54.5.

Jack Cade gave Mark Purdon his third second placing in the big sprint, following on from Il Vicolo’s efforts in the mid to late 90s.

Inter Dominion winner Baltic Eagle was never in it, having to settle back towards the tail of the field. The same could be said for NZ Cup winner, Just An Excuse.

Blake Fitzpatrick became the youngest reinsman in the Mile’s history at the age of 20, and finished fifth on Selby Bromac, just ahead of Smooth Satin.

 

2004

SOKYOLA

THIS was the second successive Miracle Mile win for ‘Soky’ . . . who held the mantle as trainer-driver Lance Justice’s favourite (and best) horse until Smoken Up happened along.

And this Miracle Mile win was actually easier than his first the previous year.

Jodi Quinlan became just the second female reinswoman to win the event, substituting for the suspended Lance, who was forced to watch on from the stands.

Handed the first invite to the race this year and then winning the Legends Mile aboard his stable star, Justice was quickly brought back down to earth.

He was suspended just days later by Harness Racing Victoria stewards after causing interference on Spirit Of Bee Jay, at a provincial meeting at Yarra Valley on November 8.

Quinlan, 29, had sat behind the tough and speedy former Kiwi previously with success.

Drawn in gate one, Sokyola showed his customary speed to lead with ease and with no real challengers, the pair ran through the first half in a leisurely 59.2s before rattling off a 56.7s final 800m for a comfortable win.

Ladyship Mile winner Sand Pebbles, which sat behind the leader, was second, with Hexus producing a career-best effort to finish third.

The three Kiwis, Mister DG, Elsu and Roman Gladiator were next in, followed by Flashing Red.

Last of the eight was Blue Gum Forest, who lost his chance at the start when going off-stride 50m after the barrier released the field.

 

2005

BE GOOD JOHNNY

THE amount of drama and controversy that surrounded the Miracle Mile of 2005 was enough to last the great race a lifetime, and once again, ensured that it was the main story on all mainstream media outlets.

For the first time since the field was extended to eight runners, just seven lined up in the event.

Newcastle Mile winner Sly Flyin suffered a leg injury at caretaker trainer Vic Frost’s property during the week, with connections then ruling him unfit to take his place in the elite field.

This naturally put in place a chain of events that saw the first emergency, former Mile winner Smooth Satin, gain a start in the field.

Connections, surprisingly, declined it, preferring instead to race in the Bohemia Crystal FFA on the Miracle Mile undercard.

Many were dumbfounded and perplexed by this turn of events, however, connections of the pacer decided it was in the best interests of Smooth Satin and the club, that he not take his place in the field, going into it second-up from a spell.

Adding insult to injury was the fact the directors of the NSWHRC had only declared one emergency runner, leaving no alternative but to race with seven.

This was the second part of the controversial week leading up to the $500,000 event, with West Australian speedster Lookslikelightning dominating most of the headlines.

The subject of a sale prior to his brilliant 1:54.7 win in a Cordina Sprint the week before the Miracle Mile, a legal battle then ensued.

With the money for the sale never arriving by the agreed time, trainer Pat Keating and his owner-brother Dave, believed they were well within their rights to renege on the sale of their horse.

The interested parties, who offered $100,000 for Lookslikelightning, then pursued legal avenues in order to obtain the horse, just days before the Group One sprint.

Eventually, the Keatings kept their horse, however, their Miracle Mile experience was soured.

Focusing on the race and defending champion Sokyola, shooting to become the first horse to win three straight trophies, engaged in a speed war with Lookslikelightning, who eventually led.

The effort told on the pair, with the leader fading to last with Sokyola just ahead of him. Queenslander Be Good Johnny sat in the ‘death’ and merely outstayed his opposition.

In a driving three-way finish, Be Good Johnny held on by a short half-head over stablemate Slipnslide, with Robin Hood a similar margin away in third.

It Is I was an unlucky fourth after getting dragged back behind the tiring Lookslikelightning, while Foreal was fifth but never looked a winning hope after missing the start.

