Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Carnival Is Over–Emirates Stakes Day Review

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Mounting yard gate – back view of  Emirates winner, Hucklebuck returning to scale

It certainly wasn’t a day for favourites at last Saturday’s Emirates Stakes meeting at Flemington. Most of the races resulted in surprise winners with the favourites running out of a place.

Perhaps the heat was the cause. It was a hot and windy day and the track was upgraded from a Good 3 to Good 2 as the afternoon progressed and several horses were scratched due to the firmness of the racing surface.

When I arrived at the track, shortly before the running of Race 4 the Hilton Hotels & Resorts Stakes, there was already a sizable crowd in attendance. Not at Derby Day or Cup Day levels, but they comfortably filled the public lawn area. Considering that the general admission cost was a hefty $60.00, I was astounded that many of those present didn’t appear to show the slightest interest in the racing action. It’s traditionally a family day, and children were there in abundance.

One largish group had brought their own seating in the form of fold out chairs and had set them up in a semi circle in front of my favourite position on the fence, so I observed them as I squeezed my way through the barricade of chairs. Not one of the group ever got up from their chairs to watch the races, even though they were so close to the action.  What’s the point of going to a first class race meeting and showing no interest in it? It would have been cheaper for them to all meet up in a park.

Racing Victoria, after the flag waving incident on Cup Day that resulted in the injury and subsequent death of Araldo, horses returning to scale in the Group 1 races bypassed the long rose walkway back to the mounting yard, and instead returned via the entrance at the clock tower.  The non Group 1 races all used the rose path, but anyone  waving distracting articles were quickly stopped.  It sounds like an overreaction, when you think back to Black Caviar’s racing days, when flags were all over the place and they handed them out at the entrance gates.

Personally, I am more spooked by shrieking young females, one of whom I could not help but overhear after the 8th race. Her bet, Suavito, had just won, and all the non winners were returning to scale, but any of them could have been the one she was screaming her praises for as the winner had not at that point returned to scale. The winner is generally the last to return, delayed by the media interview of the jockey on the track shortly after race finish.

Enough of grouching about the general stupidity of Spring race goers, and back to the real thing.

After watching Race 4, which was won by Lord Aspen, the only favourite to win on the day, I wandered to the peaceful and uncluttered stalls area. Even on Melbourne Cup day the stalls and parade ring section was relatively deserted.

I found a few of the stars already in attendance in their stalls…

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Chautauqua in his stall

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The lovely Lankan Rupee in his stall

…and in the parade ring I spotted star Irish sprinter Slade Power being exercised.

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Slade Power in the parade ring

As Race 5 was due to start, I returned to the public lawn and easily found a spot at the mounting yard fence to watch the parade. It was the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a 2600 metres race for stayers who missed out on a run in the Melbourne Cup. British mare Noble Protector was the favourite.

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Noble Protector

The race was won by another import the German bred Le Roi with local bred Prince of Penzance running second and my fancy Big Memory (from France) who ran third.

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Le Roi returning to scale, a happy Damian Oliver saluting the crowd

The first of the Group 1 races was up next.  With an exemplary field the Darley Classic was the pick of the races on the day. A riveting sprint down the Flemington straight, the finish was fought out by Lankan Rupee, Chautauqua and Sydney visitor Terravista who was the winner. Less than half a length separated the three of them.  Slade Power missed the start and was never a threat.

One good thing about the bypass via the clock tower, was the unique photo opportunity to capture the returning horses from a different angle.

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Lankan Rupee returns to scale after running third in the Darley Classic

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Chautauqua returns to scale after running second in the Darley Classic

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Rebel Dane returns to scale

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Temple of Boom returns to scale

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Terravista returns to scale after his victory in the Darley Classic

Though Australia’s stayers have been upstaged by the Internationals, our sprinters are world class, even with Black Caviar no longer on the scene. If she was,  no doubt she’d thrash the lot of them. Still it’s good to see really competitive  sprint races again. Lankan Rupee, Chautauqua, Terravista and maybe Deep Field will all hopefully return in Autumn to fight for more Group 1 glory.

The feature race, the Emirates Stakes was the next race on the agenda, so it was back to the mounting yard fence to see them parade. I’d only had few modest bets, and they’d all come third. I of course had my money on The Cleaner in the Emirates and his odds were a good 10/1. You guessed it, he ran third.

