It was one of the great moments in the modern era of Down Under harness racing.
Champion pacer King Of Swing created history at Menangle, just outside of Sydney, Saturday night (March 10) when he became the first pacer to win Australasia’s richest race and premier speed test, the $A1 million Miracle Mile, three times.
And connections immediately confirmed it was his final race start, retiring him to stand at stud later in the year.
King Of Swing really had to earn it, too. He was crossed at the start by longshot Mach Dan in a blistering :25.6 opening quarter then driver Luke McCarthy had to fight hard to “re-take.” King Of Swing paced a :54.6 first half, but McCarthy still looked to have plenty of horse coming to the final bend on the 1400m track.
“He gave me a good kick when I asked him, but I knew it would be a long way home after that early burn,” McCarthy said. “The great thing about this guy is how hard he fights and he did, he just kept giving for me.”
King Of Swing held off his brilliant and emerging stablemate Spirit Of St Louis to win by 1.2m in a 1:49.2 mile.
The time was quick, but Sydney’s recent flooding caused plenty of damage to the track and repairs during the week meant it wasn’t as fast as Menangle can be.
McCarthy confirmed King Of Swing’s owners felt it was the right time to retire him.
“I think he could have raced on for another year, I’m sure he could have. In fact, I think he’s racing in the best form of his career now,” he said. “But I totally get where the owners are coming from. They want him to go out on top.
“The breeding season doesn’t start until late in the year, so we could’ve gone on to the big Queensland races in the middle of year, but the owners didn’t want that. They felt there was no need.
“It would’ve meant a break and getting him back up again. They’d rather give him the extra time to let down into a stallion.
“He’s got everything you could ask for to make a stallion, great breeding (Rocknroll Hanover—Twist and Twirl – by Artsplace), he’s a fantastic looker and just has the most remarkable temperament you’d ever see for a stallion.
“I’m sure he’ll be in huge demand and quickly have a full book for the first season.”
King Of Swing’s career stats certainly put him up with the all-time Down Under greats.
His prize money of $A3,390,546 put him fifth on the all-time earners’ list for Down Under pacers behind: Blacks A Fake ($A4,575,438), Im Themightyquinn ($A4,567,456), Lazarus ($A4,125,988) and Smoken Up ($A3,607,985).
King Of Swing also won Group 1 races from the age of 2 when he won the Breeders Crown final to last night as a 7-year-old.
Of his 11 wins at Group 1 level, the biggest were certainly his three Miracle Miles, two Hunter Cups and the 2020 Blacks A Fake in Queensland – as an open-class free-for-all pacer at the highest level.
King Of Swing started his career with astute horseman Ray Green in NZ before being bought by his current owners for an undisclosed but large figure as a 3-year-old. He joined Gary Hall Sr’s stable and won the new connections a Group 1 West Australian Derby soon after, but then his form fluctuated wildly.
In a remarkable show of humility and honesty, Hall Sr admitted he would never have got the best out of King Of Swing.
“No, I never really got along with the horse. He and I weren’t really suited together,” Hall Sr. said, laughing.
“Seriously though, it was my call to suggest the move to Luke and Belinda (McCarthy). I want to set the record straight on all of this.
“Everyone said the move came because the horse didn’t handle Gloucester Park (a tight half-mile track), but that’s not true. Sure, he loves the big Menangle (1400m) track, but he goes well on all tracks for Luke and Belinda.
“The truth is my training style didn’t suit him. He needed a change. I always sensed there was more than what he was showing because he would give you glimpses.
“I had a share in the horse too, so it was in my best interests as well as everyone else to try something different.
“I’m in awe of the job Luke and Belinda have done with him, but I’m not totally surprised. They’re great horse people with a fantastic training facility and he’s a horse who had the potential there for them to unlock. Which they did so well.
“I’ve just really enjoyed seeing the horse fulfill his potential. I’ve got no hard feelings about giving up training him, none at all.”
In the care of Team McCarthy, King Of Swing raced 33 times for a staggering 25 wins, four seconds, three thirds and just one unplaced run – a fifth in last December’s Inter Dominion final at Menangle.
As versatile as he was, those three Miracle Miles will have him best remembered as a sprinter. As too will the fact he went unbeaten in 12 starts over a mile at Menangle.
Part-owner Glen Moore, also one of Australia’s most astute harness punters, said King Of Swing ranked right up with the other champion he raced, Im Themightyquinn.
“They were very different horses, but King Of Swing’s body of work is pretty special,” he said. “Im Themightyquinn won three Inter Dominions, but not a Miracle Mile. King Of Swing won three Miracle Miles and not an Inter Dominion.
“After tonight it’s pretty hard to split them. I’m just incredibly lucky to have been part of some amazing years with them both.”
Whether it is racing – Standardbreds or Thoroughbreds – rehabilitation, agistment or breeding, Cobbitty Equine Farm’s location, facilities and operations ensure the horses welfare and development are paramount.