Monday, September 22, 2014

And So It Came To Be–Underwood Stakes Day Review

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Foreteller on his way to the barriers prior to winning the Underwood Stakes

The undoubted hero of the day at Caulfield on Saturday was Foreteller, who took out the feature race, the Underwood Stakes in fine fashion, thus adding a third Group 1 race to his CV and giving his trainer Chris Waller a two State Group 1 double with Sacred Falls winning the George Main Stakes at Randwick.

As there are nine races on the program in Melbourne throughout Spring, the races are run at 35 minute intervals, so an afternoon at the races passes fairly swiftly. Previously the interval was 40 minutes, which on occasions was a tad too long.

Arriving at the course around 1.40 pm, just after Race 3, I as usual dallied around the stalls area. Not many of the stars had arrived at that point so I headed for the public lawn and mounting yard to view the runners in Race 4, the TMB Printing Handicap, a race over 1400 metres for three year old fillies.  I decided to have a little money on Fontein Ruby who I had witnessed beating the boys at Flemington at her last start. She’s a lovely black filly, but my bet must have put a hoodoo on her chances as she ended up unplaced.

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Fontein Ruby in the mounting yard

The winner was Thinking Of You from the Peter Moody stable, with favourite Pickin’ Time running second 2½ lengths behind and Pittsburgh Flyer scoring third place.

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Thinking Of You on her way to the barriers

My luck was out all day, so I should have given up after that race.

Despite my lack of success on the punt I did manage to take some good photos. As the day was not bright – in fact it was somewhat overcast and chilly –  the light was good for photography.

Back in the stalls area Silent Achiever had arrived, so I took to the opportunity to snap a few head shots.

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Silent Achiever in her stall

She was being a bit naughty, chewing on her tether, pawing the straw on the floor of her stall and kicking the back of it.

The Offer was being walked in the walking ring, so I got a photo of him as well.

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The Offer in the walking ring

Back in the mounting yard the runners were assembling for the fifth race on the program, the Dalziel Racing Tile Importing Handicap, a race for mares over 1400 metres. I was most interested in seeing Spirit of Heaven, Lights of Heaven’s younger sister.

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Spirit of Heaven in the mounting yard

Of course my wager on her ensured she failed to run a place. The race was won by outsider Star Fashion, from favourite Suavito with Nadeem Miss running third.

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Race 5 finish down the straight – Bloomingdale Miss leads but Star Fashion (lime & yellow silks, pink cap) is about to overtake her.

There was only one more race to run before the feature, and that was the Naturalism Stakes. For stayers, it is run over 2000 metres, and the winner gets automatic entry into the Caulfield Cup.

I viewed the runners in the mounting yard and on their way to the starting gates.

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Let’s Make Adeal in the mounting yard

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Spillway in the mounting yard

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Bonfire in the mounting yard – finished third

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Gris Caro the winner on his way to the barriers

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Our Voodoo Prince on his way to the barriers

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Entirely Platinum – finished second

Gris Caro raced up with the speed  beside Bonfire through most of the race and beat off a fast finishing Entirely Platinum to win by a nose, with Bonfire a similar short margin holding third. Spillway, who started as favourite, was blocked for a run and finished seventh.

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Gris Caro, Entirely Platinum and Bonfire fight out the finish up the straight in the Naturalism Stakes

My money was on Our Voodoo Prince so naturally he came nowhere.

It was not a day for favourites at all, with only the winner of Race 9 gratifying favourites punters.

Next up was the Underwood Stakes so I made sure to stake out a spot on the fence next to the mounting yard.

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Foreteller in the mounting yard

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The Offer in the mounting yard

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Super Cool in the mounting yard

Back on the public lawn at the fence one is given plenty of opportunities to take action shots as the horses leave the mounting yard to go to the barriers…

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Happy Trails

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Stipulate

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Star Rolling

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Lidari

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Super Cool

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Silent Achiever

No mare has won the Underwood Stakes since Tristarc won it way back in 1985, so the odds were against Silent Achiever from the start. Even so she started as favourite, but only managed to run fifth, though only two lengths off the winner.

