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There is a silver lining to Tiger Tara’s season-ending defeat in Saturday night’s $1million Ainsworth Miracle Mile.  Because the New South Wales pacing hero will now definitely return for next season even though he will mix it with stud duties. And that means he is almost certainly heading back to Addington for another shot at the New Zealand Cup.   After crushing wins in the Victoria and Hunter Cups and the Inter Dominion this season Tiger Tara was never a factor at Menangle on Saturday night, settling back and struggling to make ground as Spankem led throughout to win easily.  The defeat takes nothing away from Tiger Tara’s wonderful season but had he won the Mile there almost could have been a feeling of nothing left to achieve, as well as the obvious boost to his already commercial future stallion career.  But trainer Kevin Pizzuto says the rising nine-year-old will do both next season, with the main concentration being on racing.  “He has had a wonderful season but it is time for a break,” said Pizzuto.  “He can have 6-8 weeks off and then he will come back and almost certainly have a decent New Zealand campaign next spring.  “But he will definitely be back racing as well as doing so stud duty.”  That likely means another tilt at the New Zealand Cup, which Tiger Tara has been placed in three times, in November before staying in New Zealand since the Inter Dominion will be in Auckland in December.   But he will mix those racing obligations with stud duties, not that he will actually do both at the same time.  Because harness racing has artificial insemination, which is not allowed in thoroughbred breeding, Pizzutto can have semen collected from Tiger Tara in the off-season and used to kick start his commercial stallion career next breeding season before making that the full time focus when he retires from racing. “We did a bit of that this season just as a little tester and he already had six mares in foal,” explains Pizzutto.  “So for any broodmare owners who want to breed to him he will be available at $5000 for next season but we can collect all the semen and then race him on.” That is great news for harness fans and administrators alike as Tiger Tara is the biggest drawcard in the industry and a clash between him, the plethora of All Stars pacers and the likes of Poster Boy would be gold for races like the Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and even next season’s Miracle Mile.   Michael Guerin

Champion horseman Mark Purdon has added another Grand Circuit event to his record. Purdon took the winning drive behind star four-year-old Spankem to claim the $1 million Ainsworth Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle when leading throughout to defeat stablemate Thefixer and Poster Boy in a time of 1:47.7. It’s the first time Purdon has driven a Miracle Mile winner. Back in 2016, Have Faith In Me scored for the All Stars stable when handled by Natalie Rasmussen. Amazingly, the Miracle Mile was considered as an afterthought after missing the recent Chariots of Fire, Spankem showed his class and toughness after claiming the Canadian Club Sprint qualifier a week ago before scoring last night (Saturday). Boasting three runners in the event, the All Stars stable finished 1st, 2nd and 4th in the country’s premier sprint race. Spankem, a son of Bettors Delight, becomes only the 7th four-year-old to win the Miracle Mile since its inception back in 1967 and joins the likes of Mount Eden, Gundary Flyer, Westburn Grant, Iraklis, Christian Cullen and Have Faith In Me. New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer showed early speed from gate two and headed off Poster Boy while Spankem pushed forward quickly from his wide draw (gate 6) and found the lead before the end of the first quarter. The opening split was timed in 26.9 seconds. Spankem settled perfectly in front with Thefixer sitting behind him while Poster Boy and Chase Auckland also rode the pegs. My Alpha Rock was left facing the breeze with his stablemate Yayas Hot Spot landing one out/one back cover while current Grand Circuit leader Tiger Tara sat last on the outside. Defending champion My Field Marshal drifted back to the rear soon after the start but lost contact with the field and dropped out and took no competitive part. It was later established that My Field Marshal had suffered cardiac arrhythmia. Passing the half, Spankem went through the second section in 28.2 seconds. No moves were being made and Purdon continued to dictate terms in front and Spankem traveled strongly. Heading off the back straight, the third quarter was posted in 27.2 seconds. Upon straightening, Spankem led the way with Thefixer coming to his outside in readiness to outsprint him while Poster Boy and Chase Auckland also starting to wind up. In the straight, Spankem held Thefixer with Poster Boy closing off well for third and Chase Auckland running fourth. Tiger Tara eventually dropped off slightly in the straight to finish fifth. The final split was timed in an astonishing 25.4 seconds – the fastest ever closing split ever recorded in Australia. The winning time is the third quickest in the event’s history, only My Field Marshal (1:46.9) and Have Faith In Me (1:47.5) have gone faster. Naturally, Purdon was thrilled with the result. “It’s a great result for the stable; having three runners engaged and they’ve all performed really well so it’s particularly pleasing for the stable overall,” Purdon said. “Personally, it’s a massive thrill to win this race; it has so much history and a certain aura about it so it’s great to finally win it.” He added. Purdon has had three previous drives in the Miracle Mile; Lazarus (3rd), Jack Cade (2nd) and Young Rufus (4th). Only one leg remains of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit – the Gr.1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship at Albion Park on July 20. Chris Barsby

