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It wasn’t with the horse most expected, but Shane and Lauren Tritton broke through for a special Newcastle Mile win in dramatic fashion on Friday night. Yayas Hot Spot, the first emergency when fields were released and an $81 Fixed Odds chance, made the most of an inside run with Lachie Manzelmann in the gig to beat Little Rascal by a nose and pacesetter Picard by a half head in 1:54:7. Odds-on favourite, track record-holder and defending champion Majordan galloped at the start and never recovered in the race which was delayed by almost an hour because of a rain-affected track and nearby lightning. The rest of the meeting was abandoned after the group 1 race. The surprise victory gave the Trittons, who were raised in the Hunter and dominated pacing in the region before moving to Menangle Park three years ago, another group 1 but their first Newcastle Mile title. Yayas Hot Spot earned a start in the $1 million Miracle Mile on March 2 at Menangle with the win. Yayas Hot Spot, on the inside, gets the win Yayas Hot Spot, now eight, had finished third in the group 3 Newcastle Mile in 2018 and was eighth in 2016. Sydney trainer Kevin Pizzuto was expected to win with Majordan or Picard and the Tritton-trained Maximan was next best in betting. But it was the Adam Sofoulis-owned Yayas Hot Spot, which had barrier two and gained a start after Rakarolla was scratched, that flew late from a sit three back on the pegs. It’s most recent start was a ninth in the Inter Dominion consolation.  “It’s definitely a special one, especially for that horse,” Shane Tritton said. “The owners have been big supporters of Newcastle for a long time and this horse has been here two years when no one wanted to come because it was only worth $30,000, and he just deserves it. I’m really proud. “He’s been working super. You can’t go off how old they are and what they’re doing. At the end of the day, he’s feeling good. He’s raced the best horses in the Inter Dominion and he came out of that great. “He’s been to the Miracle Mile before, the Hunter Cup, the Victoria Cup and the Inter Dominion, so you knew he was good enough. Just sometimes people forget. “We got a bit of luck. The track surface might have helped us. It brought a few of them back to us. Instead of going 1:50, they’re going 1:54, and at the end of the day, he’s first past the post and that’s all you can ask.” The group 1 win was a first for Manzelmann. Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission from Newcastle Herald

HARNESS racing’s man of the moment has good news and bad news for punters.  The good news from trainer Kevin Pizzuto is his superstar pacer Tiger Tara may not be headed for retirement at the end of the season as he has suggested.  The bad news is Pizzuto can’t shed any light on which one of his two market dominators will win tomorrow night’s $100,000 Ave Technologies Newcastle Mile.  The Newcastle dash for cash has had a huge stakes boost and is now an automatic qualifying race for harness racing’s most important event, the $1million Miracle Mile at Menangle on March 2.  While Tiger Tara is the undoubted poster boy of pacing and star of Pizzuto’s team his stablemates Majordan and Picard are also in career best form and give him a mighty one-two punch in tomorrow night’s sprint.  But Pizzuto, rarely one to be short of an opinion, says he can’t split the pair.  “There is nothing between them because Picard is flying,” he offers.  “A lot will depend on who begins best and gets the lead, which is how they both race best.  “But for punters I can’t split them.” That is testament to how far Picard has come in recent weeks as Majordan is the Newcastle track record holder after pacing 1:51.4 to win this race last season by 20m, albeit when it was worth a lot less and run in May.  He was surprisingly caught by a race rival tomorrow night in Maximan in the closing stages of their clash at Menangle last Saturday night but that was after a blistering early 400m from a wide draw to reach the lead.  Tomorrow night Majordan looks more likely to lead easily and then dictate the race and he has already shortened into $1.50 with the TAB as Picard drifted to $3, with the rivals that settle behind the pair likely to need to smash the clock to threaten them.  If Picard does win and is automatically invited into the Miracle Mile, Pizzuto will have to choose between starting in it or the Chariots of Fire at Menangle on Saturday week as he can’t accept the Miracle Mile invite and start in another race beforehand. Meanwhile, Pizzuto says Tiger Tara, who is sweeping all before him this season, could race on next term.  “I said the other day when I was all pumped up that I was going to retire him next season but I reckon I might have another crack at the NZ Cup.  “So that decision definitely isn’t confirmed yet. I just got a bit carried away.”   Michael Guerin