Victorious trainer-driver John McCarthy, a former Bathurst butcher, and his son Luke (Slipnslide), created history by becoming the first father-and-son combination to quinella a Miracle Mile.

 

2006

BE GOOD JOHNNY

DEFENDING champion Be Good Johnny was handed the first invite to the 2006 SEW-Eurodrive-sponsored Miracle Mile, however, all the focus was on another pacer – Pay Me Christian.

Handed the second invitation by NSWHRC directors after establishing a new Australasian mile mark of 1:52.8 when winning the Newcastle Mile, Pay Me Christian was the latest ‘superstar’ to come out of New Zealand.

The third invitation was handed to iron-horse Flashing Red, an impressive winner of the New Zealand Cup for the Queensland-based duo of Stuart Hunter (trainer) and Norm Jenkin (owner).

An air of mystery surrounded Inter Dominion champion Blacks A Fake, with trainer-driver Natalie Rasmussen assuring everyone that there was nothing wrong with her champion’s preparation leading into the Mile although he had raced just twice in over two months leading into the big one.

The rest of the invitations were handed out to Sly Flyin (NZ FFA winner), returning after being a shock scratching the previous season, Toe Taper (Cordina Sprint), Smooth Crusa and Slipnslide.

Foreal was made first emergency while Ladyship Mile winner Lucky Elsie, despite beating Foreal, was named second emergency.

Effectively, the race was over at the start, when Be Good Johnny led from the pole but despite the pressure from Flashing Red, the son of Fake Left kept kicking.

Racing through the quarters in 27.8s, 29.7s, 29.4s and 28.6s, he had two metres to spare over Blacks A Fake, who sustained a long run from the tail of the field, with Smooth Crusa close-up in third.

The mile rate of 1:54.3 was the second-fastest time in history at Harold Park and just 0.1 seconds outside Iraklis’ mark, set in the 1996 Miracle Mile (December).

Pay Me Christian, who began brilliantly from the outside gate, was able to slot in behind Be Good Johnny when it was apparently he wouldn’t cross, however, after having his chance in the straight, could only manage fourth.

Toe Taper, Flashing Red, Sly Flyin and Slipnslide came in thereafter.

The win cemented the seven-year-old gelding’s reputation as being one of the great modern day sprinters, boasting a record of seven wins and three placings over distances considered ‘sprints’.

 

2008

DIVISIVE

THE Miracle Mile of 2008 was shaping up to be one of the best ever, with an assortment of talent from both Australia and New Zealand being touted for the event.

Champion Queenslander and three-time Inter Dominion champion Blacks A Fake was the first invited, shortly followed by Melpark Major, a brilliant winner of the Legends Mile and then gun Kiwi, Auckland Reactor.

With two weeks still remaining before the prestigious sprint, two-time defending champion Be Good Johnny hadn’t been invited but his name would surely add to the intrigue of the race, as he strived to become the first horse to win three consecutive miles.

Of course, the 2007 running was cancelled due to equine influenza.

Changeover secured his invitation shortly after his brilliant New Zealand Cup triumph, while Special Albert forced his way into the field on the back of a thrilling Newcastle Mile victory.

Be Good Johnny was issued invitation No. six, leaving just two spots left from a potential choice of five runners.

Then, in the space of three days, drama engulfed the Miracle Mile!

First, Australasia’s fastest horse Smoken Up, who took a 1:51.9 mark at Menangle just months earlier, was withdrawn by trainer Lance Justice due to concerns over the horse’s fitness.

Then, on the morning of Cordina Sprint night, both Auckland Reactor and Be Good Johnny had succumbed to injury on the training track – leaving the field in disarray.

Following his Cordina Sprint win, Robin Hood, who sat three-wide to defeat Blacks A Fake, was handed his invite while Deanna Troy was also given an invite for her Ladyship Mile win.

NSW-based horses Iron Hudge, who had been somewhat of a media darling in the lead-up to the event, and Divisive, were the last two in.

