Monday, April 14, 2014

Farewell to an old friend–Rest In Peace Maureen


When casting my eye over the Tributes page in The Age today, I was shocked to discover a familiar name listed, and ascertained from the names of the attributers that it was indeed my old and dear friend Maureen.

I post haste rang the persons who had placed the tribute to find out what had happened. Maureen had died last Friday morning of lung cancer, after being diagnosed with the condition in February this year.

This is a real shock as I had no inkling that she was ill. In fact the last time I saw her in early January  she was bragging about how well she felt.  And even though she always appeared cadaverous –tall,  pale and thin – she mostly had enjoyed the best of health and was a vegetarian by choice. She would have turned 62 on the 20th May.

I have known Maureen for over 40 years, first meeting her when she moved into the Parkville mansion, Mt Ievers, where I was living in the late 1960s/early 1970s . When Mt Ievers was sold to developers Maureen and I shared a house in Carlton for several years, and also both worked at Space Age Books in the 1970s.  We remained good friends through all the decades since, though didn’t see each other much, until fairly recently where we went on several outings to galleries. I hadn’t seen her since our trip to Bendigo for the Modern Love Exhibition in January, so I now bitterly regret that I had not got in touch with her over the last few months.

Maureen was fiercely independent so it would not be like to her to ring and complain about her health. She had long been looking for a job, so I assumed that she had got one and was too busy to make contact.

As I have no photos of her, I have used an Erte image to illustrate this post, as Erte’s fashion illustrations will always remind me of Maureen. She always dressed very stylishly, in beautifully designed clothes, mostly black in colour. Being tall and thin, she had a rare elegance and with her upright carriage and striking looks you could always pick her out from the crowd.

Both her parents died when she was quite young, so when I met her she was an orphan, though she is survived by her elder brother and sister.

I have many fond memories of Maureen and many amusing stories of her idiosyncrasies.

When she was in her teens Maureen had been an artist’s model, and had been painted by notable artists. She had a story about one such painting which hung on the wall in an office at La Trobe University. She was attending an interview with a tutor perhaps, who remarked when he saw her that she looked familiar. Maureen realised that the painting behind him was one of her, which explained his sense of familiarity, but didn’t let him into the secret.

She was a caring person who worked for many years providing employment advice to disadvantaged youth. I don’t think she had a cynical bone in her body and approached the world in an open hearted, perhaps somewhat naive manner.

She never married nor had children, but she owned a little terrace house in Brunswick and had lived there many years by herself by choice. She was secretive about her personal life so I don’t know if she had any special friends or lovers.  As I said before she was very independent and never asked anything of other people, and was unquestionably honest and upright in her dealings.

Highly intelligent and pure living (cigarettes were her only vice) Maureen was a smart, beautiful, elegant and charmingly eccentric person – an unique and original individual who will be grievously missed by all who knew her.

Rest in peace Maureen. I’m sorry I never got the chance to say good bye, but you’ll always live in my memory as one of this old sinner’s dearest friends and I’ll be sad when I look at the unusual presents you’ve given me over the years, as they’ll represent a little piece of Maureen for me.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Did We Do Without Them? - Continued

new computer

It’s more the question of are they worth the trouble?

It took me all last week to successfully set up my new computer, and I wonder if the stress and distraction was worth it.  The main problem was installing the printer, which being over five years of age required a Windows 7 driver. That was OK as it was easy to find on the Fuji Xerox site, but could I get the printer to install it properly? No.

After putting the printer problem in the too hard basket for most of the week, I somehow or other managed to successfully install the driver on Friday. Don’t ask me how I did it, but after detaching the printer from the computer, then reattaching it, Windows automatically found the printer driver and installed it and the printer worked.  What a relief!

In the meantime I installed my most useful software, MS Office, Dreamweaver, Cute FTP for example and even though the software in most cases is over ten years old they all work in Windows 7. Even some really ancient Windows 3.1 games work in the OS. 

