Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Mystic Magic – All Star Mile Review

Mystic Journey wins the inaugural All Star Mile from Hartnell & Alizee

Though the supporting race card was somewhat uninteresting, it was worth all the trouble of getting to Flemington via public transport for the first running of the All Star Mile.

As the papers have said, it was one of those fairytale results, where the bargain basement Tasmanian trained filly Mystic Journey blitzed the All Star Mile field and earned her connections over $2 million in prize money.

I have personally witnessed Mystic Journey racing four times for four wins, firstly on 22 September 2018 at Caulfield, where she won a listed race at big odds, then at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day when she won the Group 2 Fillies Classic, beating Fundamentalist who recently narrowly lost to The Autumn Sun.  Then of course I saw her win the Australian Guineas earlier this month.

She is certainly a special filly, whom I thought had a really good chance to take out the All Star Mile.
I reached Flemington at around 1.20 pm after a long bus ride from Ivanhoe to Queen Street, then a walk to Spencer Street to catch a train to Flemington Racecourse.

Race 2 was in progress as I made my way up the public lawn to stow my step behind the rose hedge near the access gate.  When passing through security at the railway entrance I thought for a moment that I would not be permitted to take the step inside, but eventually was waved through after the security guard checked with another guard who had no issue with it.

With the inner rail being out 7 metres, it would have been impossible to get good rail free photos without the step.

One of my aims for the day was to get Tony McEvoy’s signature on Sunlight’s name in the Coolmore Stud Stakes and Newmarket Stakes racebooks. I’d also taken along the Australian Guineas racebook on the off chance I could get Mystic Journey’s trainer Adam Trinder’s signature.

I therefore hung around in the stalls area for a fair while and missed both race 3 and race 4.

Mystic Journey  arrived whilst I was waiting, so I managed to get a blinkers free photo of her in her stall.

Mystic Journey

Note that in the above photo she is wearing a green bridle. Shortly after this photo was taken she was moved to another area close by and emerged with a red bridle.  Adam Trinder was with her so I attracted his attention and he signed my copy of the Australian Guineas racebook. He was pretty amazed to be asked and actually thanked me.  A pity I didn’t get his signature on the All Star Mile racebook, but I didn’t want to jinx Mystic Journey by presumption of victory.

Tony McEvoy didn’t show up in the stalls area, so I gave up on his signature and returned track side for the rest of the afternoon.

Race 5 was the Grand Classic Final, a race for 4 year olds and up over 2000 metres.

Wetakemanhattan won the race from Dark Pearl and El Don.

Grand Classic Final finish

Wetakemanhattan on his way to the barriers

Dark Pearl on his way to the barriers

More photography practice was afforded by Race 6, the Grand Mile Final, also a pretty open race with a number of imported horses having their first start in Australia.

The locally bred Prometheus romped in to win by three lengths from race favourite Mr Reckless and Remember the Name.

Prometheus then daylight at the Grand Mile Final finish

Mr Reckless on his way to the barriers

The All Star Mile was scheduled to run at 5.10 pm as Race 8, so there was one more race to run before that happened.

This was the March Stakes and somewhat more interesting than the previous races.

Widgee Turf was the starting favourite and won by a short margin after fighting out the finish with Tasmanian trained Hellova Street and Streets of Avalon.

March Stakes finish – Widgee Turf,  Hellova Street & Streets of Avalon
cross the line together

Widgee Turf on his way to the barriers

Hellova Street returns to scale

Streets of Avalon on his way to the barriers

After the March Stakes I stowed my step and headed for the mounting yard, ostensibly to watch the Group 1 Coolmore Classic in Sydney on the big screen and also grab a rose free section on the mounting yard fence to photograph the All Star Mile runners parading.

I certainly wasn’t expecting the razzmatazz that ensued in the mounting yard before the runners arrived. And forget the screening of the Coolmore Classic, as the interim period was taken up with over the top pomp and circumstance in the form of drummers, flag bearers, dancers (in glittering leotards) accompanied by loud musical effects.


Flags & Dancers

Jockeys enter through a corridor of dancers



As previously mentioned it was excessive and over the top, but it made me laugh and I did get some good snaps.

The decks were cleared before the horses were brought to the mounting yard.