The defending champion may have an unusual problem in Saturday’s A$1million Ainsworth Miracle Mile.  Because trainer Tim Butt believes the field of hotshots may not go fast enough to suit Australasian mile record holder My Field Marshal.  My Field Marshal came from near last to win a supersonic Miracle Mile last year in an Australasian record 1:46.9, in the ten fastest miles in the history of harness racing.  But while Saturday’s field contains local hero Tiger Tara, New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer and new superstar Poster Boy, Butt is worried the race time could be up to two seconds slower than last year.  And that could leave My Field Marshal struggling when the sprint goes on. “Our horse is a great stayer who loves it when they go the first half (800m) in 54 seconds and he just keeps going,” says Butt.  “But I don’t see it being that sort of mile this time. I think the front line is pretty even on gate speed so the inside ones should be able to hold their spots without too much pressure. “So without that sub-26 opening 400m the horses who settle back can be in trouble and that could be us.  “I am not saying he can’t win but from barrier eight we are going to need to some pressure early and in the middle stages and I am not sure where that is going to come from.” Punters and bookies agree with Butt with the expected move in the TAB market coming for Thefixer, who opened $3.80 after drawing barrier two but is now the $3.50 favourite with the Australian TAB, with Poster Boy out from $3.60 to $3.90.  That comes as the scenario of Thefixer leading with Poster Boy on his back and Tiger Tara having to do the bullying sitting parked becomes the conventional wisdom about Saturday’s great race.  Butt says while he can see the race bring a tricky one for My Field Marshal the flashy stallion is racing as well as when he won the great race last season/  "He went his final 400m very fast very wide last week so I am not worried about his form.  "But the draw does worry. Still, there isn't much I can do about it and that will be Ants's job (brother and driver Anthony)."   Michael Guerin

Chariots Of Fire champion Poster Boy was the biggest winner tonight after the barrier draw for the $1m Ainsworth Miraclle Mile. The Emma Stewart-trained four-year-old drew the dream No 1 barrier, right next to New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer, who drew two to add the icing on the cake to his Allied Express Sprint win earlier in the evening, which sealed a spot in the big race for the plucky Bettors Delight-bred five-year-old. Chase Auckland became the third pacer from Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's All Stars stable (with Thefixer and Spankem) when given the surprise wildcard spot into the final field and he too got lucky again when he drew barrier three for next Saturday night's big Group One. The final field for Saturday night's biggest harness race of the year is: 1. Poster Boy by Somebeachsomewhere 2. Thefixer by Bettor's Delight 3. Chase Auckland by Auckland Reactor 4. Yayas Hot Spot by Jeremes Jet 5. Our Uncle Sam (em1) by Sportswriter 6. My Alpha Rock by Rock N Roll Heaven 7. Spankem by Bettor's Delight 8. Tiger Tara by Bettor's Delight 9. My Field Marshal by Art Major 10. Cruz Bromac (em2) by Falcon Seelster.   FOR FURTHER INFORMATION TELEPHONE CLUB MENANGLE RACING MANAGER DAVID WONSON ON 0438-398-251.   Mandy Madern  

THE King of Miracle Mile qualifiers admits he may have to take a different path to get more runners in to the $1million sprint next week.  And that information from trainer Shane Tritton could boost the already high confidence of fans of Tiger Tara.  Tritton and his wife Lauren have been geniuses at getting horses into Miracle Miles over the last five years, often horses others wouldn’t have even targeted the great race with.  They have already pulled off their latest miracle for the Miracle by qualifying Yayas Hot Spot by winning the Newcastle Mile at 80-1 two weeks ago but that isn’t enough, they want two more in the March 2 classic.  That is likely to mean a chance of the typical Tritton modus operandi, which is use the horse’s gate speed to lead and then keep trucking at a sub 1:50 mile time to deter attackers and kick for home early, securing a winning break.  That would sound ideal for Maximan drawn barrier two in the $100,000 Allied Express Sprint at Menangle on Saturday night, a Miracle Mile qualifier, except for the little problem of  Australia’s best pacer Tiger Tara being drawn inside him at barrier one.  “I suppose we have two options,” says Tritton, before conceding that might only be one option.  “We could go forward and try and lead because sometimes Tiger can be a bit slow off the gate.  “But drawn where we are if it looks like Tiger is getting off fast then we could go straight to his back and trail him, from where we should be able to run top three and get into the Mile.  “So a lot will depend on how Tiger gets off the gate but to be realistic the way he is going trailing him wouldn’t be a bad place to be and it doesn’t look a fast front line.”  Not only does that suggest the place play on Maximan makes sense but they will make punters taking the shorts on Tiger Tara feel a little more secure.  The Trittons have a similar choice to make in Saturday’s other Miracle Mile qualifier where they have the ace draw with My Alpha Rock and could try to lead or take a trail, more than likely on Tiger Tara’s stablemate Majordan, providing the pacing bad boy scores up safely.  “He (My Alpha Rock) has actually been sold to a new US owner so that decision on tactics might come down to what they want but I think trailing would give him the best chance of getting into the Mile.”
 Tritton says Victoria Derby winner Muscle Factory (race seven) couldn’t be better or his NSW Derby heat on Saturday.  “He is better than when he won the Derby so he should be in a race of his own.” Michael Guerin

