Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stop Press! Caulfield Guineas Day Review

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Press Statement on his way to the barriers prior to winning the Caulfield Guineas

As expected it was a long and tiring afternoon at the races last Saturday.  Despite that, it was worth the cost of admittance with a plethora of interesting racing action.

I got to Caulfield early, in time to watch the first race in fact.

This was the Inglis Debutant Stakes, a race for two year olds over 1000 metres. All of the contestants were having their first start and the field was a mix of colts and fillies.

One of the fillies Missrock swooped from the back to win, defeating Pearl Congenial and Valiano by a length.

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Missrock returns to scale after winning the Debutant Stakes

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Just past the winning post in the Debutant Stakes

I’d got to Caulfield early ostensibly to see Lankan Rupee in the second race of the day, the Schillaci Stakes. He was expected to win and of course was the favourite at very short odds. As a rule there is no such thing as a certainty in horse racing and such was the case in the Schillaci Stakes. Lankan Rupee was beaten into third place by Alpha Miss and outsider Cashed. 

He looked healthy and glowing in the flesh, but apparently there is something amiss with the horse, according to his trainer Mick Price, which was confirmed by his failure to stretch out in the closing stages of the race.  His Spring campaign is now doubt, and possibly his racing career as well. How disappointing!

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Lankan Rupee in the walking ring post race

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Alpha Miss on her way to the barriers

For most of the afternoon I chose to stay out of the crowded public lawn, and shoot my photos from the hill above the stalls area. Besides, the mounting yard was inaccessible to the public, being blocked off by the media, so mounting yard photos were out of the question.

It was much quieter in the stalls area, and easy to get photos of the main race contenders in their stalls.

Here’s a few of them.

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Mongolian Khan

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Stay With Me

The handy thing about staying on the hill was you could get shots of the horses going to and from the barriers.

Race 3 was the Thoroughbred Club Stakes for three year old fillies. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of the winner Serene Majesty, but she won quite well beating Secret Agenda and Harlem River by a couple of lengths.

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Serene Majesty on her way to the mounting yard

After the Thoroughbred Club Stakes there were only two more races to run before the first of the Group 1 events.

The Weekend Hussler Stakes was the fourth on the program and was won by the Chris Waller trained Amovatio with favourite, The Bowler, running second, and Tristram’s Sun third.

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Amovatio returning to scale

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The Bowler

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Tristram’s Sun

For the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes I returned to the public lawn and snagged a good spot on the fence. This race for stayers is run over 2400 metres and grants the winner a spot in the Caulfield Cup.

Amralah was supposed to running on the pace, but stumbled at the start and raced towards the tail end of the field until about half way through the race, where he took over the lead from Bohemian Lily. From then on he dominated the running, putting three lengths on the rest of the field down the straight, to win by that margin from Excess Knowledge. Bohemian Lily hung on for third a further length away.

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Amralah lengths ahead down the straight.

The abovementioned races were just tasters for the main events of the afternoon, and even though it was getting on for 4.00pm, the real action just beginning.

First up of the Group 1 events was the Caulfield Stakes. Kermadec was the favourite with Fawkner being highly fancied as well.

Here are photos of the field on their way to the barriers.

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Happy Trails

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Mongolian Khan

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Entirely Platinum

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The race being run over 2000 metres, the barriers are set up just beyond the stalls area.

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Starting Gates for the Caulfield Stakes

Criterion had just got out of quarantine on Saturday morning, and obviously took no harm from his travels, storming from the back of the field as they turned into the straight, and with Happy Trails beside him, surged to the lead and won by half a length with Mongolian Khan, who was blocked for clear running, flying home for third.

Fawkner, after racing up on the speed, faded to finish sixth. The hard track was blamed for his lack of zip at the finish. Kermadec managed to finish fourth.

The three main chances in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap came home true to form with Lucky Hussler beating Disposition by 1.25 lengths and Stratum Star running third.