However, more drama would soon follow, with connections of Deanna Troy declining their invitation, stating that the Miracle Mile was out of their depth and that they had no intention of lining up in the race.

This then gave first emergency, Make Me Smile, from the Paul Fitzpatrick yard, a spot in the field.

The field lined up for the Miracle Mile in this order: Special Albert (one), Blacks A Fake (two), Iron Hudge (three), Changeover (four), Divisive (five), Robin Hood (six), Make Me Smile (seven) and Melpark Major (eight).

Almost immediately, Blacks A Fake was made an odds-on favourite despite his defeat in the Sprint a week out from the race.

On the evening of the race, more drama unfolded as Special Albert and Blacks A Fake were involved in an early speed duel for the front, with Dawson refusing to hand up, as Special Albert’s best performances were when he was able to lead.

Going through the first two splits in 30.6s and 30.9s, it was expected that the leaders would be able to sprint home, however, that scenario didn’t eventuate.

Amy Tubbs had come three-wide at the 1000m point with Melpark Major, with Robin Hood on her back, but despite the wide trip, Melpark Major had hit the front at the quarter mark.

Meanwhile, Special Albert and Blacks A Fake began to tire; Robin Hood, despite trailing up, looked jaded from his mammoth sprint win the week before and dropped out, as did Changeover, who had enjoyed a one-one trail.

Peter Rixon, on Divisive, needed some luck, having sat behind the leader, and got it when Changeover began lagging. Moving off the pegs at the quarter, he quickly set out after the runaway Melpark Major, who was still traveling strongly.

The pair staged a dramatic two-horse war down the straight with Rixon and Divisive getting up in the shadows of the post to score by a half-neck, with Make Me Smile, who sat three-pegs, nine-and-a-half metres away third.

Iron Hudge, who sat one-by-two, was dragged back by the tiring Changeover and only saw daylight late to get fourth, with Blacks A Fake, Special Albert, Robin Hood and Changeover completing the race.

The final two quarters of 28.1s and 27.8s produced a mile rate of 1:56.1 – not one of the fastest miles, but arguably one of the most memorable, as it would be the final time the race would be run at the historic Harold Park circuit.

Rixon wore the colours of his father-in-law, A.D. (Tony) Turnbull, and added a third MM trophy to the family, following his brother-in-law Steve Turnbull’s triumph on Smooth Satin in 2001.

The son of Live Or Die provided Rixon and his wife, Cindy, who owns the pacer, with their biggest career win and they were able to share it with their three children, who were trackside to witness the ‘Miracle’.

 

2009

MONKEY KING

HIGHLY-RATED Kiwi star Monkey King completed a rare treble with a fabulous victory in the $500,000 SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile at the new home of Australasia’s greatest sprint, Tabcorp Park Menangle.

In breaking the Australasian record, Monkey King added the Miracle Mile trophy to the New Zealand Cup and New Zealand FFA titles he captured just a few weeks beforehand.

Settling in the one-one after an early speed battle saw Lonestar Legend, Kiwi Ingenuity and Smoken Up all have a shot for the front, Monkey King’s reinsman driver Ricky May was content to sit back on the big track and simply bide his time.

With Lonestar Legend handing up to Kiwi Ingenuity, who in turn gave the lead to Smoken Up, Amy Tubbs on Melpark Major then ensured Lance Justice (Smoken Up) had no peace by applying the pressure outside the leader.

A record mile was in the making following the first quarter in a sizzling 26.2s, with the second quarter covered in 29.4s.

A third quarter of 28.5s saw Monkey King unleash his devastating sprint on straightening for the run to the judge, and he quickly pounced on the leaders to establish a winning break.

Karloo Mick, who sat one-by-two, battled on bravely down the straight while Smoken Up kept fighting to the finish, but in the end, Monkey King had too many guns for his rivals.

The son of Sands A Flyin, trained by Brendan Hill, stopped the clock in 1:50.8, with the final quarter a brilliant 26.7 in blustery conditions.

