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Victoria's powerful influence on NSW’s Carnival of Miracles is set to finish in style at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. Our raiders won all three heats of the NSW Oaks before filling second, third and fourth spots in the final. Maajida won the last of the Ladyship Mile leads-up and then the unheralded Miss McGonagall ran the race of her life for second in the Ladyship itself behind Stylish Memphis. Victorians then won two of the three NSW Derby heats last Saturday night, while recently “adopted” Victorian Wolf Stride and Out To Play raced their way into the Miracle Mile to fly our flag. Sure they’ll both need luck to beat defending champ King Of Swing, but Wolf Stride seems to get better every time he goes to the races and his win last Saturday night was something to behold. Trainer-driver Anthony Butt summed it up best: “I see this like the year My Field Marshal won it for us. He’ll need others to make the race for him, but he’s certainly good enough if that happens.” In the Derby markets, Victorian pair Patsbeachstorm ($3) and Idyllic ($3.20) head the betting with another of “ours”, Act Now, fourth pick at $7. Only tough and classy local Tasty Delight seems to stand in their way. Patsbeachstorm could provide some consolation for trainer-driver David Moran, who had hoped to be winning the Miracle Mile this weekend with Lochinvar Art. Moran has loved Patsbeachstorm since day one, but almost lost him to what’s presumed to have been a spider bite about eight months ago. “He had a toxic reaction and was down and out. They can’t say for sure what it was, but think it’s a 95 per cent chance it was a spider bite,” he said. “It’s as much a relief as anything to have him back and going so well. “He was terrific the other night and I know how much that run will bring him on again for the final. It was only his fourth run after 11 months out.” Patsbeachstorm gave the classy and tough Act Now three lengths start, zoomed straight past him and blazed by far the fastest of the three heats with a 1min53.5sec mile rate for 2400m. In contrast, our other main Derby hope, Idyllic, led and had little more than a soft track workout to win his heat in a dawdling 1min57.5sec mile rate. But we know how good Idyllic is and he’ll take some beating. That said, Patsbeachstorm oozes this X-factor and explosive speed which gives him the nod in my book. Victoria will also be represented in other features on Saturday night like the Group 1 Trotters’ Mile, Group 1 Bohemia Crystal free-for-all and Tanyia Harris 4YO Mares. It’s been a golden few months for harness racing and Saturday night at Menangle will be a great way to celebrate it.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

KING Of Swing has the $1 million Miracle Mile at his mercy. The powerhouse stallion is TAB’s $1.40 favourite to continue the surprisingly great record of back-to-back Miracle Mile winners. Since the race was first run and won by Robin Dundee in 1967, King Of Swing is aiming to become the seventh back-to-back winner. Those so far have been: Smoken Up (2010/11), Be Good Johnny (2005/06), Sokyola (2003/04), Holmes DG (1999/2000), Chokin (1993/94) and Westburn Grant (1989/90). The great Village Kid also won two Miracle Miles, but the wins were split by Kiwi pacer Master Mood. Recent history is also in King Of Swing’s corner with 11 Miracle Miles held at Menangle and 10 of the winners coming from barrier five or inside. King Of Swing has drawn six, but will start from barrier five when emergency One Change comes out. King Of Swing cruised to victory in his Miracle Mile qualifier, the Group 1 Schweppes Sprint, at Menangle last Saturday in what was little more than 400m dash home. “It’s just the run he needed after a few weeks since the Hunter Cup. It’ll top him off nicely for next week,” driver Luke McCarthy said. “The draw suits as well. I said before I’d like something in the middle because he gets out best from there. It’s not often we really blast him out, but he’s very, very quick when we want to, especially from a middle draw.” King Of Swing is one of three Miracle Mile runners for McCarthy and his wife, Belinda. Last year’s third placegetter Alta Orlando and Chariots Of Fire winner Expensive Ego are the others. King Of Swing’s suitable draw was made even better with key rivals like Wolf Stride (seven), Out To Play (nine) and Stylish Memphis (10) drawing outside him. ___________________________________________________________________ TOP young former Kiwi driver Jack Trainor is hoping to ride his wave of luck one race further and overcome a horror draw to win the Miracle Mile. Trainor went to Menangle last Saturday night with two great chances of driving his first Group 1 winner. In the space of 40 minutes, both won with Stylish Memphis and Anntonia flashing home to win the Ladyship Mile and NSW Oaks respectively. “This is a night I won’t forget in a long time. I thought they both great chances, but for both to come out and win is amazing,” Trainor said. Stylish Memphis’s outside draw means she will have to re-write history to win the Miracle Mile. In the 11 running since the race moved from Harold Park to Menangle, no horse has won from further out than gate six. Stylish Memphis will start from eight after scratchings. Further, in those 11 years, only five placegetters have come from gate six or wider. “It’s a huge ask now, but she’s thriving on the hard racing week-to-week and we just have to hope they run the race upside down and she can have the last crack at them with that big finish of hers,” Trainor said. ___________________________________________________________________ ALL is not lost for Lochinvar Art’s trainer David Moran during this Sydney raid. He hurriedly left Victoria for NSW just over a week ago with three horses in the float and Patsbeachstorm is the last one standing. “Lochinvar Art had his issues and the two-year-old filly I brought up for the Pink Bonnet wasn’t eligible because she’d hadn’t been registered long enough,” Moran said. But Patsbeachstorm is doing his part with two wins during the trip and heads betting for his main goal, next Saturday night’s $200,000 Group 1 NSW Derby at Menangle. Not bad from a horse who just over six months back was fighting for his life after what is presumed to have been a spider bite. “He had a bad toxic reaction. They say it’s about 95 per cent likely it was a spider bite. He was down and out,” Moran said. “It’s a relief as much as anything to have him back and going so well. He’s a horse we’ve loved since day one.” Patsbeachstorm was by the far the most impressive and fastest of the three Derby heats winners last Saturday night and boasts the X-factor of a blazing turn of speed. Classy Victorian Idyllic and exciting local Tasty Delight are the other big guns. ___________________________________________________________________ STAR Kiwi trotter Majestic Man will cap what’s already been a hugely successful Aussie raid when he steps out at Menangle on Miracle Mile night. Majestic Man has already given his young driver and caretaker trainer Brad Williamson the first two Group 1 wins of his career this trip, including last Saturday night’s $100,000 TAB Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Melton. He’s had five runs on the trip for two wins, a second, a third and a fourth and importantly has won both times when he’s led. Majestic Man will draw the front in this week’s Group 1 NSW Trotters’ Mile so can use his blazing gate speed and gets his chance to win again and post a scorching mile. This week’s race carries added importance with reports there is huge North American interest in buying Majestic Man to continue his career over there. ___________________________________________________________________ LUKE McCarthy reconnected with his roots to win the $50,000 Group 2 Pink Bonnet on Silk Cloud last Saturday night at Menangle. The exciting filly is trained at Bathurst by hobbyist Tony Higgs, who drove Silk Cloud for a second on debut but happily handed over the reins to McCarthy. “I’d have got lost at Menangle. I can’t even see the back straight when I watch Menangle on TV,” Higgs joked. McCarthy added: “This one is a bit special. It’s great to win a big race for good people and, growing up in Bathurst, I’ve known Tony all my life.”   by Adam Hamilton