Hucklebuck stamped himself as a potential star of the turf with his win in the Emirates Stakes, his first Group 1 victory.  The Cleaner, as expected, set up  a steady pace in the lead, and was there to be caught by the swoopers. He held on really well to finish third. Lucky Hussler narrowly missed out on winning, but had to settle for second place.

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Unplaced favourite Contributer returns to scale

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The Cleaner in the mounting yard

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Lucky Hussler returns to scale

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Hucklebuck  returns to scale after winning the Emirates Stakes

I only stayed for one more race, the Group 2 Momentum Energy Stakes, a race  for mares run over 2000 metres.

By this time a cool change had come through, so the wind that had been a fierce hot northerly, swung to the south but was still quite strong.

I thought Solicit was a good chance to win. After all she had a couple of consecutive wins back in the autumn and has been close up a few times this spring. She ended up finishing fifth behind Suavito, Girl in Flight and Amanpour who filled the places.

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Solicit in the mounting yard

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Tango’s Daughter – ran fourth

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Girl in Flight – second

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Amanpour – third

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Suavito returns to scale along the rose path after winning the Momentum Energy Stakes

And so ended the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, though there are a couple of good races at Sandown next Saturday which I will watch with interest.

Looking back over the Spring Racing Carnival, other than the multinationals winning the three big races, no real stars emerged, most of the other Group 1 races being won by one horse or another. The only horses to win two Group 1’s were Dissident (Memsie Stakes & Makybe Diva Stakes) and Trust In A Gust (Rupert Clark Stakes & Toorak Handicap).

Though probably not as good as the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival, it still was interesting all through, and I enjoyed all the race meetings I attended. Highlights were Lucia Valentina winning the Turnbull Stakes, The Cleaner winning the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and the JRA Cup, Fawkner winning the Caulfield Stakes, and of course the remarkable win of Adelaide in the Cox Plate.

And to finish off this entry I must mention the passing of two old stars of the Australian Turf with a nose thumb to the fundamentalists of the Coalition For The Protection of Racehorses, whose agenda remains mysterious and very iffy.

The two horses in question are Rough Habit and Veandercross, both New Zealand bred and prominent racehorses in the early 1990s.  I remember them well and probably even saw them race.

Rough Habit was euthanised last Friday at the age of 28, and Veandercross died on Caulfield Cup Day at the age of 26.

Rough Habit won 21 feature races, 11 of them at Group 1 level. He won the Stradbroke Handicap twice and the Doomben Cup three times. He narrowly missed winning the 1994 Cox Plate.  He was a cult hero in Queensland and even featured on an Australia Post stamp one time.

Veandercross won 15 races, 8 at Group 1 level and was very unlucky not to have won the 1992 Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup, running a close second in both races. His jockey Shane Dye was blamed both times for his defeat.

Rest In Peace Roughie and Vandy.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Carnival Goes Out With A Bang–Emirates Stakes Day

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The Cleaner – Cox Plate Day

It’s the last day of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival on Saturday and Flemington throws open its gates again to host the Emirates Stakes meeting, featuring two fabulous Group 1 races.

So far this Spring, the three major staying races have been won by horses from three different countries – Cox Plate winner Adelaide is from Ireland, Caulfield Cup winner, the late Admire Rakti was from Japan, and Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist is from Germany – so the Spring racing carnival has gone all multi national these days.

Let’s hope this does not continue at the weekend, and that one or two of our local heroes can win a prestigious Group 1 from a foreign invader.

The first of the Group 1 races is the Darley Classic, formerly known as the Patinack Farm Classic. It’s a sprint over 1200 metres and has attracted a really classy field of crack sprinters including Lankan Rupee, Buffering, new kid on the block Chautauqua, and top Irish sprinter Slade Power.  I daren’t speculate on who will win.

Chautauqua is the current favourite which means Lankan Rupee will be at reasonably good odds for a change.  Slade Power has peculiar barrier manners, that require him to wear a hood until the gates open, and to be loaded last. Racing Victoria has not made many concessions to his eccentricities, so who knows what will happen when they jump.

