King Of Swing lifted to the challenge.
Just a week after I posed the question whether he deserved to be talked about in the same breath as modern greats like Blacks A Fake, Lazarus, Im Themightyquinn and others, the “King” answered it emphatically.
His win in last Saturday night’s Group 1 Allied Express Sprint was something to behold.
Some will say I've got egg on my face, rather I'm thrilled. I had an itch the "King" needed to scratch for me. And he did.
It was career-best stuff on every level. Way beyond just bettering his own “PB” by 0.1sec, the fact he had to overcome adversity to do it – an unsuccessful early speed burn and that sitting parked – was just what I and many others had been waiting to see.
Yes, it was the performance of a champion.
And now he looks to have history at his mercy.
King Of Swing is one of eight pacers to have won the Miracle Mile twice, but none have saluted three times.
Former Victorian superstar Smoken Up has come the closest, but in a different way to how King Of Swing will attempt it. Smoken Up ran second, beaten just a neck by Monkey King in 2009, then returned to win in 2010 and ’11.
Last Saturday night showed this is King Of Swing’s Miracle Mile to lose.
He is unbeaten in 11 runs over a mile at Menangle, five of them at Group 1 level.
And despite retirement looming, times and your eyes tell you he has never raced better.
Tonight’s barrier draw (live at 7.30pm on Sky Racing 2) will shape how big a challenge King Of Swing faces, most notably with how he draws compared to main dangers Bondi Lockdown and Spirit Of St Louis.
Young Victorian star Bondi Lockdown looks THE key rival because of his strength and absolute willingness to go to war in his races. Trainer-driver Aaron Dunn won’t take a backward step against King Of Swing, while many others will.
With the right barrier draw we could have an epic on our hands. Let’s hope the marbles fall the right way.
Expensive Ego’s inclusion in the Miracle Mile is confusing and surprising but there could be a positive to it.
Rather than be shackled by its onerous qualifying rules, Club Menangle’s committee stepped outside a square and genuinely used its discretion to promote Expensive Ego.
That’s not a bad thing, but it is a seismic shift in mindset.
Based on recent years, I was gobsmacked Stylish Memphis didn’t get a Miracle Mile berth.
In the first two years the Ladyship (now Queen Elizabeth II) was run the week before the Miracle Mile, both winners have snared Miracle Mile spots.
And it’s hard to argue Stylish Memphis is not going at least as well as last year when you consider she’s won all four starts this Sydney trip.
Against that, on a night of blistering times, she only went a 1min51.9sec mile to win and did so after a cosy trip behind the leader.
Maybe the field selectors were also scarred by her only running sixth when they gave her a Miracle Mile berth last year?
What’s farcical is the conditions which mean once Stylish Memphis didn’t get an invite, she was ineligible to be first or second emergency. That’s because those spots must come from horses who contested one of last Saturday night’s two qualifying sprints.
Change that nonsense, immediately.
So, did Expensive Ego deserve a spot ahead of Stylish Memphis? That’s a fascinating debate.
There’s no doubt he is a better horse at his top and would beat her more often than not, but it’s hard not to think he’s in the field as much on previous performances as he is current form.
Fact. Expensive Ego is winless in four runs this campaign and hasn’t looked the same horse since his stunning Inter Dominion heat form in early December.
Yes, he was good and strong when driven very aggressively by Luke McCarthy to finish a tiring fourth in a slick 1min48.2sec mile in the first of the qualifying sprints.
But was he promoted on that run or a mix of that and his broader body of work? If his previous deeds were a factor, then let us all know that for future reference.
Personally, I loved the days when the Miracle Mile field was straight invites, without the drawn-out qualifying process through races like the Newcastle Mile, Chariots Of Fire and lead-up sprints.
You’d see the first invite offered many weeks, sometimes months before the race.
And, most times, it meant the best possible field. It was also great theatre and stirred much discussion and speculation.
It was a real point of difference I miss.
Maybe, we’ve seen the first step back towards it with Expensive Ego’s selection?
Pictures - Club Menangle
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 thetrots.com.au.