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Lucky Hussler

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Stratum Star

In 2006 Miss Finland won the 1000 Guineas, and her daughter Stay With Me emulated her mum with a victory in the 2015 edition. She beat Jameka by almost two lengths and Badawiya ran third.

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Just past the winning post – Dwayne Dunn  celebrates Stay With Me’s win

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Stay with Me

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By the time the feature race was due to run, I had been at the course for five hours, and I must admit I was feeling somewhat tired. It had been a warm and humid day, but fortunately the threatened storm didn’t eventuate until the evening.  In fact, the track would have benefitted from a shower of rain, for after a full afternoon of racing, the surface was very much on the firm side and the turf flattened. Several trainers complained about it on Sunday.

Anyway, finally the field for the feature Caulfield Guineas assembled in the pre parade ring and started making their way to the mounting yard.

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Press Statement in the pre parade ring

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Lizard Island being guided to the barrier stalls

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Ready for Victory on his way to the barriers

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Bon Aurum on his way to the barriers

The race resulted in a solid win for Press Statement and gave trainer Chris Waller yet another Group 1 victory. He also trained the winner of the Spring Champion Stakes in Sydney - Vanbrugh.

Lizard Island ran second in the Caulfield Guineas with Ready For Victory, taking third spot.

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Press Statement returns to scale after winning the Caulfield Guineas

It had been a long day, so after the Caulfield Guineas I was only to pleased to make my weary way to the station, and thence home.

Next Saturday I’m going back to Caulfield for the Caulfield Cup. This will be the first time I’ve ever attended the event. The Caulfield Cup itself looks a doozy of a race, the classiest field in years according to the pundits. The support card is mildly interesting, and at least I can take my time getting to the racecourse, so it won’t be such a long and tiring afternoon as the Guineas.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Spring Loaded–Caulfield Guineas Day

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Bon Aurum  after winning the Guineas Prelude – can he win the Caulfield Guineas?

You can certainly tell that the Spring Racing Carnival is heading towards the peak of the season with what is on offer this weekend at Caulfield Racecourse.

There are four Group 1 races on the program and an equally exciting support card of black type races. There are ten races to be run and it looks like it will be a long day with the feature race, the Caulfield Guineas, scheduled at 5.40pm as the second last race on the program.

The weather is forecast to be warm and humid, with the possibility of thunderstorms later in the afternoon. Let’s hope that these do not occur until after the Guineas has been run, as I’m sure  all hell would break loose if a thunderstorm hit during a race.

As I’m keen to arrive at Caulfield to see Lankan Rupee in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes, which is the second race of the day, it will certainly be a drawn out afternoon. However, the interval between races is only 35 minutes, so no doubt the time will flash by in a trice.

Lankan Rupee will face only five rivals in the Schillaci Stakes, run over 1100 metres, and will most likely prevail. The best of the competition is Sydney sprinter Shiraz who has 10 wins from 16 starts and won the Aurie’s Star at Flemington in August. Alpha Miss will quite likely be in the finish somewhere having good form against the likes of Winx and First Seal. She has not raced for over a year though, but has performed well first up.

The first of the Group 1 races is the Caulfield Stakes, run over 2000 metres. It has only 8 acceptances,  six of whom are multiple Group 1 winners – Fawkner, Happy Trails, Contributer, Mongolian Khan , Kermadec and Criterion.

It will be the first time this Spring that we have seen Kermadec and Criterion in Melbourne. Kermadec won the Group 1 George Main Stakes at his last start and also won the Doncaster Mile in the autumn.  He’s current favourite for the Cox Plate, and also favoured to win the Caulfield Stakes. He’ll have to beat the aforementioned regulars, Fawkner and Happy Trails in particular.

Criterion has just returned from an overseas jaunt where he raced competitively in Hong Kong and the UK without winning.  He won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn before he left for England. A class horse, if he has recovered from his trip back to Australia, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he featured in the finish.

