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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 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

Champion harness racing pacer Lazarus’s star is starting to shine brighter again just in time for Saturday night’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. But trainer Mark Purdon still isn’t certain it will be enough for a horror week to end in glory. Lazarus has been a huge drifter in Miracle Mile markets after he was beaten into third in his prelude last Saturday, troubled by the lingering effects of a virus. Purdon has spent almost every waking minute with the superstar pacer this week as he tries to become the first horse to win harness racing’s Grand Slam of the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile in the same season. And the Hall Of Fame trainer says the signs are very encouraging. “His blood report suggests his health is back to normal,” Purdon said. “And he worked well on Thursday morning, like he was back to normal. “But it is a bit of a trick with him that he is not a sensational trackworker because he is so laid back. “He is not one of those aggressive horses in his work that he will do something stunning by himself. “So because of that you never see the best, or anything really stressing, from him in work. “But he felt good, definitely not like there was anything off, so he will be better than last week.” What punters want to know is whether the version of Lazarus who was so crushing in the first three legs of the Grand Slam will turn up at Menangle on Saturday night?  “I’d love to say yes but I can’t say I am as confident I was before the other races because of his setback. “I am pretty sure he will run in three and he can definitely win but what I don’t know is what affect the last 10 days will have on him and whether he will be able to pace 1:47 coming from wide on the track.” The Miracle Mile is at 9.32pm this Saturday. Michael Guerin    

He’s the forgotten horse of Saturday night’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Yet veteran Lennytheshark, the oldest horse in the race, cannot be completely written off, despite being listed as a $21 shot in the eight-horse harness racing field. He is the defending champion and his trainer David Aiken wouldn’t swap his stable star for any other horse in the race and issued a reminder ‘Lenny’ was going as well as ever. “He is meeting the new kids on the block this season, but he is feeling terrific and is ready to do it all again,” Aiken said. “I still wouldn't swap him for any other runner. “I just finished working him an hour ago and he is going as well as ever.” Despite his defeat last week, Lennytheshark earned an invitation into the Grand Circuit event as the defending champion, with Aiken confident the son of Four Starzzz Shark could still join a select group of consecutive Miracle Mile winners. Victory will see Lennytheshark become just the seventh titleholder to successfully defend his crown since the prestigious sprint began in 1967. Westburn Grant led the way win consecutive wins in 1989 and 90, followed by Chokin (1993 and ‘94), Holmes D G (1999 and 2000), Sokyola (2003 and ‘04), Be Good Johnny (2005 and ‘06) and Smoken Up (2010 and ‘11). Lennytheshark has drawn barrier seven, but moves into six when the emergency comes out. “I was just looking at the sectionals from last week again and he got home in 53 seconds after doing a bit of work early,” Aiken said. “He went quicker last week than he did the year before when he won.” Aiken agreed that the draw hadn’t helped but suggested punters would leave him out at their peril as he was in good enough shape to win. The former Sydney premiership-winning trainer cited Soho Tribeca as the horse to beat, but said he also rated My Field Marshal as one who could spring an upset. Soho Tribeca has drawn gate seven while My Field Marshal will come from four. Soho Tribeca is a $3.20 second elect, while My Field Marshal is sitting on $10. Lazarus heads the betting market at $2.40 despite drawing the outside of the front row. “Soho Tribeca should be favourite as I reckon he is the one to beat,” Aiken said. “That said, I can see My Field Marshal getting a really good run from the draw, which brings him right into it.” Michael Court

