Australasia’s richest Harness race is primed with the eight participants locked in, barriers handed out and the $1 million there for the taking.
Aside from what looks to be a highly competitive Miracle Mile, we’ll have a further five Group 1 races plus a Group 2 clash for the two-year-old rookies. Almost $2 million in stakes will be dished out as we see the very best horseflesh on show from across Australia and New Zealand.
For those who followed us in on Spankem at $7.50, you’ll be playing with their money! Let’s go inside each race to nail down a few winners;
AINSWORTH MIRACLE MILE (Group 1, $1,000,000, 1609m)
1 Poster Boy $4 – Chris Alford, Emma Stewart. Prize money $671,390
This four-year-old has jumped out of the ground to become a genuine Miracle Mile contender – he actually open as favourite in most markets. His dazzling late speed was on display as he claimed the Chariots of Fire which gained him automatic entry into this race. Gate one is tricky, though, as he cannot hand up to an All Stars horse but leading all the way in Miracle Miles has been painful and fruitless for those who have tried.
2 Thefixer $3.80 – Natalie Rasmussen, Purdon-Rasmussen. Prize money 676,865
His chances of being in the race were shaky last week when the stable mentioned him as a candidate for the Bohemia Crystal race but with Tiger Tara not racing to his maximum, the reigning NZ Cup champ ran right past him to secure his third Group 1 this season. He’s among the top hopes.
3 Chase Auckland $4.80 – Luke McCarthy, Purdon-Rasmussen. Prize money $425,829
A somewhat surprising selection after being luckless in the Chariots and not competing in the qualifying sprints. His effort from the breeze in the undercard race was excellent and he does bring with him and large supporter base and plenty of hype
4 Yaya’s Hotspot $151 – Lachie Manzelmann, L & S Tritton. Prize money $551,702
A surprise contestant thanks to a miraculous Newcastle Mile win in sloppy conditions. He’s a last start Group 1 winner but he will be left gasping for air in this one.
6 My Alpha Rock $126 – Lauren Tritton, L & S Tritton. Prize money $200,614
Reportedly off to America after this race. He did extremely well to qualify and whilst he may try and get on speed, he will not be in the finish.
7 Spankem $5.50 – Mark Purdon, Purdon-Rasmussen. Prize money $418,582
Such a progressive animal. He arrived in Australia with zero fanfare and quickly became an ID favourite. He then did everything but win the Bonanza before missing the Chariots due to a setback. His sprint win last week was dominant and should he have any luck from a sticky gate he will be amongst the top few.
8 Tiger Tara $5 – Todd McCarthy, Kevin Pizzuto. Prize Money $2,285,315
What a challenge this is for Australia’s No. 1 pacer. He’s dominated in staying races from the lead but he will have to work triple-time to be getting the front here. The great Lazarus could offer nothing from a horror draw last year – can Tiger Tara escape the cage that is barrier 7, an alley which has produced zero winners in Menangle Miracle Miles..
9 My Field Marshal $11 – Anthony Butt, Tim Butt. Prize money $1,345,212
The reigning champ has had a quiet campaign as he has been building into this race. His trip to WA was good with a Fremantle Pacing Cup win before a decent, albeit fruitless, run in the WA Cup. He will need obscene early and middle speed to be a factor from a horrid gate.
1 Thefixer (2) – Should get the best run, is rated by the stable as its best chance and beat the best horse in this race just last week showing sublime speed.
2 Spankem (7) – Could be the leader, if so, will be hard to run down. Tough, honest and always finished off his races.
3 Poster Boy (1) – Must hand up but even then, that’s not the ideal scenario on a track without a sprint lane. Clearly has the speed to out-sprint anything in the race.
4 Tiger Tara (8) – A dogged trier and a beast when in front. Can he bully these over a mile or will the job be too large ?
LEXUS LADY DRIVERS INVITATIONAL (Listed, $25,000, 1609m)
1 The Bus (4) – A quality horse from the Mark Jones Trans Tasman barn who acquires the talents of Natalie Rasmussen in this ladies only race.
2 Franco Landry (3) – A good horse with a good draw. Should lead or breeze giving him a great chance to be in the top two.
3 Wrangler (8) – Only the draw puts me off him. He has decent gate speed but Kima Frenning will be weary of burning too hard early and using up all of his gas.
4 Arma The Gun (5) – Been racing well and whilst there’s a few rated above him here, he’s around the mark.
TROTTERS MILE (Group 1, $50,000, 1609m)
1 Big Jack Hammer (4) – I get the feeling this horse will love the speed of the big track. He broke through for a superb Group 1 victory at his most recent start.
2 Enforce The Law (1) – Greg Sugars should be able to give his charge a great trip throughout, trailing whichever horse he thinks will get him a look at the finish.
3 War Dan Destroyer (2) – Luke McCarthy is in rich form and he has a good association with this horse. Has punched out a 1:53.8 mile which would see him go close.
4 Blazing Under Fire (5) – Horses drawn inside the front are likely to fight out the finish and this guy could be right amongst them.
