Newcastle Mile run down

02 November 2011 | Ross Gigg
Courage Under Fire won two Newcastle Miles - 2001 and 2002

Courage Under Fire won two Newcastle Miles - 2001 and 2002

Since its inception in 1989 the Newcastle Mile has developed into one of the premier sprint races in Australian harness racing. Many of the great horses of their time have contested the Newcastle Mile. The race is widely regarded as a major lead up race for the famous Miracle Mile which is run a few weeks later at Harold Park {now Menangle}. Many winners of the Newcastle Mile have been invited to contest the Miracle Mile. The race began in a blaze of euphoria on the 21st October 1989, when the new 940 metre track at the International sports Centre was officially opened in front of a crowd in excess of 10,000. For the previous 50 years trotting had been conducted at the tiny Broadmeadow showground {551} metres.

1989.The exciting Rowleyalla won the inaugural Newcastle Mile. Trained and driven by Kevin Rivett, Rowleyalla had set many race and track records around the country side. He set the scene for the opening night and indeed for the reputation of the new track by scorching around the new 940 metre circuit in a winning time of 1.55.8. This was a wonderful inauguration of the new facilities. A record crowd of 10,000 people crammed into the paceway for opening night.

1990.The mighty Westburn Grant trained & driven by the legendary Vic Frost took the honours in the 1990 running of the Newcastle Mile. “Spot” as he is affectionately known won in a time of 1.55.1. He won by 11 metres from Inter dominion winner Thorate and Robert Preneur.

1991.Westburn Grant was back to defend his title in 1991. This was one of the gutsiest wins in the short history of the race as spot was coming back after a long layoff from a serious leg injury. He had not raced since winning the Inter dominion final at Gloucester Park some 10 months earlier. The Newcastle Mile was his first race back. He showed us what a champion he was by winning in a new NSW record time for the mile of 1.55.6. Race caller Wayne Hickson echoed the thoughts of the crowd that night when he declared half way down the home straight “will you stand up and cheer this mighty champion.”

1992.Trainer David Aiken and driver Gary Henman combined with Joshua Tree to win the 1992 Newcastle Mile. In a thrilling finish Joshua Tree prevented the mighty Westburn Grant from winning 3 Newcastle Miles in a row by a ½ head. While the crowd were disappointed for “spot” nothing could be taken away from the winner. Woy Woy Karamea finished third. The time for the race 1.57.2

1993.Medowie Prince “the hero from the Hunter” as race caller Greg Radley referred to him won the race in 1993. Trained and driven by the “Colgate kid” Chris Gleeson; Medowie Prince was owned by Hunter Valley connections including Keith McDeed. He was the first and only local pacer to win the race. Future Inter dominion winner Weona Warrior finished second and band Magic finished third as it had done in the 1991 event. The time was 1.56.6

1994.The brilliant mare Sabilize took out the first of 3 Newcastle Miles in a row by winning the 1994 edition. This was the first of 7 winners of the Newcastle Mile trained by Brian Hancock. On this occasion she was driven by Steve Turnbull. Brian missed a number of winning drives in the Newcastle Mile due to either injuries or suspensions. His turn would come later. Medowie Prince finished second and another future Inter dominion winner Young Mister Charles finished third. Sabilise won in 1.56.4

1995.Sabilize reproduced her effort from the previous year and once more came out on top. She defeated the warriors that night with Weona Warrior finishing second and Weona Brave finishing third. Sabilize was driven by Trevor Swan she took victory in 1.56.9

1996. Sabilize created history by becoming the first pacer to win a hat trick of Newcastle Miles. Brian Hancock became the first trainer to train three winners of the race. Driven once again by Trevor Swan, the mare was allowed to pinch a slowish second quarter and from there on it was good night when the sprint went on. Her mile rate was 1.56.8