The only problematic application was Dreamweaver 4, which worked, but had a major problem that could not be surmounted easily. I then remembered that I had a later version of Dreamweaver which I had purchased in 2004, so installed that and it worked fine. It is however a slightly more sophisticated program which had me on a swift learning curve  when I used it to  edit web pages today. I had grown so used to the layout of Dreamweaver 4, that I’d stuck with it through the years, so had hardly tried Dreamweaver MX 2004 as it looked different and required time to grow accustomed to the interface, so I basically stuck with the tried and true and familiar as I knew it in Dreamweaver 4. 

It’s amazing how fast you can learn when you have to. Having worked out Dreamweaver MX  today, I’ve decided that actually it isn’t that bad a program, and has some pleasing improvements that I’d  never noticed before, like retaining the formatting of Word documents copied into it and automatically inserting links.

So setting up the new computer has been unusually educational if frustrating at times.

Writing this post in the latest version of Windows Live Writer, I’m also learning something new. I don’t really think it’s as easy to use as the old 2009 Live Writer, but I’m trying to get used to it by writing this post.

As for Windows 7, it’s actually pretty similar to XP and certainly not as bossy as Vista, so I have no issues with it at all.

You will notice in the picture above that the racing form guide is sitting in front of the printer.  I was too distracted last week to preview the first of Randwick’s “Championship” meetings, which featured the Group One Sires, ATC Derby, T J Smith and the hallowed mile of the Doncaster Handicap.  They were run  on a bog track (Heavy 9) and the winners were a mix of class and specialist mudrunners.

The Sires was won by smart filly Peggy JeanCriterion added the Derby to his Rosehill Guineas victory, Lankan Rupee demonstrated just how brilliant he is with a stunning two length win in the T J Smith, and Sacred Falls won the Doncaster for the second year  in succession.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

What Did We Do Without Them?


I’m speaking of computers of course.

What inspired me to write this post is that having just purchased a new desktop computer, it occurred to me that 2014 is the 20th anniversary of my acquiring my first PC.  It looked a lot like the one in the image above and was a 486DX33 IBM clone. It was top of the range at the time having a 2 x speed CD drive, a 250mb hard disk, 4mb ram and cost me about $5000 all up with printer, monitor, keyboard and mouse included. It ran on Windows 3.11 and Dos 6.2.

By comparison, my new custom made box only cost me $800 and is probably 1000 times more powerful than the 486. I’ve yet to fire it up, steeling myself for the tedium of loading software and attaching peripherals, and also getting used to a new operating system, Windows 7 in this case.

Yes, I’ve been a die hard Windows XP user, and as the system will not be supported from 8 April 2014, I figured that rather than upgrading the OS of my current 5½ year old computer – who knows how much longer it’ll chug along - I’d start afresh with a new computer running a newer operating system that was not Windows 8.

I know desk top computers are going out of fashion and that laptops and tablets are more popular these days. However, even though I do have a laptop and a tablet, I greatly prefer to work and play from a big computer and with a square LED/LCD monitor to boot. They are  pretty hard to get these days too, with wide screens being the monitor of choice for younger folk.  My current computer, when I bought it, came with a wide screen, but I couldn’t stand it and got rid of it as soon as I could.

My theory is that newer is not necessarily better and the same goes for my ancient beloved software, so I hope it all works in Windows 7.

One interesting coincidence regarding the 20 year interim between my first computer and the latest one, is that one of the first PC games I played on the 486 was Under A Killing Moon, the first FMV Tex Murphy game.  Tesla Effect,  the long awaited new Tex Murphy FMV game, is set to be released in a few weeks, so I’ll get to play it on my new computer, which should handle the game easily.  I’ve been playing a beta sneak peek of Tesla Effect on my current computer and it works fine in XP.  In order to play Under A Killing Moon I had to buy more RAM, and settled on 16mb which cost me $600 back in 1994 – that’s $50.00 a megabyte!

