by Adam Hamilton
History awaits champion pacer King Of Swing a little bit longer than expected.
After a fantastic week of build-up to the $A1 million Miracle Mile at Menangle in NSW, a freak storm forced the postponement of Down Under’s richest race, which was to be held Saturday (March 5). It will now be held next Saturday night (March 12).
Eight pacers have won the Miracle Mile twice in its 54-year history, but King Of Swing was a red-hot favourite ($1.60 for $1 bet) to become the first three-time winner after drawing the coveted pole position.
Under the rules of the race, the field and barriers will remain the same for next week.
With a good crowd in attendance, things turned ugly and very quickly when torrential rain hit Menangle at 9 p.m. last night, just 40 minutes before the Mile was scheduled to be run.
The rain, accompanied by gale-force winds, hit just as the field was racing in one of the main support races, the $A100,000 Ainsworth free-for-all, eventually won by Zeuss Bromac.
Drivers returned from the race saying they’d never competed in worse conditions.
“I’ve never seen or driven in anything like it. When I crossed the line, I put my arms down straight and the water just poured back out of my driving suit,” said Jack Trainor, driver of runner-up Stylish Memphis.
The rain then only got heavier over the next 45 minutes.
Officials moved the Mile back to 10.13 p.m., but as the rain continued, along with lightning and thunder, at 10 p.m., the decision was made to postpone the remainder of the meeting.
“We really had no choice,” Menangle racing manager David Wonson said. “The rain hadn’t stopped and even when it finally did, we’d have needed a fair bit of time to try and fix the track (surface).
“The rain was so heavy and went for so long, it washed a lot of the surface away. There was also the issue of so much surrounding water running down across the track even if the rain stopped.
“It’s so disappointing after the build-up we’ve had, but it’s beyond our control.”
King Of Swing’s co-trainer and driver, Luke McCarthy, was philosophical after the decision.
“It’s no real issue or negative for him,” he said. “We just go back home and train him again for next week.
“But it is disappointing because this had become such a big moment for the sport. You just hope we can recapture that again a week later.”
Not only is this Miracle Mile a chance for King Of Swing to do what no other horse has done, but there is also a huge chance it will be his last race start.
Senior part-owner Glen Moore said as much in last week’s build-up.
“Everyone knows he’s retiring to stud this year, but it’s just a matter of when,” he said. “If he was to come out and win then it’s hard not to think that’s the perfect way to go out… with a piece of history.
“Put it this way, for a few weeks now, all we’ve been focused on is this race. Nothing beyond it.”
King Of Swing, a son of Rocknroll Hanover, has raced 81 times for 43 wins, 18 placings and earned $A2.84 million.
He is already the only horse to win two of Down Under’s absolute marquee races, the Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup, twice.
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This week also saw the retirement of one of Down Under’s champion trotters, Tornado Valley.
The 10-year-old was born and started his career in New Zealand, but it was his sale and subsequent move to join top trainers Andy and Kate Gath in Victoria, Australia which transformed Tornado Valley’s career.
He won 39 races – 10 of them at Group 1 level – and topped $A1 million in career earnings.
Tornado Valley’s $A1,033,977 made him the third-richest Australian-based trotter of all-time behind Sundons Gift ($1,275,264) and Keystone Del ($1,063,560).
His biggest wins came in the 2018 Melbourne Inter Dominion final along with the 2020 and ’21 Great Southern Stars finals. All races were at Melton.
“He gave Norm (Jenkin, owner), Kate (Gath) and I the most amazing four years. He was an absolute delight around the stables as well,” Andy Gath said.
“His record probably would’ve been even better, but he was such an awful traveller we really couldn’t take him interstate or over to NZ to race. He just stayed at home,” Gath said.
“The two greatest wins for me were that Inter Dominion final where he won all three heats and the final in our backyard along with his win in the heat, more so than the final, of the 2021 Great Southern Star.
“That’s the race where he proved himself a champion to me. He was first-up from a spell and we really didn’t know where he was at as far as form and fitness going into it. He’d been written-off by plenty, but he came out and won that heat and the final a couple of hours later.
“You have to have champion qualities to come out and do what he did that night.”