Tassie hero, the “Lion of Longford”, aka The Cleaner is going for Group 1 glory in the Emirates Stakes, a race over 1600 metres.  Rather than racing against stayers, he faces a field of well performed milers. These include Hooked who won the Crystal Mile at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day, Hucklebuck who won his last race over 1400 metres  at Flemington a week ago, and Irish import Contributer who is highly fancied and will probably start as favourite.

I’ll be barracking for The Cleaner, who hopefully can run the rest of the field ragged and hang on to the lead to the end. He’ll also be at very good odds, being nowhere near favoured by the Newspaper tipsters.

I’m looking forward as always to going to the track. It will be the last race meeting I’ll attend this year most likely, so god knows what I’ll do on Saturday afternoon from now on.

Emirates Stakes Day, as I discovered last year is a really pleasant meeting, not crowded and pretty laid back.  It’s the pick of the four day Flemington carnival for that reason.

It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll But I Like It–The Rolling Stones at Rod Laver Arena

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Rolling Stones live at Rod Laver Arena – 5 November 2014

Pity the poor souls who booked to see the Rolling Stones at Hanging Rock on Saturday night. The show has been cancelled because Mick Jagger has a throat infection and has been advised by his doctors to take it easy for a while.

Perhaps he overextended himself last Wednesday night, when he and his fellow cohorts in the legendary rock n roll band put on a show to remember.

I’m terribly pleased that I did attend the event. I know, it cost a fortune, but my outlay for the concert was offset by a generous Ticketek gift voucher from Nu Country. They give me a voucher every year for maintaining their website, and I like to use it on blockbuster shows I normally would not attend.  Some are disappointing, some are surprising and some are great. The Rolling Stones were great.

The Stones were scheduled to start at 8.00pm, but eventually made it to the stage at 8.30pm, the big screen behind the stage showing a glowing red sun, with a booming base note ringing out as the Stones pranced onto the stage. They launched instantly into Jumping Jack Flash and the crowd erupted in delight. That was followed by It’s Only Rock n Roll, then Tumbling Dice, all heavy rockers, before slowing down for Wild Horses.

Throughout the Australian tour, the Stones have given the fans an opportunity to request a song, not on the regular set list. Melbourne’s choice was Street Fighting Man, and the Stones delivered it in riveting fashion.

When Leonard Cohen performed here a couple of years ago, everyone marvelled at how spry he was for his age. The Stones left him for dead, Mick Jagger in particular, who pranced and danced with his habitual panache and looked very fit despite the ravages of time showing on his face. Even Keith Richard was able to arise from a kneeling position with grace and little effort. You marvel that he’s still alive, let alone upright on stage playing a guitar.

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Keith Richard solo

Ronnie Wood was the character of the original Stones bunch, wearing vibrant red sneakers and occasionally sneaking a cigarette in the strictly no smoking venue. If you’re a Rolling Stone you obviously can get away with political incorrectness. It was almost a nostalgic moment watching him smoke – something you never see at concerts these days.

The sound was excellent, perfectly mixed and crystal clear as far as vocals were concerned.  My ears were only slightly buzzing after the show.

Rod Laver Arena was packed to the rafters, and the crowd was a mix of old and young fans, that really grooved to the band.

Audience participation included lots of clapping, arm waving, singing along and woo wooing at appropriate times, for instance the opening segue for Sympathy With The Devil, where Mick Jagger appeared in a fiery red cloak…

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Shot of screen with Mick Jagger superimposed in a fiery scene

Keith Richard got a chance to perform two songs solo  - Happy and Before They Make Me Run. Both he and Mick were in fine voice and were ably backed by singers Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler. As well as the core Rolling Stones – Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts - there was an additional keyboard player, Chuck Leavell, bass player Bobby Keys, and saxophonist Tim Ries. Former Rolling Stone, Mick Taylor also made a guest appearance and a local choir, Consort Of Melbourne, lent their angelic voices to You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

I reckon Mick Jagger changed his shirt about five times, and Keith Richard swapped his original green shirt for a blue one.

As for light shows and extravagant effects, there was none of that at the Stones concert. It was all low key, but effective.

My seat was on the lower tier, so I had a really good view of the stage, close enough to see the lines on their faces. However, my camera couldn’t handle the lighting and action, so the above photos are the best I got from my vantage point. 