How times and technology have changed over the twenty years since I took up computing!

Returning to the title of this post, what did we do when there were no computers or internet?

It’s hard to recall, but I probably watched more television, read more books, occupied my free time in other unfathomable ways. 

I remember when we first got computers at work in the early 1990s we went along to Computer Shows and lusted after such devices as digital cameras, cd burners, scanners, colour inkjet printers etc. Colleagues used to return from these shows and show off their booty – free giveaways from the exhibitors like CD roms, copy paper samples and the odd game.  I’ve still got a packet of paper samples from the Canon stand for which I’ve never found a use.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Who Will The Slipper Fit?

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Earthquake on her way to winning the Reisling Stakes

I missed previewing the races at Rosehill last week, but to catch up, the three Group One races on the cards were won by outsiders – Gordon Lord Byron $21.00 (George Ryder Stakes), Tiger Tees $13.00 (The Galaxy) and Criterion $13.00 (Rosehill Guineas). The heavy track put pay to favourites chances, and it’s likely that results this coming weekend will be similar as the Rosehill track this Saturday will be slow at best.

Three more Group One races are scheduled at Rosehill this Saturday and the feature race is the Golden Slipper Stakes, always an interesting race to watch, it being the richest two year old event in the world.

Also on the card are the Group One BMW for stayers, run over 2400 metres, and the Vinery Stud Stakes a 2000 metres race for three year old fillies. Several interesting Group Two events add to the excitement.

But first I’ll muse on the Golden Slipper, where unbeaten filly Earthquake will be aiming to win the rare Blue Diamond/Golden Slipper double, last won by Sepoy in 2011.  She has drawn barrier 13, considered unlucky by some, as no contender has ever won the Slipper from it. She has also never raced on heavy going, but Overreach who, like Earthquake, was sired by Exceed and Excel, won it last year on a slow track. Earthquake’s greatest rivals appear to be fellow fillies Mossfun, Oakleigh Girl and Bring Me The Maid. Of the colts and geldings, Unencumbered, Ghibellines and Valentia are viable chances. I regard Earthquake as a potentially exceptional filly so I hope she proves me correct.

The BMW appears to be a rerun of the Ranvet Stakes only over an extra 400 metres, with pretty much the same contestants in the field – It’s A Dundeel, Fiorente, Foreteller, Silent Achiever, with the addition of Australian Cup runners Voleuese de Coeurs and Let’s Make Adeal, and several other stayers. Carlton House is not in the field, so perhaps we’ll finally get a good competition down the straight between It’s A Dundeel, Fiorente and Silent Achiever. Who will win? Can It’s A Dundeel finally show how good he really is or can Fiorente redeem his disappointing showing in the Ranvet.

The third Group One is the Vinery Stud Stakes (formerly known as the Storm Queen Stakes) and a full field of fillies has accepted the 2000 metre race.  Top picks are Solicit, Marianne, who finally won a race at her last start after running second four times consecutively, Zanbach who finished second to Kirramossa in the Crown Oaks, and New Zealand fillies, Rising Romance who ran second in the New Zealand Derby and NZ Oaks winner Miss Mossman. The Vinery Stud Stakes is the main lead up race to the AJC Oaks, so it’s worth watching with that race in mind.

Catkins also returns this Saturday in the Group 2 Emancipation Stakes. It’s a much easier race than the Coolmore Classic where she finished third. She looks the class act in the Emancipation field. and  also has great wet track form. Her main challengers are Sharnee Rose, Floria and Diamond Drille.

Though I probably will not be attending any more race meetings until early Spring, I will naturally follow the remainder of the Sydney autumn carnival with keen interest.

Update Saturday evening

The results today were nowhere near as shocking as they were last week, with the trifectas of the BMW and Golden Slipper being logically the top three contestants in the race.

