Early speculation on the annual guessing game of selecting the field for the 1992 Coca-Cola Miracle Mile was dominated by a then relatively unknown Western Australian pacer named Jack Morris. "Jack Who?" screamed the banner headlines, as few people outside Perth had heard of the Sean Harney-trained star.
Sensational times at recent starts, however, including some startling wins, had Jack Morris primed for a late invitation to compete against the best pacers in Australasia.
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Harney had already tasted Grand Circuit success, guiding Tarport Sox to victory over Whitby Timer and Jodie's Babe in the 1990 WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park.
The Glen Tippet-trained Franco Tiger, driven by Brian Gath, surged to his third consecutive Grand Circuit victory for the season in the most open Miracle Mile on record. Franco Tiger (13-4) led throughout to win by two-and-a-half metres from Christopher Vance (3-1), with Jack Morris (8-1) five metres away third.
Franco Tiger clocked 1:56.7, leaving his opponents with no excuses, although a history-making protest by Harney on behalf of Jack Morris may have suggested otherwise.
The first protest in the 27-year history of the Miracle Mile, Harney alleged interference by the winner on the first turn cost him the chance of leading, and ultimately, his chance of winning. After a hearing lasting nine minutes, the objection was dismissed.
After that controversial third, Sean Harney declared the gelding would get better and we would be hearing a lot more about Jack Morris. Well we certainly did, and more about Harney, too.
Jack Morris was voted Australian Harness Horse of the Year for 1992-93. He was also the leading stake earner in the country with $526,430 from 11 wins from 18 starts that season.
At his next start after the 1992 Miracle Mile, Jack Morris led throughout to win the M H Treuer Memorial at Bankstown, beating Band Magic and Christopher Vance with Miracle Mile winner, Franco Tiger, fifth. Later in the season, Jack Morris beat Warrior Khan and Blossom Lady in the Inter-Dominion Final at Albion Park.
Jack Morris returned to Sydney for the 1993 Miracle Mile on November 26.Chokin was also there, much tougher and stronger than the raw inexperienced three-year-old that crashed to the track on the home turn two years earlier when totally exhausted. He was in scintillating form, too, having recently won the New Zealand Cup and Air New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington.
The 1993 Miracle Mile received unprecedented media coverage - in the press, radio and television - mainly due to the flamboyant and colourful Sean Harney.
All that pre-race publicity, plus more than 12 months hard work by NSWHRC officials, went down the drain, however, when the warning siren sounded at approximately 10.I5pm on Friday, November 26.
In one of the biggest sensations to precede a major Australasian race, Jack Morris was withdrawn only seconds before the race was scheduled to start.
Dominating betting at 4-6, Jack Morris was scratched on the recommendation of veterinary surgeon, Dr David Evans, as the field lined up behind the mobile barrier in the back straight when blood was noticed trickling from one nostril.
Pandemonium broke out when it was announced the odds-on favorite had been scratched. It was later estimated almost $2 million wagered in bets involving Jack Morris had to be refunded.
The start of the race was delayed 20 minutes and fresh betting was ordered. Chokin opened 4-5 favourite in revised betting before running the popular pick at 5-4.
The 1993 Miracle Mile may not have packed much punch as a spectacle, and in time to come it will probably be best remembered as the year the hot favourite was scratched at the barrier.
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