The previous Australasian mark was 1:51.9, held by Smoken Up.

“When we landed the one-one I knew we were right in it,” May said immediately after the race.

“This is a tremendous feeling.”

It was May’s second Miracle Mile triumph following his win on Iraklis in December, 1996. Ironically, it was Iraklis who held the race record at 1:54.2, which is still the track record at Harold Park.

After settling back in the field, Auckland Reactor and Blacks A Fake couldn’t get into the race while Lonestar Legend was also out of the picture.

Final placings were: Monkey King 1, Smoken Up 2, Karloo Mick 3, Kiwi Ingenuity 4.

Quarters for the race were: 26.2s, 29.4s, 28.5s and 26.7s.

2010

SMOKEN UP

AMAZINGLY, a month out from the 2010 Miracle Mile, five invitations were issued.

The first two ‘invites’ were handed to Mr Feelgood after his impressive win in the Queensland Pacing Championships and Smoken Up, following his gutsy third in the New Zealand Cup.

Always creating headlines, the directors of the NSW Harness Racing Club broke away from tradition and issued three invitations in the one day.

This created history as it was something that had never occurred in the lead-up to any previous Miracle Miles.

Those invites were handed to Queenslander Blacks A Fake following a career-best 1:53.7 win at Albion Park, Monkey King after the Kiwi won his second New Zealand Cup and also Villagem, after the gelding won in 1:52.5 at Tabcorp Park Melton.

NSW pacer Rohan Home was handed the sixth invitation after winning the Newcastle Mile in 1:53.3.

This left just one spot left, with the winner of the Cordina Chicken Farm Sprint gaining an automatic entry.

The Queensland-trained Washakie took out that Sprint in an Australasian record-breaking time of 1:50.5 and was automatically added to the field.

The final invitation went to Victorian mare Make Mine Cullen as she had won 10 of her previous 11 starts, registering quick times in most of them.

She was also Australia’s fastest mare at the time after winning the Chariots Of Fire earlier in the year in 1:53.

For Blacks A Fake, just starting in this edition of the Miracle Mile was about to create history:

The evergreen gelding was facing the title as being dubbed as the richest pacing standardbred of all time, surpassing the great Gallo Blue Chip.

With earnings of $4,254,607, ‘Blackie’ was just $6,353 away from equalling the record and no matter where he finished in the Miracle Mile he would pass it, considering horses placed between sixth and 10 received $10,000.

The field lined up this way: 1. Rohan Home (Gavin Fitzpatrick), 2. Blacks A Fake (Natalie Rasmussen), 3. Monkey King (Ricky May), 4. Karloo Mick 2nd em (Greg Bennett), 5. Smoken Up (Lance Justice), 6. Villagem (Lisa Miles), 7. Washakie (John McCarthy), 8. Make Mine Cullen (Daryl Douglas), 9. Lady Lexus 1st em (Blake Fitzpatrick), 10. Mr Feelgood (Luke McCarthy).

As predicted, the excitement erupted as soon as the starter said ‘go’ with Blacks A Fake and Smoken Up both burning out of the mobile barrier.

Blacks A Fake held the lead as Smoken Up raced outside him and the opening quarter was a slick 27 seconds.

With the second quarter posted in 29.2, reinsman Luke McCarthy took the opportunity to start a three-wide run with Mr Feelgood.

The leader, Smoken Up and Mr Feelgood were matching stride-for-stride as the third split was put behind them in 27.2s.

Rounding the home turn Blacks A Fake was a head in front of Smoken Up and the pair staged a great two-horse was up the Menangle home straight.

Smoken Up pulled out everything he had as Blacks A Fake continued to fight on, however Smoken Up stuck his head in front right on the finish line.

With the final quarter recorded in 27 seconds, Smoken Up managed to beat Blacks A Fake by a half-head with Villagem flashing home to grab third place.

The mile rate of 1:50.3 was a new Australasian record. It eclipsed the record Washakie set a week earlier in the Cordina Chicken Farms Sprint by two-tenths of a second.