How things can change in just three weeks. As we watched Lazarus’ phenomenal Hunter Cup win, most conceded the Miracle Mile to him. Now, off the back of a below-par run last week and horror draw, one of all-time greats may not even start favourite in the $750,000 race at Menangle on Saturday night. ADAM HAMILTON looks through the Miracle Mile and all the great support races at Menangle. RACE 7 – MIRACLE MILE I have never been more confused by a feature race. As great as LAZARUS (10) is, I can’t tip him from the draw after last week’s run. Going with MY FIELD MARSHAL (4) as each-way value. Drawn to get the right run. SOHO TRIBECA (6) is flying and went super last week. Drawn to make own luck. Hard to beat. LAZARUS (10) is a champ and I can’t leave him out of the top three. LENNYTHESHARK (7) would relish a quiet run off the pace if it’s a 1min47sec mile. TIGER TARA (1), JILLIBY KUNG FU (5) have place claims. Much harder this week for ANYTHING FOR LOVE (3). SUGGESTED BET: Something each-way MY FIELD MARSHAL (4) at $10 or better. RACE 5 – NSW DERBY Slight leaning to COLT THIRTY ONE (1) from the draw. Tough Victoria Derby winner and has the speed to use this draw. MARAETAI (5) is untapped. Monster heat win. Huge threat. POSTER BOY (4) is all class and drawn well. MAJOR TIMES (2) will give cheek from ideal draw after ripper run last week. Places claims to THE DEVILS OWN (11) and HIGHERTHANANEAGLE (6). SUGGESTED BET: The value is MARAETAI (5) each-way at $7.50 or better. RACE 3 – NSW OAKS Can’t split FAME ASSURED (4) and NOSTRA VILLA (8). Pushed, I’ll go FAME ASSURED from the better draw and after the speed she showed to win her heat. NOSTRA VILLA (8) was amazing after being mauled in front last week. So tough and classy. Huge chance. SOHO BURNING LOVE (11) had no luck last week, but this draw hurts. Consider. IMPRINCESSGEMMA (2) led and won well in a tactical heat. Drawn well again. SHEZ ALL ROCK (5) oozes potential and has place claims and IDEAL PLEASURE (3) could place from good draw as well. SUGGESTED BET: FAME ASSURED (4) each-way at $5 or better. RACE 4 – LADYSHIP MILE The draw points to AMERETTO (2) in a fantastic Ladyship. Ripper Hunter Cup run then did all the work last week from awful draw when brave. Stablemate OUR GOLDEN GODDESS (4) beat a similarly hot field, but led in the Ladyship Cup on January 27. Drawn to be huge hope again. A PICCADILLY PRINCESS (9) is the defending champ, but she may not be going quite as well and this is a stronger field. Still a chance. CARLAS PIXEL (6) has loads of speed and led to beat AMERETTO last week. Versatile, so keep safe from harder draw. DELISHKA (11) needs luck from horror draw. ROCKER BAND (1) could place from the pole. SUGGESTED BET: AMERETTO (2) to win, but I’d need $2.20 or better. RACE 6 – BOHEMIA CRYSTAL FFA Team Tritton holds the key. The draw says FRANCO NELSON (1) will lead and win. And Lauren Tritton has opted to drive. Down in grade and drawn much better than last week. Previous win when led was breathtaking. MY ALPHA ROCK (3) has been awesome winning all four runs for Team Tritton, but unlikely to lead this time, up in grade and stretching to 2400m. SAN CARLO (9) will really appreciate the 2400m and give a great sight. ATOMIC RED (8), AZTEC BROMAC (2) and MOONROCK (10) are next best. SUGGESTED BET: SAN CARLO (9) the place at $2.30 or better. SUMMARY BEST BET: R4 n2 Ameretto at $2.20 or better BEST VALUE: R5 n5 Maraetai each-way at $7.50 or better BEST ROUGHIE: R6 n9 San Carlo each-way at $10 or better ADAM HAMILTON

Victorian harness racing breeder Paul Humphreys no longer races Anything For Love, but the Shane and Lauren Tritton-trained speedster will always hold a special place in his heart. The passionate trots man bred Anything For Love and raced the pacer with trainer Leigh Miles before accepting an offer to transfer the horse to new connections in New South Wales. On Saturday night at Menangle the now five-year-old, who set a new career mark via a 1:48.7 win in last weekend’s Group 1 Allied Express Sprint,  will line up for his shot in the Grand Circuit $750,000 Miracle Mile. “I still get a huge thrill out of it,” Humphreys said. “It’s like watching one of your kids