Three of New Zealand’s best pacers will miss their biggest targets of the season after shock errors ruled them out of Menangle features over the next fortnight. Star Galleria misses his shot at qualifying for next week’s A$1 million Miracle Mile and Utmost Delight and Elle Mac the Ladyship Mile after all missed the nomination cut off yesterday morning for the preludes at Menangle this Saturday.  Star Galleria needed to contest a $100,00 prelude of the Miracle Mile to have any chance of qualifying for the great race, while his stablemate Utmost Delight and the All Stars-trained Elle Mac had to start in a mares race this week and finish top four to qualify for the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile.  Trainer Steven Reid missed the nomination time for both Star Galleria and Utmost Delight by two minutes.  “I was buying a horse at the sales and thought I had plenty of time but when I went to nominate the free calling number you use doesn’t work from New Zealand,” explained Reid.  “By the time I googled the office number and then rang them, got through to the racing office via reception I was too late. “I tried to explain what happened but their boss John Dumesny told me he would check the phone records and if I was late they couldn’t bend the rules.  “He checked the phone log and I was two minutes later and they won’t let them start. So they are coming home.”  While Reid was disappointed, the owners of Utmost Delight, Paul and Mary Kenny, were pragmatic about the error.  “It is disappointing but people make mistakes,” said Kenny, who still has Dream About Me in the race.   Elle Mac was being nominated online but because she had never raced in Australia she was not already in their system so that couldn’t be completed and by the time the phone call was made to try and rectify that problem it was too late.  That leaves New Zealand with six potential Miracle Mile contenders, all from the All Stars, contesting preludes on Saturday while Dream About Me (Ladyship Mile), Princess Tiffany (NSW Oaks) and I’m Anothermasterpiece (NSW Derby) will contest preludes of those races. Michael Guerin

Champion Australian reinsman Chris Alford says taking on the most feared horse in harness racing could actually help Poster Boy win the A$1million Miracle Mile.  The Victorian four-year-old earned an automatic invite to Australasia’s richest harness race with a stunning display in the A$200,000 Chariots of Fire at Menangle on Saturday night.  He came from fourth last at the 600m mark to blow past some superstar opponents and had punters beaming after being backed in from $5.50 to start $3.80.  Trainer Emma Stewart was quick to accept the invite to the Miracle Mile on Saturday week so Poster Boy joins longshot Newcastle Mile winner Yayas Hot Spot as the only guaranteed starters with the other six spots to be decided from two preludes at Menangle this Saturday.  In one of those preludes will be the iron warrior of pacing Tiger Tara, fresh from adding the Hunter Cup at Melton to his Inter Dominion and Victoria Cup victories this season which has seen him ascend to the top of the Australian pacing ranks.  But while Tiger Tara remains the $3.50 Miracle Mile favourite with the Australian TAB compared with Poster Boy’s $6.50, driver Alford says the hard-running champ could aid Poster Boy.  “The harder they go in the Mile the better it will suit us,” said Alford, who tipped Poster Boy strongly last week.  “He will follow any speed and in fact his best chance of winning the Mile would be if they went really hard and he can sit off them just like he did tonight.  “I am glad Emma accepted the invite because he has developed into a really good Grand Circuit horse.  “He has always been fast but now he is strong enough to carry that speed longer and that is what you need for a Miracle Mile.” While Poster Boy has his spot in the great race the competition for the remaining six places has intensified as more big names eye the preludes.  Tiger Tara’s trainer Kevin Pizzuto will also have Majordan in them after he smashed some serious free-for-all opponents on Saturday night, leading from barrier nine to pace 1:49.5, which compares favourably with Poster Boy’s 1:49.1 considering Majordan did all the work in his race.  “He is a really good horse but Tiger is flying at the moment,” said Pizzuto comparing the pair.  Kiwi trainer Mark Purdon could have up to five prelude contenders, including Chase Auckland who was the luckless Chariots favourite after never getting clear in the straight.  Saturday’s meeting will also sees heats of the NSW Derby and Oaks as well as the open class mares chasing the final four spots in the Ladyship Mile, which will be run Miracle Mile night March 2.  Dream About Me and Elle Mac will make last minute trips to Sydney on Friday to contest the final lead-up to the Ladyship Mile, with the pair needing at least a top four finish to be guaranteed a start.  And they will be joined on the flight by Princess Tiffany, who was originally going to miss the NSW Oaks but after trialling well at Rangiora last week she will head to Menangle on Saturday night for the Oaks heats. Michael Guerin