Blacks A Fake pocketed $75,000 for finishing second, giving him earnings of $4,329,607, which made him the richest pacer of all time.

Mr Feelgood finished close behind the placegetters, while Make Mine Cullen came from last to finish fifth.

Monkey King raced in the one-one and finished close behind her while Rohan Home was next after racing behind the leader. Washakie, who was three-wide behind Mr Feelgood for the last half mile, followed.

It was reported in National Trotguide that just under 12,000 people ventured to the ‘supertrack’ for the meeting, however turnover figures were down compared to the previous Sunday afternoon time slot of the previous year’s race.

Fixed odds betting on the race, which opened six days before the race, was also slightly down on the previous year when Monkey King took out the race.

Smoken Up was raced, at the time, by Alex Kay, Peter Gadsby, Alan Bonney, Michael Van Rens, Ryan Kay, Vince MacDonald and Leonardo Locastro.

 

2011

SMOKEN UP 

Smoken Up and Lance Justice re-affirmed their greatness when they combined to score their second win in the $500,000 Group One SEW-Eurodrive Miracle Mile at Sydney’s Menangle Park in 2011.

Victoria’s pride and joy replicated his win the previous year in Australia’s premier speed test when he scored a fighting 1:51.8 win over Karloo Mick and Im Themightyquinn.

The nine-year-old former Kiwi emulated the horse who put Justice on the map, Sokyola, as a back-to-back Miracle Mile winner and edged the South Australian native within one of Barry Purdon’s Miracle Mile training record of five wins.

“I just love him, he’s just a champion, what more can I say about him,” the Melton trainer/driver said of the seventh dual winner of the race that was first run in 1967.

“The Miracle Mile’s the Miracle Mile, it’s fantastic, it’s the greatest race that I think I’ve ever been a part of and I just love being involved in them.

“It’s a hard race to get into and it’s a really hard race to win, so this is fantastic.”

The son of Tinted Cloud edged to within $72,239 of $3 million in stakes with the 55th win of his 102-start career that has also generated 34 minor placings.

He was forced to work overtime at the start from the inside barrier after Gary Hall Jnr fired out Im Themightyquinn from gate three and eventually crossed to the pegs heading out of the straight.

Not prepared to sit on the West Australian’s back, Justice hooked Smoken Up out and surged around to reclaim the lead towards the end of a 26.7-second first quarter.

Justice’s ability to slow them down to a 29.9secs second split put paid to any chance of Smoken Up’s 1:48.5 Australasian record being bettered, but was probably what won him the race.

He upped the ante to 27.6s during the third quarter, which had death-seater Franco Jamar struggling at the top of the straight, enabling Smoken Up to skip five metres clear.

Im Themightyquinn was the first to challenge in the straight after peeling off Smoken Up’s back and into the clear, but his run had ended 100m from home, leaving $34 outsider Karloo Mick to issue the final challenge.

The 11-year-old, who travelled four-back the pegs for the first half of the race but got a dream run when Lisagain and Im Themightyquinn shifted away from the inside, charged to within a half neck at the 50m but Smoken Up ($2) found at the end of another 27.6s quarter to score by 1.1m.

Im Themightyquinn ($3.50) held third, a further 1.5m away, just over two metres in front a game Mr Feelgood ($10).

Justice said he deliberately made Im Themightyquinn work to find the lead to take the ping out of his finish and while he was slightly concerned when Franco Jamar poured the pressure on at the 600m, he was confident all the way down the straight.

“I knew Karloo Mick was going to get close but once Smoken Up saw him in the corner of his blinker he got going again,” Justice said.

“He was always holding him strongly to the line and the last 50m he was probably pulling away a little bit.”

Justice then took Smoken Up home to his Melton base to prepare for a tilt at the $425,000 Group 1 SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup.

“I might get John (Dumesny – former NSWHRC CEO) to name the straight after him or something like that, he loves this place,” said Justice.

