Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2004/2005 Season
Leg 4:  SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile   2004/2005Results   Points
             26/11/2004  Harold Park, Sydney, NSW  1760m  Mobile Start  $550,000
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The domination of Australia’s premier sprinting event by leaders was again underlined at Sydney’s Harold Park Friday night when Sokyola NZ won back-to-back classics, beating Sand Pebbles and Hexus in a mile rating of 1:54.90. 

Trainer Lance Justice, the usual driver of the 8YO gelding sidelined by suspension, watched from the stand as fill-in reinswoman, Jodi Quinlan, went straight to the lead from the pole. With rivals failing to exert any pressure mid-race, the Victorian pacer had the race in its keeping a long way from home. 

Despite Sokyola NZ in last year’s Miracle Mile having crossed from a wide gate to then lead and hold out all challengers, form analysts throughout betting this time stuck fast with the Kiwi Elsu NZ as favourite. Boasting a 1:53.6 record, the fastest time of any in the race, these scribes believed Elsu NZ would outstay the Victorian in the run to the post. 

From barrier 4, and for much of the race being in the one-one position, Elsu NZ could not get into the race in the final stages with Perth-owned mare Sand Pebbles coming off the back of Sokyola NZ to battle on nicely for second, with local Hexus grabbing third from Mister D G NZ. 

No other race in Australian harness racing generates as much speculation and publicity in the lead-up to it as does the Miracle Mile. Not the least of this year’s hype was the remarkable betting plunge during the week on outsider Hexus. Even when the price tumbled from $41 to much less than half this, pre-race operators continued to be stunned by the support. 

Hexus is owned by Michael Achurch, aged 24, who has only ever raced three horses. He is also a part-owner of the galloper Savabeel, winner of the recent W.S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, then valued in the media at $20 million. Earlier he had part-owned Polar Success. It won Australia’s richest 2YO race for thoroughbreds, the Golden Slipper. Not bad for a young man raised in a Sydney housing commission estate whose success on the punt started this fairytale.   

Sokyola NZ

Achurch paid $8,000 for Hexus before it started winning races worth more than the new owner’s outlay. It is trained for him by Damien Gallagher and driven by Nathan Giles. Its recent good form lifted its career earnings going into the big mile to $257,595. 

Two of the eight starters in Friday night’s event were driven by women – both of whom are from stout horse racing families. Jodi Quinlan is the daughter of a jockey. But two uncles who are licensed harness trainers played a big part in her becoming a reinswoman. There are many in Victoria who have for sometime been claiming her to be the most accomplished horsewoman in pacing and trotting. 

Emma Turnbull, who drove Blue Gum Forest from gate 3, is a daughter of the late Greg Turnbull, a son of the legendary Tony Turnbull of Hondo Grattan fame. The ‘Bathurst Bulldog’ won two Inter Dominions and took out the 1974 Miracle Mile in 1974. Her uncle Steve Turnbull also won the 2001 Miracle Mile with Smooth Satin.    

Blue Gum Forest, a winner of two of its previous three starts when leading, dashed Emma’s hopes of finishing in the placings soon after the start when it broke stride. It then brought up the rear for the remainder of the race.      

Perth mare Sand Pebbles had been sent across to NSW trainer Brian Hancock more than a month prior to the big mile. Bred and raced by C. Rettay and his wife, they reasoned that if any Sydney trainer could have her right for the Ladyship Mile, it would be this highly successful horseman who recently retired from driving to have young Blake Fitzpatrick do the steering of his horses. 

After the mare won three of her four starts for Hancock and drew barrier 2 in the Miracle Mile, it was generally thought this fast-beginning pacer from the west would make a bee-line onto the back of Sokyola NZ. Fitzpatrick did, and had a lot up his sleeve when pulling out from behind the Lance Justice-trained gelding. But Sokyola NZ was carrying too many guns. 

Bred in New Zealand by Sokys Atom USA from Maudola (NZ), Sokyola NZ was purchased by businessman Colin Croft four years ago.  Its record now stands at 61 wins from 113 starts for prizemoney of more than $1,500,000. This latest win was only marginally behind its own best time of 1:54.6 set last year in the race. 

Usually when huge prizemoney is up for grabs, drivers can throw caution to the winds with their aggressive tactics. However, this rarely seems to be the case in a Miracle Mile these years, and leaders can and often do get away with an easy time mid-race. 

The first quarter of the last mile for Sokyola NZ was 29.2, followed by a leisurely 30.0 for the next quarter. Even the third quarter of 28.8 enabled the leader to reel off a 27.9 run to the line without being really challenged. 

Justice has always kept his gelding up to the mark, and an interesting part of its success story has been back-to-back victories in the Mildura Cup, the Legends Mile (Moonee Valley) and now the Miracle Mile. 

When the Victorian pacer easily took up the pacemaker’s role on Friday night, it was left to the much-travelled Queenslander Flashing Red (Chris Petroff) to lead the outside line, with Elsu NZ then dropping in for a trail. When the favourite tried to make its move 400m from home, it failed to show its usual dash, with Hexus virtually the only one that plugged on well in the straight, though beaten by almost six metres. 

It was not a good race for Kiwi-owned pacers this year, though the barrier draw did not assist. Roman Gladiator NZ, which started on the outside from gate 8, was always doing it tough in his Aussie debut. However, good judges say this promising horse is one to watch when next competing in this country. 


All Time Pacing and Trotting Records pre-2001 please refer to the Australian Harness Racing Annual.

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