AUSTRALASIA’S champion pacer Tiger Tara will headline a trio of Miracle Mile hopefuls Kevin Pizzuto will run at Menangle next Saturday night. Pizzuto confirmed star speedster Majordan and his Chariots of Fire fifth placegetter Picard would also tackle one of the Miracle Mile qualifiers this week. “Picard’s come through the Chariots and he’ll be fitter for the run as well. He’s going around this week again for sure,” Pizzuto said. “He did all the work and was only beaten five metres. I know he’ll be better for it.” Majordan’s turbulent campaign took a crucial turn for the better when he did everything right and blasted away a good field, headed by NZ Cup winner Thefixer, at Menangle last Saturday night. Pizzuto reaffirmed what he’s been saying for months that Majordan rates right along Tiger Tara as a Miracle Mile prospect. “Tiger Tara’s got all the form on the board, but over a mile at Menangle, Majordan is right at home,” he said. “He’s been a bit fresh and doing things wrong. I’ve changed his bit, got some more work into him and he won really well the other night. “I can assure you he’ll keep getting better now. When he’s galloped in this races, he’s missed the hitout. Last night will bring him on a lot more.” So what about Tiger Tara and his quest to complete a total dominance of our biggest races by winning the Miracle Mile? “He’s well. Really well. He his work was fantastic on Saturday and he’ll another strong workout at Bankstown this week,” Pizzuto said. “I’m glad now I skipped Newcastle and gave him a few quiet days after the Hunter Cup. “He’s freshened-up well and with a mile run under his belt this week, he’ll be absolutely spot-on on for the (Miracle) Mile.” The latest Aussie TAB Miracle Mile market shows Pizzuto’s key role with Tiger Tara $3.60 favourite, Majordan $7 third elect and Picard at $21. Adam Hamilton

INTER Dominion-winning trainer Kevin Pizzuto thinks he can win the first $1 million Miracle Mile. But it’s not with Tiger Tara, who gave him the biggest win of his career last Saturday in the Inter Dominion final at Melton. Pizzuto is priming one of Australia’s fastest pacers, Majordan, for the newly boosted $1 million Ainsworth Miracle Mile – up from $750,000 last year – at Menangle on March 2. “I’m sure he can go at least at 1min47sec,” Pizzuto said. “He’s a genuine speedster and that’s his focus. “We left him at home instead of going to the Inter Dominion so we could keep him to mile racing.” Majordan has won eight of his 14 starts since being bought by US-based owners Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks. Two of those wins have been in 1min49.3sec and his career-best 1min49.2sec miles at Menangle. “He’s had a couple of weeks off since he made it three wins on end (December 8, Menangle) and will be back racing towards the end of January,” Pizzuto said. A logical target is another boosted race, the $100,000 Group 1 Newcastle Mile on February 8, where the winner is guaranteed a spot in the Miracle Mile. Majordan’s one Newcastle start saw him smash the track record winning the Group 3 Ross Gigg Mile in a 1min51.4sec mile back on May 26, this year. Pizzuto revealed Tiger Tara may not even chase the Miracle Mile. “He can’t go in everything and the sprint races don’t suit him as much, he’s a stayer,” he said. “If we go to Perth for their big races, which is looking likely, and back for the Hunter Cup in Melbourne then I’ll probably give him a break after that.” Meanwhile, reigning Miracle Mile champ My Field Marshal has settled well in Perth since arriving in the early hours of Thursday morning. Trainer Tim Butt confirmed My Field Marshal would open his Perth raid in the $50,000 Group 2 Village Kid Pace (1730m) at Gloucester Park next Friday night (December 28). Then comes the $300,000 Group 1 Fremantle Cup on January 11 and the $450,000 Group 1 WA Pacing Cup a week later.   Adam Hamilton