out there. The team (Shane and Lauren) have done an amazing job with him.” Anything For Love is out of a mare named The Perfect Mona, whose 14 racetrack appearances yielded a solitary win. In the breeding barn however success came more naturally to Mona, her first foal named Palais Du Louvre (by Safe And Sound). Raced by Humphreys, Palais Du Louvre won $165,201 in stakemoney via 18 wins and 24 minor placings from 88 starts. “We had so much fun with him,” Humphreys said. “When he ran fifth in the Breeders Crown Final (2011 as a four-year-old) he looked a chance at the home turn. That was a huge thrill. “He won a Breeders Crown Graduate on Breeders Crown Day in 2014, which was also fantastic and he was just a super horse.” Humphreys also raced the siblings of Palais Du Louvre, Trip Sevens (by Bettors Delight), who won three races and $18,800 from 29 starts, and Anything For Love before his move north. And he has three younger ones coming through with an unraced Safely Kept filly named Something Fast, a two-year-old Pet Rock rig called Dino Bellino and a yearling by superstar stallion Somebeachsomewhere. Asked about his approach to breeding Humphreys says his is more investigative than scientific. “I ask lots of questions… for Anything For Love I got on to a fella in New Zealand and we talked breeding for ages. He was really helpful. I went looking for a stallion and found Rock N Roll Heaven.” On his unraced progeny of The Perfect Mona: “Safely Kept is by Jate Lobell and Palais Du Louvre is by Safe And Sound. I couldn’t go to Safe And Sound, because he’d retired, so I went to Safely Kept instead. Alabar still had some frozen semen as he’d retired as a stallion too. I think there were three Safely Kept foals born that year (2013),” Humphries said. “I chose Pet Rock because he was a real brave bugger and had almost the same pedigree as Rock And Roll Heaven. Both were owned by Joe Bellino (in the USA). “And Somebeachsomewhere was the best going around they say, so I went to him (most recently). “I really enjoy the breeding side of things. It’s great fun. And my daughter Sarah loves the foals.” Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Transplanted Kiwi trainer Tim Butt is hoping for a near two-minute commercial for his new Sydney training base to be beamed Australasia-wide on Saturday night — called the Miracle Mile. Butt stunned the local harness racing industry last year when he left his native Canterbury for the outskirts of Sydney, where he now has 12 horses in work including Miracle Mile blowout hope My Field Marshal. He and wife Andrea have no regrets about the move as Menangle provides localised racing without great travelling, a chance to tap into Australian riches and hopes of building a new ownership base. "And I'd always wanted to live in Australia, and I thought you only live once so why not," says Butt.   While his team is ticking over nicely, more horses — and more good horses — are always welcome and a Miracle Mile win would be an advert for the stable like no other. "It would obviously be the dream result. We are going all right but you can't buy that level of exposure. "And I think we have a chance, the way the race is shaping up." My Field Marshal has been set for the mile and ignored the sapping distance races like the Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup, with his history of two wind operations suggesting sprinting is more his go. He won the Len Smith Mile, usually a mini Miracle Mile, at Menangle last year by sitting off a hot speed, something which looks likely again on Saturday night. "I think they will go hard and we could be trailing, three deep or in the one-one behind a horse like Soho Tribeca," says Butt. "And that would give us a chance. He may not be as good as Lazarus but he may not have to be with him drawn eight. "I also have Ants (brother Anthony) driving and that is always a plus in a group one race so we will get our chance." While many rival trainers are buoyed by Lazarus's defeat last week and barrier on Saturday, Butt is not so confident the champ is ripe for the beating. "I have had those top horses before with a bug and they get beat because they are a fraction off their peak form but then they can bounce back very quickly. "Mark is a great trainer and if he gets him back to his best this week and they go really hard early then I still think he can win. His last 100m last Saturday we very good, very brave." My Field Marshal has been one of the few roughies heavily backed this week, being as long as $23 with some bookies after the draw but only $10 with the NZ TAB fixed odds now. Michael Guerin