The Toorak Handicap is the second of the Group 1 races and is run over 1600 metres. A full field of eighteen horses will contest it. Disposition, Stratum Star, Lucky Hussler and Noble Protector are the main chances.

Fillies feature first in the 1000 Guineas (1600 metres) and the top picks are Pasadena Girl, Miss Gunpowder , Stay with Me, Jameka, Payroll and Badawiya.

The second top Sydney colt, Press Statement, is the hot favourite for the Caulfield Guineas.  He’s never raced in Melbourne before but he is with top trainer Chris Waller whose two Sydney runners ran first and second in the Turnbull Stakes last week.

However, favourites have a shocking record in the Caulfield Guineas, so others with a chance are Ready For Victory,wearing blinkers for the first time, which may sharpen him up, New Zealand colt Dal Cielo, last start winners Sovereign Nation and Bon Aurum, and the well regarded Tulsa who was runner up to Bon Aurum in the Guineas Prelude.

At Randwick in Sydney the last Group 1 race of their spring carnival is the Spring Champion Stakes for three year olds, run over 2000 metres.  The top chances are Vanbrugh, Devil Hawk (Hawkspur’s brother), Tatoosh and Queensland colt Too Good To Refuse.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Too Hard for Petits Filous–Moonee Valley & Caulfield Review

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Moir Stakes finish – Buffering wins it for a third time

It was a bumper weekend of racing, despite the AFL Grand Final dominating the news in Melbourne, and by the end of it I was quite exhausted.

Not that I went to all three meetings over the weekend, but Friday night and Sunday certainly provided plenty of exercise,tramping around the courses. Top that with Daylight Savings Time beginning on Sunday, I felt somewhat jet lagged as a result.

However, I’ve finally sorted my photographs, so here’s a brief rundown of the racing action at Moonee Valley and Caulfield.

Taking good photos at night meetings with my serviceable, but not professional camera, is nigh on  impossible. I took along the Canon G16 and it did a good job in the stalls area, but was terrible for action shots.

Buffering in his stall Friday night

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Petits Filous in her stall Friday night

I got to Moonee Valley in time for the running of Race 3, the Group 2 Stocks Stakes for mares over 1600 metres and watched it from the fence on the public lawn.

It was won by the unfancied Fenway  from May’s Dream and Scratchy Bottom.

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May’s Dream (no 2) and Scratchy Bottom (no 3) on their way to the barriers

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Fenway rugged after winning the Group 2 Stocks Stakes

As there was quite crowd of drunken football fans at the meeting, I decided to check out another side of the course which is close to the winning post and found it an excellent spot for taking photos, and much quieter and more civilised than the public lawn.

A pity it was night time, it would be a good spot in daylight.

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View of Moonee Valley from right hand side of main building

The fourth race was the 55 Second Challenge, a speed test over 955 metres and Reldas was the winner, running 55.05 seconds.

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Reldas returns to scale after winning the Jeep 55 Second Challenge Heat 2

The Stutt Stakes and the JRA Cup followed before the feature race and they resulted in Sovereign Nation beating Get The Picture and Gredington in the Stutt Stakes, and Escado coming in at big odds in the JRA Cup ahead of Magnapal and Velox.

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Escado returns to scale after winning the JRA Cup

Buffering proved that old timers can still cut the mustard, winning the Moir Stakes by half a length from Ball Of Muscle with Angelic Light running third. Buffering led, as was expected, for most of race and had enough in the tank to kick away and hold off the swoopers to the line. Petits Filous raced close to the pace for most of the race, but faded to finish 10th, the hard track (a firm 2) being not to her liking, according to her trainer. She will be spelled until the autumn.

Bright sunshine was the lighting challenge at Flemington on Sunday, which can be as much as a problem as fluoro at night meetings. I have noticed in the past that on really bright days, the LCD screen turns black and you can’t see what you’re shooting. To solve this problem I purchased a sunshade for the G16 and tried it out on Sunday. Thankfully it worked.

