Friday, October 24, 2014

The Cox Plate– Who Will Make History?

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The Cleaner – Moonee Valley – 6 September 2014

Will the fairy tale come true? I am of course speaking of the game Tasmanian horse who goes by the droll name of The Cleaner. His greatest day will soon be upon him as he tackles the hardest race of his career, the Cox Plate, on Saturday afternoon.

He ticks many boxes as the potential winner of Australia’s greatest middle distance weight for age racing event. He loves the Valley, he can run the distance, he can sustain a fast speed, lead the field and still have some energy left over at the finish. And he’s a tough customer.

I am an unabashed fan of The Cleaner along with many others. I love the way he is a front runner and am charmed by his back story and humble beginnings.

However, he faces stiff opposition the from top class Group 1 winners like Fawkner, Sacred Falls and Criterion, not to mention a trio of three year old colts with an 8½ kilo weight advantage.  There are also a couple of International hopefuls in Adelaide, Side Glance and Guest of Honour.

It looks to be a really fascinating race, as is generally the case. I just hope a three year old doesn’t win it this year. I would however be delighted if Fawker won as he’s another I greatly fancy and reckon has a good chance. He would become the first grey horse to win the race in 38 years. Champion filly Surround was the last grey to win in 1976 and before her, the Goondiwindi grey Gunsynd in 1972.

On Friday night the first meeting of Moonee Valley’s mini spring carnival the Manikato Stakes is the feature race.  The usual suspects are running – Buffering, Lankan Rupee and Rebel Dane, along with smart Sydney horse Terravista, New Zealand mare Bounding,  consistent local mare Platelet and Lankan Rupee conqueror (in the McEwen StakesAngelic Light. I really hope Lankan Rupee will show his true colours this time around and win with the style we grew accustomed to in the autumn.

I will be attending the Cox Plate meeting on Saturday, but will give the Manikato Stakes a miss – don’t want to wear myself out the night before the big day.

The track should be excellent for racing,  as today in Melbourne it was a hot 30°C + and little rain has been forecast. Tomorrow hopefully it will be a bit cooler than today – and more pleasant to be outside.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ryan Bingham & Vale Gough Whitlam

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Ryan Bingham live at Northcote Social Club – 21 October 2014

On the evening of the day of the death of the greatest (in my lifetime)Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, my mind was occupied by memories of his time in Office, as I trammed it up to Northcote Social Club for my evening’s entertainment.

As I have not followed the career of Ryan Bingham and only possess his first album Mescalito, I profess to being somewhat ignorant of the rest of his releases, other than the song he wrote for the movie Crazy Heart - The Weary Kind - for which he won an Academy Award, so it was with an open mind I attended his show and not strictly as a fan.

There were more than enough fans to cover for my lack of that status; in fact the audience was a good crowd, enthusiastic and friendly. Don’t expect a detailed review, let alone a set list,  as more than half the songs he sang were new to me and I didn’t catch their titles.

In person Ryan Bingham is pleasing to look at and he has a natural charm that won over the already indulgent audience even more.

He was accompanied by his band, and I must say they were excellent. It was more rock than country, flavoured with Ryan Bingham’s unique take on Americana. He has a grainy husky old man’s voice that sounds remarkable issuing from such a young person.

I don’t know how long the show lasted as I left at around 10.4o, not because I was bored, but due to feeling faint in the oppressive heat of the band room and feeling the effects of standing on concrete for a couple of hours.

Songs I remember from the show are La Malaguena (a Mexican mariachi song, purportedly the first song Bingham ever learned to play), Dollar A Day (from Mescalito) Tell My Mother I Miss Her So and Hallelujah.

Back to the death of Gough Whitlam at the ripe old age of 98, I still vividly remember his days in Office and even after all these years feel angry at his Dismissal. It will be a long time before Australia has a leader as witty, intelligent and sound thinking as Gough Whitlam. Perhaps persons of his calibre are not being made any more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Live Wire Lindi Rocks The Toff

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Lindi Ortega live at Toff In Town 19 October 2014

The musical tastes of Lindi Ortega defy description and cannot be classified into one cosy genre; she can rock, she can croon, she can sing country, she can sing blues, gospel, you name it. And she has one of those effortlessly beautiful voices that tug on the heartstrings as soon as she opens her mouth.