Newcastle Mile winner The Black Prince and former Tasmanian pacer Ignatius were the biggest harness racing winners when the marbles were drawn for next weekend's $1m Garrards Miracle Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The Black Prince's chances were enhanced when he drew barrier one for Australasia's biggest sprint race while Ignatius, a prolific winner at Menangle during his two and three-year-old years, suddenly became a serious chance in the race after drawing gate two. King Of Swing drew gate six but will probably come from gate five when the second emergency One Change comes out of the race. Had King Of Swing drawn closer to the pegs he would have almost certainly started a long odds-on favourite in the race but may now have to work a little harder to exert his superiority. With the revamped market he was listed as a $1.40 favourite. Tonight's Ladyship Mile winner, Kiwi mare Stylish Memphis will again have to come from near the tail of the field after drawing the outside of the front line, gate 10, but should come into eight when the reserves are taken out. The final draw is: The Black Prince (Bettors Delight - It's My Style - McArdle) $21 Ignatius (Roll With Joe - Ashkalini - Art Major) $11 One Change 2nd em (Bettors Delight - Changedown - Falcon Seelster) $51 Expensive Ego (Rock N Roll Heaven - Art Start - Perfect Art) $6.50 Alta Orlando (Courage Under Fire - La Ja Joconde - Totally Western) $14 King Of Swing (Rocknroll Hanover - Twist And Twirl - Artsplace) $1.40 Wolf Stride (Rock N Roll Heaven - Lilic Stride - Art Major) $11 Mach Shard 1st em (Mach Three - Sly Shard - Panorama) $41 Out To Play (Art Major - Play Bill - Presidential Ball) $41 Stylish Memphis (Bettors Delight - Memphis Melody - Badlands Hanover) $12   by Mandy Madern Club Menangle

Australia's most improved pacer Wolf Stride 'strode' into the $1m Miracle Mile tonight with a stunning harness racing victory in the Allied Express Logistics Sprint at Tabcorp Park Menangle. In a driving finish Wolf Stride (Rock N Roll Heaven - Lilac Stride - Art Major) got up in the last few bounds to beat front-runner Alta Orlando (Luke McCarthy) and rails-hugging former Kiwi Mach Shard (John McCarthy), who just edged out Turn It Up (Shane Graham) for third place. Last week's Terang Cup winner travelled up perfectly to Sydney, according to his trainer-driver Anthony Butt who admitted the horse had come a long way in a fairly short time for owners, harness racing fanatics Emilio and Mary Rosati. "This horse has always stepped up when we've asked him to . . . he just keeps getting better and better," said Butt. "Pre-race he can be a bit of a boy but when the starter says 'go' he knows what to do and he's actually a lovely horse to drive in a race. "This should stand him in good stead for the next 12 months. "Often the hardest thing to do is to get into the Miracle Mile. "Now we've done that we can enjoy it and hope for the best on the big night." The action came thick and fast with Alta Orlando (Luke McCarthy) and Kowalski Analysis tackled each other for the early lead with Alta Orlando prevailing. Wolf Stride settled back in about sixth spot and showed his true colours with a mighty finish in the straight to nail his rivals and win by a head in a scintillating 1:49. That alone was enough to ensure he'll be one of the toughest to beat in next Saturday's $1m Garrards Miracle Mile. To watch the video replay of Wolf Stride winning click here.  The second Miracle Mile qualifier saw King Of Swing (Rocknroll Hanover - Twist And Twirl - Artsplace) do exactly what everybody expected, cruising to an almost casual 1:49.5 win, defeating Out To Play (Greg Sugars) and One Change (Shane Graham) with the plucky Ignatius a close fourth. "He felt really good tonight and that run should get him just perfect for next week's big one," said winning reinsman Luke McCarthy. "I'm relieved and happy to qualify. "He's naturally quick out so I let him get there and he raced nicely after that - and he just felt super in the run." To watch the video replay of King Of Swing winning click here. That ensured six more automatic qualifiers for the Miracle Mile: Wolf Stride (Rock N Roll Heaven), Alta Orlando (Courage Under Fire) and Mach Shard (Mach Three) from the first qualifying sprint; King Of Swing (Rocknroll Hanover), Out To Play (Art Major) and One Change (Bettors Delight) from the second sprint with those horses joining The Black Prince (Bettors Delight) and Expensive Ego (Rock N Roll Heaven) in the big one with two more choices to come. For full results of tonight's program click here. Mandy Madern