For a while there watching the race, it looked like 50/1 shot Crackerjack King was going to cause a boilover. It was a very close finish with Foreteller diving through to win from Happy Trails by a nose with Crackerjack King holding on for third a length away.

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Underwood Stakes finish  down the straight – Happy Trails, Crackerjack King & Foreteller & Lidari (obscured on the fence)  in a line of four, with Super Cool and Silent Achiever behind.

Foreteller’s win was popular with the crowd. He has a habit of winning Group 1 races every so often. You just have to predict which one it will be. Alas I didn’t have money on him this time, as I favoured the mare, so at least he was spared my kiss of death.

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Foreteller in the winners rug after winning the Underwood Stakes.

I stayed for Race 8 as I wanted to photograph Samaready and May’s Dream. I got some lovely shots of Samaready, so it’s lucky that I did. After her failure in the Sportingbet Sprint she has been retired to stud, where she will have an appointment with All Too Hard in due course.

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Samaready in the mounting yard

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May’s Dream – she’s a small, pretty, lightly built mare

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Shamal Wind

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Forever Loved

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Girl Guide – the winner

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Spirits Dance

Refusing to give up after my run of losses, I threw one last dice to bet on Spirits Dance who I thought had as good a chance as any and was at good odds. For a moment I thought she would win, but she was overtaken by Girl Guide, A Time For Julia and Shamal Wind and finished fifth.

Girl Guide is a half sister to Gregers and obviously has some of her talent on the track. She was third favourite, so it wasn’t such a surprise to see her win.

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Race 8 finish down the straight – Spirits Dance is leading on the fence with A Time For Julia on her outside. Girl Guide is in hot pursuit in third spot about to overtake.

After that race I called it quits and didn’t stay for the final race of the day. I did however take the opportunity to go check out Cauthen in the stalls to get a photo of him.

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The handsome Cauthen in his stall

I enjoy my Saturday afternoon outings to the races. These low key Group 1 race meetings are much more pleasant than the big race days like Derby Day and the Melbourne Cup. They’re not crowded and the atmosphere is friendly and cheerful.

Attending as often as I do, you run into the same people – other keen photographers like Geo Hillis and amateurs like me, as well as regular race enthusiasts who also enjoy an afternoon at the track. So a big hello to Artie if you should chance to visit this blog – look forward to catching up when next I’m at the track. And please feel free to steal my photos for your blog, whatever it is.

The local racing action next weekend is happening on Friday night at Moonee Valley and on Sunday at Caulfield. The AFL Grand Final dominates Melbourne next Saturday, so no major race meetings are scheduled, though Sydney has racing as usual.  The Group 1 Moir Stakes is run at Moonee Valley, and the Group 1 Rupert Clark Stakes features at Caulfield. I’m still deciding if I’ll go to either meeting.

Speaking of the Sydney races, the outcomes from last Saturday saw  an old favourite of mine, Manawanui, win his first race for several years. He’s been plagued by injury problems and returned to racing after a long break on Saturday. It’s good to see  him back in the winners circle.

Earthquake, having her first run over 1400 metres, was beaten again into third place in the Tea Rose Stakes. Outsider First Seal took home the bikkies from Winx.

Junoob beat Criterion in the Hills Stakes, and as previously mentioned Sacred Falls took out the George Main Stakes from stable mate Royal Descent with 60/1 shot Laser Hawk running third.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Thrills Continue–Racing at Caulfield & Randwick

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Silent Achiever in the mounting yard at Caulfield – Memsie Stakes Day

Caulfield is offering free entry on Saturday for the Underwood Stakes meeting, so naturally I’ll sally along to take in the atmosphere of first class racing once more . And hopefully Melbourne’s weather will play nice, after this past week brought a return to winter chill.

The feature event is the aforementioned Group 1 Underwood Stakes, run over 1800 metres. Last year Atlantic Jewel and It’s A Dundeel fought out an exciting finish down the straight with It’s A Dundeel the victor by the narrowest of margins.