It was a great concert, really enjoyable and it sounded genuine – the REAL  thing live – the Rolling Stones as we all remember them.

Inimitable, they are indeed the greatest rock n roll band in the world.

Age has not wearied them, nor custom staled their infinite variety.

Long Live The Rolling Stones!

Set List

  1. Jumpin' Jack Flash
  2. You Got Me Rocking
  3. It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)
  4. Tumbling Dice
  5. Wild Horses
  6. Doom and Gloom
  7. Street Fighting Man (by request)
  8. Out of Control
  9. Honky Tonk Women (followed by band introductions)
  10. Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  11. Happy (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  12. Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor)
  13. Miss You
  14. Gimme Shelter
  15. Start Me Up
  16. Sympathy for the Devil
  17. Brown Sugar

Encore:

  1. You Can't Always Get What You Want (with the Consort Of Melbourne)
  2. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (with Mick Taylor)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Aftermath–The Derby & Melbourne Cup

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Victoria Derby winner Preferment returns to scale

Weatherwise, no two days could have been less alike.

On Derby Day it was cold and windy with occasional showers, and on Cup Day it was hot and sunny in the main.

One good thing about the weather on Derby Day was that it discouraged the party crowd from filling the public lawn with their blankets, and even reduced crowd numbers from the year before.

So Derby Day was that much more enjoyable, with getting a drink, finding a good spot to watch the races, or placing a bet, being easy.

I arrived fairly early at Flemington racecourse, in plenty of time to watch the first Group 1 race, it being the Coolmore Stud Stakes.

It was won by the very handsome Brazen Beau, from outsider Delectation with Kuro running third. The favourite Rich Enuff must have had enough after his gruelling battle with Shooting To Win in the Caulfield Guineas, as he finished well back in 7th place. And Earthquake and Rubick wore themselves out with a speed competition on the inside and also finished well back.

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Brazen Beau returns to scale after winning the Coolmore Stud Stakes

Next up was the Lexus Stakes where Signoff earned himself a place in the Melbourne Cup field, beating home Big Memory and La Amistad.

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Signoff returns to scale after winning the Lexus Stakes

The second of the Group 1 races the Mackinnon Stakes followed 40 minutes later and Happy Trails finally got his day of glory for this spring with the narrowest of victories over He’s Your Man.  English horse Farraaj ran third.

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Happy Trails leads the field back to scale after being declared the winner of the Mackinnon Stakes.

The Derby as usual resulted in the favourite being nowhere in the finish. Hampton Court obviously didn’t have the staying power to run the distance and finished eighth.  Chris Waller won yet another Group 1 race with his runner Preferment, who certainly could run the distance, beating home Bondeiger and Nozomi by a short margin.

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Preferment in the winner’s rug posing for the cameras.

By this time it was about 4.00pm and there were still two races to go. the final Group 1, the Myer Classic and the tab.com.au Stakes.

My money was on Sweet Idea in the Myer Classic, but she was beaten into second place by longshot, but talented, mare Bonaria, who appreciated the sting out of the ground (due to the rain). Catkins, reliable as always, ran third.

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Catkins on her way to the track

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Sweet Idea leaving the mounting yard for the track

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Bonaria returns to scale after winning the Myer Classic

The last race on the program was worth staying for to witness up and coming, unbeaten sprinter, Deep Field, win his 5th race in succession.

I took a number of photos of him…

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Deep Field in his stall earlier in the afternoon

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Deep Field in the mounting yard

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Deep Field returns to scale after winning the tab.com.au Stakes

Deep Field won by a length from Driefontein and In Cahoots

The Melbourne Cup

As previously mentioned Melbourne Cup day was hot and sunny, so the annual race goers were out in force at Flemington yesterday. I made it to the course, on a mostly empty train at about 2.00 pm, one hour before the big event. I therefore had plenty of time to make my way through the hordes of partying patrons, spread out all over the grass, to my usual possie on the fence next to the path where the horses leave the mounting yard. As there are sliding  gates there one can just stand around and get front fence positioning when the gates are closed.

Once in position I stayed put and luckily arrived at the right moment, as the security guys closed the gates shortly afterwards, and kept them closed until after the Melbourne Cup was run.