Two horses that have previously been crowned the Tasmanian Harness Horse Of The Year are searching for a start in Australian harness racing’s richest race, the $1,000,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle in Sydney next week. Both Max Delight and Ignatius are searching for a start in Australia’s premier sprint race when they contest the final two lead up races tonight. Max Delight is raced by East Devonport’s Mick Maxfield and has impressed in two runs back from an injury-enforced break. The five-year-old entire lines up at 19:23 tonight, where he has been well supported in early markets ($8.00 into $4.40) and sits on the third line of betting. Trained by David Aiken, the pacer will be driven by his son Josh who was also in the sulky for the pacer’s last start win in a Group 3 race at Melton on 6 February, recording a mile rate of 1m 54.5 for 2240 metres. Mick’s son Dean spoke on Victorian radio on Friday and acknowledged the tough opposition tonight. “The horse has come back well from a lengthy spell, David (Aiken) has him cherry ripe and he has drawn well on Saturday night. We are always a chance, but there are some quality horses in that line-up,” said Dean. “Throughout his three-year-old career, David and Todd McCarthy did an outstanding job with him, and it will be no different with David and Josh,” he said. Ignatius will be having his second start back in New South Wales after a Tasmanian campaign, but the pacer’s run of poor barrier draws has continued, starting from barrier nine on the front row after scratchings in race four at 19:50. “We are not having much luck with the draws up there, but I thought his run a fortnight ago was pretty good. He was hitting the line as good as any other in the race after doing a bit of work early,” said trainer Todd Rattray about the $21 chance who takes on last year’s Miracle Mile winner King Of Swing, who has been installed as the $1.28 favourite from barrier two. “I know it is a hard race tonight, but if he is alright, hopefully he can run in the top four or five,” added Todd, who has given the driving responsibilities to his older brother James. The first two horses home in each sprint feature tonight are guaranteed a spot in the Miracle Mile, along with the winners of the Newcastle Mile and Chariots Of Fire. The remainder of the field to be selected from tonight’s sprints, the final field for the Miracle Mile, will be released tonight.   Duncan Dornauf

Kialla trainer David Moran says he feels a mix of disappointment and relief following the decision to withdraw Lochinvar Art from his pursuit of the Miracle Mile. The star entire had been the talk of the harness racing world as he fought to overcome a hoof injury in time to win his place in the feature on March 6. Lochinvar Art was required to trial at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night and pass veterinary checks before being considered for a wildcard spot in Australia’s richest race. However, Moran made the call on Friday morning to withdraw from the hit-out, with the injury not showing enough signs of improvement. “It’s the race the whole year that you try to plan for. All of a sudden you are racing for $1.2million and now you are racing for zero, so that’s a bit hard to handle,” he said. “Now that I’ve made the announcement, it’s a bit of a relief to a degree because your phone never stops ringing, you are trying to get things right and you are careful what you say. So it’s a relief in that way. “It's disappointing, but what is done is done. I've got to look after him now. He's looked after me.” Moran said with the injury not improving, it became a somewhat easy decision to pull up stumps on the Miracle Mile tilt. “We had a pretty good 12 months and it’s only a minor injury. That’s probably the best part,” he said. “It’s not like he has done a tendon and has got to have 12 months out. It’s a deep-seated abscess (and) the worst part about it is that if it burst yesterday he would probably be fine. He would be going around tomorrow. But it’s one of those things - you just race against the clock…” Moran said he was very grateful for what the horse had achieved and the support many people have given him over the journey. Lochinvar Art won the $500,000 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton on February 6 to take his record to 28 victories from 50 starts and more than $1.3million in prizemoney.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Trainer-driver David Moran has conceded his Miracle Mile dream is over with Lochinvar Art. Moran notified NSW stewards and Club Menangle this morning (Friday) he had given up the fight to nurse Lochinvar Art through a hoof injury. “This horse has changed my life and I have to do what’s right for him. He can have a break now, I’ll get him right again and we’ll be back in a few months time,” Moran said. “The hoof wasn’t getting better, certainly not quickly enough. It wasn’t fair to keep pushing on for him or other horses trying to get into the race.” Lochinvar Art pulled a shoe and pricked a hoof last Friday which forced his scratching from the Group 1 Newcastle Mile that night. His Miracle Mile hopes rested on a workout between races one and two at Menangle tomorrow night where he needed to satisfy vets, stewards and Moran. “I haven’t been able to get any work into him at home. It was time to pull the pin.” Lochinvar Art, off the back of a dominant past year including Victoria and Hunter Cup wins, was the $1.70 prepost Miracle Mile favourite before last Friday’s setback. Now he’s out, defending champion King Of Swing is into $1.80 after being as much as $3 last Friday. King Of Swing is a $1.25 to win his Miracle Mile qualifier – the Group 1 Schweppes Sprint – at Menangle tomorrow night. Only a top two finish will guarantee him a berth in tomorrow week’s Miracle Mile. The only confirmed runners so far are last week’s Chariots Of Fire winner Expensive Ego and Newcastle Mile winner The Black Prince. The remainder of the field will be finalised after tomorrow night’s two qualifying sprints and the Group 1 Ladyship Mile at Menangle.   Adam Hamilton

