Grand Circuit Champion Hangs On A Miracle

19 February 2018 | Chris Barsby

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 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.


Hoofnote: Only Westburn Grant is even with Lazarus with Gr.1 victories.