For those of us who didn’t make it to Love Police’s Out On The Weekend music festival, it is fortunate that several of the star International acts were performing side shows.

Such was the case with Lindi Ortega.

I must admit that prior to last week, she had not crossed my radar, so after being offered tickets to see her live at the Toff, I set about familiarising myself with her work by listening to her two latest albums – Cigarettes & Truckstops and Tin Star and also watching her quirky self made videos on You Tube.  I was hooked in no time!

The Toff In Town is a cosy venue in the city on the second floor of Curtin House, and once you get past the noisy Choo Choo Bar and enter the band room, the atmosphere changes from raucous modern pap to roots, with a pleasant compilation of Americana songs being played through the sound desk. I was pleased to hear Ryan Adams’ Ashes & Fire album was part of the selection.

The show opened with  two short sets from the support acts, firstly Tracy McNeil, who I have had the pleasure of seeing live several times.

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Tracy McNeil live at Toff In Town 19 October 2014

Tracy is originally from Canada so she expressed her delight at opening for a fellow countrywoman Lindi Ortega and performed seven songs, mostly drawn from her latest album Nobody Ever Leaves, including City Lights, Swinging, Last Place I Looked and older songs like Queen of the Night.

Rob Snarski, long time member of The Blackeyed Susans band, was next to step onto the stage and performed a passionate half hour set with songs from his debut solo album Wounded Bird.

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Rob Snarski live  at Toff In Town 19 October 2014

He is a riveting performer with a powerful affecting voice, and dramatic guitar accompaniments. The song that really grabbed me was his band favourite It Starts With Snow, but the Ennio Morricone inspired The Black Caress and Christmas song Christmas Card From A  Drunken Sailor were also memorable.

It was about 9.30pm when the star act Lindi Ortega took the stage. For this tour she was accompanied by ace guitarist Champagne James Robertson and he started the show with the opening chords to Waitin’ On My Luck To Change before Lindi bounced onto the stage to rapturous applause to sing the song.

A real change of mood and vibe, the next song was Lindi’s scintillating cover of the Aretha Franklin classic  I Ain’t Never Loved A Man, Lindi roaming the stage with mike in hand.

She picked up her guitar for the next number, remarking that its name was Frankie after Frankenstein, and expatiated on her love for the macabre. She launched into the spaghetti western flavoured rocker Hard As This, the opening track on her latest record Tin Star.

She expanded on the macabre and creepy side of her tastes, presenting what she called a necrophiliac love song, the exquisite Lived And Died Alone where the chorus goes:

When the sun has set, I will go dig up the dead
Lift their bodies from their graves
And I lay them on my bed
I will fill their hollow hearts with all my broken parts
And all the love that they have never known
To all those who have lived and died alone

This song is undeniably macabre but the tenderness with which Lindi Ortega sings this song negates all the creepiness and makes it sad and beautiful.

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Her penchant for the darker side of life extends to how she dresses for her shows. She wore a dress printed with skulls and an old fashioned net draped over her forehead, her dark curls tumbled around her shoulders. And of course she wore her signature little red boots.

Continuing the supernatural theme the next song was Wicked Witch, but that was followed by the gospel sounding Faded Gloryville and a cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

You certainly couldn’t accuse Lindi Ortega of playing the same type of music over and over again. There were dulcet folksy ballads, country heartbreakers, spaghetti western  stompers, in fact a whole plethora of different types of music make up Lindi’s repertoire, so it’s no wonder she has been nicknamed “Indie Lindi” – she marches to the beat of her own drum.

She is of Irish Mexican descent and was born in Toronto Canada, but now lives in Nashville - a real “gypsy child” as one of her songs expresses.

Hers is a lively, dramatic and highly enjoyable act, and she was admirably supported by the amazing guitar playing of Champagne James Robertson, who can draw the most remarkable sounds from his Fender electric guitar and had no trouble handling any of the diverse musical moods of Lindi Ortega’s songs.

Lindi Ortega Set List

  1. Waitin’ On My Luck To Change
  2. I Ain’t Never Loved A Man (Aretha Franklin cover)
  3. Hard As This
  4. Lived And Died Alone
  5. Wicked Witch
  6. Faded Gloryville
  7. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams cover)
  8. All My Friends
  9. Gypsy Child
  10. Heaven Has No Vacancy
  11. Half Moon
  12. The Day You Die


  1. Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
  2. Cigarettes And Truckstops

Check her self made videos on her website and be beguiled.