Driver of the moment Kate Gath has one of the biggest decisions of her career to make in the next couple of days. Gath has great reasons to drive at feature meetings at both Menangle at Melton next Saturday night. At Menangle she would do the bulk of the stable driving for the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, including nominal NSW Oaks favourite Tough Tilly, leading Ladyship Mile hope Maajida, Miracle Mile hopeful Out To Play and well-fancied NSW Derby contender Idyllic in a qualifying heat. But, at Melton, the most special horse in his career, Tornado Valley, will tackle the $100,000 Group 1 Grand Prix. “It’s not a position I’m used to being in. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s such a hard one,” Gath said. “I just wanted to get through tonight (Saturday) and now I’ll have to make my decision.” You’d think Gath, if allowed, would wait until the barrier draw came out on Tuesday for the Grand Prix. As special as Tornado Valley is to her, she’s got amazing bond with Tough Tilly and the EB Research awareness cause the filly races for. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Emerging star Wolf Stride is returning to where it all started to chase a Miracle Mile berth. It was about 10 months ago when co-trainer Anthony Butt touted Wolf Stride as a future Grand Circuit player after a Menangle win and he’s well on the way. Fresh off his terrific fourth in the Group 1 Hunter Cup on February 6, Wolf Stride dropped back in class a tad and made the most of it for a dominant $50,000 Group 2 Terang Cup win on Saturday night. The race was pretty much over inside the first 600m when daring stand-in driver Zac Phillips worked through and around the field from a back row draw to take the lead from Malcolms Rhythm. Wolf Stride then dashed home in in 55.1sec, seemingly still with something in hand, to win as he liked. “He’s a pretty special horse and still on the up,” Phillips said. “All credit goes to Anthony and Sonya (Smith, co-trainer). They’ve sone a fantastic job with this horse. “Anthony’s up in Sydney and this guy heads up Monday join him. Sonya heads up then as well.” Wolf Stride will chase a Miracle Mile berth through one of the two Group 1 qualifying sprints at Menangle next Saturday night. Terang’s other feature, the Group 3 Trotters’ Cup, proved a triumph for young trainer Kate Hargreaves and her improving Well Defined. Driver Ellen Tormey stepped Well Defined straight to the front, took a trail on the tough Robbie Royale and ripped home to win strongly. Class runners Pink Galahs (20m handicap) and McLovin (30m) were well beaten into fifth and six spots. _____________________________________________________________________________________ It wasn’t the Newcastle Mile we were all waiting for, but there were plenty happy with the breakthrough Group 1 win of The Black Prince. Roy Roots Jr’s consistent open-class performer won the Group 1 Carousel at Menangle in 2018, but broke through at the highest level when driver Robbie Morris scooted him along the inside to win in a slick 1min51.1sec mile. The Black Prince, who finished third to Majordan in last year’s Newcastle Mile, also gave Roots Jr his first Group 1 success. Roots Jr was formerly based at Keinbah, just outside Newcastle, before moving his base to NSW’s Central Coast. With Lochinvar Art a late scratching, top former Kiwi pacer Turn It Up was sent out a commanding $1.70 favourite. Turn It Up spent some petrol in a early burn for the lead and had to snag back, but then surged around soon after to take the lead from The Black Prince. Despite steadying through a cosy 29.5sec second quarter, Turn It Up looked in trouble coming to the home bend and tired to finish fifth. He’ll now need to back-up and run much better in a qualifying sprint at Menangle next Saturday night to make the Miracle Mile. But The Black Prince’s win gets him straight through to the $1 million feature on Saturday week. Victorian raider Western Sonador grabbed the eye after being buried in traffic early and storming home from a mile back to finish a fantastic second. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Amidst the Lochinvar Art injury setback and Miracle Mile chaos, his trainer-driver David Moran at least had one reason to smile. His untapped three-year-old Patsbeachstorm sparkled winning his final NSW Derby warm-up against older horses at Newcastle last Friday night. It was his first run since being nabbed late as favourite when second in the Group 1 Caduceus Classic at Melton on January 30. He’s had just six runs for four wins, a second a third and oozes potential. “I wasn’t at all disappointed when he got beaten at Melton. He was only second up from almost a year out and it was six months ago he almost died. He was always going to improve a lot from that Melton run,” Moran said. “I deliberately picked that Newcastle race because it was over the (long) 2550m. It was great to be able to sit him back off the pace and let him finish off them instead of leading as he’s done so often.” Patsbeachstorm stormed home from near the rear to win by 20.7m and run his own last half in 55.3sec. He’s one of the major players in the Derby heading into next Saturday night’s heats. The others are Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s pair Idyllic and Act Now along with local star Tasty Delight. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Gary Hall Jr never ceases to amaze at Gloucester Park. He was right at his best again in the first of the features last Friday night when perfectly executing a plan and winning on comeback pacer Wildwest in the $50,000 Group 2 Governors Cup (2130m). While most thought the headstrong and enigmatic Talktomeurmattjesty would work across to the front, Hall Jr had other ideas. “I didn’t like the position that could’ve left me in, so I wanted to hold the front with everything I had,” he said. Wildwest and Talktomeurmattjesty burned through the lead time, but Hall Jr did hold the front and was still good enough to keep fighting and win despite copping midrace pressure too. It was only Wildwest’s second run back from a break and took his record to 10 wins from only 15 starts. In the other feature, husband and wife team Chris and Debra Lewis combined for an all-the-way win with Rumour Has It to upstage some glamour fillies like Black Jack Baby (third) and Always An Angel (unplaced). It was a race which has throw the upcoming WA Oaks into some confusion.   by Adam Hamilton