Steve Turnbull reached the heights of the Miracle Mile when Smooth Satin won NSW’s most prestigious harness racing crown in 2001. Almost two decades ago, the Miracle Mile was then worth $400,000 but after Thursday’s announcement the 2019 Harness Racing NSW feature will carry a record purse of $1million the March-run event is now the richest harness racing event in the southern hemisphere.  And the 62-year-old is keen for another crack at the riches on offer. “It’s great news, and it’ll be even better if I can get one good enough to be in it,” Turnbull laughed. A living legend of HRNSW, Turnbull has had four cracks at the Miracle Mile, three of those with champion pacer Smooth Satin. He said Joe’s Star Of Mia and Conviction were both heading towards being Miracle Mile ready in the new year but finding a horse capable of winning such a big race was always a dream. “You’re always trying to get those types of horses, but they only come around once or twice in a lifetime,” the Lagoon-based Turnbull added. “I just hope prizemoney everywhere goes up as well. “I know the Inter Dominion dropped down to $500,000 this year, it’d be great if both were up there.” The prizemoney increase from $750,000 will make the Miracle Mile the most lucrative harness event ever held in New South Wales, a move Club Menangle chairman Ray Sharman says will give all stakeholders something to be proud of. “Any increase in prizemoney must be both affordable and sustainable and today’s announcement is the result of the collaboration between Club Menangle and HRNSW,” Sharman said. “I am confident that such a significant lift in prizemoney for the Miracle Mile will ensure that connections of all our Grand Circuit horses will endeavour to secure their place in this great race, further raise the profile of harness racing both in NSW and nationally.  This thought was echoed by HRNSW chairman Mr Rod Smith. You’re always trying to get those types of horses, but they only come around once or twice in a lifetime. Trainer-driver Steve Turnbull. “Harness Racing NSW in 2019 has increased grassroots prizemoney by 20 per cent and is now excited to be able to join with Club Menangle to increase the prizemoney for the Ainsworth Miracle Mile to $1million,” said Mr Smith.  “These prizemoney injections are fully funded by the harness racing industry and assures a strong future for our code of racing.”  Adding to this announcement, prizemoney has also been increased for the Newcastle Mile on February 8 to $100,000.  Elevating the feature to Group 1 status for the first time, the Newcastle Mile will also be a Miracle Mile qualifier where the winner will receive an automatic invitation to the Grand Circuit event.  By Nick McGrath Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal

The Miracle Mile, Sydney’s signature pacing event, will carry record prizemoney of $1 million next March, making it harness racing's richest race in the southern hemisphere and the richest harness race in the world for Open Class Pacers. Club Menangle chairman Ray Sharman confirmed the $250,000 boost in stakes was fully funded and sustainable. Sydney now boasts the world’s richest turf race with the $14 million The Everest, the world’s richest greyhound race with the Million Dollar Chase, and the southern hemisphere’s richest harness race with the $1 million Miracle Mile. Sharman said the significant lift in prizemoney for the Miracle Mile (up from $750,000), which is run at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 2, will “ensure that connections of all our Grand Circuit horses will endeavour to secure their place in this great race, further raising the profile of harness racing both in NSW and nationally.’’ Trainers of horses such as the defending Miracle Mile champion My Field Marshal (Tim Butt) and recent Inter Dominion Grand Final winner Tiger Tara (Kevin Pizzuto), which are both trained in NSW, will be enticed to concentrate on the Miracle Mile next March — now double in value of any other Grand Circuit race in Australia. My Field Marshal, who resumed at Menangle on Wednesday with an easy win, paced the fastest mile ever seen in Australasia when winning last year’s Miracle Mile clocking 1:46.9s. Tiger Tara smashed the Melton track record with a 1min 53.9ssec mile rate in his Inter Dominion win last week with Pizzuto confirming the exciting pacer will be given a few days to freshen up before announcing race plans for his stable star. Sharman also revealed the Newcastle Mile (February 8) has been elevated to be a Miracle Mile qualifier where the winner will receive an automatic invitation to the feature. The Newcastle Mile will carry record prizemoney of $100,000 raising the feature to Group 1 status for the first time. The other qualifying races for the Ainsworth Miracle Mile will be the Cordina Chariots of Fire (February 16), Canadian Club Sprint (February 23) and the Allied Express Sprint (February 23) at Tabcorp Park Menangle. All these races are fully funded by the harness racing industry with Harness Racing NSW pivotal in building the Sky Racing Carnival of Miracles and engaging with Club Menangle and the Newcastle Harness Racing Club to work together as a collaborative unit to promote the sport. Tiger Tara salutes in Saturday’s Inter Dominion final. Picture: Stuart McCormick “Club Menangle is excited with what the future holds for our industry,’’ Sharman said. “I express our great appreciation to HRNSW Chairman Rod Smith and his board who have again shown their foresight and forward planning in working with Club Menangle to ensure that this prizemoney increase is possible and that NSW maintains its status as the premier harness racing state in Australia.”   Smith said Harness Racing NSW had increased grassroots prizemoney by 20 per cent and overall stakes by than $5 million this year prior and is now “excited to be able to join with Club Menangle to increase the prizemoney for the Ainsworth Miracle Mile to $1million.” “These prizemoney injections are fully funded by the harness racing industry and assures a strong future for our code of racing,’’ Smith said. “Joining the Newcastle Mile into what will be an outstanding Carnival next February is a real uplift for participants and followers alike.” By Ray Thomas Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