Tonight I’m off to see another Out On The Weekend side show – Ryan Bingham at Northcote Social Club.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Caulfield Cup–The Usual Conundrum

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Lucia Valentina – Flemington 4 October 2014

After looking at the race card for this Saturday’s Caulfield Cup meeting, I’m rather regretting that I did not purchase an early bird ticket for the event. Rather than having an uninteresting line up of support races, I’ve noticed that quite a few old favourites, that I have not seen in action this Spring, are racing at Caulfield on Saturday.

For instance, Manawanui, who has not been seen in Melbourne for a year is entered in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes. He ran in this race last year but finished unplaced.  Since then he has had only one run, in the Group 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap on 20 September this year, which he won.

Also racing on Saturday is Catkins in the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes, and Miracles of Life in the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint.

So it looks almost as good a support card as that on Caulfield Guineas Day. But the thought of having to wait once again for the feature race late in the day dampens my desire to be there. I’ll watch them all on TV for a change.

The main focus of this post is the Group 1 Caulfield Cup. Again, it is a difficult race to analyse with so many factors to collate. A full field will contest the race and it is comprised of a mix of Internationals – Admire Rakti and Bande from Japan, Dandino (has been scratched) and Seismos from England – seasoned imports and locals (including those from New Zealand)

Lucia Valentina is the deserved favourite after her stunning win in the Turnbull Stakes.  There are those who say she is a risk at 2400 metres, after she ran third in the ATC Oaks behind Rising Romance and Zanbagh, but she is bred to run the distance and has the Zabeel factor with her sire being Savabeel, a son of the great Zabeel. The only other runner with the Zabeel factor is Brambles. Last year’s winner Fawkner had it through his sire Reset.

The other locally bred runner who I fancy  is Who Shot Thebarman who is in great form having won his last two races by over two lengths. The only query is that both those wins were on the wide open spaces of Flemington, and he hasn’t actually ever run at Caulfield. He is one of four Chris Waller trained horses entered in the race. The others are Hawkspur, Junoob and Moriarty, the latter two being last start winners in Sydney. Chris Waller has never won the Caulfield Cup, so no doubt will be hoping one of his stable can take it out. He seems to have a great strike rate in Group 1 races, so it’s quite possible he’ll succeed.

Of the Internationals, it wise to be wary of the Japanese runners, after they ran the quinella in the 2006  Melbourne Cup.  With Bande scratched, that leaves Admire Rakti as the sole Japanese representative, and he could easily steal the show as he’s highly regarded in International racing circles.

It would be my ideal finish if Lucia Valentina and the other four year old New Zealand mare Rising Romance could run the quinella.

Truth to tell, anything could win with the field being evenly matched. With known front runner Bande scratched, who knows who will take on that role now. Lloyd Williams’ two Moons (Green Moon & Sea Moon) will race closer to the speed it has been reported. As was seen at Caulfield last Saturday, those on the speed were the most successful.

Update: Saturday Night

Victory for Japan!  Japanese stayer Admire Rakti won the Caulfield Cup, so it appears they are back big time.

The New Zealand mares Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina came second and third –so near yet so far from my ideal finish.

Thanks to a bet on Rising Romance I basically came out evens on the day, no loss no gain.

I watched all the action on TV and even if I thought it would be better being there on the scene, considering the crowds, I was glad I decided not to attend.

Of my watched favourites, it was great to see little Miracles of Life come back a winner, even if she had to share the victory with Bel Sprinter in a dead heat. Catkins ran third in her race, and Manawanui finished fourth in his.

Next week is the Cox Plate, my favourite of the big three races – can’t wait!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Déjà Vu or Back to Form–Caulfield Guineas Day Review

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Shooting To Win does a circuit of the mounting yard after winning the Caulfield Guineas

As I expected, it was a very long afternoon at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday, but as the racing was first class and full of interest it passed quite quickly.

I got to Caulfield rather earlier than I anticipated and was able to watch the first race from the hill above the parade ring. It was a race for two year olds having their first start and is appropriately called the Debutant Stakes.

