The move to assign the Newcastle Mile winner the first invite through to the Miracle Mile has been a shrewd one.

Even aside from the $100,000 prizemoney and Group 1 status of Newcastle’s premier race, the surety of a position in the big one and the extra week of recovery time have assisted in drawing together a cracking field again this year.

It will also be the much-anticipated rematch between BONCEL BENJAMIN and EXPENSIVE EGO after their controversial Inter Dominion battle two months ago.

Who could forget that historical event when Expensive Ego was first past the post before stewards were comfortably satisfied post-race that the interference caused by the then four-year-old was significant enough to Boncel Benjamin to overturn the result?

For the connections of ‘Ego’, it’s been a tumultuous few months with another protest hearing going against them and some slightly below par efforts from their star pacer. There is no doubt that winning this race tonight will not only be nice for their back pocket, but also provide them with a little bit of revenge.

On that fateful evening at Menangle, Boncel Benjamin was able to clearly out peg Expensive Ego early on to lead, before then trailing his opponent over the longer trip. Under sprint conditions, it looks unlikely that Josh Gallagher would be comfortable handing over his tactical advantage should he touch down on the pegs first.

It’s a bold move by his extremely talented trainer Jason Grimson to line the now seven-year-old up in tonight’s feature fresh since the ID21 Grand Final, and without a trial.

So how does the speed map play out and what roll will MAX DELIGHT play in the early burn?

There are not many quicker horses off the arm than Boncel Benjamin and it would surprise me if he wasn’t slick enough to cross, however Max Delight may be capable of making him stretch his neck should he desire. In saying this, there is strong mail around that the inside draws are slightly disadvantaged from the mile starting point at Newcastle.

I am siding with MACH DAN at a price after an eye-catching Hunter Cup fourth performance. The map looks good for this Victorian raider, who peeled off some meterage from the likes of KING OF SWING and AMAZING DREAM late in that sit and sprint affair.

While the Newcastle Mile is set to be a fascinating contest, if possible, the Chariots Of Fire could be even better.

The current crop of four-year-olds are brilliant, with tomorrow (Saturday) night’s line up a great cross-section of established, age-group stars like KRUG and BONDI LOCKDOWN, while there is a real up-and-comers feel about the likes of BETTER ECLIPSE and ROCK N ROLL DOO.

To add further to the intrigue, the barrier draw has thrown up more questions than answers.

Who is the lamp lighter? Does TITIAN RAIDER have the speed to kick through and get his chance from the front of proceedings? What about Krug and does his performance last week change the way Jack Trainor steers him? How do Bondi Lockdown and Rock N Roll Doo get into the contest from their extreme gates?

With $250,000 on offer, there is no doubt that the pressure will be intense and spots up on the premises at a premium with several ‘front running horses’ jousting for prime positions.

With the tempo set to be scintillating, there are also several ‘stalkers’ such as BETTOR CALL ME and BEYOND DELIGHT who will be ready to unleash up that long Menangle straight once their opportunity arises.

Despite looking a little below his best last week and his costliness to punters at his last two starts, I am hoping Krug can repay the faith on the biggest stage in this year’s Chariots Of Fire.

Missing that run a fortnight ago may have been his undoing in the Paleface Adios and his first-up win is a truer representation of his capabilities. The draw gives Jack Trainor options and he can atone.

Sky Racing Active will be your one stop shop for the Carnival Of Miracles’ opening weekend.

Join myself, Paul Cochrane and Freddy Hastings both tonight at Newcastle and tomorrow evening at Menangle for extended coverage on the Sky Racing Active app. Key interviews with trainers and connections, runner-by-runner analysis and all of the excitement and fanfare after the big ones will be delivered straight into your living room.

BEST of the weekend – R6 N9 Fairy Tinkabell @ Menangle Saturday 

VALUE of the weekend – R6 N2 Mach Dan @ Newcastle Friday

Brittany Graham is a regular host on Sky Racing and the Sky Racing Active app, plus In The Gig with Ben Way and Gareth Hall every Tuesday night on Sky Racing 2 from 6pm.

The opinions expressed in The Forum are those of the author and may not be attributed to or represent policies of Harness Racing Victoria, which is the state authority and owner of