Mystic Journey



Le Romain

Happy Clapper

Back on the Western Lawn just past the winning post, I reassembled my step and found a low rose hedge point that gave me a good view of the post and straight. I had to move around a bit to avoid being blocked by the official photographers.

The All Star Mile as a race was up there with Group 1 class in terms of interest and excitement, with Hawkshot setting the pace and Le Romain and Grunt close behind him. Mystic Journey started from barrier 13 and raced mid field, three wide, for most of the trip, then took off at the 200 in pursuit of Alizee who had seized the lead. She sailed past her to win by 1.75 lengths. Evergreen Hartnell, who raced on the inside and was blocked for a run until the last minute, ran second. Alizee hung on for third.

The cream certainly rose to the top, the first six runners home being  Group 1 winners and the 200/1 chances all finished at the tail of the field.

Mystic Journey returns to scale

Hartnell on his way to the barriers

Alizee returns to scale

Mystic Journey has been sent for a spell, but will be back in Melbourne in spring where she will tackle the Cox Plate.  She has never aced beyond 1600 metres, but her breeding suggests she’ll have no trouble running 2000 + metres.

As the sun sets on the great Winx, who has only two more races to run, it’s thrilling that already there’s a potential heir apparent in the Tasmanian filly.

And so ended Melbourne’s autumn racing carnival. Last year I was underwhelmed by the carnival, but this year was a great improvement mostly due to the performances of the star three year old fillies Sunlight and Mystic Journey.

Next Saturday I will be in Sydney to witness Winx running her penultimate race in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill. There are five Group 1 races on the program, the Golden Slipper being the feature event, supported by the Ranvet Stakes, Rosehill Guineas, George Ryder Stakes and The Galaxy.

The final Group 1 of Melbourne’s autumn season is the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night, where Sunlight will be aiming to add a third Group 1 win to her CV.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The All Star Mile

aus guineas_mystic journey 5
Mystic Journey – Flemington 2/3/19

This Saturday at Flemington sees the running of the inaugural All Star Mile, a new “pop up” race devised by Racing Victoria to emulate Sydney’s Everest sprint.

A field of 14 contestants will vie for the $5 million prize money and the fame and glory that goes with winning a new race for the first time.

Half the field are given no chance, these being the horses elected by the general public whose form leaves a lot to be desired. They all have big ownership groups, hence their popularity. Old Foundry has been scratched which allows one of the better quality emergencies to run, in this case Le Romain, a triple Group 1 winner.

Despite the dross, there are several classy gallopers in the field, these being Group 1 winners Happy Clapper, Alizee, Hartnell, Grunt, Amphitrite and Mystic Journey.

Alizee is the favourite with Mystic Journey being highly fancied as well. Happy Clapper has not won a race in Melbourne to date, but is likely to be in the finish if he has recovered from his last race against the mighty Winx.

I’ll be barracking for the Tasmanian filly. Go Mystic!

It will be tricky getting to Flemington tomorrow with buses replacing trains again, between Heidelberg and Parliament Stations this time.  I think I’ll travel by a different route as I’ll have to get to Southern Cross Station to catch the train to Flemington – the 250 Bus perhaps which terminates in Queen Street in the city and takes about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Sunny Super Saturday

newmarket_finish 2
Sunlight wins the Newmarket Handicap

The sun was shining and the roses were in full bloom for Super Saturday at Flemington last weekend.

With two super Group 1 races on the program it was a must attend event, and delivered accordingly.

Best of all was the win of three year old Sunlight in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap, the first filly to achieve this since Alinghi saluted in 2005. Interestingly, Alinghi was sired by Encosta De Lago, who is Sunlight’s great grand sire.

Due to the train timetable I was obliged to get to Flemington fairly early, so arrived as Race 2 was in progress. I saw the runners flash past but didn’t get any photographs. I’d successfully smuggled my step through security so stowed it in the usual spot before heading to the stalls area.

The rampant roses of autumn stymied photographing the runners in their stalls, though I did manage to get a rose free snap of Sunlight.

Sunlight in her stall

Giving up on that idea I returned to the prime spot just past the finishing post on the West Lawn.

Flemington was in party mode. In fact the theme for the day was The Big Garden Party and a large section of the West Lawn was taken up by Pop Up restaurants, wine bars and the like.