Here’s a photo of the finish just past the winning post, with Of The Brave winning by a comfortable margin. He’s by Starspangledbanner out of Runaway Jesse and is a half brother to the talented filly, Eloping.

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Race 1 finish – Of The Brave wins the Debutant Stakes

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Of The Brave returns to scale

Whilst I was in the neighbourhood of the stalls, I naturally checked out the horses who had already arrived. These included several of the International stayers here for the Cups.

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German horse Protectionist in his stall

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English horse Renew in his stall

Also already present was 2014 Blue Diamond winner Earthquake

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Earthquake in her stall

…and 2013 Golden Slipper winner Overreach.

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Overreach in her stall

As race 2, the Thoroughbred Club Stakes was the next race on the agenda, I made my way to the public lawn to see if I could squeeze in on the fence. Festive race goers had spread their blankets all over the place, and seemed more interested in eating and drinking than watching the races, so it was easy to get a spot on the fence.

As Earthquake started at really short odds, and would have been my pick had I decided to back her, I didn’t bother with a bet, and watched the fillies file out onto the track.

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Earthquake – back in the winners circle

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Tawteen – ran second

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More Radiant – third

Earthquake proved that she was not a spent force. Racing on the speed just outside race leader Tawteen, she managed to overhaul  her in the straight to win by a length with More Radiant running third.

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Earthquake and Tawteen fight out the finish in the Group 3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes

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Earthquake in winners rug

With that race done and dusted I ambled back to the stalls area for some tranquil horse watching, which is much more to my taste than watching the raucous partying patrons

Various contenders for the Group 1 races to come were parading, most notably the eventual Caulfield Stakes winner, Fawkner.

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Fawkner in the walking ring

Commanding Jewel was also being walked…

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Commanding Jewel in the walking ring

…and Rubick was waiting patiently in his stall…

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Rubick in his stall

Race 3 was the Weekend Hussler Stakes, so I decided to watch it from the hill.

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Race 3 finish just past the post – Hosting the winner is on the far left  in the striped red & white silks.

Hosting was one of the few back markers to win on the day, as most of the winners raced on the pace.  Taddei Tondo ran second with Tango’s Daughter third.

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Hosting returns to scale after winning the Weekend Hussler Stakes

Hosting’s win was the second of three consecutive wins for jockey Kerrin McEvoy (he was also Earthquake’s jockey).

Kerrin rode Rubick to victory in the next race, the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes.

For that race I made my way back to the public lawn, pausing in the Bookies area to place my first bet of the day on Rubick, who was at reasonably good odds of $4.50 to win.

Overreach started as the favourite, but was outsprinted by Rubick who led through most of the race, and won by a length from Platelet who rocketed into second place, relegating Overreach to third spot.

I took some photos of the contestants as they passed by on their way to the barriers.

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Schillaci Stakes finish – Rubick leads with Overreach outside Platelet.

I was delighted with Rubick’s win, as it’s always encouraging to have one’s first bet a winner.  His win, and Earthquake’s before that, reminded me of the first time I saw these two youngsters on Orr Stakes day in February winning their respective Blue Diamond preludes – kind of Deja Vu.

The Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes was the next race on the program and I was interested to see how the Internationals would perform in their first try on Australian racetracks.

They are a handsome bunch, beautifully turned out, with manes plaited as was the case with Lord Van Percy.

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Lord Van Percy

The winner of the race was imported French horse Big Memory who held off a determined Signoff and fast finishing Let’s Make Adeal to win by a half a length. It almost looked like Let’s Make Adeal was going to win, but she ran out of time at the finish. It was however her best run for ages. I had my money (for a win) on Sangster and Protectionist, but they finished out of the places, Protectionist finishing a close fourth.

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Herbert Power Stakes finish – Big Memory leads with Signoff (green cap) and Let’s Make Adeal (pink & green stripes) just behind

As the races during Spring are now 35 minutes apart it was not long to wait for the first of the Group 1 races on the program. The quality packed field of the Caulfield Stakes came out onto the track as I regained my position on the fence, after placing a bet on Fawkner who was at good odds of $5.50.