Harness racing’s greatest trainer Mark Purdon has sacked himself off champion pacer Lazarus for Saturday’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. And he says putting partner Natalie Rasmussen on the Mile favourite gives all involved their best chance. “It wasn’t a hard choice to make,” said Purdon, who has driven Lazarus to win two New Zealand Cups, an Inter Dominion, as well as the Hunter Cup earlier this month. “Obviously our team had a little bug through them last week and they didn’t race up to our expectations, and with that in mind, I want to concentrate on getting the best out of them this week. “That means me doing my job as a trainer to 100 per cent and I think if I am busy doing that then I might only do an 85 per cent job on the driving front. “This way Natalie can concentrate on the driving and make those decisions and I will handle the training details.” Rasmussen is best-known as the former trainer-driver of Blacks A Fake, who won almost every major race in Australia, except the Miracle Mile. But she finally snared the Miracle win two years ago with an inch-perfect drive on Have Faith In Me, who she co-trained with Purdon, who nosed out Lennytheshark in an Australasian record 1:47.5. Rasmussen owns the two fastest winning miles in Australasian history, having also driven Adore Me when she paced 1:47.7 winning the Ladyship Mile a year earlier. Champion pacer Lazarus will be aiming to bounce back from a shock defeat at Menangle last weekend. Picture: Ashlea Brennan. Her aggressive style, which often sees her launch between the 1200m and 800m poles and keep running hard is perfectly suited to Menangle’s big miles, not that Purdon thinks she drives there better than anywhere else. “She is a great driver on any track, simple as that,” he said. Exactly what version of Lazarus Purdon hands over to Rasmussen on Saturday night is hard to predict after his brave but well-beaten third behind Tiger Tara last Saturday. He was feeling the lingering effects of a virus which a blood report on Tuesday suggests is now gone, but Purdon is cautious. “The best thing I can go on is his blood report and it was a lot better so we should be able to get a good week into him,” Purdon said. “And the rain we had overnight on Monday helped settle the dust, which will also help. “But I will know more after he fast works on Thursday. I am confident he will be close to his peak on Saturday night but there is no money-back guarantees.” MIRACLE MILE Menangle, Saturday night 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. LATEST BETTING: TAB FIXED ODDS Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

The race to the top is on. And while the mighty champion Lazarus leads the way, it is not a given that he takes the harness racing title. Entering Saturday night’s Gr.1 $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle, the Mark Purdon prepared equine freak leads the way in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit race, sitting at the top of the leaderboard with 300 points. Victories in the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion and the Hunter Cup have him as the chosen one but as the season gets deeper, the challengers are coming. Only two legs remain in the current Grand Circuit season, the Miracle Mile and the Blacks A Fake in Brisbane in July and that only adds to the pressure Lazarus is facing this weekend. Lazarus is facing many adversities as he looks to rebound following his shock loss last week in the qualifying race while also looking to break a major hoodoo. On Sunday, the Bettors Delight entire was slammed with the outside barrier in the 1609m feature; he now needs to rewrite the record books. As it stands, no horse has overcome the outside gate since the race was moved from Harold Park to the spacious surroundings of Menangle back in 2009. Even more