The race for a start in the $1 million Miracle Mile will go right down to the wire for Australasia’s best harness racing pacer Lochinvar Art. Trainer-driver David Moran admitted this would “be the hardest week of my career and of Lochinvar Art’s career as well.” Lochinvar Art pulled a shoe and stepped on a nail late Friday morning, which forced his scratching from the $100,000 Group 1 Newcastle Mile that night. The scratching earned Lochinvar Art a 10-day ban from racing, which meant he had no opportunity to contest a Miracle Mile qualifying race. Emergency talks between Club Menangle and HRNSW created a lifeline for Lochinvar Art’s Miracle Mile hopes, with a clause stating any horse accepted in the final field of a qualifying race but unable to compete for extenuating circumstances was eligible for a Miracle Mile invitation. The Miracle Mile is on Saturday week at Menangle, but Moran only has until this Saturday to prove Lochinvar Art’s fitness. Club Menangle CEO Bruce Christison confirmed Lochinvar Art would not be invited to the Miracle Mile unless he proved his fitness in a public workout between races one and two at Menangle on Saturday night. “We pick the field and the barriers are drawn Saturday, so that’s the cut-off,” he said. Moran said Lochinvar Art’s hoof soreness had improved since Friday and he was growing in confidence his six-time Group 1 winner will recover in time. “He was about 80 per cent Friday. It was better Saturday and is better again today, but we’ve still got some work to do,” he said. “It’s hard to predict these things as hoof issues are tricky, but given the improvement since Friday, I’m pretty confident we’ll get him right in time.” Moran said if Lochinvar Art recovered and worked at Menangle on Saturday, he would be given “a race-like” hitout. “It has to be a really serious workout. I’m talking a 1min50sec mile or the like, with a galloping pacemaker,” he said. “That’s not about anything he’s got to prove, but he’s going to need a hitout like that for his fitness. “It’ll be a month between runs if he starts in the Miracle Mile and I’ve always been open in saying this horse thrives on hard racing and is better when he’s races are close together.” Adam Hamilton Reprinted with permission of Racenet

THE Victorians are hitting NSW’s Carnival of Miracles in force. But the logistics of travel with Victoria’s ongoing COVID-19 concerns and clashes with key Melton meetings is proving a real headache. We know David Moran scrambled to get across the border with Lochinvar Art and his NSW Derby hopeful Patsbeachstorm late Friday. He’s bunkered down in “enemy territory” at Luke and Belinda McCarthy’s barn near Menangle. Now the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin team is working through getting as many as 10 pacers from Ballarat to Menangle over the next week or so. Who travels with them? Will there be border closures? Who will drive them all? “We’ve got Tough Tilly, Rogue Wave, Platinum Sparkle and Beach Music for the Oaks heats this week and Maajida and Rockasaki for the mares’ race (Robin Dundee),” Tonkin said. “Then the next week it’s Idyllic, Act Now and maybe Jacks Hawk for the Derby heats along with Out To Play for the sprints to try and get into the Miracle Mile. “But there’s a heck of a lot to work through. Can I send someone with them or do we have to send them to another trainer? Who can I get to drive them all?” Tonkin is almost resigned to having to use local NSW drivers along with Moran given the travel and/or quarantine challenges any Victorian drivers could face along with the fact the key Menangle meetings clash some big meetings in Victoria as well. Tough Tilly is a dominant favourite for the NSW Oaks and Kate Gath loves her, but Tonkin expects her to stay in Victoria for the all the reasons above. Gath’s got the Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix with Tornado Valley at Melton on NSW Oaks night. Luke McCarthy and Moran are front-runners to drive Tough Tilly. Tonkin also hopes to grab McCarthy to drive one of key Derby runners, probably Idyllic. Challenges aside, there will be plenty for Victorians to cheer for through the Carnival of Miracles. It all starts when our champ and Australasia’s best pacer Lochinvar Art steps out in Friday night’s Group 1 Newcastle Mile. Owner-breeder Kevin Gordon, who lives just outside Newcastle, can’t wait to “show-off” his amazing pacer to locals. “There’s a real buzz through the Hunter. It’s got everyone talking. There’s lots of people saying they’ll go along to see what all the fuss is about,” he said. “It’s not just great for this area, but this horse is great for the sport as a whole. He’s a people’s horse.” Along with so many key runners in the Oaks and Derby, Victorians will also have Kowalski Analysis and Boots Electric to cheer for in Saturday night’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire. It’s worth noting the improving Boots Electric has history on his side. The past four winners of the 4YO Bonanza at Melton have gone on to win the Chariots: Lazarus (2017), Jilliby Kung Fu (2018), Poster Boy (2019) and Lochinvar Art (last year).   by Adam Hamilton

Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall Snr rates King Of Swing’s triumph in Saturday night’s Miracle Mile as one of his finest moments in harness racing. The former West Australian pacer’s completed his rise to the top echelon of the Free-For-All ranks in Australasia rating a dazzling 1.48.0 for the famous Menangle mile. Hall Snr, who owns a share in the five-year-old with his partner Karen, said winning a Miracle Mile had been a long-term goal. “That’s right up there for me,” he told TABradio. “For me to win a Miracle Mile, it has been on my bucket list for years. “I’ve run a third and a fourth in it but I’ve never looked like winning it. “Quinny (Im Themightyquinn) wasn’t really a miler.” King Of Swing had 13 starts prior to joining Hall Snr’s stable in March 2018 and won the WA Derby at just his second start in the state. The son of Rocknroll Hanover then endured a frustrating campaign in the second half of 2019 and Hall Snr, along with the other owners, elected to send the five-year-old to New South Wales. He has now won four of his five starts under the care of Cross and Hall Snr said he couldn’t believe how well he adapted to racing at the top level, given his lacklustre form at Gloucester Park. “He just wasn’t competitive at all when he wasn’t in front,” he said. “You’ve got to admire Luke (McCarthy) and Craig Cross and the job they’ve done with the horse. “He’s focused and all he wants to do is win.” Hall Snr said King Of Swing would now likely be aimed at the Len Smith Mile or a potential trip to Queensland, with a long range plan of getting him to the Inter Dominion series later in the year. Meanwhile, Golden Nugget winner Shockwave is a chance of making a return to the track in Friday night’s Group 2 4&5YO Championship (2130m). The Ryan Bell-trained pacer was desperately unlucky in the WA Pacing Cup and hasn’t been seen since.   Tim Walker