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Criterion who finished second

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Dissident who bled and won’t be seen again this spring finished unplaced

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Foreteller finished 8th

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Side Glance – race leader who finished third

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Fawkner – the winner

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Sacred Falls – finished fourth

It was a beautifully judged ride by Nick Hall on Fawkner to take out the Caulfield Stakes. Fawkner raced up on the pace in third spot on the fence for most of the race and peeled out in the straight to take the lead from Side Glance. Criterion raced from mid field to steal second place, and Sacred Falls came from last to finish fourth.

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Caulfield Stakes finish down the straight – Fawkner overtakes Side Glance on his inside, with Criterion (yellow silks) making headway.

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Fawkner in the winners rug posing for the press.

Fawkner’s next assignment is the Cox Plate. He won the Caulfield Cup last year, but will not compete in it this year. He is the new favourite for the Cox Plate, since the previous favourite, Dissident, had an unfortunate bleeding attack during the Caulfield Stakes that has ruled him out of the rest of the spring carnival. 

This post is turning into a marathon effort, but by the time the second of the Group 1 events, the Toorak Handicap, I had been at the course for almost four hours, with another hour to go before heading home.

The Toorak Handicap was won by Trust In A Gust, his third win in succession, with Speediness running second and rank outsider Desert Jeuney filling third spot. I had a small win bet on both Commanding Jewel (at great odds of $11.00) and Arabian Gold. Neither managed to place.

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Toorak Handicap down the straight – Trust In A Gust hits the front.

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Trust In Gust parades after winning the Toorak Handicap

I will admit that by the end of the Toorak Handicap, I was feeling a tad wearied and wondering if I had the stamina to last till the Caulfield Guineas.

The crowds had thinned by the time the Thousand Guineas got underway.  My bet for this was Afleet Esprit who had won her last three races over shorter distances. Perhaps the 1600 metres was beyond her, for she finished second last. The Group 1 glory went to Amicus who beat Traveston Girl with Sabatini running third. The favourite Lumosty finished eighth after being slow to start and racing at the back end of the field for the majority of the race.  The three place getters raced on the speed, typical of the pattern of racing on the day.

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Thousand Guineas finish – Amicus leads with Traveston Girl on her inside and Sabatini on her outside with Bring Me The Maid behind her.

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Amicus parading after the Thousand Guineas in the winners rug

Fortunately it was a pleasant afternoon weatherwise, warm and slightly overcast, so excellent for photographs.

And finally, after a long day at the track, the feature race time was nigh.

Here are some of the main contenders on their way to the starting gates. Rich Enuff went the other way round, so I failed to get a photograph of him.

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Shooting To Win

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It was a race in the end between the top Melbourne colt and the top Sydney colt, with Rich Enuff and Shooting to Win fighting out the finish down the straight several lengths in front of the rest.

Shooting To Win prevailed and won by a neck to Rich Enuff who was far from disgraced. It was shades of Redoute’s Choice and Testa Rossa way back in 1999 who fought out a similar battle down the straight with Redoute’s Choice being the victor by a similar margin.

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Caulfield Guineas down the straight - Rich Enuff & Shooting To Win fight out the finish.

Outsider Wandjina ran third.

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Shooting to Win is led back to scale after his victory in the Caulfield Guineas

As  I didn’t have a bet on the race, my fancy being Rich Enuff who started short priced favourite, I didn’t linger much longer at the racetrack and headed for the station and home, with almost as much money as I started out with, my two winning bets covering the losses with a bit extra to buy a drink and a race book.

Next Saturday is the Caulfield Cup, but I am not attending it, saving myself for the Cox Plate the following weekend and the Flemington carnival thereafter.

I am however going to a few concerts next week – Lindi Ortega at the Toff In Town on Sunday evening and Ryan Bingham at Northcote Social Club on Tuesday night, both of which shows I’m keenly looking forward to.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Spring Fever–Caulfield Guineas Day

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Caulfield Guineas favourite Rich Enuff – Flemington 13/9/14

With only a little over a week till the running of the first of the big cups, the Caulfield Cup, the Melbourne Racing Club presents a wonderful day of racing this coming Saturday at Caulfield Racecourse.

Caulfield Guineas Day is in fact a better race day than the Caulfield Cup meeting, with a total of four Group 1 races on the program as opposed to the sole Group 1 on Caulfield Cup day. Added to the attraction of Caulfield Guineas Day, there is a super support card with the majority of races being at Group level.