This year’s edition has a pretty good field as you’d expect in a Group 1 contest.  The top contenders are Silent Achiever who in my opinion is the top pick, Foreteller who always runs an honest race, Happy Trails ditto, and Star Rolling who won the PB Lawrence Stakes at  Caulfield in August. Of course I’d love old fave Super Cool, who is backing up in this race after running last week, to show some of the form that won him the Australian Cup – his last win in fact.  Lidari and The Offer also have a chance.

The support card is mildly interesting though not top class. A few of the horses I follow are engaged in a few a them.

The Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000 metres) is one for stayers hoping to win a place in the Caulfield Cup.  Top pick is the Chris Waller trained Our Voodoo Prince. His name is a clever interpretation of his breeding (out of Kingmambo x Ouija Board). Spillway has had two runs so far in his Spring campaign, running second to Star Rolling in the PB Lawrence Stakes and fourth in last week’s Makybe Diva Stakes, so he is one of the top chances and must win this to have a hope of running in the Caulfield CupBonfire has claims with close seconds in his only two runs this spring in Sydney. The most interesting runner is Zanbagh who ran second to Rising Romance in the Sydney Oaks. And when will Let’s Make Adeal make some headway? She has generally been disappointing of late.

The Group 3 Sportingbet Sprint Series Heat 2 Stakes (1200 metres) is run after the feature race, and looks to have attracted a really good field of smart mares. Samaready makes a welcome return to racing in this event and is the class act if she is back to her best.  It’s good to see She’s Archie’s daughter May’s Dream back on the track again. This race is too short for her, so she is not expected to win. She won the South Australian Oaks at her last start in April. Also in the field is Spirits Dance who in Autumn built up  four wins on the gallop and shouldn’t be dismissed, A Time For Julia who ran a close second to Gregers in the Cockram Stakes and Shamal Wind who has a good record first up and can fly like the proverbial over the distance. Throw in Jessie Belle and Girl Guide as place chances.

The final race on the program at Caulfield is the Le Pine Funerals Handicap and is of interest only because Cauthen is in the field. He was thrown in at the deep end at his last start in the McEwen Stakes and finished sixth. I had a look at him on that day and he has grown into an impressive looking young horse.  With his light weight and the services of top jockey Tommy Berry he may show the form that had him beating Long John and Shamus Award back in Spring last year.

In Sydney the racing card at Randwick is much better.  The Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600 metres) is the feature race of the day and has almost the same field that contested the Chelmsford Stakes on
6 September, with a few variations. Anyway you’ve got Hawkspur who won the aforementioned race by a nostril from Royal Descent who is also in the field along with Sacred Falls who ran fourth. He will appreciate the good track that is finally likely for Randwick on Saturday and is a top contender over the distance. Perhaps Lucia Valentina can repeat her incredible win in the Tramway Stakes if that effort didn’t overtax her, and maybe the spruiked sole three year old Panzer Division can give all the older horses a galloping lesson.  Also New Zealand mare Rising Romance, who won the Sydney Oaks is sure to feature somewhere.

Earthquake will be out to redeem her reputation in the Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes (1400 metres). It’s obvious she is not suited to heavy tracks after her defeat at her last start in the Furious Stakes where she ran third. The winner on that occasion was Winx who will be aiming to keep her perfect unbeaten record intact in the Tea Rose.  Also in the picture are Peggy Jean and Alpha Miss.

The other interesting Group 2 race at Randwick is the Hill Stakes run over 2000 metres. After two horses were scratched, a field of six will compete for the honours. These include La Amistad, Criterion, Bagman and Moriarty. I’ll be torn between barracking for La Amistad and Criterion.

All in all it looks to be a good day of racing, and so you would expect as the spring racing season progresses.  It’s less than month to the running of the first of the big Cups – the Caulfield Cup – so my Saturday afternoons are taken care of for the next month or so.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Few Screws Loose, but It Still Works

What the hell am I talking about? It’s not my mental condition I’m referring to, but another intelligent machine, in this case my old Kindle eBook reader.


Kindle with broken screen

Back in early June my old Kindle 3 gave up the ghost, or rather became unreadable due to the screen breaking through misadventure (see photo above).  I purchased a new Kindle Paperwhite as a result and am perfectly happy with it.