It’s history now that the club eventually named their new stable complex after Smoken Up – a fitting tribute to a great champion – who had his own love affair – with Menangle.

The victory of Smoken Up was his 55th from 102 lifetime starts while he has managed 34 further minor placings with earnings approaching $3m.

 

2013 (April)

BABY BLING

IT’S A race every young driver dreams of winning.

And that dream came true for Mat Rue, the young Canowindra reinsman, when the powerful Luke and Belinda McCarthy stable that he was working for qualified three runners for the 2013 Miracle Mile.

Rue took the third-string drive and finished up winning the race with outsider Baby Bling after the drive of his life.

Brought back from Queensland where he had spent several months campaigning some of Team McCarthy’s lesser lights, Rue drove his second perfect race of the day to make it two Group Ones from two drives . . . and a Grand Circuit success to top it all off.

In a race that has thrown up surprises all day with the late scratching of Gaius Caesar at 1:55pm by order of the stewards, Baby Bling was sent out a $33.90 outsider in the seven-horse field.

Yet it was Rue at his absolute best as he settled Baby Bling three back on the pegs before coming with a barnstorming finish to beat New Zealand hopes Terror To Love and Pure Power.

Rue later explained how he had watched Smooth Satin win this race from his lounge room in 2001, sitting on the lounge room floor pretending to drive the Bathurst horse with a whip in his hand and dreaming of one day winning the great race.

“I didn’t really dare to dream something like this would actually happen,” he said.

“And now I can’t really believe it really has.

“I can’t explain the feeling. I’ll be watching this race replay for years to come.

“Some people suggested this wasn’t a strong Miracle Mile field, As far as I’m concerned it’s the best one ever run.”

Baby Bling rated 1:50.5 in becoming just the third mare, behind Norm’s Daughter and Robin Dundee to win the great race.

On a brilliant sunny afternoon, Mach Alert ($4.90) charged out from his wide gate but showing plenty of speed to his inside was Chariot King ($21.80), Mah Sish ($14.60) and Excel Stride ($1.80).

But Mach Alert had the superior gate speed to clear his rivals as they charged into the first turn, Mah Sish continued to stride with Mach Alert allowing Excel Stride to land the one out, one back trail as the first quarter was posted in 26.1s.

Positions were quickly sorted as they raced into the back straight; Mach Alert led from Mah Sish, Pure Power sat in the trail with Excel Stride landing the perfect position with Baby Bling buried three back against the markers while Chariot King and Terror To Love raced at the rear.

The pressure was extreme as they reached the half in 54.4s, courtesy of a 28.3s second split.

As the field reached the home turn, moves were coming from back in the field headed up by race favourite Excel Stride in a third split of 28.4 seconds.

Mach Alert still led from Excel Stride while Baby Bling forced clear as Mah Sish gave ground quickly, Pure Power was travelling well behind Mach Alert while Terror To Love let down with a withering burst down the extreme outside of the track.

Half way down the straight, Baby Bling quickly raced up to snatch the lead away from Excel Stride and Mach Alert while Terror To Love continued to charge.

At the finish, the whip flourish from Mathew Rue signalled victory as Baby Bling held Terror To Love by 1.8m while Pure Power was only a further neck away in third.

The final quarter was 27.7s and a mile rate was 1:50.5 – a new Australasian mares record!

 

2013 (Nov)

BEAUTIDE

STAR pacer Beautide and talented trainer-driver James Rattray were the toast of Tasmania after they teamed up to win the Group One $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle in 2013.

It was a brilliant performance by Beautide and an equally brilliant drive from Rattray who proved himself a master tactician.

“I can’t believe it, this is unreal and I’m lost for words – I just won the Miracle Mile.” Rattray said after the race.

Rattray, 28, becomes the youngest trainer in the race’s history to win Australasia’s premier speed test and Beautide the first Tasmanian-owned and bred to win the race since the great Halwes was triumphant in 1968.

Rattray settled Beautide three-back on the pegs and he was keen to secure that spot despite having landed in the one-out-one-back position soon after the start.