There wasn’t long to wait for the main event, and in the meanwhile you were entertained by the pre-race pomp and circumstance, such as the ceremonial handing over of the 2014 Gold Cup by last year’s winning trainer, i.e Gai Waterhouse. She paused just in front of me on her way to the mounting yard and saluted the crowd with said Cup.

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Then there was a choir who sang Heroes Live Forever, then the National Anthem.

It’s rather ironic that the first song can’t apply to Admire Rakti and Araldo who tragically lost their lives yesterday, casting a sombre light over the day, though no doubt memories of their sad passing will linger for many years.

I am therefore glad that I managed to photograph both of them as they made their way to track.  Admire Rakti, other than being agitated by the crowds and noise, gives no indication that he is suffering a heart condition. How would you know anyway?

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Rest In Peace Admire Rakti

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Rest In Peace Araldo

As mentioned before the place was packed, but I must admit it did add to the atmosphere of excited expectation as the horses paraded in the mounting yard, then made their way to the track.

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Mounting Yard gate

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The crowd opposite where I was standing

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The winner Protectionist on his way to the track

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Ever the bridesmaid, never the bride – Red Cadeaux returns to scale after the race.

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Protectionist returns to scale after his victory in the Melbourne Cup

Having not attended the Melbourne Cup for 43 years, it was quite a change being there in person rather than watching the race on TV.  I didn’t find out about Admire Rakti’s death until I got home, so left the course in good spirits after the Melbourne Cup and waited for the next train on a crowded platform.

Would I attend it again? Quite possibly, now that I know the worst about the crowds. Actually I didn’t witness any loutish behaviour while I was there, and the people standing near me on the fence were all pleasant and friendly.

I didn’t even attempt to place a place a bet at Flemington, but used my online betting account with Sportsbet to have each way bets on Admire Rakti, Fawkner, Lucia Valentina and Who Shot Thebarman.  Fortunately Who Shot Thebarman ran third and paid a reasonable dividend for the place, so I got back half of what I had expended on the race.

I could have written at greater length on my day at the Derby and Melbourne Cup, but time constraints have forced me to keep it short.

As I type, I have only an hour or two to have dinner and get to Rod Laver Arena for the Rolling Stones concert.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Melbourne Cup Enigma

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Fawkner – Caulfield Guineas Day 2014

Ah, the Melbourne Cup… the yearly puzzle in which one tries to calculate the impossible.

Last year I managed to pick the winner, Fiorente for the first time in years, so let’s hope my speculations this time around prove to be prophetically accurate.

There used to be a guideline I used in the past where I would select three horses based on the following formula:

  1. The best International performer – obviously this year it is the Japanese stayer Admire Rakti
  2. The best horse with what I call the Zabeel factor – there are several to choose from this year – Fawkner, Lucia Valentina, Brambles, Who Shot Thebarman and Precedence
  3. A Bart Cummings runner – Precedence is his only runner  this year, and as he is now 9 years old, he’s not given much chance

I would really like either Fawkner, Who Shot Thebarman or Lucia Valentina to win, and think they all have the breeding and ability to do so.

Fawkner ran sixth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, but has returned a much improved horse this year, and now races on the speed, which has served him well with victory in the Caulfield Stakes and a close second in the Cox Plate

Who Shot Thebarman has won over the distance (3200 metres) in the Auckland Cup this year. He loves Flemington and has two good wins on the course this Spring and also has experienced Cup jockey Glen Boss in the saddle.

Lucia Valentina showed how special she is when she won the Turnbull Stakes earlier in the season, and she finished third in the Caulfield  Cup, reportedly running the best time in the race. There are those who doubt she can run the 3200 metres, but her sound staying pedigree says otherwise.  She is lightly weighted and is an excellent chance.

Of the locally trained imports with a chance, there is Signoff who took out the Lexus Stakes last Saturday, who seems to be everyone’s favourite at the moment. It may be to my detriment that I don’t warm to him, but with hardly any weight and top Brazilian jockey Joao Moreira on board, he could well give Darren Weir his first Melbourne Cup victory.

My top Ruffie is Willing Foe simply because I like his name.

50 years ago …

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The above newspaper clipping from 1964 shows Polo Prince with his connections after winning the 1964 Melbourne Cup. He’s not one of the more famous winners, and he hardly won anything else. He was a New Zealander out of Marco Polo by Sou’-East.