Leading Kiwi reins man Tim Butt made one of the biggest decisions of his life when he left New Zealand to set up a Sydney harness racing stable several months ago. That massive gamble paid the biggest dividend yet when Butt and his brother Anthony won tonight’s $750,000 AInsworth Miracle Mile with his stable star My Field Marshal. The six-year-old son of Art Major became the fastest horse in the Southern Hemisphere when he rated 1:46.9, grabbing Jilliby Kung Fu in the shadows of the post to win by a head while the gutsy Soho Tribeca, did all the hard work and again found a couple just too slick for him in the last few strides, finishing a close third a nose fourth back. With a track that had been on fire all night, the Mile was always going to be a supreme test of speed and stamina and that’s exactly how it panned out with Anything For Love finding the front from barrier rise with Soho Tribeca working up to race without cover and keep the pressure on the leader. All this time Anthony Butt was content to settle My Field Marshal back in fifth and sixth place and bide his time until as late as possible. Turning for home Soho Tribeca forged to the front while Jilliby Kung Fu emerged from a one-one trail to challenge the leaders. Then Butt’s patience gave out and he brought My Field Marshal with a flashing finish to score in an incredible 1:46.9 after quarters of 26.3, 27.3, 26.2 and 27.1s in a race that was not for the faint-hearted. Disappointment of the race was the champion Kiwi pacer Lazarus, who settled back near last but raced three-wide for most of the trip and never got into the fight. Indeed Lennytheshark, which settled last, ran past him in the straight and finished a creditable fifth while Tiger Tara, beaten for gate speed from the one barrier, was also not far off in fourth spot. But it was a night for the Butts and trainer Tim admitted it was a heck of a risk moving across the Tasman to set up “shop” at Menangle. “We have some great owners and they have become good friends,” he said. ‘We used to put on some pretty big parties when we won in New Zealand - and I have to admit we’ll be kicking up our heels tonight too. “This win was so satisfying and there are so many people who have helped contribute to our success. “And My Field Marshall was just fabulous tonight - he has earned this win.” Certainly Butt decision to bypass last December’s Inter Dominion Championship in Perth was a winner as there were a few tired horses in the Group[ One tonight . . . but My Field Marshal was certainly not one of them. My Field Marshall 7 9:32pm AINSWORTH MIRACLE MILE (GROUP 1) (GRAND CIRCUIT) 1609M $750,000 RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 MY FIELD MARSHAL NZ      Fr3 4 Tim Butt Anthony Butt   $ 6.70       BAY HORSE 6 by ART MAJOR USA out of FOREAL NZ (WASHINGTON VC USA)  Owner(s): S A Brown, S B Brown  Breeder(s): S A Brown, S B Brown 2 JILLIBY KUNG FU      Fr4 5 Margaret Lee Jason Lee HFNK $ 8.70     3 SOHO TRIBECA      Fr5 6 Michael Stanley Greg Sugars HFNK $ 3.20     4 TIGER TARA NZ      Fr1 1 Kevin Pizzuto Todd McCarthy 11.3m $ 8.70     5 LENNYTHESHARK      Fr6 7 David Aiken Chris Alford 13.8m $ 16.10     6 ANYTHING FOR LOVE      Fr2 3 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lauren Tritton 14.2m $ 15.20     7 LAZARUS NZ      Fr8 10 Mark Purdon Natalie Rasmussen 23.3m $ 2.80 fav    8 CHARLAVAL      Fr7 8 KerryAnn Turner Robert Morris 28.1m $ 104.00     Scratchings   ATOMIC RED 2 LET IT RIDE NZ 9 Track Rating:   Gross Time: 1:46:9 Mile Rate: 1:46:9 First Quarter: 26.3 Second Quarter: 27.3 Third Quarter: 26.2 Fourth Quarter: 27.1 Margins: HFNK x SHFHD   By Sean Vella