The  artistes who were insectoid stilt walkers the previous Saturday were dressed as flowers this time…

flowers 2

…and the three piece band whom I’ve seen wearing various costumes in the past, including as Christmas presents, were clad in floral suits for the occasion.

brass band 1

The most ridiculous entertainment on offer was a rotating selfie stick, where patrons had the chance to preen and pose for photos whilst being whirled on a platform. It was vastly amusing for this cynical spectator who wouldn’t be seen dead on such a contraption. Besides, I’d probably fall off.

selfie stick 1
Rotating selfie stick – picture one

selfie stick 7
Rotating selfie stick – picture two

At the far end of the West Lawn, dubbed The Elms, a band was playing covers. I heard their rather good version of the Bee Gees classic Staying Alive sometime during the afternoon.

Back to racing, Race 3 was the Furphy Ale Handicap, a race over 2000 metres and not terribly interesting as races go.

It was won by the aptly named Hang Man (from Windsor Knot/Halliard) who fought out the finish with Valac. Race favourite,  Thunder Cloud finished third.

race 3_finish 2
Hang Man (outside) head to head with Valac

race 3_hang man 5
Hang Man returns to scale

The Group 1 races were scheduled as Race 6 (Newmarket) and Race 8 (Australian Cup), so the earlier races were good for photography practice and a moderately interesting way to kill the time.

Having a step is an advantage, not only for surmounting the high outer rail, but also allowing some flexibilty in placement, when official photographers or the roses block one’s point of view.

Race 4 was the Incognitus Stakes, a sprint for three year olds over 1100 metres. 

Sunset Watch started as favourite, but was outclassed by Anjana who won by over a length.  Fine Dane finished third.

race 4 _finish 2
Anjana has a good lead racing to the finishing post

race 4 _anjana 3
Anjana returns to scale

The Group 2 Sires Produce Stakes, a race for two year olds over 1400 metres was the fifth race on the program.

South Australian colt Dalasan was the tote favourite, but Godolphin filly La Tene denied him victory, winning by a narrow margin with outsider Fling running third.

race 5_finish 4
Sires Produce Stakes finish – La Tene still leads with Dalasan in second place

race 5_la tene 4
La Tene returns to scale

race 5_dalasan 1
Dalasan on his way to the barriers

Regarded as one of the best in recent years, a huge field of 22 runners started in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap.  It included such quality sprinters as Redkirk Warrior who has the rare distinction of winning the race consecutively in 2017 and 2018. He was aiming to win it a third time, but ran out of a place. Other Group 1 winners in the field were Santa Ana Lane, Booker, In Her Time, Brave Smash, Voodoo Lad and of course Sunlight.

Sunlight carried the featherweight of 50.5kg, which ruled out her regular jockey Luke Currie who couldn’t comfortably meet the light weight, so her rider was Barend Vorster, a mystery jockey to most Australian followers of the turf. He was born in South Africa, but spent many years riding in Singapore, only recently becoming a stable jockey for Tony McEvoy.  His career in Australia has certainly started out well and he rode Sunlight a treat.

Sprints down the straight at Flemington are generally problematical to photograph, where big fields often split in two, racing on both sides of the track. Fortunately in this year’s Newmarket they raced in a bunch down the middle of the track, so I did manage to get several reasonable photos of the finish.

Leading from the start to the finish, Sunlight remained strong to the line, winning by almost a length from race favourite Osborne Bulls with Brave Smash finishing a narrow third.

newmarket_sunlight 9
Sunlight strolls back to scale

newmarket_osborne bulls 1
Osborne Bulls returns to scale

Sunlight’s next assignments are apparently the Group 1 William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on 22 March and the T J Smith Stakes at Randwick on Derby Day in early April.  She may very well succeed in winning them both.

Sandwiched between the two Group 1 events, the Group 2 Kewney Stakes was up next. A race for fillies over 1400 metres,  it resulted in a win for Spanish Whisper who defeated Victory Kingdom and race favourite Angelic Ruler by a narrow margin.

race 7_finish 3
Spanish Whisper & Victory Kingdom hit the line together

race 7_spanish whisper 2
Spanish Whisper returns to scale

The must see race of the day in Sydney was the Randwick Guineas, starring The Autumn Sun.  Watching it on the big screen from  a distance it seemed that The Autumn Sun couldn’t win, with super consistent filly Fundamentalist stealing a big lead down the straight. With an amazing turn of foot, rather reminiscent of his famous stablemate Winx, The Autumn Sun caught up with Fundamentalist on the line to win by a head.

