Day At The Track

Newcastle Mile elevated to Group 1 level

12:26 AM 20 Dec 2018 NZDT
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Beautide after winning the Newcastle Mile in 2013
Beautide after winning the Newcastle Mile in 2013

Newcastle Harness Racing Club (NHRC) will host the only Group 1 event across any racing code in the Hunter region under a revamped Miracle Mile series featuring a $1 million final at Menangle Park.

The Newcastle Mile will rise from a $30,000 group 3 race held in May to a $100,000 Miracle Mile qualifier to be run on Friday, February 8.

The Group 1 in Newcastle will be the first of four qualifiers, and the only one held outside of Menangle, for the March 2 Miracle Mile, which jumps from $750,000 to $1 million in prizemoney, making it the richest harness racing event in the southern hemisphere. Harness Racing NSW is set to announce the changes on Thursday.

Held as the group 3 Ross Gigg Newcastle Mile in 2016, '17 and '18, the race was formerly a group 2 $75,000 event held as a qualifier for the Miracle Mile. It is believed the elevated race will no longer carry the Ross Gigg name but the club is expected to rename another event to honour the popular former NHRC boss, who died in 2014.

Securing Group 1 status and regaining its place in the Miracle Mile series is a coup for the NHRC's headline event and gives it a special place in Hunter racing. 

Newcastle and Scone thoroughbred race clubs hold group 3 events as their pinnacles each year, while The Gardens greyhound track at Birmingham Gardens has the group 2 Black Top as its highest-rated feature.

Newcastle Paceway has held a group 1 race just once before, in 1997, when Darren Hancock's Sovereign Hill won the Australian Pacing Championship. 

With the lift in status, the Newcastle Mile is expected to again attract many of the best pacers in Australasia to the Broadmeadow circuit. 

Free-legged Queensland star Avonnova won in 2014 when the Newcastle Mile, then a Group 2, was last held as a Miracle Mile qualifier. Beautide did the Newcastle-Miracle Mile double in 2013.

Both champions broke track records in their Newcastle victories.

It's hoped having top-line pacers on show again in Newcastle will bring a healthy crowd and boost the club, which has hit hard times financially over the past decade but is celebrating 30 years of racing at the Broadmeadow track in 2019.    

The other qualifying races for the Miracle Mile are the Chariots of Fire for four-year-olds on February 16 and two sprints on February 23, all held at Menangle. The winners gain an automatic place in the $1 million finale.

Some of the greats of pacing, including Westburn Grant (1990 and '91), Sabilize (1994, '95, '96), Our Sir Vancelot (1998) and Courage Under Fire (2000, '01), have won the Newcastle Mile.

By Craig Kerry
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