BRAINDCHILD of New South Wales Trotting Club chief executive Len Smith, the Miracle Mile was designed for one specific purpose.
With the two-minute barrier over 1609 metres considered the ultimate measure of greatness Smith was determined to prove Australasian pacers were equal to their northern hemisphere counterparts.
It had been 70 years since Star Pointer set the standard with his 1:59 ¼ in Redville when Smith pitched the concept of a race purely based on speed in 1967.
During the interim roughly 80 American pacers and trotters had managed to break the time barrier over a mile.
As for standardbreds south of the equator, several had bettered two minutes but all during time trials.
Lawn Derby was the first, stopping the clock in 1:59.4 in Addington in 1938.
Avian Derby, a son of Lawn Derby, covered the mile in 2:00 at Harold Park in 1952 to become the first to reach the mark in Australia.
Ribands, another son of Lawn Derby, then lowered the benchmark to 1:58.7 at the same venue in 1954.
Smith’s goal was to see a ‘miracle’ under race conditions.
“It was unheard of in those days for a pacer to break the two minute barrier,” Smith said. “So we named the race Miracle Mile in hope we would see a miracle.
“Although the race was an overnight success, we had plenty of criticism beforehand.
“It was also the first race at Harold Park to have a sponsor, with the Craven Filter Miracle Mile becoming one of the longest sponsorships in harness racing.”
To be conducted at Harold Park on March 3, 1967, the feature offered a $15,000 purse – $10,000 in stake and $5000 in bonuses.
The first speed incentive of $1000 was to be paid if the winner lowered Mineral Springs’s Australian race record of 2:01.2 which was set around the Glebe circuit in 1956.
A further $4000 was up for grabs if the winner equaled or bettered two minutes.
To the delight of Smith, the sponsors, and all those who worked tirelessly behind the scene, the inaugural Miracle Mile achieved its goal.
As expected the new edition to the calendar drew an outstanding field consisting of Angelique, Rachel McGregor, Robin Dundee, Rocky Star, Southern Song and Tongue Twister.
In a bid to increase crowd participation, blue markers where set to light up at each quarter at the 30-second mark.
History shows Robert Dundee achieved the ‘miracle’ by covering the mile in 1:59 with Robert Cameron in the sulky.
Trained by Jack Walsh, the mare scored by 25 yards from Tongue Twister, with Angelique three yards away third.
Throughout the years the goal post has changed in search of new miracles, such as Halwes winning the 1968 edition in 1:58.6.
In 1982 Gundary Flyer became the first winner to break 1:57 with his 1:56.9 performance.
Eight years later Westburn Grant won in 1:55.6 – the first sub 1:56 Miracle Mile.
Naturally the aim became breaking 1:55, something Iraklis achieved in 1996 despite Harold Park track upgrades forcing the Miracle Mile to be extended from a true mile to 1760 metres.
Almost two decades later Christen Me set the latest Miracle Mile standard by breaking 1:50 in the 2014 running, which was conducted at the club’s new home in Menangle.
The following season Have Faith In Me bypassed the 1:49 and 1:48 stages when he captured the Group One in 1:47.5.
Then came My Field Marshal, which provided another ‘miracle mile’ in 2018.
Trained by Tim Butt and driven by his brother Anthony, My Field Marshal outclassed his rivals in a phenomenal 1:46.9, which remains the fastest mile in the southern hemisphere.
My Field Marshal’s time would see him finish approximately 180 metres ahead of Robin Dundee in her inaugural Miracle Mile win.
With a stellar field assembled for Saturday night’s $1million Ainsworth Miracle Mile could another ‘miracle’ be on the cards?
HOOFNOTE: In honour of Len Smith’s vision, the club he served so admirably introduced the Group One Len Smith Mile in 2008.