1997.Prize money for the 1997 event was increased to $50,000.
Quantum Lobell stunned the racing fraternity with his win in the 1997 Mile. Driven a treat by Mark Tracey Quantum Lobell won in an Australian record time of 1.53.1. The race was set up by sensational sectionals set by former American bred pacer Island Glow. The quarters were 26.4 – 27.8 – 29.2 – 29.4. The first quarter was the fastest ever run at Newcastle. Quantum Lobell never went around a horse that night. Rails runs kept appearing and Mark Tracey took full advantage to score a sensational victory.
Punters were caught off guard as Brian Hancock had two runners in the event with race favourite being Our Sir Vancelot. He was in a piggish mood that night and broke twice in the score up which caused false starts and then he broke again when making his run on the home turn. Quantum Lobell went onto to run an excellent second, beaten a neck by Sovereign Hill in the Australian pacing championship which the Newcastle club hosted the following Saturday night.

1998.Brian Hancock finally broke through for his first winning drive in the race when Our Sir Vancelot made amends for the previous year by winning the 1998 race. He started a very short priced favourite and never looked like losing. His winning time was 1.57.3

1999.Veteran trainer George Ashcroft ventured east from Perth with his stable star Shattering Class. Shattering Class swept all before him in Perth and was seeking a start in the Miracle mile. His first assignment was the Newcastle Mile. He was too good for his rivals on the night and won in what was the slowest time in the races history, 1.57.8. After his win in the Newcastle mile he was issued an invitation for the Miracle mile where he finished a gallant 4th

2000.The mighty Courage Under Fire won the first of his Newcastle Miles in 2000. The horse was loved by the crowds and he helped Newcastle attract there biggest crowd in the races history in 2000. Trainer/driver Brian Hancock didn’t let anyone down and duly saluted in a fast 1.54.6.

2001.Courage Under Fire was back again to defend his title in 2001. He was the shortest priced favourite in the races history but favourite backers need have no worries as Brian Hancock steered him to victory in a sizzling 1.54.2 to eclipse his 1.54.6 set the previous year. After the race Brian Hancock was very appreciative of the support the people of Newcastle had given him and Courage Under Fire. He invited anyone who wanted to, to come onto the track and have their photo taken with Courage Under Fire. Plenty of people including lots of kids took up the offer and Courage Under Fire stood as quiet as a mouse, not bad for a stallion.

2002.Tough gelding Jofess took the honours in a thrilling mile in 2002. This win catapulted him into the top class echelon of races. Trainer/driver Darren Hancock got him home in a thriller from Double Indentity, who actually cross fired at the start which cost him valuable ground. Jofess scored in a time of 1.55.8. Jofess would go onto to bigger and better things including the 2004 Inter dominion.

2003.The Falcon Strike came to Newcastle with a huge reputation. He had beaten all before him Perth and like the 1999 winner Shattering Class he headed east trying to gain a berth in the Miracle Mile. He was awesome this night and blew his rivals away in a 1.54.5 mile rate. Father and son team of trainer Gary Hall Snr and driver Gary Hall junior were ecstatic with the win. Unfortunately the horse didn’t show his best after that run in his campaign in Sydney, but he bounced back to his best for the 2004 Inter dominion series. The interesting runner in the race that night was former American pacer TSS Posidon. Trained and riven by Denis Wilson the horse attracted plenty of hype before the event. He did have a rushed preparation and after making a quick sprint at the half mile mark he faded to finish 7th beaten 15 metres.

2004.Hexus took the step up to top class company in fine fashion by winning the 2004 Mile. It was a strong line up which included Miracle Mile winner Double Identity, the Queensland trio of Cobbity Classic – Flashing Red, Roll On Big Red, top class mare Sand Pebbles and WA visitor Buck the Odds. Hexus was driven a treat by Nathan Giles who sat behind the leader and waited patiently for a gap to appear, and it did half way down the home straight for Hexus to burst through and score by a short half head from Flashing Red in a good time of 1.55. for the Mile. The win secured Hexus a berth in the rich Miracle Mile run a fortnight later where he put in a super effort to finish 3rd behind Sokyola and Sand Pebbles.