That was a fine segue into the Australian Cup at Flemington.

Avilius was the hot favourite to take out the Australian Cup, but finished out of a place. Harlem’s last win was in the Australian Cup last year and he repeated that feat, winning at big odds from the game Shillelagh who looked to be the winner, and race leader Trap For Fools.

australian cup_finish 3
Australian Cup finish – note angle of shot is deceptive

australian cup_harlem 5
Harlem returns to scale

australian cup_shillelagh 5
Shillelagh returns to scale

australian cup_trap for fools 1
Trap For Fools on his way to the barriers

I was hoping to get a photo of 2017 Melbourne Cup winner, Rekindling, but he whizzed out onto the track so fast I missed the shot. Ditto with him returning to scale. However, as he finished last I inadvertantly managed to capture several shots as he crossed the finish line well behind the rest of the field.

australian cup_rekindling 3
Rekindling at the tail end of the field

The Lloyd Williams horses, Rekindling and stable mate Almandin, 2016 Melbourne Cup winner, are something of an enigma.  Why were they in the field?  Both finished well back and never threatened the leaders.  Alamandin hasn’t raced for almost a year and Rekindling’s last race was the 2017 Melbourne Cup.  They both were nominated for next Saturday’s All Star Mile and were first and second emergencies until they were withdrawn from consideration.

Normally, Super Saturday at Flemington marks the last Saturday of Melbourne’s Autumn Racing Carnival, but this year the oxymoronic All Star Mile next Saturday rounds off the season.

A new fangled concept race worth $5 million, the All Star Mile field was assembled through a public vote, with four wild card entries selected by the organisers.  Far from being All Stars, half the field are 100/1 chances.

Whatever, it should be an interesting race, which I’m looking forward to seeing in person.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A Princess of Tasmania & The Queen of the World

aus guineas_finish 2
Mystic Journey wins the Australian Guineas

Girl power was to the fore again last Saturday with Queen of the Turf, Winx, winning her 31st consecutive race, and also achieving 23 Group 1 wins - a world record.

At Flemington, Tasmanian filly Mystic Journey won the feature Australian Guineas, becoming only the 5th filly to win the race and the first Tasmanian trained horse to win a Group 1 on the mainland.

Because of the extreme heat, the races at Flemington were brought forward by two hours, so the last race on the card was at 3.20pm.

And hot it was, though it deterred the crowds making it easy to find a seat in the shade between races.

I reached Flemington earlier than I originally planned, shortly before midday, in time to watch race 3, the Bob Hoysted Handicap, a sprint over 1000 metres.

It was won by She’s So High by a length from veteran Thermal Current with I Am Someone running third.

race 3_she's so high 4
She’s so High returns to scale

I decided to give race 4 a miss and go and check out the stalls. Not many of the star horses had arrived, so I didn’t get any stall photos, and besides the rampant rose hedges made getting clear shots very difficult.

Returning to my favourite spot on at the access gate, I retrieved my step from behind the rose hedge and pretty well stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.

The roses were out in abundance…

roses 1
Rose hedge next to access gate, with my step ready to stand on

Race 5 was the not very interesting Seppelt Wines Plate, a handicap race for three year olds over 1400 metres.

Age of Chivalry, last seen running second to The Inevitable in the C S Hayes Stakes was the favourite, but he was beaten by a nose by 14/1 shot Mr Quickie, with Brilliant Choice a short distance back, running third.

race 5 _finish 3
Seppelts Wine Plate finish – Mr Quickie, Age of Chivalry & Brilliant Choice cross the finish line together

race 5 _mr quickie 4
Mr Quickie returns to scale

race 5 _age of chivalry  1
Age of Chivalry on his way to the barriers

The next three races were of more interest and race 6, the Group 3 Shaftesbury Avenue Handicap also resulted in a long shot winner. Violate stole the prize from Streets of Avalon and Zebulon.