My aim is to arrive at the racecourse early enough to watch the Group 3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes (1200 metres) where Blue Diamond Stakes winner Earthquake will be making her first Spring appearance in Melbourne. She has been disappointing so far this spring, running third at her last two starts at Randwick, but perhaps she’ll appreciate running the Melbourne way, on the track where she has scored two victories.

Up against her are eight other fillies, the most threatening being Tawteen, Silversands, More Radiant and Igritte.

Interestingly, Rubick who was regarded as the top colt in Autumn and started as second favourite in the Blue Diamond Stakes where he finished fourth, makes his first appearance on the racetrack since that race in the Group 2 Schillaci  Stakes, a sprint over 1000 metres.

He faces a small field of classy sprinters that include Gregers, Platelet and 2013 Golden Slipper winner Overreach, also returning after a long break.

Melbourne will get its first chance to see Hong Kong star Dan Excel, out here for the Cox Plate, in the Listed Weekend Hussler Stakes, a handicap race over 1400 metres. He’s been handicapped to carry a whopping 63.5 kilos giving nine kilos to the majority of the field, so it’s unlikely that he’s in it to win it, but more likely to familiarise him to Australian race tracks.

Various Caulfield and Melbourne Cup bound imports and International horses have been entered in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes, a race over 2400 metres, so it will be worth watching to see how they fare.  There’s the German horse Protectionist, the British Lord Van Percy and Renew, up against locals like Sangster, Let’s Make Adeal and Albonetti, and seasoned  imports that include Bonfire, Masked Marvel, Signoff and Big Memory.   

The first of the Group 1 races is the Caulfield Stakes, run over 2000 metres. It has attracted a first class field with no less than 10 Group 1 winners in a field of 12 starters.  The pundits are calling it a Cox Plate preview and it is quite likely that the eventual Cox Plate winner is in the field, if you discount The Cleaner, whose next race is that Group 1 event.

Last year the Caulfield Stakes was won by Atlantic Jewel with Foreteller and Super Cool running second and third.  It turned out to be her last race as she sustained an injury shortly after that, which resulted in her not running in the Cox Plate and being retired.

So who will win this year’s edition?  It’s an evenly matched field, but the top picks are Dissident if he can run 2000 metres, Fawkner who certainly can, and who finished a very close second to Dissident in the Makybe Diva Stakes, Foreteller of course, and Happy Trails who had a torrid run in the Turnbull and usually manages to win at least one major race over the Spring carnival. You’ve also got Dear Demi who is in great form,  Victoria Derby winner Criterion and Sacred Falls, the dual Doncaster winner, who won the Group 1 George Main Stakes at his last start. Take your pick!

It’s going to be a looong day as the four Group 1 races are being run consecutively from 3.55pm, the feature race being scheduled at 5.40pm.

The Group 1 Toorak Handicap follows the Caulfield Stakes. It is a 1600 metre race and has attracted a fantastic field of contestants. You’ve got English horse Guest of Honour as top weight, having his first run on Australian racetracks, and Commanding Jewel, Trust In A Gust who beat Dissident in the Rupert Clark Stakes, top Sydney mare Arabian Gold, New Zealand mare Recite, and other good performers like Speediness, Bull Point, Solicit and Atlante. 

Since 1998 the Thousand Guineas was run mid week, but this year has been added to the Caulfield Guineas day program. It’s the fillies equivalent of the Caulfield Guineas and is also a Group 1 race over 1600 metres.

It has top class fillies like Bring Me The Maid, Go Indy Go and Afleet Esprit who are best chances. It’s lucky Flight Stakes winner First Seal is staying in Sydney to contest the boys in the Spring Champion Stakes, so the abovementioned fillies have their chance for Group 1 glory.  Also in the picture are Lumosty and Amicus who have been placed in shorter races recently and could likely feature in the finish.

The Caulfield Guineas is seen as a match race between Sydney and Melbourne’s top colts. Rich Enuff heads the Melbourne brigade and looks the genuine article, being unbeaten in his three runs this spring. Also batting for Melbourne are Merion and Chivalry. The Sydney team have Almalad and Shooting To Win, and are both last start winners.  Then you’ve got Queenslander Looks Like The Cat, who has run second to Rich Enuff at his last two starts, and New Zealand colt Our Vespa who already has a Group 1 win (in NZ) under his belt. I’ll be cheering for Rich Enuff.