Is the fallen champion back to his best? Can he get off the canvas and do what no other pacer has done? For Lazarus, the $750,000 Miracle Mile on Saturday night will reach a climatic finale of biblical proportions. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have been here before. It was November 29, 2009 when the pair, who at the time barely knew each other, arrived at Menangle very separately for a Miracle Mile with a pacing great a piece. Rasmussen was the trainer-driver of Blacks A Fake the four-time Inter Dominion hero and still Australasia’s richest ever pacer. Purdon trained Kiwi speed freak Auckland Reactor, a horse seemingly suited to Sydney’s need-for-speed race. Both superstars were drawn wide, settled back, and barely ran past a horse, finishing alongside each other near last. Back then Purdon and Rasmussen wouldn’t have had much to say, they didn’t even exchange more than a casual hello till 2011, before soon after becoming the most powerful couple in the history of harness racing. Harness racing champion Lazarus. Picture: Ashlea Brennan Source:Supplied But that dusty November day they both learned a lesson: You don’t win the Miracle Mile going backwards. It is still seared into their memories as tonight Lazarus, a hybrid of Blacks A Fake and Auckland Reactor, rolls onto the track for the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. Before this Miracle Mile though they will talk. The conversation will be short. Rasmussen will ask her partner if Lazarus is ready. Really ready? If Purdon says yes, Rasmussen will unleash the world’s most powerful pacer. “If Mark tells me he is back to his best, then I will be driving him like that,” says Rasmussen, fearless as she is blunt. She has driven the two fastest miles ever paced in Australia with Have Faith In Me and Adore Me, the latter when she started from the outside of the front line and ran as hard as she could for as long as she could until her rival’s couldn’t take it. “I drove Adore Me four wide, three wide and then parked and she bolted in 1:47.7,” says Rasmussen. All we need is a miracle: Lazarus and trainer Mark Purdon. Picture: Ashlea Brennan Source:Supplied “And Laz is better than her. She was a great, great mare, but Laz is better.” Saturday night’s problem for Lazarus is two-fold. He was below his best, troubled by the lingering effects of a virus when he clawed his way into third in his Mile prelude last Saturday and then he drew the outside barrier for Saturday night’s glamour sprint. No pacer has even run a place in the Menangle Miracle Mile from the outside barrier. No horse has won from outside barrier five. “You don’t win Miracle Miles going back, those top horses don’t come back to you,” says Rasmussen. “But if Mark has Laz back to his best then I’m there to race. I will let him show me how good he is.” Lazarus has rarely let the pair, or his fans, down. After two New Zealand Cups, an Inter Dominion, a Hunter Cup and a Victoria Cup, the Mile is the only missing jewel in his crown. Well-named, he has bounced back from adversity before, winning the Hunter Cup three weeks ago when a fortnight earlier he was lame and in doubt. Mark Purdon works on Lazarus’s fitness. Picture: Ashlea Brennan Source:Supplied Now, like a boxer floored, he must get off the canvas and do what no other pacer has done. He needs a miracle. Blacks A Fake couldn’t do it and he was a warrior. Could Lazarus be even better? “Maybe,” offers Rasmussen. “Blackie was amazing but maybe he would have been even better if I was the trainer then I am now, having learned so much from Mark. “But Laz has that x-factor, that stamina and speed. And he has confidence, confidence that comes from all that winning from a young age. “Is he better than Blackie?” muses Rasmussen. “If Mark gives me the word on Saturday night, I am going to go find out.” Lazarus salutes in the Victoria Cup last year. Picture: Stuart McCormick Source:Herald Sun By Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of the News.com.au site 

Burrumbeet trainer Michael Stanley holds a trump card in one of Australasia’s most prized harness racing events, the $750,000 Miracle Mile in Sydney on Saturday. Stanley knows what it is like to be a group 1 winner, but capturing the Miracle Mile with Soho Tribeca would take him to a new height. Soho Tribeca has had just two starts for Stanley since arriving from his West Australian base – finishing second in the AG Hunter Cup at Melton and second in the Allied Express Sprint at Menangle, where he went down by a nostril in a stunning 1:48.7 after facing the breeze. Stanley landed the job of training the outstanding 5yo through his successful association with owner-breeder Rob Watson, who operates Soho Standardbreds. Greg Sugars will again take the drive and is likely to again push forward and race on the pace from an awkward gate six. Stanley also has Macey Jayde and Soho Burning Love in the group 1 $200,000 NSW Oaks after each finished second in heats. They will each have to deal with wide draws. ANTON Golino is joining the Ballarat assault on Sydney’s biggest trots meeting of the year on Saturday night. Golino, who was based in NSW before relocating to Cardigan with Yabby Dam Racing, sends around My Tribeca and Vincennes in the group 1 $50,000 Access Group Solutions Trotters’ Mile– a race in which he had a second with GLENFERRIE BURN last year. David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