A very clever ride by James McDonald on Mossfun denied Earthquake her fifth win, when he slipped through on the inside and stole the Slipper. Earthquake was by no means disgraced, but the heavy going may have slowed her usual acceleration. Bring Me The Maid ran third. Fillies took  the first seven positions, Ghibellines in 8th place being the closest of the colts to finish.

Silent Achiever starred again in the BMW, beating It’s A Dundeel who couldn’t quite catch her at the line. Fiorente ran third.

In the Vinery Stud Stakes, outsider Lucia Valentina beat Solicit with the long odds Forever Loved running third.

And the reliable Catkins easily took out the Emancipation Stakes defeating Sharnee Rose again, with Angel of Mercy filling third spot.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sydney Adventure – Part 2 – Astro New Year Dinner & Sunday Afternoon

archibald fountain_apollo
Archibald Fountain (detail of Apollo) – Hyde Park Sydney

So, I suppose you are keenly awaiting my impressions of the Astro New Year Dinner…

The trip back to Sydney Central from Rosehill took much longer than I expected, so I was late getting to the Astro Dinner venue in Alexandria. Fortunately it was not far from the city centre and a short train trip followed by a brisk walk got me there at 7.00pm, only half an hour late. 

Everyone was in the process of eating the entree as I joined the Fire table. Yes, the guests were seated according to the elemental attributes of their signs, which in Astrology assigns three signs each in fire, earth, air and water.   Being a Leo I was pleased to be at the fire table which as you can imagine was buzzing and vibrant.  My fellow fire signs were all very friendly and, you guessed it, the main topic of conversation was astrology.  The other elemental tables appeared to be just as lively, and indeed there was a lot of mingling between them.

It was a great pleasure to meet the amazing Mystic Medusa in person for the first time. She was reassuringly ordinary and a thoroughly pleasant and friendly person. I suppose I was expecting someone more exotic, as others admitted as well.

Mystic (left) chats with a guest at the fire table.

The restaurant was very noisy, and my hearing is not as it was in my youth (too many rock concerts) so I completely missed the Mystic rant on the fire table, sitting as I was on the opposite end of the table.

The food was very tasty, though if you got me to describe what we ate, I couldn’t tell you. Neither could anyone else. I assumed it was some kind of vegan fare, but I could be wrong. The restaurant specialises in French/Australian gourmet food. However the wine flowed freely so everyone was very much in party mode and I met lots of lovely ladies whose names I have unfortunately forgotten, though not their faces or personalities.

Most of the Astro Dinner guests were female, with only a few men present. but that was understandable as most of the comments on Mystic’s blog are written by women, and blokes don’t seem to have the the same interest in subject. Even so, most of the great astrologers of the past were men – Nostradamus, Charles C E O Carter, Alan Leo, to name a few.

It was an exhilarating evening that I enjoyed enormously. Crazy in a totally amusing and unusual way, it was worth the trip to Sydney.  Quite a few of the other guests had flown from interstate as well, so I was not the only one to succumb to a whim and the chance to meet the awesome Mystic Medusa.

It was around 11.30pm that the last of the diners left, me included. I made my way back to the city by train still buzzing from the energy of the dinner party.

On Sunday I took it easy, or at least attempted to, but I found myself pounding the pavement once more searching in vain for the NSW National Gallery. I took a train to St James Station which appeared on the map to be the closest station to the Gallery, but I got distracted when I emerged by the Hyde Park Barracks.

Hyde Park Barracks exterior

This building was designed by the convict architect Francis Greenaway and constructed between 1818 and 1819, designed to house convict men and boys. It is now a museum devoted to displaying relics of the era, and depicting the lives of those who dwelt there.