YOU could hardly call it a hoodoo . . .not when you are renowned as one of the champions of your sport. Yet star reinsman Luke McCarthy certainly got a monkey off his back with a magnificent victory in tonight's $1m Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. West Australian pacer King Of Swing defied all the efforts of star four-year-old Lochinvar Art to run him down as he scored a stirring two-and-a-half metre win over the Chariots Of Fire winner with the winner's stablemate Alta Orlando a head back in third place. The winner ran a stunning 1:48.0 mile to join an elite list of pacers to have won the Hunter Cup and the Miracle Mile in the same season. King Of Swing also joined champions such as Mount Eden, Royal Force, Pure Steel, Preux Chevalier, Village Kid and Norms Daughter who have made the long journey from Western Australia to win Australasia's greatest sprint race. McCarthy was always excited to be driving a horse he described as a "machine" . . . and a versatile one at that. The race threw up the first surprise when Majordan tore across from the outside draw to take up the running. No sooner had he settled there when McCarthy took on his brother with King Of Swing and found the front in a slick 28.8s first quarter of the mile. He didn't get much peace in front though as Lochinvar Art (David Moran) kept at him for most of the race. "We always knew he had ability when he won a Derby in WA," explained part-owner Glen Moore. "Trainer Gary Hall senior recommended we send him over to Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy and we had confidence in their ability to run him around as we felt it could be an attitude problem. "We thought the cross and McCarthy team could rejuvenate him and they have certainly done the job. "We're pinching ourselves as to what this horse has done in winning three groups one races in recent weeks and the things this horse has not only done but may go on to do." McCarthy looked slightly stunned by his win: "Thanks for trusting me with the drive and Gary Hall senior for sending us the horse. He knew how good this horse was and he wasn't putting his best foot forward [in WA]," he said. "To give us a crack with him and to win the Hunter Cup and now the Miracle Mile, well it's a dream come true. "I've been trying for a long time to win this race so it is a special thrill to win it - at last."   Club Menangle

The Miracle Mile is “the race” to win, says champion harness horseman Lance Justice.  He acknowledges “it’s not very Victorian of me” but Justice, 60, grew up full of admiration for the New South Wales based Australian Grand Circuit sprint. “It’s a special race,” he said. And Justice knows how to win one. In fact he knows how to win four. Since the turn of the millennium, Justice has produced four of Victoria’s five Miracle Mile winners – Sokyola back-to-back in 2003 and ‘04 and Smoken Up in 2010 and ’11. “I’d finally done something in harness racing that actually stood out,” he said this week recalling the moments immediately following his first Miracle Mile win in ’03. He was sitting in the sulky behind Sokyola and he realised he'd made it. He'd joined a list of drivers that he always saw as "immortal".  The build-up to the 2003 Miracle Mile was an interesting journey for Justice.  For starters he had to sweat as invites were handed out one by one before Sokyola was finally awarded his ticket very late.  “I didn’t think they were going to put him in. It was like they weren’t taking his Victorian form into account,” Justice said. At the eleventh hour officials extended the dream offer. And come race night, Justice prevailed. A different era, the fledgling pre-race coverage of the day on Sky Channel saw drivers asked for their tactics heading into that Miracle Mile. Justice remembers feeling like everyone had forgotten Sokyola possessed early toe. “He’d been drawing the back row a lot due to the system we had at the time. They said to me, ‘Sokyola’s not renowned for his gate speed is he?’,” Justice recalls. “I responded, ‘I’m just happy to be here’.” But Justice knew what was under the hood and largely his tactics had been decided in his mind, but he was still refining his thinking very late – in fact during the pre-race warm-up. “I got out on the track with Sokyola and I was running him down the front straight and I looked at the signs on the outside fence. There was an airline company sign, I think maybe Qantas, and I looked it and thought if I could aim for the tail of the aeroplane on that sign I knew I’d have some breathing space to get across the field at the start,” he said. Sure enough Justice and Sokyola jetted off the arm, gunned it to the tail end of that sign and glided across the face of the field to assume the top. “Being the last one invited the last thing I wanted to do was knock them over in the Miracle Mile,” he said. In the run Justice was measured, a couple of times having to hold himself back from launching too early.  “I remember going down the back straight and thinking I had the favourite (The Falcon Strike) beaten. He’d loomed up and started to eyeball me and said to me, ‘I’m taking the top’. I said no you’re not and we went just outside the track record. “I thought I might kick for home ... but instead I said no, count to three. "Then I told myself don’t panic coming off the back and so I counted to three again. Then I asked him to stride.”  And stride like a superstar did Sokyola. Game over. He ripped home for a famous win as a $14 outsider. “I was actually a bit overwhelmed when I first got there (that night). I looked at the racebook and thought I was getting $12,000 minimum for going around. Win, lose or draw he’s a winner for being here already.” Twelve months later Sokyola and Justice were back in town and chasing another Miracle, but this time Justice was confined to the grandstand after copping a suspension in the lead-up at Yarra Valley. “It was shattering,” Justice said of the ban. “I took it to appeal and the judge only had to lift one day off so I could drive, but they wouldn’t allow it.” Justice needed a catch driver for Sokyola and he turned to Jodi Quinlan. “She’s a really good driver and I wanted to factor in the weight, too. Jodi weighs nothing,” he said. This time around Sokyola was the first horse invited and drew gate one, almost a complete reversal compared to the build-up the year prior. Except the end result was the same. “The two hardest things to do in the Miracle Mile are firstly, get into the field, and secondly draw a good gate,” Justice said. Most would agree you can probably throw in a third task. Winning it. Sokyola and Quinlan led, controlled the first half of the mile in 59.2seconds before dashing home in 56.7secs for a comfortable win. “It was funny because after the win I went down to give Jodi a hug and she was heavier because it turns out she had all these lucky charms on,” Justice laughed.  “She had a horseshoe and other things around her neck… I’m thinking I’ve put her on to save weight and she’s carrying 20kg worth of charms!” Six years later and Justice claimed his third Miracle Mile, this time behind stable champion Smoken Up (aka Trigger). And Justice was supremely confident. “I just had a feeling he’d win," he said. "He was racing really good, he loved Menangle, and the year before people forget he’d actually run third in the Inter Dominion final there (at Menangle) and second in the Miracle Mile the year before when Melpark Major sat outside him and took us on all the way. “We were a sitting shot to get beaten at the end that year and Monkey King dived at us on the post. Smoken Up’s run was huge. I just knew he was going to win.” To secure his third victory however Smoken Up would have to overcome mighty Queenslander Blacks A Fake.  “Blackie drew well. I drew outside him and straight away I knew I was going to have trouble leading Blackie,” Justice said. “He was one horse I’d struggle leading. I could muscle across pretty much all the others, but Blackie was one I struggled to get across because he was just so dominant and strong.” So Justice hatched a plan. "I decided I was going to come out of the gate without trying to even get the front. I drove to beat Blacks A Fake, that’s all. I sat outside him, I made sure every quarter the pressure was enough for Blackie not to be comfortable.” Justice said Blacks A Fake was always under a touch of pressure during the run.   “Smoken Up could do that – he could worry a horse to death when sitting outside. Lots of horses just don’t like another horse niggling away at them the whole time.” When Mr Feelgood launched down the back straight to make a line of three upfront, Justice said that actually aided Smoken Up’s cause. “It helped because Smoken Up worked up to the other horse even more and Blackie didn’t appreciate it," he said.  Turning for home Blackie and Smoken Up were neck-a-neck and they duly engaged in one of the most memorable one-on-one stoushes of all time up the straight. It was only in the shadows of the post, when both charges had dug well beyond their reserves and were pulsing on sheer guts and determination, that Smoken Up got his head in front for the narrowest of victories. “It’s strength and it's instinct,” Justice said. “So many races Smoken Up turned for home with horses all around him and you just knew when they got to the post when the others had enough, they just couldn’t last like he could.” The last of Justice’s Miracle Miles to date came in 2011 as Smoken Up made it back-to-back wins after overcoming an early shock. Drawing gate one, most had envisaged Smoken Up would be leading early doors. But Trigger’s West Australian foe Im Themightyquinn crossed him soon after the mobile arms folded back. “It was purely pilot error,” Justice admits. “Mighty Quinn was hanging back at the start so I thought I’d get the same flyer as him. Smoken Up wasn’t that sort of horse though. He was a horse that liked to be up on the gate and just storm out at top speed. I tried to turn him into a horse to get a fly-in and it didn’t work. “When the gate went Mighty Quinn got past and actually contacted our legs getting by. He did exactly what I didn’t want to do on Sokyola in that first Miracle Mile. “He (Gary Hall Jr) knew I was upset with him so I suppose he expected me to take it out on him.”  Justice peeled straight off the fence and drove forward. “I went up to say, ‘OK Mighty Quinn, let’s see how good you are’, because we had a good rivalry and we had a lot of fun. I was going to do the same as I did to Blacks A Fake, but instead Mighty Quinn just handed straight up to me.” Justice found himself in front and jammed on the brakes. “I thought I’d probably gutted him a little bit early trying to do that fly thing, then working around, so I thought I’d have a little rest. That’s not the best thing for Smoken Up but it worked all right.” In the straight Smoken Up kicked on strongly, having the measure of Im Themightyquinn, and fending off a late and rather unexpected challenge from veteran Karloo Mick. “When he (Karloo Mick) loomed up to my wheel I thought, ‘no you don’t, you’re too old to win’. He kept coming and I thought he can’t win. I kept thinking ‘you should not be there’... But we held him off and I looked back to Mighty Quinn and he was just floundering.”  And just like that Justice was a four-time Miracle Mile champion. “It is pretty special looking back,” he said. “I was standing outside the drivers’ room at Menangle one night and Brian Hancock walked up, and for all the winners he’d had, he’d never driven a Miracle Mile winner. He said he would have given his eye teeth to drive a winner in that race. "It’s the race to win.” The 2020 Miracle Mile will be held on Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Menangle with Lochinvar Art and Code Bailey carrying Victoria's hopes of victory.   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