So the old Kindle appeared to be defunct and destined for the recyclers, that is until I found a video on You Tube that explained very succinctly how to replace the broken screen, and subsequent to that I came across an excellent instructable on the web that elucidated on the video.  It didn’t look all that hard, so I decided to give it try and rescue my old Kindle from the scrap heap.

Finding a new screen was easy. You can buy them on Ebay and they cost about $40.00 –$50.00.  Far cheaper than buying a new Kindle.

My new screen arrived, but I put off the task of  replacing the old broken screen for a month. I felt I had to psych myself up to begin, as I have never done anything like this before. That is, taking apart a device and reassembling it.

Yesterday I felt in the mood to try and I’m pleased to report that the Kindle is now operable again.

It took me all afternoon, involving as it did, removing all the innards bit by bit and putting it together again with the new screen installed.

It was, I admit, not as easy as it looked on the video, which I had playing  on my laptop computer in front of me as I worked.

There were at least twenty five screws to unscrew, some of them little black ones the size of ants. If you don’t have twenty-twenty vision it can be incredibly difficult and frustrating unscrewing and replacing them. One of course fell on the floor, so I gave it up as a lost cause and figured one less screw wouldn’t make much difference in the long run.

I was right. I actually ended up with a few extra screws and little metal whatsits which I couldn’t find a place for in the reassembly.

The cats were starting to grumble about being fed as I finally snapped the back cover of the Kindle into place.

After recharging the device I tentatively turned it on and to my delight, it was working. It’s not perfect, as the images are not displayed properly (faded out) but the text is crisp.

Kindle image display Kindle text display

This could be the quality of the screen, but most probably it is a “bad waveform” problem - explained here (with advice on how to fix it). I certainly don’t feel up to taking the Kindle apart again, so I’ll just live with its imperfections. After all, as I have a new Kindle for reading, the old one can now be a spare should the new one stuff up.

I am however really chuffed that I was able to get my old Kindle working again. It was an educational exercise and I learned a lot in the process.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shining Jewel & other highlights at Flemington, not to mention a Royal Birth…

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Dissident returns to scale after winning the Makybe Diva Stakes

It promised to be a great day of racing action at Flemington last Saturday and it didn’t disappoint. The sterling race card delivered in spades a series of sensational races. Commanding Jewel took out the the Let’s Elope Stakes for the second year in succession, and Dissident signalled that he was a serious Spring contender winning the Makybe Diva Stakes.

I was obliged to arrive at the track earlier than I would have liked due to the Flemington train schedule, where the final train heading to the track left Flinders Street at 12.50 pm. I caught the one before as the train from my home station didn’t really sync with the later train going to Flemington.

So I arrived at Flemington just after the first race on the program, and as is my wont I headed directly to the stalls area to see which horsey stars had already arrived.

The Living Legends were there, so I dropped by to say hello to Apache Cat and Paris Lane.

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Apache Cat in his stall munching on straw

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Paris Lane in his stall

In case you don’t remember, Paris Lane won the 1994 Caulfield Cup and MacKinnon Stakes and ran second in the Melbourne Cup the same year, so he’s getting on in years these days – 24 years old in fact. There is a precinct at Flemington Racecourse named after him.

Also out and about was the promising colt Divan, and a very attractive young fellow he is. Alas, his run in the Living Legends Stakes was very disappointing where he finished at the tail of the field.

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Divan in the walking ring

Commanding Jewel was being walked in the ring at the same time and I managed to get some lovely head shots of her with her strapper.

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Commanding Jewel in the walking ring early in the afternoon

Race 2 the Sofitel Girls’ Day Out 2000 was in progress as I made way back to the public lawn. A race over 2000 metres it had a good field of stayers trying their luck at the big track.

Who Shot Thebarman was the winner, beating Jacquinot Bay by 2½ lengths with Prizum taking third spot. Who Shot Thebarman is part of Chris Waller’s stable and won the Group 1 Auckland Cup earlier this year.

