YAYAS Hot Spot was first emergency and an $81 chance when the Newcastle Mile field was released on Tuesday, but in many ways his shock win on Friday night was meant to be.
The eight-year-old gelding, given an inside run by Lachie Manzelmann, powered home in the group 1 to beat Little Rascal by a nose and pacesetter Picard by a half head in 1:54:7.
It was a first Newcastle Mile win for trainers Shane and Lauren Tritton, who were raised in the Hunter and dominated pacing in the region before moving to Menangle three years ago. It also gave Yayas Hot Spot a start in the $1 million Miracle Mile on March 2.
Odds-on favourite, track record-holder and defending champion Majordan galloped at the start and never recovered in the race, which was delayed by almost an hour because of a rain-affected track and nearby lightning. The rest of the meeting was then abandoned.
For the Trittons, the race and victory were a tribute to former Newcastle Harness Racing Club boss Ross Gigg, who died in May 2014. The Mile was named in his honour before it was elevated to group 1 status and $100,000 in prizemoney this year and he remained in the thoughts of many on Friday night.
Yayas Hot Spot was a fitting winner. He began his time with the Trittons racing at Newcastle in 2013 and won the Ross Gigg Memorial in 2015. He was third in the group 3 Ross Gigg Mile in 2018 and eighth in 2016.
”I see this as his race,” Shane said of Gigg.
“It's always been his race regardless what they name it. Even when he was around. His goal was to make it a group 1 race and they've done that now and I believe this is a tribute to him.
“Ross would certainly be very proud of what we've achieved tonight and he would probably be even prouder that a Newcastle team have taken it home.”
Sydney trainer Kevin Pizzuto was expected to dominate the race with Majordan and Picard. The Tritton-trained Maximan was next best in betting, but it was the Adam Sofoulis-owned Yayas Hot Spot, which had barrier two and gained a start after Rakarolla was scratched, that flew late from three back on the pegs.
“It’s definitely a special one, especially for that horse,” Tritton said.
“The owners have been big supporters of Newcastle for a long time and this horse has been here two years when no one wanted to come because it was only worth $30,000, and he just deserves it. I’m really proud.
“He’s been working super. You can’t go off how old they are and what they’re doing. At the end of the day, he’s feeling good. He’s raced the best horses in the Inter Dominion and he came out of that great.
“He’s been to the Miracle Mile before, the Hunter Cup, the Victoria Cup and the Inter Dominion, so you knew he was good enough. Just sometimes people forget.
“We got a bit of luck. The track surface might have helped us. It brought a few of them back to us. Instead of going 1:50, they’re going 1:54.”
Despite the weather, the meeting was a roaring success for NHRC. Secretary-manager Wayne Smith believed it was the biggest crowd at the track since the 2002 Inter Dominion heat won by the great Courage Under Fire.
Earlier, the Mark Jones-trained The Bus proved the track was in fine order before the rain, smashing the 2550-metre track record with a mile rate of 1:56:8.
Ellalong trainer-driver Michael Formosa took out the Yvonne Heaton Memorial, a race attracting many of the best Hunter-trained pacers, with Doubledelightbrigade.
His stable star Ultimate Art was sixth in the main event.