race 6_finish 2
Violate & Streets of Avalon cross the finish line together

race 6_violate 4
Violate returns to scale

race 6_streets of avalon 1
Streets of Avalon on his way to the barriers

race 6_zebulon 3
Zebulon on his way to the barriers

The David Hayes trained Fifty Stars, So Si Bon and Cool Chap ran the trifecta in race 7, the Group 2 Blamey Stakes.  2017 Melbourne Cup runner up Johannes Vermeer, having his first start since that race, finished fourth.

race 7_finish 3
Blamey Stakes finish – Fifty Stars leads with So Si Bon on his outside

race 7_fifty stars 1
Fifty Stars on his way to the barriers

race 7_so si bon 1
So Si Bon on his way to the barriers

race 7_cool chap 3
Cool Chap on his way to the barriers

race 7_johannes vermeer l 1
Johannes Vermeer on his way to the barriers

Due to the heat, the interval between races was reduced to 35 minutes rather than the usual 40 minutes, so it wasn’t long to wait for the feature Group 1 Australian Guineas, scheduled to run at 2.45pm.

Amphitrite was the starting favourite with Mystic Journey being second choice.

I got some nice photos of the field as they headed to the starting gates…

aus guineas_amphitrite 2

aus guineas_extra brut 4
Extra Brut

aus guineas_long leaf 3
Long Leaf

aus guineas_stars of carrum 4
Stars of Carrum

aus guineas_ringerdingding 5

aus guineas_the inevitable 2
The Inevitable

aus guineas_mystic journey 11
Mystic Journey

aus guineas_hawkshot 1

The talented Tasmanian filly had drawn barrier 1, either a blessing or a curse, so Mystic Journey raced close to the speed inside Amphitrite in about fifth place. Hawkshot, who had drawn a wide barrier took the lead shortly after the start and led throughout until Mystic Journey broke through close to the finish line to go on and win by over two lengths. Hawkshot held on to finish second ahead of Amphitrite (third) and Ringerdingding (fourth).

Mystic Journey travelled to Melbourne by boat, aboard the Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry that crosses Bass Strait from Devonport to Melboune.

A former ferry across the Bass Strait was the Princess of Tasmania which operated from 1959 to 1972, hence the title of this post. I travelled on it in 1971 with my boyfriend of the time and remember the adventures we had hitchhiking from Devonport to Hobart, then up the East Coast on the return journey.

We’ll next see Mystic Journey in the All Star Mile on 16 March at Flemington. She was chosen as one of the wild card entries yesterday along with Hawkshot and Hartnell. She is building up an impressive picket fence having won her last six races.

The last race on the card was the Group 3 Frances Tressady Stakes,  an interesting race for fillies and mares over 1400 metres. 

As the afternoon was still young I stayed for it and tarried another ten minutes at the track to watch the Chipping Norton Stakes on the big screen.

Oregon’s Day denied race favourite Clarice Cliffs victory in the Frances Tressady  Stakes, registering her first win for almost a year.  The 2018 Victorian Oaks winner Aristia finished third.

race 9_finish 1
Approaching the finishing post in the Frances Tressady Stakes

race 9_oregon's day 5
Oregon’s Day returns to scale

race 9_clarice cliffs 3
Clarice Cliffs on her way to the barriers

race 9_aristia 1
Aristia on her way to the barriers

What more can be said about Winx other than a quote from the Bard:

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.

In the Chipping Norton Stakes, Happy Clapper issued a challenge to the mighty mare, sprinting  away from the start and leading throughout, increasing the distance between himself and Winx by a wider and wider margin.  For a brief moment we all thought she could get beaten. But no, she overtook Happy Clapper close to the finish and won by over a length, setting a new course record into the bargain.

Winx has only two more races to contest before she retires, but she could easily have returned in Spring for another campaign as she appears to be just as good as she ever was.

As mentioned before, Flemington was not crowded at all. The Kid Zone was at the far end of the west lawn and the theme was Enchanted Forest. I didn’t bother going to investigate it, but two stilt walkers dressed as ladybirds stalked around the public lawn at intervals.

When they saw me focussing my camera on them, they adopted the following pose. They must have been boiling in their costumes!

ladybirds 2
Stilt walkers

Next week is Super Saturday, again at Flemington, featuring the Group 1 Australian Cup and Newmarket Handicap.

I’m looking forward to seeing Sunlight again, who is running in the Newmarket, and keen to get a glimpse of 2017 Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling in the Australian Cup.