EVERYTHING points to Chariots Of Fire Lochinvar Art running a mighty race in Saturday night’s $1 million Miracle Mile, except the wide barrier. In the four years since the Chariots Of Fire was run before the Miracle Mile and became a “feeder” race for it, every Chariots winner has finished top three. It started with the All Stars’ Have Faith In Me who won the big double 2016. Then followed: Lazarus (third to Lennytheshark in 2017); Jilliby Kung Fu (second to My Field Marshal in 2018) and Poster Boy (third to Spankem last year). Trainer-driver David Moran insists he’s got Lochinvar Art “as good as ever”, but, like everyone, he’s worried about the wide draw (he’ll start from gate seven). “I’ve got a few days for it to sink in … it certainly doesn’t look any better than it did when they drew it (last) Saturday night,” Moran said. “I’ve tossed a lot of options around in my head, but I don’t think I can go forward early. I can’t see gaps appearing when you’ve got so many quick beginners like King Of Swing, Alta Orlando, Majordan and others. “I’m pretty much resigned to settling back in the last couple and then you’re in the hands of others … I’ll need them to go really hard up front to have any chance of getting into it. “He’s versatile, but there’s only so much you can do from a draw like that in a sprint race.” Moran said Lochinvar Art has thrived through his first few months in the big league, which included a Hunter Cup run. “He’s loving it. He’s one of those horses who loves the hard racing and gets better for it,” he said. “He’s as good as I can have him going into this week and he’ll need to be from the draw.” Lochinvar Art has been the biggest drifter on the Aussie TAB since markets re-opened after the barrier draw. He’s out from $3.80 to $5. AG’s White Socks (gate one) has also eased from $5 to $6 and even the favourite, King Of Swing (four) is out from $2.80 to $3.10. Alta Orlando ($21 into $9.50), Code Bailey ($6.50 into $5.50) and even Newcastle Mile winner Majordan ($14 to $11) have been the firmers.   Adam Hamilton