I haven’t attended a Melbourne Cup meeting since 1971, which was won by the grey stallion Silver Knight, who later sired the 1984 Cup winner Black Knight. I can’t remember much about that meeting, but I probably had a bet on Silver Knight, him being a grey, as I’d gone to the 1970 Melbourne Cup where another grey, Baghdad Note, won and I’d had my money on him.

This year I have decided to brave the undoubted crowds and head to Flemington for the great race.  The weather is expected to be hot and sunny, a change from last Saturday where it was cold, windy and slightly damp. I haven’t had a chance to write about Derby Day, but I’ll try and get something posted on Wednesday and incorporate the Melbourne Cup as well.

My intention is to arrive an hour before - and only stay for - the Melbourne Cup as the rest of the race card is pretty uninteresting. 

In the meantime, Good Luck and hope you pick the winner.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Roses Will Be Blooming - Derby Day 2014

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Flemington Roses

The 2014 Spring Racing Carnival has only a little over a week to run, and then it will be all over for another year.

But to take it out in grand fashion, Flemington hosts four days of spectacular racing excitement, the first of these being Derby Day on Saturday.

Last year I attended Derby Day for the first time, and despite the crowds found it quite enjoyable, so I intend to brave it for a second time and get some value from my Flemington season’s ticket.

How can I resist, when such a fantastic racing card is programmed, with many of my black book horses scheduled to run. There are  four Group 1 races – Coolmore Stud Stakes, Mackinnon Stakes, Victoria Derby & Myer Classic – and all the other races are at either Group 2 or Group 3 level.

The first race is at 11.30am, but as it’s going to be a long day I don’t intend to arrive at the track until slightly later, in time for the first of the Group 1 races, the Coolmore Stud Stakes, scheduled at 1.30pm.

And what a great field it has! A race for three year olds over 1200 metres it has the cream of this year’s 3yo crop in the field, such as Rich Enuff, Scissor Kick, Rubick, Earthquake, Eloping, Brazen Beau and Kuro as the main contenders. Who to choose?  Rich Enuff will no doubt start as favourite, but I’d like to see Rubick or Earthquake take the prize. At least they’ll probably be at good odds for a change. Whatever, it looks a doozy of a race.

The Coolmore Stud Stakes is followed by the Group 3 Lexus Stakes  (2500 metres) and is for stayers hoping to gain entrance into the Melbourne Cup.  Top contenders are Geelong Cup winner Caravan Rolls On, Big Memory who won the Herbert Power StakesLord Van Percy and Marksmanship, aspiring Internationals, and well connected mares La Amistad (Makybe Diva’s half sister) and Let’s Make Adeal (Let’s Elope’s granddaughter).

Next up is the second of the Group 1 races, the Mackinnon Stakes, run over 2000 metres. It has a super field as well, with a number of the usual suspects aiming for more Group 1 glory – Happy Trails, Foreteller, Moriarty, Hawkspur, Brambles and Criterion – all seen recently running in either the Caulfield Cup or the Cox Plate. Also in the picture is Rising Romance who ran second to Admire Rakti in the Caulfield Cup and Sydney stayer, He’s Your Man, who won the Epsom Stakes at his last start.  Last year the race was won by International visitor Side Glance who is scratched due to lameness this year. However there are two mystery British horses – Farraaj and Amralah – who could steal it this year. I’ll be barracking for Rising Romance who deserves a win after running a close second at her last two starts.

The Victoria Derby has always been a real puzzle of a race, with any of the field likely to take out the prize. Gai Waterhouse has great confidence in her entry Hampton Court who is the favourite after he won the Spring Champion Stakes in emphatic fashion at his last start. However, favourites have a bad record in the Derby and it has mostly been won by an outsider or secondary favourites. So who else has a chance? For a start there’s Moonovermanhattan who won The Vase at Moonee Valley last Saturday, and Atmosphere who ran second  (whom I fancy a lot), Royal Standing who I just noticed is a half brother to Super Cool, and the other “cool” customer Magicool, who beat Atmosphere earlier in the season at Flemington in an 1800 metre race.

