Andy Gath realises Miracle Mile dream
By Adam Hamilton
When Andy Gath watched and cheered home Our Maestro in the 1988 Miracle Mile it became a race he desperately wanted to win.
Remarkably, 35 years later and with just his second runner in the race, he won Australasia’s premier speed test with the best pacer he’s trained, Catch A Wave.
It came just two weeks after Catch A Wave shocked just about everyone by upstaging Captain Ravishing in the Group 1 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle.
Last night Catch A Wave became the first horse since brilliant Kiwi pacer Have Faith In Me in 2016 to complete the Chariots Of Fire/Miracle Mile double.
But Chariots winners invariably run well with the past eight now finishing top three in the Miracle Mile.
Gath was still pinching himself this morning.
“As much as it's a race I’ve loved for so long, I really thought it was out of reach for us,” Gath said.
“Like so many people in this game, I grew up watching the Miracle Mile. I went to a few at Harold Park and Our Maestro is one that really sticks to mind because I was helping Vinnie Knight out when he travelled horses at the time.
“I’ve been training for more than 30 years and this was just my second runner and even this has come out of the blue.
“The Miracle Mile was never on the radar for this horse, but when he beat Captain Ravishing and went so well in the Chariots, we simply had to give it a crack.
“I’ve been saying for a while he’s the best pacer I’ve trained. I felt this crop of four-year-olds was special and there was no standout, no champion, amongst the older horses.”
Gath’s only previous Miracle Mile runner Hearts Legend ran fifth in 2002 and Catch A Wave was the first drive in the race for his wife, champion driver Kate Gath.
Catch A Wave’s chances soared when he was able to blast across from barrier four and cross Spirit Of St Louis from the pole to take the early lead.
After burning a 25.5sec opening split, Kate Gath was able to back-off to a cosy 29.2sec second quarter.
“I thought it was his race to lose then, knowing he was right in the zone and had relaxed so well for Kate and he’d never been beaten when he’d led,” Gath said.
“Coming around the final bend I was so confident, I’d actually have been disappointed if he got beaten from there.”
Catch A Wave cruised home by 3.1m over Spirit Of St Louis, who trailed and had to be content with second as he did last year, while Hunter Cup winner Honolua Bay was a close up third.
Despite slowing the tempo in the middle stages, Catch A Wave’s 1min48.8sec mile was the fifth fastest in the history of the race.
Kate Gath, 39, has now won the big three of Aussie harness – the Inter Dominion (trotting final on Tornado Valley in 2018), Hunter Cup (About To Rock in 2006) and Miracle Mile.
She was already the winningest Group 1 female driver in Australian harness racing.
The win came at her first drive in a Miracle Mile and she became just the fourth female to drive the winner, following: Natalie Rasmussen (Have Faith In Me in 2016), Jodi Quinlan (Sokyola in 2004) and Kellie Kersley (Norms Daughter in 1996).
Catch A Wave now heads for a spell before returning to racing in July to chase the world’s richest harness race, the $2.1 million TAB Eureka at Menangle on September 2.
“What turned out to be some experience travelling and racing at Menangle before the Eureka has turned into so much more,” Andy Gath said.
It was an emotion-charged win given Catch A Wave’s owner, Richard Matthews, died last September.
“It’s bittersweet, that’s for sure,” Gath said. “But this horse has given Richard’s wife, Pauline, and family something to hang on to, bond around and remember Richard by.”