2005.Sly Flyin. Due to clashes with the New Zealand Cup and New Zealand free for all, the Newcastle mile had never been able to attract a kiwi for the race. That all changed in the 2005 race when two kiwis made the trip over for the Mile, Sly Flyin and champion mare Forreal. The race had a new sponsor in Ranbuild and a $10,000 increase in prize money taking the race to $60,000. The kiwis proved too good and ran the quinella with Sly Flyin, driven by legendary reinsman Tony Herlihy beating Forreal, driven by another great name in harness racing, Anthony Butt. The winning margin was 3 metres and Sly Flyin stopped the clock at 1.53.6. It was Tony Herlihy’s first visit to the Newcastle paceway. Western Australian visitor Lookslikelightning ran 3rd after showing brilliant gate speed to lead from barrier 9. Immediately after the race NSW Harness racing club officials invited Sly Flyin to contest the miracle mile which would be run at Harold Park 13 days later. Unfortunately Sly Flyin had to be scratched just days before the race after suffering an injury in training. Forreal and Lookslikelightning both gained invitations into the miracle mile with their effort in the lead up races at Harold Park the following week.

2006.Kiwis horses went back to back wins in the Newcastle mile when Pay Me Christian scored a sensational win in 2006. The son of Christian Cullen was in awesome form on the night and driver David Butt was keen to make a statement on the impressive entire and a statement he did make when he set a new track, race and then Australian Mile record in a winning time of 1.52.8. NSW Harness racing club directors were track side and issued an invitation to connections into the Miracle Mile which was duly accepted. Smooth Crusa and Hexus filled the minor placings. He kept his good form with a top effort to finish fourth in the Miracle mile only beaten 2.6 metres behind Be Good Johnny, Blacks a Fake and Smooth Crusa.

2007. Due to the outbreak of Equine Influenza in NSW the 2007 mile was not run.

2008.The 2008 race was a sensation with a protest and long hearing after the event. Track specialist and locally trained pacer Special Albert carried the hopes of the first home town victory since Medowie Prince’s win in the 1993 Mile. The race had plenty of dramas after Michael Dawson pushed hard to lead from barrier six and cut across the field to lead after 250 metres causing interference to a number of runners in particular Fox Valley Appeal. After a long stewards enquiry Special Albert held the race. Iron Hudge and Divisive filled 2nd and 3rd place. Special Albert stopped the clock at 1.54 for the mile.

2009.Trainer Paul Fitzpatrick took out his first Newcastle Mile when Saucy Legend took out the 2009 event. His son Cameron scored his biggest win to date when he steered the five year old gelding to a surprise result as he was seen as the second stringer to his stable mate Lombo Pocket Watch who started a short priced favourite in the race. Saucy Legend held out noted speedster Lonestar Legend to score by a neck in a fast 1.53.8. The central coast trained bets of Times was a further 8.4 metres back in 3rd place. It’s history now that Saucy Legdnd was issued an invitation to contest the Miracle Mile but connections decided not to accept the invite as the pacer was considered not seasoned enough to take on the likes of Blacks a Fake and Smoken Up.

2010.Paul Fitzpatrick made it back to back Mile wins when Rohan Home took out the 2010 event. Gavin Fitzpatrick took the honours in the sulky for his father. Fitzpatrick nearly quinelled the race when his other starter Lonestar Legend finishing a close third behind Magic Operative. Rohan Home clocked a super 1.53.3. for the mile. The six year old gelding was having his third run back from a spell. He was coming off super form having won the winter cup at Albion Park a few months prior beating the likes of Washakie, Mr Feelgood and Be Good Johnny. Rohan Home’s win the Newcastle mile earned him an invitation into the Miracle Mile where he finished 7th behind Smoken Up who ran a then Australian race record time of 1.50.3.

2011. ?