As it was only $5.00 to enter, I decided to view the exhibits housed over the three floors of the building. It was quite interesting, bringing back memories of my study of Australian History at University.  I breezed through rather cursorily, I must admit, as I found it hard to concentrate on any one thing for long, my afternoon’s goal being to make it to the Art Gallery.

hyde park barracks_interior 2 
Hyde Park Barracks interior – top floor

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Hyde Park Barracks interior – top floor with cardboard silhouette

Irish Famine Memorial in the grounds of the Hyde Park Barracks

By rights, after leaving the Hyde Park Barracks, I should have headed in a northerly direction, but I was distracted by the Hyde Park Gardens, thinking they would eventually lead to the Botanical Gardens. 

The Archibald Fountain is very fine and the cool shade of the park drew me further in.

archibald fountain_cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral and Archibald Fountain

To cut it short I wandered around for ages and finally ended up back in the city centre, whereupon, giving up on ever finding the Gallery and foot weary, I caught a train to Circular Quay, planning to at least get photos of Sydney’s iconic structures and some water views.

Circular Quay is a spectacular station, situated as it is by the ferry terminal, and as you leave the station there is a great view of the harbour, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other.

circular quay_bridge


It is a lively spot Circular Quay, a hive of activity with plenty of people taking the air on a fine and sunny afternoon. I found a bar and, sipping a refreshing ale, sat and watched the parade, then got talking to some people who shared my table, who were a guy with an amazing Mohawk hairdo and his girlfriend.  I was really surprised that Mohawk was able to quote the following rhyme about ravens or magpies, which is somewhat esoteric knowledge: One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret that’s never been told. It’s not a rhyme you hear quoted every day.

Eventually I made it back to my hotel, and had an early night as I was dead tired.

The weather in Sydney over the weekend was fine and sunny, though humid, but Monday afternoon it turned nasty. My plane was due to leave at 1.00pm, but was delayed for an hour by a thunder storm, where the plane, with passengers aboard, sat on the tarmac until it was clear to take off. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled, but finally the plane took off and I arrived back in Melbourne about 4.00pm and home an hour later.

It was a good break from my usual routine and I’m glad I went to the Astro Dinner and the Rosehill races. I should do it again sometime.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sydney Adventure – Part 1 – Relatives and Races

Harbour Bridge and Opera House from Circular Quay

You may not think that a trip to Sydney is much of an adventure, but for me it was, as I hardly ever get to go anywhere outside of Melbourne. I don’t mind travelling solo, and enjoy getting out of my comfort zone.

I met a young woman on the train to the airport when I was leaving, who had flown for the first time in her life, and was anxious about finding her terminal at the airport going home to the Gold Coast, or even getting off the train at the correct stop. She certainly needed her horizons to be expanded.


Arriving in Sydney town on Friday at around noon, and after checking into my hotel, I headed off to Mortdale out in the southern suburbs to visit my father’s youngest brother and wife. They’re now in their late eighties, and I had not seen them for many years. It was great to catch up, and we spent the afternoon chatting merrily away about a number of things, family matters included. My uncle has a great collection of old photos, dating back to the 19th century. He and my aunt at one stage did a search for family history and travelled back to the town in Somerset where our branch of the family originated. My great, great grandfather George, at the age of 34, emigrated to Australia in 1839 on the ship Morley. He died in Melbourne in 1886 at the age of 84.

Anyway, as my father died when I was only two, I have no memory of him, but his younger brothers, of whom there are only two left,  have always told me about him.  My uncle this time remarked that my dad was one the bravest people he ever knew. This is because, when my dad was a boy he got a splinter from a cow bail in his leg which became gangrenous and the leg was eventually amputated at the thigh. So my father was one legged, and was adept on a crutch. My uncle said that he never bemoaned his fate and was the most cheerful, thoughtful and kindest of elder brothers.  It’s a pity he died so young (he was 39 years old) and that I never knew him. Who knows what different path my life would have taken had he lived.