Smoken Up held the lead from the pole while heavily-backed favourite For A Reason dropped down the fence to trail the leader with Beautide on his back.

They ran the first quarter in a serious 26.6s.

Smoken Up led the way entering the back straight while Restrepo moved up on the outside before taking cover on Christen Me, who was then forced to face the breeze.

The half was reached in 55.4s after a second quarter in 28.8s.

Smoken Up continued to dictate terms in front while his rivals lay in waiting and Christen Me began to apply the blowtorch to the leader while New Zealand hero Terror To Love launched a wide and sweeping assault from last as they ran the third split in 28.6s.

As the field straightened, Christen Me got the better of Smoken Up while For A Reason eased away from the inside and followed Christen Me, leaving a dream passage for Beautide to shoot through on the inside.

As soon as Christen Me was being hailed the winner, Beautide ($5.10) produced a scintillating turn of foot to grab the leaders and drew clear to win by five metres from Christen Me ($6.10) with the favourite For A Reason ($2.90) almost two metres away third.

Beautide clocked a mile rate of 1:50.2 with the final quarter clocked in 26.2s.

The win was later labelled as the biggest all-Tasmanian triumph in a feature horse race, of either code, in almost 50 years.

In that period other Tasmanian horses have won the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Inter-Dominion and Miracle Mile - but none were bred, owned, trained and piloted by Tasmanians.

The Apple Isle’s most recent Inter-Dominion winner, Thorate in 1990, was trained in New South Wales and their only previous Miracle Mile winner, Halwes in 1968, was driven by Sydney maestro Kevin Newman.

Beautide was bred by his original trainer Barrie Rattray, of Longford, is raced by his family’s trust and is now trained and driven by his son James after his relocation to Sydney.

And at 28-years-of age, James Rattray also became the youngest trainer to win a Miracle Mile in the race’s then 47-year history.

* A comparison of Tasmania's two Miracle Mile winners emphasises just how much harness racing has changed in 45 years.

Halwes earned a mere $10,000 for his win in 1968 win, plus a $2500 bonus for breaking the two-minute barrier  (he rated 1:58.6) and a further $5000 bonus for breaking the race record of 1:59 set by Robin Dundee the previous year.

And a crowd of 19,858 packed into the now defunct Harold Park to watch Halwes win as a red-hot $1.40 favourite.

Fast-forward to 2013 and Beautide earned $450,000 for his win, recorded a race record 1:50.2 and started at $5.10 . . . although it was suggested the crowd was nowhere near the number that witnessed Halwes’ win.

 

2014

CHRISTEN ME

THEY say that star Kiwi Christen Me looked every inch his father’s son as he destroyed the race record in winning the 2014 Miracle Mile.

The Kiwi pacer reversed the previous season’s result in the $750,000 glamour sprint when he exploded past Beautide at the 200m mark before holding him off as the NSW hero fought back near the line.

In doing so Christen Me paced the mile in 1:49.1, the fastest Miracle Mile by 1.1 seconds, with only Smoken Up’s 1:48.5 set at Menangle three years beforehand faster in Australasia.

The enormous performance turned the clock back to 1998 when Christen Me’s champion sire Christian Cullen recorded one of the greatest Miracle Mile wins back at Harold Park.

Back then a 1:54 mile was considered super-fast - Christen Me went five seconds quicker in 2014.

The six-year-old was aided by a beautiful drive from New Zealand wonder reinsman Dexter Dunn, whose former boss Cran Dalgety trained Christen Me.

Dunn settled Christen Me off a blistering early speed as Easy On The Eye, Avonnova and Suave Stuey Lombo went ‘at it’ through the first 400m.

As soon as they settled Beautide took off from midfield to sit parked, crushing the leaders at the 400m before reaching the top of the long Menangle home straight a sitting duck.

As brave as he was though it was obvious at the 200m Christen Me had his measure and while Beautide came back at the line, Dunn says the margin was deceptive.

“My horse jogged it,” said Dunn.

