The 51st edition of the Ainsworth Miracle Mile has all the ingredients to be among the all-time great versions of the great race.
Grand Circuit superstars clash with up-and-coming talents with seven of the eight competitors able to lay legitimate claims to winning the $750,000 Group 1 event.
Last week’s Miracle Mile preludes were taken out by well-travelled former Kiwi and current New South Welshman Tiger Tara as well as Aussie-bred speedster Anything For Love from the Lauren & Shane Tritton stables at Menangle.
Soho Tribeca ran a gallant runner-up to Anything For Love, sitting outside the winner in a slick 1:48.7 mile whilst My Field Marshal flew home to finish behind Tiger Tara with $1.20 favourite Lazarus a few metres back in third.
Four-year-old Jilliby Kung Fu was able to skip the qualifiers last week after he booked his spot in the race by winning the Chariots of Fire on February 10. Being able to do as he pleases whilst the rest of the horses sprinted around Menangle could prove to be very advantageous.
THE DRAW AND THE START
Connections of Tiger Tara again pulled out the ace (he has drawn one in the Inter Dominion Final, Hunter Cup, Miracle Mile prelude and Miracle Mile Final) which means he will be desperate to lead from start to finish.
Anything For Love scored a perfect gate for him as well with the removal of Atomic Red as emergency meaning the five-year-old gelding will fly the arm from gate two also looking for the front.
My Field Marshal will likely stay away from the expected early burn with his ability to make ground late on a track notorious for doing so.
Chariots winner Jilliby Kung Fu exploded off the arm at his only Menangle start but crossing these will really test out his early pace.
Soho Tribeca’s gate five looked awkward but on closer inspection, he may escape the hot tempo early then be able to get around to the breeze and look to control the tempo.
Old boy Lennytheshark can get out real quick but doing so may well be both, fruitless and suicidal to his winning chances. His most likely go here is to stay out of the way then hope for a sweet trail into things late.
Charlaval will be immediately to the pegs looking for as easy a trip as possible.
Lazarus, the champion, where will he end up? He certainly will not be involved early but how quickly can he take off?
1 TIGER TARA – Todd McCarthy for Kevin Pizzuto (84 starts, 28 wins, 30 placings. $1,344,911)
Favourable draws regularly put this guy in a fantastic position to be highly competitive and this scenario is no different. Whether he can hold up from the pole is up for extreme debate. Anything For Love – among others – can sizzle off the arm so he will be Todd McCarthy’s main concern as he tried to hold up and lead.
Last week’s victory in the Canadian Club Sprint was relatively trouble-free as Lazarus struggled away in third position and My Field Marshall surged home into second.
His 1:51.5 mile was a fair way off that of Anything For Love and the performers in the corresponding Miracle Mile qualifier and for mine, that’s the big query.
The Kevin Pizzuto-prepared stallion’s career-best mile is 1:49.8, something he will have to surpass considerably to win this big race.
3 ANYTHING FOR LOVE – Lauren Tritton for Lauren & Shane Tritton (41 starts, 12 wins, 16 placings. $205,953)
Well hasn’t this guy come from the clouds. Shane Tritton regularly produces horses that can run excellent miles and his Allied Express Sprint victory was brilliant.
The stable outlined their plans heading into the Group 1 and driver Lauren executed to the letter, winning by a nose in 1:48.7 – the fastest ever winning mile from an Australian-bred horse.
This week, leading is again on the agenda from gate two. Tiger Tara will be doing everything it can to hold up but Anything For Love seems likely to get across, it just depends at what cost. Lead easily and he’s a wire-to-wire winning chance, break 26 seconds and he’s a chance at dropping right out.
4 MY FIELD MARSHAL – Anthony Butt for Tim Butt (48 starts, 20 wins, 17 placings. $575,502)
Horses very rarely make ground and win at Menangle. This guy bucks that rend – see the Len Smith Mile as evidence of that and even last week’s Canadian Club Sprint.
There’s early speed all around him so Anthony Butt – a very experienced big race pilot – will be looking to stay out of the hustle but do enough to hopefully hold the back of whoever gets the breeze.
He’s been heavily supported throughout the week with many believing the speed map will play perfectly into the hands of a horse who can finish as swiftly as My Field Marshal.
5 JILLIBY KUNG FU – Jason Lee for Margaret Lee (28 starts, 14 wins, 9 placings. $379,620)
This guy has is a fully-established jet. His effort in parking out and crushing a smart one in Stars Align in the four-year-old Bonanza in Victoria before exploding off the gate and smoking them in the Chariots, rating 1:48.8 for the mile.
He will need to be even faster off the gate to cross these and that could be brutal so where does he end up in the run? He will unlikely to be on the pegs, doubtful to get the breeze, or want the breeze for that matter and it’s typically too hard to make ground late. For mine, he’s done magnificently to get to this point but I cannot see him winning this.
6 SOHO TRIBECA – Greg Sugars for Michael Stanley (52 starts, 19 wins, 23 placings. $972,809)
Since moving from Victoria to Western Australia as a younger horse, this son of American Ideal has gone onto great things. He won a Golden Nugget at four and competed excellently in the Inter Dominion series before transitioning to the Mick Stanley barn back in Victoria.
Last week, his debut at Menangle proved pretty handy as he breezed and was beaten a nose in a 1:48.7 mile. Yes, he’s the only horse not to have won a Group 1 at the big track but that means very little. His best is good enough to win and he maps to land outside the leader after the dust has settled. Big winning hope and may even start favourite.
7 LENNYTHESHARK – Chris Alford for David Aiken (78 starts, 39 wins, 30 placings. $2,965,085)
He’s in the race because he’s the reigning champ but his form is off the mark. He’s battle tested but perhaps also battle weary. His run in the Allied Express Sprint was okay but nowhere near as good as some have suggested.
He did jump off the arm quick but then had the back of Soho Tribeca for the duration and failed to gain any ground on the leaders. He’s a long way off the horse who breezed and won last year’s Miracle Mile in 1:49.2.
8 CHARLAVAL – Robbie Morris for KerryAnn Turner (54 starts, 18 wins, 19 placings. $324,011)
His fourth placing earned him a shot in this one but any kind of finish in the front half of the field would be an excellent result.
Gate seven is awful as Robbie Morris will be wanting to get to the pegs as quick as humanly possible. The good part is everyone else will be confident enough to avoid being well back on the pegs but as I said, he’s going to be triple-figure odds for a reason.
10 LAZARUS – Natalie Rasmussen for Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen (44 starts, 35 wins, 9 placings. $3,673,438)
A fortnight ago he was unbeatable. Today he has experts saying he has no chance at winning this one. A virus swept through the All Stars Australian-based horses and Lazarus was clearly affected in the prelude last week. His courage was the only thing that allowed him to keep his incredible record of never missing a place in tact.
Mark Purdon has handed the driving responsibilities to his co-trainer Nat Rasmussen who drives this track tremendously well.
Lazarus will need to be at his very best but if so, look out because he might do something we have never seen in a Miracle Mile – win from the outside barrier.
1 Soho Tribeca (6)
2 Lazarus (10)
3 My Field Marshal (4)
4 Anything For Love (3)
Tweet me (@joshjenkins24) or leave a comment on Facebook (@joshjenkinssports) and tell me how you think this great race will play out and who will claim glory.