Sydney’s sole Group 1 this weekend is the Spring Champion Stakes run over 2000 metres. Top pick is the so far unbeaten Sweynesse who is certain to start favourite. Flight Stakes winner First Seal appears to be his only serious opposition, but others like Panzer Division, Valentia and Hampton Court could mount a challenge to the favourites and steal the prize.

The weather in both Melbourne and Sydney is expected to be fine this weekend so the racing will be on good tracks. 

Myself, I’m looking forward to attending yet a another superb race meeting.

Who will be the feted stars this Saturday?

Monday, October 06, 2014

The Sun, The Stars & Romance of Racing

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Lucia Valentina rugged after winning the Turnbull Stakes

Astrologically it’s not all that surprising that Lucia Valentina won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes last Saturday. The current zodiac sign is Libra and some of its attributes are love, romance and partnerships, its ruling planet being Venus, goddess of Love.

I made a note of last Saturday’s winners, and several of them could be said to have Venusian names. Lucia Valentina is one as is Blazer Stakes winner Forever Loved. In Sydney, He’s Your Man and Brazen Beau both won their respective races and Rising Romance narrowly lost out on winning the Craven Plate to Moriarty, whose name is almost the antithesis to Venus, being Sherlock Holmes arch enemy and more associated with Scorpio.

Though I am a believer in the power of Astrology, I don’t really put much faith in choosing winners based on the zodiac sign active at the time of year. But it is quite interesting to note what names the winners of races bear in relation to the astrological aspects, and surprisingly there are always a few horses who fit the bill.

Enough on Astrology, and on to my day at the races.

It was a splendid warm and sunny day on Saturday – t-shirts and sandals weather – so it was a pleasure to be outdoors at the beautiful Flemington racecourse even though the roses are not yet in bloom.

Arriving just after the running of Race 2, the UCI Stakes which was won by Magicool a half brother to Super Cool, who wears the same silks as his older brother, I headed as usual to the stalls area to see who had already arrived.

Living Legends Efficient and Zipping were parading in the walking ring as I got there, both former winners of the Turnbull StakesEfficient won it in 2009 and Zipping won in 2010.

efficient 2

zipping 3

Also walking around were several contenders for the feature race…

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Happy Trails

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Silent Achiever

the offer 2
The Offer

And others were waiting in their stalls…

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Puissance de Lune

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Let’s Make Adeal

As it was almost time for Race 3, the Group 3 Bart Cummings, I hastened back to the public lawn to watch it run.

The starting gates for this 2520 metre race are placed just in front of the mounting yard, but I failed to get a photo of the start as a couple of owners (presumably) blocked my view.

The race was won by Who Shot Thebarman by 2½ lengths from Marksmanship with Anudjawun running third. I did not have a bet on this race, in fact I only bet on three races all afternoon, for a win and a third place.

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Who Shot Thebarman returns to scale after winning the Bart Cummings

I was pleased Who Shot Thebarman won as he was one of my Star Stable horses, so scored me points in the competition.

My Star Stable did very well on Saturday with a few of them winning the major races – He’s Your Man (Epsom Handicap), Lucia Valentina (Turnbull Stakes)

Back at Flemington, the next race on the cards was the Vintage Stakes, a 1400 metre race for three year olds.

The Darren Weir trained Stratum Star was the winner, with Manhattan Avenue and Kapset filling the minor places.

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Stratum Star returns to scale after winning the Vintage Stakes

Chautauqua, the sensational winner of Race 5, the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes, seems to have come from out of the blue into the spotlight. He first came to notice in the Bobby Lewis Quality on 13 September, a race I didn’t witness as I’d left the course before it was run. Anyway, Chautauqua won that race by a couple of lengths and created a positive impression, but he won the Gilgai Stakes by four lengths, confirming that he is a sprinting force to be reckoned with.  We can look forward to him taking on Lankan Rupee and Buffering in either the Manikato Stakes or the VRC Sprint Classic.

Chautauqua was my first bet of the day, and even though he started favourite his odds were a reasonable $3.00, so I made a fair profit on my outlay, which basically financed the other two bets I placed. He’s also in my Star Stable.

New Zealand mare Bounding ran second with Final Crescendo filling third spot.