The final Group 1 race is the Myer Classic for fillies and mares, run over 1600 metres. Red Tracer beat her stable mate Catkins last year in this. Red Tracer is no longer on the scene having been retired to stud, but Catkins is still around and is part of the excellent field. Top pick is Sweet Idea who won the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes at her last start with Girl Guide running second and Catkins third. The favourite however is May’s Dream who is yet to win a race this spring, but is due for a win. Also in with a good chance is Star Fashion who has won her last two races and Forever Loved who has winning form at Flemington.

A sprint over 1200 metres, the Group 2  tab.com.au Stakes is the last race on program and is worth sticking around for, due to the presence of boom Sydney horse Deep Field in the field. He is unbeaten in four starts and broke a course record at one of his latest outings at Canterbury. Trying to ruin his party will be the rejuvenated Bel Sprinter who dead heated with Miracles of Life in the Caulfield Sprint earlier this month and Adamantium who loves the Flemington straight.

The weather is expected to be somewhat damp tomorrow in Melbourne. Even though today is a hot 30°C, a change is forecast to pass through overnight. If it is wet, at least it might deter the party goers from spreading their blankets all over the public lawn, and maybe even discourage them from attending at all.  I live in hope.

Monday, October 27, 2014

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling–Cox Plate Review

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Adelaide on his way to the barriers prior to winning the Cox Plate

Though technically only three (his birth date is 19/2/11) Irish colt Adelaide blitzed the Cox Plate field with an astounding run from last position. Starting his move at the 800 metre mark, he raced down the extreme outside to overtake the leaders in the straight and win by a short margin from Fawkner and Silent Achiever, part of a wall of horses hitting the line together.

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Just after the corner into the straight – The Cleaner is slightly ahead of Fawkner Adelaide is on the extreme outside just about to pass Silent Achiever & Side Glance (on her inside).

Another wall of horses finish featured in the other Group 1 race over the weekend.

Lankan Rupee finally quashed his Moonee Valley hoodoo and returned to the winner’s circle with a bold front running win in the Manikato Stakes.  It was another exciting photo finish with little separating the first eight runners who crossed the line, strung out across the track.  Angelic Light grabbed second and outsider Famous Seamus was awarded third place.

I’ve been rather jumping the gun, describing the Cox Plate finish…

When I arrived at the track at about 2.30 pm it was just after Race 3 the Group 2 Drummond Golf Fillies Classic. It was won by Lumosty who outclassed the rest of the field winning by 2 lengths from Tahni Dancer and Berimbau.

As there was plenty of time before Race 4, and as is my usual habit, I wandered out to the stalls area to see who had already arrived. I came across The Cleaner in his stall, with a small crowd of people gathered around.

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A nice head shot of The Cleaner in his stall

Also nearby were the International contingent, including eventual Cox Plate winner Adelaide. He’s a beautiful looking animal.

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Adelaide in his stall

Next door to him was Au Revoir

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…and Guest of Honour

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It was great to see the 2008 Cox Plate winner Maldivian in attendance, primarily to lead out the Cox Plate field. I managed to get a lovely head shot of him in the stalls area.

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Maldivian

The field for Race 4 , the Group 3 Telstra Phonewords Stakes was filing out to the track as I left the stalls area, so I headed to the public lawn at the top end of the straight and easily found a position on the fence to watch the race. 

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Race 4 – the corner into the straight, Legends in the background with patrons crowded onto the balconies.

The race was won by the favourite Galaxy Pegasus with Law and Nicoscene filling the minor places. I didn’t have any money on the outcome, feeling disinclined to bet on the race.

Race 5 was the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, a Group 2 race for stayers over 2500 metres. Precedence was my selection as he’d won the race last year and also in 2010. It was a rough race where a big kerfuffle occurred on the corner as they turned into the straight for the second time. A gasp arose from those near where I was standing, as Chad Schofield was thrown from Albonetti after she had clipped heels with another horse. Winning jockey Michelle Payne was suspended for 20 meetings as a result of the incident.  Prince of Penzance was the winner, with Le Roi running second and Au Revoir third. Precedence was galloped on, which stymied his chances. Chad Schofield was well enough to ride his two other commitments of the meeting, and Albonetti was unhurt and galloped riderless to the post.

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Prince of Penzance on his way to the barriers.

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Down the straight in the Moonee Valley Cup – Au Revoir leads at this point with Le Roi in second place and Prince of Penzance about to overtake them.