worrying, no horse has even placed from the extreme outside post position! But as we know, Lazarus is no normal horse. Yet to miss a place in 44 career starts to date, the winner of 35 races (15 at Gr.1 level) will need to bring his absolute best to establish a new and exclusive club. If successful, Lazarus will become the only pacer to win the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile (and all in the same season!). Purdon is no stranger to success in the Miracle Mile; he prepared the 2016 winner and race record holder Have Faith In Me (1:47.5) Lazarus may need to eclipse that mark to win this weekend. As good as Lazarus has been this season, his rivals aren’t backing away and the current logjam behind him on the Grand Circuit leaderboard is ready to take their shots again. If Soho Tribeca (165 points), Tiger Tara (125) or Lennytheshark (124) prove victorious and Lazarus can’t overcome his wide draw, the race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion could take an interesting twist. Lazarus won’t make the trip to Brisbane for the final Grand Circuit event while his three rivals could easily venture north in July and snatch victory. Both Tiger Tara and Lennytheshark contested the Blacks A Fake last season while Soho Tribeca was being considered before a late change in plans. For the third time this season in a Grand Circuit event, Tiger Tara has drawn the inside gate and will prove very hard to beat following his Gr.1 triumph last week in the Canadian Club Classic in a time of 1:51.5. Prepared by Kevin Pizzuto and to be driven by Todd McCarthy, the Bettors Delight entire will again prove a worthy rival. Allied Express Sprint winner Anything For Love rated a scintillating 1:48.7 last week and will also prove hard to catch after landing saddlecloth number three. Prepared by Shane Tritton, his wife Lauren will take the drive and look to join Kellie Kersley, Jodi Quinlan and Natalie Rasmussen as winning female drivers of the Miracle Mile. Classy pacer My Field Marshal sports saddlecloth number four and shapes as a legitimate threat following his booming effort last week when runner-up behind Tiger Tara. The ultra-consistent performer is looking to provide Tim and Anthony Butt with their maiden Miracle Mile success. Last start Chariots of Fire winner Jilliby Kung Fu will represent Victoria and the speedy four-year-old looms as the ‘wild card’ runner for Marg and Jason Lee. Fresh from his success two weeks ago when he equaled the race record of the Chariots with his 1:48.8 clocking, the emerging force looms as a genuine threat. The last four-year-old to claim the Chariots/Miracle Mile double was Have Faith In Me two years ago. Another Victorian trained pacer boasting outstanding credentials is the Michael Stanley trained and Greg Sugars driven Soho Tribeca, the classy five-year-old was beaten narrowly last week as favourite when second behind Anything For Love in 1:48.7. The WA Pacing Cup winner will carry saddlecloth number six. Defending champion Lennytheshark creates plenty of intrigue despite being safely held last week in the Allied Express Sprint, the 1:49.2 performer finished fifth behind Anything For Love and Soho Tribeca after enjoying a good trip throughout. The David Aiken prepared $2.9 million earner will be handled by champion reinsman Chris Alford and carry saddlecloth number seven. The veteran of the field is looking to become the first eight-year-old to win the Miracle Mile since the mighty Smoken Up back in 2010. Locally prepared star Charlaval finished an eye-catching third last week behind Anything For Love and Soho Tribeca in 1:48.7. Prepared by leading trainer Kerryann Turner, the five-year-old gelding will be handled by Turner’s husband, Robbie Morris. The two emergency runners are Let It Ride (saddlecloth number nine) and Atomic Red (saddlecloth number two). No mares are starting in this year’s event. The Ainsworth Miracle Mile is scheduled to start at 9.32pm local time. As always, the race time will be a fascinating aspect but the race to be crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion could be decided after this weekend. Again, time will tell. Chris Barsby Hoofnote: Only Westburn Grant is even with Lazarus with Gr.1 victories.