I was obliged to get to Flemington fairly early as trains to the racecourse ceased operating at 12.40pm, so it was a long afternoon. Luckily there was plenty of exciting racing action, so the time sped by very fast.

Just missing Race 2 on program, I was in plenty of time to watch the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes where top sprinter Chautauqua was the main attraction and naturally the hot favourite.

It was a really interesting race. For a while there it almost seemed as if Chautauqua couldn’t win, boxed in by other horses on all sides as they sped down the straight. He managed to find an opening at the last minute and ended up winning by a length from Delectation with Knoydart running third.  Stunning!

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Chautauqua rugged after winning the Gilgai Stakes

The next race on the card was the Listed UCI Stakes for Derby bound three year olds, run over 1800 metres.  Ayers Rock, whose trainer declares is going to win the Victoria Derby, won the prize at very long odds, beating race favourite, Tivaci, and Akaashef by a length or so.  Ayers Rock was ridden by Darren Gauci, who as a young jockey back in the 1980s was a household name, but is overshadowed these days by the current crop of star jockeys.

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Ayers Rock returns to scale after winning the UCI Stakes a happy Darren Gauci in the saddle

Race 5 was the Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes for three year old fillies and I must say Badawiya looked good winning the race by two lengths from nearest rival Sacred Eye with My Poppette a further three lengths away in third spot.

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Badawiya returns to scale after winning the Edward Manifold Stakes

It was particularly appropriate that Let’s Make Adeal won The Bart Cummings, a race named in late great trainer’s honour, run over 2520 metres.  The winner gets automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup, so Let’s Make Adeal will get the chance to emulate her grand dam Let’s Elope who won the Cup in 1991 for Bart Cummings.

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Sign in Bart Cummings Walk of Fame for Let’s Elope

Our Ivanhowe and Hawkspur took out the minor places.

The barriers for the race are set up just by the Clock Tower, so I had a rare chance to snap a photo of the barriers from the back.

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Starting gates for The Bart Cummings

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Let’s Make Adeal heads to the track

It is quite rare for Victorian Derby winners to return the next Spring and win a major race. One of them who did was Efficient who won the 2006 Victorian Derby and the 2007 Melbourne Cup. He was present at Flemington on Sunday to lead the Turnbull Stakes field out, but I caught up with him in his stall soon after I arrived at the track.

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Efficient in his stall – finally a nice head shot

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Efficient parading in the mounting yard

Last year, the Chris Waller trained Preferment won the Victorian Derby and he returned to Flemington for the first time since then on Sunday and took out the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes, beating his stalwart stable mate Royal Descent by a nose. Last year’s Oaks winner Set Square ran third. It was an appropriate win for Preferment considering that his sire, the great Zabeel passed away last week.

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Royal Descent returns to scale after the Turnbull Stakes

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Preferment rugged after winning the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes

It had been a long but enjoyable day in the sunshine, so I called it quits after the Turnbull Stakes as the trains had started running again to take race patrons back to the city.

Sydney had their big race day on Saturday, and I listened to the meeting on radio, as Racing NSW’s video coverage was not working on my computer.  Amazingly, favourites won in eight of the nine races on the program. The Group 1 races resulted in wins for Winx in the Epsom, Speak Fondly in the Flight Stakes, and Magic Hurricane won The Metropolitan.

Next Saturday is Caulfield Guineas Day at Caulfield with four Group 1 races on the program.

Lankan Rupee will be making his first appearance for the Spring in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes.

His great rivals, Chautauqua and Terravista have already kicked off their Spring campaigns with wins, so hopefully Lankan Rupee can do likewise. No doubt they’re all fated to meet in Darley Classic on Emirates Stakes Day if not sooner.

I’ll try and preview Caulfield Guineas Day before week’s end.