When I emerged from Central station after catching the train at the airport, by sheer chance I came out at the correct exit, close to the hotel I was staying at. Returning from Mortdale I exited on the other side of the station and got lost. I have my phone, but I find looking at maps on it is very hard, my vision not being 100%, so I walked, and walked, and walked until I finally found the right street and eventually my hotel. By that time it was quite late, so after dining at the hotel I called it a night.

Racing at Rosehill

The weather the whole time I stayed in Sydney was dry, warm and humid, which was good for attending the races at Rosehill as it promised a good track.

Relying once more on Sydney’s train system I successfully made it to the track, even though we were obliged to catch a bus from Olympic Park to the racecourse due to railway track work over the weekend.

If you’ve been to one racecourse, you’ve been to them all, as they are generally laid out in much the same way. And so it was at Rosehill.

It’s quite a small racecourse, but it was easy to get a good view of the races from the fence, though the mounting yard – a long narrow space – was not really accessible to Joe Public. 

I arrived just before Race 2, so was able to test my camera in the conditions.

race 2_finish 1
Race 2 down the straight – Earnest Ernest the winner (pink and yellow silks) is on the outside about to overtake the leaders

The races in Sydney run in a clockwise direction, so I had to adjust my mind to the difference as I initially looked anti clockwise to see where the race was at ala Melbourne direction, but soon got used to the changed view.

You would think Rosehill, with its name would be resplendent with roses, but the Flemington roses leave it for dead. It does have a rose archway where the horses leave the mounting yard for the track…

rose archway
Rose archway at Rosehill

…and the statue of famous old sprinter Todman has a wreath of roses around his neck.

todman statue
Todman statue

Which leads me into Race 3 which was the Group 2 Todman Stakes for Golden Slipper bound two year old colts and geldings, run over 1200 metres.  I was keen to see the Magic Millions Two Year Old Classic winner Unencumbered, who started as favourite.

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Unencumbered on his way to the track from the mounting yard

However, he was upstaged by Guelph’s little half brother Ghibellines who romped home at huge 40/1 odds.

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Race 3 finish – Ghibellines is in the lead, before winning the Todman Stakes

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Ghibellines returns to scale

His big sister Guelph ran third in the last race, but I left the track directly after the Ranvet Stakes in order to be in time for the Astro Dinner, so regretfully missed seeing her in action as she apparently has since been retired.

In Race 4, the Reisling Stakes, the fillies equivalent of the Todman Stakes, Earthquake continued on her winning ways,  one of the few favourites of the day to score a win.

race 4_earthquake 9
Earthquake returning to scale after winning the Reisling Stakes

The two Group One features were scheduled later in the afternoon, so I took the opportunity during the interval to explore the racecourse facilities and the stalls area, where Fiorente was being walked…

fiorente 1

…and Catkins was being prepared for the Coolmore Classic

catkins_stalls 2

Catkins started as favourite for the Coolmore Classic, though at pretty good odds of $4.60.  She was denied her first Group 1 victory by Steps In Time who, ridden aggressively by Jim Cassidy, took off at the 600 and left the rest of the field behind, leading by several lengths. Sweet Idea closed the gap in the straight, but could not quite catch her. Catkins managed to run third.

race 7 _steps in time 3
Steps In Time returns to scale after winning the Coolmore Classic

The Group One Ranvet Stakes was expected to be a match race between Fiorente and It’s A Dundeel, and they started as equal favourites. However, nothing in racing ever turns out how you would expect, and such was the case this time.

In my preview of the Ranvet Stakes in my last blog post I advised readers not to ignore Silent Achiever, and she proved me right. She pipped race leader, the Queen’s horse, Carlton House, at the post.  He took the lead early in the race and had put a good couple of lengths on the rest of the field by the turn. Silent Achiever raced up near the speed and somehow or other caught Carlton House on the line in a thrilling finish. It’s A Dundeel ran third, but was disappointing overall, as was Fiorente.