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Who Shot Thebarman returns to scale after winning the Sofitel Girls’ Day Out 2000

More stayers were engaged in the next race, the Spring Is The Season Handicap which is run over 1700 metres. Top weight Brambles was the victor, his first win since he won the Queensland Derby in June 2012. He fought off a determined effort by Big Memory to win by a narrow margin, with Signoff a further 2½ lengths away in third place.

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Brambles returns to scale after winning the Spring Is The Season Handicap

The next four races were the ones that in which I was most interested.

The first of these was the Listed Living Legends Stakes, so I found a possie next to the mounting yard to get photos of the contestants as they paraded or went to the track.

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Chivalry

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Divan

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Silent Whisper

The race was won by Merion who managed to overtake Chivalry at the post with Zebulon running third.

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Merion returns to scale after winning the Living Legends Stakes

The first of the Group races and a real gem of a competition, the Group Two Let’s Elope Stakes  was next up.  Commanding Jewel, who was forced to race three wide for most of the race, took the lead in the straight and managed to hold off a fast finishing Dear Demi to win by a short margin. Nautical finished third.

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Dear Demi returns to scale

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Commanding Jewel returns to scale after winning the Let’s Elope Stakes for a second time

Back in the stalls area more horses had arrived, including old favourite Super Cool.  I always try and get a photo of him whenever he is racing, and am pleased with this one with Jade his strapper who as ever obliges me by posing with him.

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Super Cool & Jade

Meanwhile back in the mounting yard the Living Legends were parading…

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Paris Lane & Apache Cat parading in the mounting yard

…and the Danehill Stakes contenders joined them shortly afterwards.

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Rich Enuff – the winner

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Looks Like The Cat – ran second

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Brazen Beau – started favourite but was unplaced – a stunning looking colt

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Ghibellines – ran third

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Sole filly Go Indy Go – unplaced

Being a 1200 metre race it was a dash down the long straight with Rich Enuff prevailing over Looks Like The Cat with Ghibellines three lengths or so behind them scoring third place. Rich Enuff was  having only the third start in his career, but it was his second win in succession. Looks Like The Cat so named owing to the big white blaze on his face similar to Apache Cat, narrowly missed winning and is one to watch in the future.

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Rich Enuff returns to scale after winning the Group 2 Danehill Stakes

Despite arriving at Flemington early, the afternoon passed in a flash. It was a brilliant sunny day, so a pleasure to be outside. I was not feeling particularly lucky, so hardly had a bet at all, not wishing to put the kiss of death on my fancies.

In between the Flemington races I  did manage to watch a few of the Sydney races and was pleased to see Catkins romp in by several lengths in the Sheraco Stakes, though La Amistad was disappointing. I watched a replay of the Golden Rose when I got home as I left Flemington before it was it run. Hallowed Crown gave the fairly new partnership of Bart Cummings and his grandson James their first Group 1.

Soon enough it was time for the feature race the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes. I was tossing up between putting my money on Dissident or Boban and settled for the latter as his odds were slightly better.

I watched the parade in the mounting yard and snapped pictures of the main contenders as they filed out to the track.

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Boban – unlucky 5th

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Fawkner – an eye catching second

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Puissance de Lune – third again

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Super Cool – a much improved 8th

Dissident raced up on the speed this time and took the lead in the straight, holding on to win his second consecutive Group 1 from a fast finishing Fawkner. Puissance de Lune did well to come third.

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Dissident rugged after winning the Makybe Diva Stakes

I didn’t stay long after the main event as I had to get home to feed the cats before heading out again to dine at a friend’s place.

It was an very enjoyable day at the races even if my only two wagers were unsuccessful. I’m not there to gamble anyway. I just love looking at the horses and following the racing action. It’s endlessly fascinating to this dedicated racing fan.

And of course the big racing news over the weekend was the birth of Black Caviar’s foal, a lovely little filly. There are pictures all over the web of the proud mother and babe, and of course her website has a good selection.

Next weekend Caulfield Racecourse is hosting a free entry race meeting which features the Group 1 Underwood Stakes.  And in Sydney at Randwick the Group 1 George Main Stakes is the feature event of another interesting race meet.