DEFENDING champion Majordan has opened as the favourite for Friday night’s Group 1 AVE Technologies Newcastle Mile.  The Kevin Pizzuto-trained pacer is the $1.80 elect with TAB Fixed Odds over stablemate Picard at $2.20. Both pacers have drawn beside each other with Majordan in three and Picard in four. Driver Chris Geary is pleased with Majordan’s starting position. “It’s really good, he comes out of barrier two with the removal of the first emergency so hopefully he can push forward and be handy,” said Geary. “It looks a pretty suitable race for him.” Majordan set the track record at Newcastle when winning last year’s Newcastle Mile clocking 1:51.4. This edition of the Newcastle Mile received a major prizemoney boost and will carry a purse of $100,000 making it the only Group 1 race in the Hunter Region in all three racing codes. The winner will also receive an automatic invitation to the $1million Miracle Mile on March 2. AVE Technologies Newcastle Mile – GROUP 1 (1609m) 1   Little Rascal 2   Yayas Hot Spot (EM1) 3   Majordan 4   Picard 5   Loorrim Creek 6   Maximan 7   Rakarolla 8   Lombo Kotakinabalu (EM2) 9   Mattgregor 10            Ultimate Art     AMANDA RANDO MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER (02) 9722 6600 •  arando@hrnsw.com.au •  @Amanda_Rando

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   Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Roulette is one of the simplest games to play at the casino. Punters can bet on red or black, or can place chips on a number hoping for greater odds. Menangle harness racing trainer Darren McCall has his fingers crossed and hopes the roulette ball drops on 24 black in the Newcastle Mile on Saturday. McCall's leading pacer Bettor Bet Black is aiming for career win 24 on Saturday night and he believes the odds are in his favour. "I'm amazed just how well Bettor Bet Black pulled up after his run in the Bulli Cup last week," McCall said. "I spent a number of years in North America with horses and I've also watched a lot of harness racing in my life and I can't remember horses breaking 25 seconds for a quarter before. Bettor Bet Black ran 24.8 for the first 400 metres last week and I remember looking across at the board during the race thinking that it must have been a mistake." Bettor Bet Black was entitled to stall a long way from home after burning through the first 400 metres but the veteran pacer fought tenaciously in the straight and held on for a credible sixth beaten less than ten metres. "He just got tired in the last 60 metres or so. I was so proud of him, he could have dropped right out but to his credit he stuck it out right to the line. "He was strutting around on Sunday morning like a two year old so it definitely didn't hurt him, if anything it may have actually helped him." McCall had been hoping to have Bettor Bet Black at his peak in the lead up to the Miracle Mile earlier in the year but small setbacks meant the son of Bettor's Delight was underdone going into the qualifiers. "He has had a few little things that have needed to be taken care of and therefore he didn't have the racing that I would have liked going into the Miracle Mile qualifier. He didn't disgrace himself in that and I've only recently been able to get some solid racing into him. "Bettor Bet Black is one of those horses that thrives on racing. He is a lazy trackworker and because of his hard going racing pattern it doesn't make sense to get too aggressive with him when working." Rival trainer Shane Tritton has publically commented Mach Beauty will not engage in an early speed duel with Bettor Bet Black in the Newcastle Mile. "I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of horses attempt to kick up inside Bettor Bet Black in the early stages because it makes sense that a great spot to be will be on my back because they know I'm going to take them halfway up the straight. "You know what was so scary about his first quarter last week? I only asked him to go when he got to the winning post the first time and I eased him down 80 metres before the quarter so it is scary to think he could have actually gone faster." McCall gives Bettor Bet Black a big chance of winning the Newcastle Mile. "You can see it in the horse's eye when he is at his peak and he is spot on right now, I think he has got a great chance of winning. Avonnova went 1:52.2 winning it in 2014 and I think they'll go something like that again this Saturday night." Greg Hayes

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