Being the best may not be good enough in tonight's Miracle Mile. Because Kiwi pacing hero Lazarus is the best pacer in the race, the best in Australasia and probably the best pacer in the world. But at 11.32pm tonight at Menangle with A$750,000 ($800k) on the line Lazarus faces the most daunting task of his career, maybe the most difficult faced by any horse since Menangle opened nearly a decade ago. No horse has placed in a Miracle Mile from barrier eight. It's like being asked to win the Olympic 800m medal starting 10m behind the pack. Lazarus faces covering more ground than all of his rivals - all group one winners - in a race where they could threaten the Australasian record of 1:47.5 To win, his real time, taking into account actual ground covered, could need to be close to 1:46, the world record. At his wrecking ball best of the last two New Zealand Cups days or his Inter Dominion win in December, Lazarus could do that. Maybe. But nobody, not even genius trainer Mark Purdon who has spent almost every waking minute with Lazarus this week, knows if the great one is feeling that great. Purdon was stunned by how a supposedly minor virus last week left Lazarus a shadow of himself, well beaten in a 1:51 mile last Saturday. If that version of Lazarus takes up his spot at barrier eight behind the mobile tonight he will have no chance. Purdon doesn't expect that. He is adamant Lazarus is over the virus and better than last week. "His blood reports, which are the most important thing, suggest he is over it," says Purdon. "His white blood cell count is back to normal so I have been working him this week like nothing has gone wrong." Purdon was happy with that final fast work on Thursday morning, although not cat-that-got-the-cream happy. "In a couple of his big wins in the past, like the first New Zealand Cup and the Inter final, I got off him after his last piece of fast work and thought he felt bullet proof. "I can't say he feels like that now. It is hard to tell with him because he is not the greatest trackworker, not one of those aggressive stallions who gets all puffed up and rips into it. "But his work has been as good as I'd expect and I guess we just have to go out there and see what happens. "I know punters may want more detail than that but I won't know any more before the race unless something changes. "He seems bright and happy. But you have to wonder whether the hard race last week when he wasn't right has dulled him and also whether, because he hasn't been at his peak, he is ready for a 1:48 mile. "And in this field, even that may not be good enough." Horses like Soho Tribeca and Tiger Tara are tough enough to beat Lazarus Lite. And My Field Marshal, Anything For Love and Jilliby Kung Fu have the raw speed to strike at any Achilles heel exposed late in the home straight. But most New Zealand punters won't want to back them. It would be like betting against the All Blacks, even if you knew they were vulnerable. Because that is the word to describe Lazarus tonight. He is vulnerable. There is also another word to describe Lazarus. Champion. If you want to back New Zealand's best racehorse tonight you need to decide whether he is more vulnerable or more champion. What does Purdon think? "I think he is ready to go a big race, and I am confident he will be in three. "But ... I'd really prefer if the race was another week away." Needing a miracle •The A$750,000 Miracle Mile is on at Menangle at 11.32pm (NZ time) tonight. •After a shock defeat, viral issue and with a poor draw, Lazarus faces the greatest test of his career. •No horse has won Sydney's biggest harness race from the outside barrier Lazarus faces tonight. Michael Guerin

Jason Lee will go to work at Menangle on Saturday night for a smile on his face. Because sitting behind speed machine Jilliby Kung Fu in the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile will be payback time. “As a teenager being involved in harness racing I missed a lot of birthday parties, nights out with my mates and things like that hoping one day I would get to the top,” says the 22-year-old Victorian. “I never thought I’d be driving in a Miracle Mile at this age, not even a few weeks ago. “So to be in the middle of it will be special and I am going to enjoy it. “I have been really busy this week but I have also allowed myself the chance to think that we are going to the big dance and smile about it. I mean, it is the Miracle Mile after all.” The big dance is even more special for Lee because Jilliby Kung Fu is a family horse, trained by his mother Marg in a set-up where parents, uncles and cousins all pitch in to help. Jilliby Kung Fu was racing in the Victoria intermediate grade just six weeks ago and Lee was happy to make the Chariots Of Fire on February 10. Once there the young gun pair crossed their rivals easily and paced a 1:48.8 mile, earning them not only an invite to Saturday night’s race but plenty of respect. The plan on Saturday night is to come out humming — a Lee special — and give Jilliby Kung Fu a chance of crossing to the lead. If he does that he could cap a fairytale rise to the top of the pacing world. “We are going there to give him his shot, because you never know when you will get back to this level. “But we also know how good these horses are. We have all seen Lazarus and what a freak he is and I even think a horse like My Field Marshal could be the smoky in the race.” The Miracle Mile is just one of six group ones at Saturday night’s mega meeting, including both the NSW Derby and Oaks. Smart customer Jilliby Kung Fu at full stretch. Picture: Stuart McCormick By Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

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