A Miracle Mile that Lazarus couldn't lose is starting to look like one the champion pacer will struggle to win. The Kiwi pacing hero struck not one but two judder bars over the weekend on the road to the only great Australasian race to have eluded him and is set to be a huge drifter in the market. The first signs of trouble for Lazarus, and punters, came when the Inter Dominion champ was a brave but battling third in his $100,000 prelude to the Mile at Menangle on Saturday night. That was still enough to earn him an invitation to the A$750,000 super sprint this Saturday but Lazarus clearly wasn't at his best, only clawing his way into third on heart after looking beaten at the 500m mark.   He appeared still drained by the effects of a virus trainer-driver Mark Purdon had expected to be out of his system but dogged the entire Purdon-Rasmussen stable on a dreadful night at the office. "We had a bug through the team during the week but we thought they were over it," said Purdon. "They had good blood reports and we even had Laz scoped on the morning of the race so we could keep the stewards up to date but clearly he was still below his best. "So while I was disappointed in him because he tried so hard, it was hardly ideal." Purdon said Lazarus appeared to come through the hard run behind long-time rival Tiger Tara well and looked fresh yesterday, and he expects to know more about his well-being after fast work on Tuesday. But that isn't the only problem facing Lazarus as he drew the outside of the front line at yesterday's barrier draw, meaning he will start from barrier eight. Since the Miracle Mile moved to Menangle a decade ago no horse has even placed in the race from barrier eight. That saw him move from $1.70 on Saturday morning to $2.20 with the NZ TAB last night but he could stretch out to $3 with some bookies before race start time, especially depending on how Purdon assesses his bounce back to peak fitness. The big winner in the draw was the faster of Saturday's two prelude winners in Anything For Love, who has barrier three for the Mile while Tiger Tara's unbelievable run of ace barrier draws continued. He has now drawn the ace in the Inter Dominion Final, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile and whether he can hold Anything For Love at the start will be a crucial factor in the race. A$750k Miracle Mile The field for the A$750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Menangle on Saturday night is: 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red.   Michael Guerin

These are the barrier draws for the Big 4 harness racing Group One races at Club Menangle on Saturday night, 24th February. $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile 1: Tiger Tara by Bettor's Delight 2: Atomic Red (2Em) by Rocknroll Hanover 3: Anything For Love by Rock N Roll Heaven 4: My Field Marshal by Art Major 5: Jilliby Kung Fu by Four Stazzz Shark 6: Soho Tribeca by American Ideal 7: Lennytheshark by Four Starzzz Shark 8: Charlaval by Four Starzzz Shark 9: Let It Ride (1Em) by Rock N Roll Heaven 10: Lazarus by Bettor's Delight   Macarthur Square Ladyship Mile 1: Rocker Band by Rocknroll Hanover 2: Ameretto by Million Dollar Cam 3: Partyon by Bettor's Delight 4: Our Golden Goddess by Art Major 5: Ima Mystery Girl (1Em) by Village Jasper 6: Carlas Pixel by Courage Under Fire 7: Miss Riviera Belle by Bettor's Delight 8: My Rona Gold by Klondike Kid 9: A Piccadilly Princess by Bettor's Delight 10: Berisari (2Em) by Safari 11: Delishka by Bettor's Delight 12: Shakahari by Courage Under Fire   John Gibson Memorial NSW Oaks 1: Redbank Addi (1Em) by Rock N Roll Heaven 2: Imprincessgemma by Village Jolt 3: Ideal Pleasure by Bettor's Delight 4: Fame Assured by Mach Three 5: Shez All Rock by Rock N Roll Heaven 6: War Dan Bad Girl by Bettor's Delight 7: My Sweetchilliphilly by Betterthancheddar 8: Nostra Villa by Art Major 9: Callmequeenbee by Shadow Play 10: Macey jayde by Shadow Play 11: Soho Burning Love by Auckland Reactor 12: Prophesy (2Em) by Somebeachsomewhere   APG NSW Derby 1: Colt Thirty One by Mach Three 2: Major Times by Art Major 3: Divine State (1Em) by Tintin In America 4: Poster Boy by Somebeachsomewhere 5: Maraetai by Somebeachsomewhere 6: Higherthananeagle by Mach Three 7: All U Need Is Faith (2Em) by Art Major 8: The Black Prince by Bettor's Delight 9: Code Bailey by Christian Cullen 10: Tam Major by Art Major 11: The Devils Own by Art Major 12: Little Peanut by Blissfull Hall For further information contact Club Menangle Racing Manager David Wonson (02) 4645 2200 *Em = Emergency Mandy Madern