It was relatively uncrowded at the top end of the public lawn and the surrounding people were a cheery friendly bunch.

A young spiv exclaimed that he’d never seen a horse close up. We made room for him on the fence and tipped him when the horses were about to thunder past. He was wearing an extraordinary watch; a steam punk monster which he said he bought in America. I took a photograph of it ...

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My first and only winner of the day was Hooked in the Crystal Mile. As we are now in the sign of Scorpio his name struck me as quite appropriate for the Astrological season, but he did have good form on his side as well.

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Hooked on his way to the gates.

He won by 1¾ lengths from Bull Point and Desert Jeuney.

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Up the straight in the Crystal Mile, Hooked leads by several lengths

There was still 1½ hours to go before the main event, and I will admit time was starting to drag, so I decided to grab a beer and sit for a while and study the form for the 7th race, the Dilmah Exceptional Teas Vase (it used to be called the Aimee Vase). It’s a Group 2 for three year olds run over the same distance as the Cox Plate (2040 metres).

My selection was Atmosphere so I backed him for a win only. He ran second to Moonovermanhattan who I admit I didn’t fancy as I’ve seen him race several times before where he was unsuccessful.

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Moonovermanhattan

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The top of the straight in the Vase – Moonovermanhattan leads with Zululand behind him on the inside, Atmosphere (in pink silks & red cap) is running third.

There are those who say the Cox Plate should be run at Flemington, but to my my mind it wouldn’t be the same race. What makes it so special is that it is run on the tight circuit of Moonee Valley, where the atmosphere is electric with anticipation as in an ancient Roman theatre. You have to be there to experience the palpable excitement of the crowd as the race start draws near.

There was plenty of time in hand after the Vase so I returned to the stalls area and came across The Cleaner again, being kitted out for the race. His trainer Mick Burles obligingly posed with his mate “Bill” before leading him out of his stall, so I could get this photo.

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The Cleaner aka Bill with trainer Mick Burles

After that I lingered near the parade ring to see the Cox Plate contestants walk around before going to the mounting yard.

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Adelaide

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Almalad

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Criterion

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Foreteller

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Happy Trails

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Royal Descent

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Side Glance

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The Cleaner

Not all the horses had emerged during the time I was near the parade ring, but I didn’t wait for them, as the time for the Cox Plate was drawing near, so I made my way back to the fence at the top of the public lawn, and photographed some of the others as they made their way to the starting gates.

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Fawkner

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Sacred Falls

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Sweynesse

I’ve described how the Cox Plate finished earlier in this post, but I have not mentioned the start.

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Cox Plate start

The Cleaner had the outside barrier (14) and had to work hard to get to the lead which he eventually did,  just after passing the winning post for the first time. This may have been his downfall, but that’s his style of racing. The fairy tale ending was not to be, but The Cleaner led the field at a good clip until half way up straight, where he was overtaken first by Fawkner, then half of the rest the field, but he didn’t give up even then, striving hard to finish 9th, three and half lengths from the winner. With a better barrier, he would undoubtedly have finished closer. Anyway he made the race an honest competition of pace and stamina and set it up for Adelaide.

Adelaide is certainly something special, to come from Ireland after  racing in America in August, to win the Cox Plate in such a remarkable fashion. I suppose one should feel privileged to have witnessed the event. Fawkner and Silent Achiever did the locals proud, narrow runners up to an exceptional talent.

A young woman standing close to me was over the moon with his win, as she’d backed him; no doubt because of his name and the associations it had for her.  As good a way to pick a winner as any.

I had a win bet on Fawkner, so no collect for me, so I headed for the bus stop and home, after another great day at the races in splendid sunshine, a cool breeze keeping it pleasant and balmy.

Next weekend is super Saturday at Flemington with four Group 1 races on the program, the feature being the Victoria Derby. It’s going to be a busy week following that, with the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, the Rolling Stones on Wednesday night, the Crown Oaks on Thursday and the Emirates Stakes meeting on Saturday. I’m undecided if I’ll go to all the races; it depends on how I feel after the Stones concert. I may give the Oaks a miss, but will definitely attend the Emirates, where the Darley Classic Sprint looks like an must see  race with Lankan Rupee up against new emerging sprint sensation Chautauqua.