Carlton House looked a picture leaving the mounting yard, Kerrin McEvoy resplendent in the Queen’s silks. Carlton House has a completely different appearance to Australian and New Zealand bred horses. He was bred in the USA.

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Carlton House

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Ranvet heroine Silent Achiever on her way to the track

Unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of It’s A Dundeel, but I did notice that even though he is still a small stallion, he has thickened out and certainly looked quite magnificent.

I hastened to the exit after the Ranvet, not even waiting for the horses to return to scale and spent the next hour or so travelling firstly by a bus, then by a train stopping all 15 stations to Central.

As I was feeling quite sweaty after a hot day in the sun, and greasy with sun screen, I decided to have a quick shower before heading off to the Astro Dinner…

To be continued.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Group One racing at Rosehill & Moonee Valley

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Catkins – can she win her first Group 1 race this Saturday?

There are three Group 1 races this weekend, the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night, and the Coolmore Classic and Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill in Sydney on Saturday.

Last year’s William Reid Stakes starred Black Caviar who romped home for her 24th win before a huge crowd. I was there at that meeting and it was magic. This year however I won’t be present for the 2014 edition. It has attracted quite a good field, with the top contenders being Samaready,  Shamexpress and Spirit of Boom.

has been disappointing so far this season, but she gets her chance to redeem her reputation in the William Reid Stakes. She likes Moonee Valley, her last win was at the track in the Group 1  A J Moir Stakes in September last year.

Shamexpress prefers the big Flemington straight, and has performed well against  top sprinters like Snitzerland, and Buffering recently running second in the Black Caviar Lightning. Spirit of Boom is a reliable old sprinter, sure to be in the finish if not win.

Caulfield Cup winner Fawkner has also been entered in this race. He contested it last year first up after break, and ran third to Black Caviar, so could run a place this year as well.

I’m looking forward to visiting Rosehill racetrack for the first time, on Saturday, and the Australian Turf Club has certainly scheduled an excellent race card for the occasion.

Fiorente and It’s A Dundeel will be contesting the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes, so that’s a must see race. Run over 2000 metres, it will certainly sort out the top middle distance horse of the year. I’m awfully torn as to who to back. I’d love It’s A Dundeel to win, but I also wouldn’t mind if the handsome Fiorente continued on his winning ways.  It’s A Dundeel may have the advantage as his best wins have been in Sydney, whereas Fiorente has only had one start in Sydney at Randwick where he ran third behind All Too Hard in the All Aged Stakes last autumn. Others in contention are Foreteller, who won the Ranvet Stakes last year, and the Queen’s horse Carlton House who has apparently finally acclimatised to Australian conditions, being very competitive in the Parramatta Cup recently, running second to outsider Opinion. Fresh from two recent wins in New Zealand, the consistent Silent Achiever may pip the lot of them; ignore her at your peril.

The bonny grey mare Catkins gets her best chance to win her first Group 1 race in the Coolmore Classic. She has been going great guns since resuming, winning both of her starts. The only horse who has beaten her in her last four runs was stable mate Red Tracer who is not part of the Coolmore field. But it is a huge field that includes some really smart fillies and mares, such as Steps In Time, Royal Descent, Dear Demi, whose second up record is excellent, last start winners Bonaria and A Time For Julia, and Sweet Idea who was on a three run winning streak, until failing in the Surround Stakes. 

As well as the two aforementioned Group 1 races, there are several other truly interesting competitions, in particular the Golden Slipper preludes – the Group 2 Todman Stakes for the boys and the Group 2 Reisling Stakes for the fillies – where I will get to see Unencumbered (Todman Stakes) and Earthquake (Reisling Stakes)  in action. Both of these youngsters are highly fancied for the Golden Slipper, Earthquake currently being the favourite after her stunning win in the Blue Diamond Stakes.

Hopefully the weather in Sydney will not be too wet and that a storm will not delay the racing action as it did last week at both Bendigo and Warwick Farm.