“At the 600m I was actually smiling because he was going so well.

“I couldn’t believe it.

“He cruised past Jimmy (Rattray, on Beautide) and just eased up at the line.

“That is the biggest buzz I have had in my career though because the Miracle Mile is the sort of race you dream of winning as a young driver.”

It continued an incredible month for 90-year-old owner-breeder Charles Roberts, who watched the race from Auckland.

Just 18 days earlier Roberts owned New Zealand Cup winner Adore Me, while three days later Christen Me won the New Zealand Free-For-All, so Roberts has completed a personal pacing Triple Crown inside three weeks.

Rattray, although beaten, was gracious, suggesting that was as good as Beautide could have gone.

“In fact, that might be as good as he has ever gone,” said Rattray.

“I was very proud of him and I had to move when I did. In a way being drawn the best is what undid us.”

Christen Me became the first winner sired by a previous champion of the time-honoured event.

 

2016

Have Faith In Me

 

1:47.5 . . . and Have Faith In Me! . . . .Remember that time and don’t forget that name because we’ll be talking about them for generations.

That was the time four-year-old budding Kiwi superstar Have Faith In Me recorded in winning last year’s SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle.

It was a track record too, breaking Adore Me’s Australasian record 1:47.7 set in 2015.

The only time harness racing fans were left guessing was at the finish when Have Faith In Me put in a dive at Inter Dominion and Victoria Cup winner Lennytheshark, before the judge ruled he had grabbed victory right on the line.

It was the perfect race from the next superstar of the sport . . . although it looked anything but a certainty 100m from home.

Lennytheshark came from one-out and one-back to surge to the front halfway up the straight and it appeared as if Have Faith In Me just had too much work to do to catch him.

But this amazing son of Bettors Delight didn’t know defeat and ploughed into the lead before grabbing victory in the last stride.

Third place went to the amazing mare Arms Of An Angel, who set the race up for the amazing time by leading from the pole and running them along in fine style.

Turning for home the mare and Lauren Panella were still giving plenty of cheek after quarters of 26.4s, 27.4s and 26.5s.

The winner hit the line with a final split of 27.2s for the incredible track record time and an even-more-special fourth Group One for the Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen team.

“Wow, what a day,” was Rasmussen’s comment as the champion reinsman known by many as Miss Inter Dominion, thanks to her four Inter Dominion victories with Blacks A Fake, became known as “Miss Miracle Mile” thanks to a handsome little bay gelding named Have Faith In Me.

“It was so special with this horse as he has so much learning and growing up to do.

“This win is right up there. Just the way he did it – he’s such a little tiny green little fellow.

“I’m overwhelmed and I’m just so proud of this little horse.”

The race was covered in splits of 26.4, 27.4, 26.5 and 27.2 seconds.

Race favourite Beautide wilted to finish 7th after racing without cover.

“That was so unbelievably close, I wasn’t sure when we hit the line and Chris (Alford – Lennytheshark) had the same feeling. It was great to see the number on the semaphore board, it was a thrilling race and the time is just other worldly.” Rasmussen said.

The Bettors Delight – Scuse Me gelding added the Miracle Mile triumph to his Auckland Cup success earlier this season.

Prepared in partnership by Rasmussen and Mark Purdon in Christchurch, the dynamic couple rolled the dice and elected to accept an invitation with their star pacer in the country’s signature sprint event two weeks ago after he thrashed his rivals in the Chariots Of Fire in a race record time of 1:48.8 and he has quickly claimed the mantle of the most exciting pacer in the southern hemisphere.

His winning time eclipsed the previous mark of his big sister Adore Me at 1:47.7 while it easily beat the race record of 1:49.1 set by Christen Me winning the previous year.

Ironically, it was Rasmussen that partnered Adore Me when she set the Australasian record last year when successful in the Ladyship Mile.

Amazingly, the victory also provides Purdon with his first Miracle Mile success after running three second placings with Il Vicolo (twice) and Jack Cade previously.

 

 

 

 

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