NSW OAKS (Group 1, $200,000, 2400m)
1 Our Princess Tiffany (6) – Unbeaten at two, this boom filly suffered some indifferent form and health early in her sophomore season before a blistering performance last week. She has the draws advantage over her main rival, Kualoa, and whilst she was so devastating off speed last week, I expect her to lead throughout here.
2 Kualoa (11) – I believe the gap has lessened between the top two three-year-olds but from the horror draw, Kualoa looks to have almost no chance at upending the Kiwi. She simply took over the race last week and was ultra impressive but she’d need to go another five lengths better to test the favourite.
3 Arabella Star (5) – Zac Phillips will be attempting to be first to the pegs before getting cover from Our Princess Tiffany. Zac’s drive was sublime last week and the horse performed accordingly. Winning looks beyond her but we saw our fair share of boil-overs last week.
4 Cheesy Fingers (8) – I liked this filly’s chances of overcoming Kualoa last week but that girl was far too strong. Cheesy Fingers may well prefer the mile but she was admirable ind defeat last week and does possess the gate speed to be where she wants in the run.
LADYSHIP MILE (Group 1, $200,000, 1609m)
1 Tell Me Tales (12) – I think the world of this mare and whilst she has been seen sporadically at times, she’s always shown a propensity to get the job done. Her task here is monumental but made easier by the awkwardness Dream About Me faces at the beginning. She cannot afford to end up last but she can come from a fair way back and still be right in this. She’s a great bet at 4/1 or better.
2 Carla’s Pixel (6) – Continuing along the swoopers theme, this grand mare comes into calculations purely based on her effort in the Ladyship Cup at Melton and her victory in this same race 12 months ago. It’s her final ever start before hitting the breeding barn – what a way this would be to go out!
3 Dream About Me (2) – Mark Purdon is in pain here, in my humble and often incorrect opinion. This mare does not possess the gate speed of her adversaries nor does she have the toe to pick them up late in the race like Carla’s Pixel and Tell Me Tales do. She’s too classy not to be among the place-getters but at less than $2, you can leave me right out.
4 Soho Burning Love (5) – Any number of horses could cross Dream About Me and get to the pegs first – this is the speedy mare I’ve chosen to do just that. She is not of the ability where she can lead these all the way but she can come from a trail and add significant value to exotics, as well as earn a nice cheque for connections.
NSW DERBY (Group 1, $200,000, 2400m)
1 Muscle Factory (3) – Much was made of this horse’s defeat in the heats but what he actually did was magnificent and he was entitled to be beaten. He sat parked, bullied a good horse and set up a world record 2400m race for three-year-olds. Unofficially, he has actually trialled faster than the 1:52.7 they went last week so should he get to the front – and I think he will – he is the one to chase, again.
2 Centenario (2) – Can he hold up ? That’s the $90,000 question which happens to be the difference between first and second placing. He was dominant last week but I map him either behind the leader or having to park out to ensure he gets a look at the line.
3 Hurricane Harley (6) – This guy has some serious issues as well as some serious skills. He galloped away last week before putting together a deadly last half mile to ensure he actually qualified for this event. One wrong step will kill off his winning hopes but his talent is immense and speed formidable.
4 Max Delight (9) – Like last week, Todd McCarthy might be forced to light up Max at the beginning to ensure he gets a nice trip throughout. His early speed is strong and in a 200k race, it pays to be aggressive and put yourself in the thick of the action.
BOHEMIA CRYSTAL FREE-FOR-ALL (Group 1, $100,000, 2400m)
1 Cash N Flow (3) – Awesome race with many winning chances but I’m going to go with the odds about Cash N Flow. The former All Stars gelding has been in ripping form winning two of his past three starts as well as a third-placing in the Miracle Mile qualifiers. He may lead or he may end up one-one but he maps well, is going super and should prefer the extra four furlongs.
2 Ashley Locaz (6) – He’s class and probably has the biggest future of any of these but I get the feeling he prefers short-course racing. He’s unlucky not to be in the MM but will be a big factor here. He will be handy to the speed and will give them a fright in the long home straight.
3 San Carlo (5) – Here’s your likely leader. His Bohemia Crystal effort last year was arguably his career best run but he’ll need to replicate something like that to be finally capturing his first Group 1 win.
4 Our Uncle Sam (7) – He took his game to a new level in the ID series and this race is of similar ilk – sans Tiger Tara. He will be just off the speed meaning he will be the one dashing late and if they’ve gone too hard, he might just beat them all home.
SAPLING STAKES (Group 2, $50,000, 1609m)
1 The Tiger Army (8) – I must admit, betting into this race would be a big risk but I’ll give the edge to the race-hardened commodity. Laura Crossland says her horse was a touch underdone leading into its last start at Melton so I think Luke McCarthy will have a fully wound up racehorse to utilise.
2 Mach Dan (2) – You always respect an Emma Stewart rookie in a big race and the draw is excellent. He won handsomely on debut and gets Chris Alford’s magic touch to top him off.
3 Millwood Tilly (4) – Mark Jones has two nice babies here but I give the edge to Tilly. The Terror To Love filly did the job on debut and should get an economical trip to feature in the placings.
4 Pat McGarry (1) – Pure guesswork here but we’ll give fourth placing to a horse who can follow the speed all the way and do absolutely no work.