Two of harness racing’s greatest rivals will join forces for the first time to try and win Saturday’s $1million Miracle Mile.  In a surprise move that turns back the clock Kiwi driver Mark Purdon will drive Alta Orlando in the great race at Menangle, even though he is trained by one of his fiercest rivals in Cross.  Cross and quasi training partner Luke McCarthy are riding the crest of a wave, having won the Hunter Cup last month and both Miracle Mile preludes last Saturday.  They are undoubtedly the strongest open class stable in Australia whereas Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen have the strongest stable in Australasia, filled with open class stars.  But after a horror run with injuries, including having two Miracle Mile contenders ruled out of the carnival last Thursday, Purdon who won the race last year driving Spankem thought he would be watching it from the stables this season.  Until he got the call up to drive the heavily-backed Alta Orlando through an unusual set of circumstances.  Todd McCarthy drove Alta Orlando to beat My Field Marshal in their $100,000 Prelude last Saturday but is committed to Newcastle Mile winner Majordan, trained by Kevin Pizzuto who he does so much driving for.  Luke McCarthy chose to drive Alta Orlando’s stablemate King Of Swing because he has the better draw and John Dunn, who used to drive Alta Orlando in NZ, was offered the drive.  But he has opted to stick with Bettor’s Heart, trained by his uncle Peter Bagrie so the Alta Orlando drive was up for grabs again.  Remarkably Purdon was the first trainer of Alta Orlando and as a three-year-old he finished third in the prestigious NZ Sires Stakes Final to stablemate Have Faith In Me way back in 2014, who went on to win a Miracle Mile.  Alta Orlando broke down soon after and it was thought he was finished as a racing proposition until he resumed his career two years later trained by Dunn’s father Robert.  He then ended up with Cross and has risen to new heights at Menangle where the relentless racing style suits him. Ironically the last time Purdon drove Alta Orlando was nearly six years ago when he finished last in a minor race, won by a horse driven by John Dunn. “We are thrilled to have Mark on, everybody knows what a good driver he is,” said McCarthy.  “He has driven the winner of every big race you can think of and while I think King Of Swing is Craig’s best chance of winning on Saturday night if Alta Orlando is sitting in the one-one or handy he can beat us.” Michael Guerin

He ran his rivals ragged in winning tonight's $100,000 Allied Express Sprint at Menangle. Now the Craig Cross-trained King Of Swing is ready to assume favouritism for next week's $1m Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. To be driven by champion reinsman Luke McCarthy, King Of Swing drew the ideal gate four and may come into three when second emergency Sicario is withdrawn before the big race. King Of Swing has shown stunning gate speed at his recent starts and the former West Australian has thrived since linking with the Cross stable and looks likely to chase an all-the-way win. Former winner My Field Marshall and his trainer Tim Butt will also be feeling on top of the world after the 2018 winner draw gate two, giving his reinsman Anthony Butt plenty of options and likely to take a trail after he attempted to lead all the way and was edged out by Craig Cross's other hope, Alta Orlando in the Schweppes Sprint. The final field, in barrier order is: 1. A Gs WHITE SOX  2. MY FIELD MARSHAL  3. SICARIO (2ND em)  4. KING OF SWING  5. CODE BAILEY 6. BETTORS HEART 7. THE BLACK PRINCE (1ST em) 8. ALTA ORLANDO 9. LOCHINVAR ART 10. MAJORDAN Earlier slick times were the order of the night and earlier the Allied Express and Schweppes Sprints did not disappoint with fantastic wins by two of Craig Cross' Miracle Mile hopes in King Of Swing and Alta Orlando. The McCarthy brothers, Luke and Todd, did their jobs as they surged into serious Miracle Mile calculation with impressive wins. King Of Swing was taken straight to the front by Luke and ran his rivals off their legs, rating a slashing 1:49.6 in beating Code Bailey and A Gs White Sox by two metre in the $100,000 Allied Express Sprint. The first two home joined Newcastle Mile winner Majordan and Chariots Of Fire star Lochinvar Art in securing invitations to the "Big Dance", the $1m Ainsworth Miracle Mile next Saturday night. The Black Prince also caught the eye, making up many lengths in the straight to finish fourth after settling back near last. That was enough to earn him a reserve spot for the big race. The $100,000 Schweppes Sprint was run a bit differently, with former MM winner My Field Marshal taking advantage of his ideal draw in one to hold the lead for Anthony Butt, despite an early challenge from Alta Orlando from gate five. The race worked out perfectly for Todd McCarthy and Alta Orlando as he was able to duck in behind My Field Marshal and secure a great run into the race. Turning for home Our Uncle Sam, who raced without cover, was tending to drop out of contention, giving Alta Orlando the perfect opportunity to jump off the pegs and score an easy 4.2m win over My Field Marshal with the surprise of the race, Sicario, looming into third, one and a half metres further back, just ahead of the perennially unlucky Hail Christian. The winner rated an even 1:50, although runner-up Anthony Butt would have been quite content in the knowledge he had qualified for another crack at a Miracle Mile with the fastest horse ever to win the race, the 2018 winner My Field Marshal. The $200,000 Boden Projects Ladyship Mile was another highlight of the big night when Kiwi mare Bettors Heart (John Dunn) dived on the line to score the narrowest of wins over Bettor Enforce, robbing Luke McCarthy of his second Group One of the night. Our Princess Tiffany came from well back to grab third, just in front of Belle Of Montana. A scintillating mile rate of 1:49.7 hurtled Bettors Heart into contention for the Miracle Mile and gave Kiwi reinsman John Dunn, the brother of another champion reinsman, Dexter Dunn, his biggest win outside of New Zealand. Trainer Peter Bagrie has been stabled with Shane and Lauren Tritton for the past week and gave the champion pair much of the credit for their mighty win. "Shane has been a terrific help to me this week in getting this mare ready to run the race of her life. We weren't certain she had got there but she has done a great job for us both in New Zealand and here and she didn't let us down," said Bagrie.   Club Menangle

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