Harness racing trainer Mark Purdon is confident he can turn champion pacer Lazarus around in time to win Saturday's Ainsworth Miracle Mile. But he knows it won't be easy. The great Kiwi pacer's campaign hit a judder bar at Menangle on Saturday night when he was brave but battling third in his Mile prelude won by Tiger Tara. Beaten off the gate from the ace draw he was then forced to sit parked and it was obvious 500m from home he wasn't going to win, only his huge heart allowing him to claw his way back to third. That still earned him his invite to the Mile but he had clearly been feeling the effects of a slight virus that had gone through the Purdon-Rasmussen stable last week. "We had a few horses get crook but we thought that were well over it," explained trainer-driver Mark Purdon. "We had our vet inform the stewards and take blood tests which came back suggesting he was fine to race and then we even had him scoped him on Saturday morning, and it was fine too. "So I was surprised he raced so flat, as did the rest of the team. He was brave and was running on heart up the home straight but I am glad to get through this and now we have a week to get him back to his best." While that was less than ideal for Purdon and an army of punters, the real blow to Lazarus's Mile hopes came at Sunday's barrier draw where he was saddled with the outside of the front line. Since the Miracle Mile move to Menangle a decade ago no horse has even placed from barrier eight. That saw him drift from $2 to $2.25 with the TAB but he looks certain to get longer as the enormity of the task he faces hits home to punters. The big winners in the draw were Saturday night's two prelude winners Tiger Tara (1) and Anything For Love, who has drawn barrier three but will start from two if the emergencies don't get a start. The field for the A$750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Menangle on Saturday night is: 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. For Further information contact Club Menangle Racing Manager David Wonson (02) 4645 2200  

Sydney's greatest harness racing spectacle was thrown wide open by a crazy qualifying night at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday, leaving plenty of questions over next Saturday's $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. Both Australasia's best pacer Lazarus and defending Mile champion Lennytheshark were beaten in their $100,000 preludes, needing the discretion of the New South Wales Harness Racing Club committee to secure their Mile invites. The early second favourite for Mile in Heaven Rocks didn't qualify at all while Hunter Cup runner-up Soho Tribeca was beaten by Anything For Love in the 1:48.7 first prelude. The intrigue started when Anything For Love led as Team Tritton suggested he would and held out Soho Tribeca by a nose, with bolter Charlaval third in the first prelude, the $100,000 Allied Express Transport Sprint. All three got invites to the Miracle Mile, as did Lennytheshark who finished fifth, with club officials saying the champion pacer's career record as well as his status as defending champion aiding his cause. But the biggest shock of the night came when Lazarus struggled bravely into third in the $100,000 Canadian Club Sprint won by local hero Tiger Tara over My Field Marshal. Tiger Tara was expertly driven by Todd McCarthy early to keep Lazarus in a pocket and press on to the lead and he was never extended to win in a far slower 1:51.5, with My Field Marshal storming home from the tail of the field for second. Lazarus was clearly below his best and looked gone at the 400m mark but picked himself up to finish third, giving a huge scare to one TAB punter who had bet $50,000 a place on him at $1.04. His trainer-driver Mark Purdon said the Inter Dominion champion was below his best after a slight blood complaint during the week, which his vet had informed stewards of. "I thought he was over it but the way the race panned out and him having to race parked after being crossed it affected him," said Purdon. "So we have a week to get him right and I am just glad he gets into the Mile." The NSWHRC directors said they found the final field decision relatively straight forward, with the first three home in both preludes joined by the defending champion and last Saturday's Chariots Of Fire winner Jilliby Kung Fu. The all-important draw for the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile will be held at Club Menangle around 1.30pm on Sunday. The field field for the great race is.-- Anything For Love, Soho Tribeca, Charlaval, Tiger Tara, My Field Marshal, Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Jilliby Kung Fu. Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. Anything For Love Tiger Tara Mandy Madern

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