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Bounding in the mounting yard

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Chautauqua in the mounting yard

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Spirit of Boom in the mounting yard

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Chautauqua returns to scale after winning the Gilgai Stakes

Returning to the stalls area -  a fair walk up the public lawn, I noticed two small ravens sitting on the Makybe Diva statue – a good omen perhaps as two ravens are for joy, according to the old rhyme.

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Ravens perched on Makybe Diva statue

In race 6, the Edward Manifold Stakes I decided to put my money on Pittsburgh Flyer, mostly because she was in my Star Stable.  I should have forgiven Fontein Ruby her last loss, for she redeemed herself with a vengeance and Pittsburgh Flyer ended up running fourth behind Maastricht and Crafty who ran second and third.

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Fontein Ruby heads for the track

One filly, I’m A Flying Star didn’t want to leave the mounting yard, and had to be persuaded to go to the barriers.

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I’m A Flying Star baulks at leaving the mounting yard

She did however compete in the race, which is more than can be said of  Suavito in the Blazer Stakes (race 8) who refused to leave the barrier and missed the race entirely.

As the next race was the Turnbull Stakes, I decided to catch up with Super Cool and his strapper Jade to whom I’ve been supplying photos via Dropbox.

He was being saddled up when I reached his stall, so I lingered until he was ready. While Jade demonstrated his sweet and laid back temperament by getting him to kiss her…

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…I overheard his trainer Mark Kavanagh telling another bystander how he came to be called Super Cool. Apparently before they had named him, they noticed one day that he had three kids sitting on his back and he was completely unfazed by this attention. As Mark Kavanagh remarked, he couldn’t give a shit...

Returning trackside I got a good position on the mounting yard fence to get photos of the main contenders…

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Brambles – ran third

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Lidari – ran second

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Green Moon – second last

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Happy Trails with Super Cool following

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Puissance de Lune – finished fourth

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Silent Achiever – finished ninth

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Lucia Valentina – the winner

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Stipulate – finished fifth

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Super Cool – a disappointing eleventh

Lucia Valentina became the first mare to win the Turnbull Stakes since Devil Moon took it out in 2007.  Before her Makybe Diva (2005) and Sunline (2001) also won the race.

Here’s an old photo of Devil Moon taken at Moonee Valley on Manikato Stakes Day in 2007 after she won the Group 2 Cranes Stakes (now known as the Stocks Stakes). 

Devil Moon – Moonee Valley 15 September 2007

Anyway it’s rare for a mare to win the race, and Lucia Valentina, after being under an injury cloud for most of the week, won it by ½ length from Lidari and Brambles who raced up on the speed for most of the race with Lucia Valentina swooping from mid field to deny them victory. She is now outright Caulfield Cup favourite, and she quite possibly can win it.

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Lucia Valentina returns to scale

I did not wager on the Turnbull Stakes, being unable to make up my mind on a selection, so was delighted with Lucia Valentina’s win.

Deferring leaving the course after the feature race, I stayed to watch Race 8,  the Group 2 Blazer Stakes, where I fancied May’s Dream who had a good record of winning second up. The Gai Waterhouse trained Forever Loved won comfortably from Enquare with May’s Dream finishing third.  The big drama was the favourite, Suavito, refusing to leave the barriers, which was only noticed by race caller Greg Miles half way through the race.

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May’s Dream leaving the mounting yard

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Forever Loved returns to scale after winning the Blazer Stakes

Throughout the afternoon I caught up with the Sydney racing action.

He’s Your Man pipped his stable mate Royal Descent at the post to win the Epsom Handicap with outsider Hooked running third.

First Seal won the Flight Stakes in dynamic fashion by 3 lengths from Winx with Thinking of You running third. The top three fillies in the race a natural trifecta.

And in The Metropolitan Junoob made it two wins in succession, beating home Opinion and Araldo.

After collecting my place winnings on May’s Dream which were a pretty good $2.25, I headed to the station and home.

It was a very enjoyable day at the races, and I was pleased to witness two possible new stars of the turf in Chautauqua and Lucia Valentina in action. Also I wouldn’t be surprised if Who Shot Thebarman was somewhere in the finish in the Melbourne Cup.

Next week is Caulfield Guineas Day at Caulfield. I pre-purchased an early bird ticket ages ago, so mean to attend. There are four Group 1 races and an excellent support card to boot.