Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What Might Have Been–Caulfield Guineas Day Review

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Caulfield Guineas finish – 100/1 shot Mighty Boss wins the bikkies

The weather couldn’t have been better for Saturday’s bumper day of racing at Caulfield, but it wasn’t a day for favourites or my particular fancies.

All the feature Group 1 events resulted in long shot winners, but none more astounding than the win of Mighty Boss in the Caulfield Guineas. Being the emergency runner, he only made it into the field after Summer Passage was scratched. 

I took my time getting to Caulfield, public transport ensuring that my journey thence was unhurried and I arrived in time for Race 4, the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes, a race for stayers over 2400 metres. Imported stayer, Lord Fandango, who since arriving in Australia has only raced on country tracks, winning the Benalla Cup at his last start, demonstrated that he could play on the big stage by impressively winning the Herbert Power by a length from Wall Of Fire and Gallic Chieftan. His winning odds were 12/1.

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Lord Fandango returns to scale

Before and after the Herbert Power Stakes I cruised through the stalls to see who had arrived. 

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Jon Snow

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Catchy smiling for the cameras

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Egg Tart

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Omei Sword

Race 5 was the Listed Weekend Hussler Stakes, a race over 1400 metres. Fast ‘N’ Rocking, who seems to have been around forever, and had not won a race for 2 years, came in at big odds (10/1), narrowly defeating Religify with Dibayani running third.

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Just past the post in the Weekend Hussler Stakes

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Fast ‘N’ Rocking on his way to the starting gates

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Religify on his way to the barriers

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Dibayani on his way to the barriers

The first of the Group 1 events, the Thousand Guineas was next to run, and you guessed it, first and second favourites Alizee and Shoals were upstaged by the unfancied Aloisia who beat Shoals by a 1¼ lengths with Alizee running third another length behind.

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Luke Nolen celebrates Aloisia’s victory in the Thousand Guineas

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Aloisia on her way to the barriers

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Shoals returns to scale

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Alizee returns to scale

The inside rail was thankfully in its true position, which made it much easier to get good rail free photos, and the light was excellent where I was standing as usual on the hill above the stalls. In between the Thousand Guineas and the Caulfield Stakes I managed to get New Zealand trainer, Murray Baker’s signature against Bonneval’s name in three racebooks (ATC Oaks, Dato Tan & Underwood Stakes), though didn’t want to jinx her on the Guineas Day’s racebook.

Bonneval started as favourite for the Caulfield Stakes, but was obliged to start from the widest barrier which rather limited her chances of racing up with the leaders and her jockey Damian Lane appeared to make little effort to get her closer. She raced at the back of the field for most of the race, then was blocked for run by a wall of horses when it counted, so did well to run sixth. Her stablemate Jon Snow fared better racing on the speed, finishing third. Gailo Chop who led for most of the race held off a fast finishing Johannes Vermeer to win by a neck.

Hartnell who was second favourite seems to have been cursed with P B Lawrence Stakes winner’s hoodoo as he has been beaten ever since he won that race back in August. He finished 9th.

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Just past the post in the Caulfield Stakes – Gailo Chop leads

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Gailo Chop returns to scale

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Johannes Vermeer returns to scale

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Jon Snow on his way to the barriers

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Bonneval on her way to the barriers

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Hartnell returns to scale

As previously mentioned the Caulfield Guineas result was a boilover, with Mighty Boss, who had only a lowly win at Sale to his credit, winning $1,200,000 at his sixth start.

An unusual looking chestnut colt with blonde mane and tail he paid over $100 for the win.  Kementari finished second with sole filly Catchy running third. Royal Symphony had a torrid run and ended up running forth. His next race is the Cox Plate against Winx (!!)

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Mighty Boss on his way to the barriers

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Kementari on his way to the barriers

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Catchy returns to scale

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Royal Symphony on his way to the barriers

It was getting on to late afternoon by the time the final Group 1, the Toorak Handicap was set to run.

Egg Tart was the starting favourite, but as was the rule for the day, she finished out of the placings. Tosen Stardom the Japanese import, who since his arrival in Australia last year has not won a race, finally had his moment of glory in his new home, and a Group 1 at that, winning the Toorak Handicap by a length from Sovereign Nation with Petrology a further length behind running third.

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Toorak Handicap finish – another jockey (Damien Lane) shouting for joy

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Tosen Stardom on his way to the barriers

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Sovereign Nation returns to scale

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Petrology on his way to the barriers

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Egg Tart on her way to the barriers

I watched The Everest, which was run before the Caulfield Guineas, on the big screen and duly noted that Redzel won, and that Chautauqua, due to a confused ride by his jockey finished out of a place in fourth. Vega Magic ran second with Brave Smash scoring third place.  She Will Reign finished second last, outclassed by the more seasoned sprinters.

Even though there was one more race to go, the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes with *Lankan Rupee back on the track after a longish layoff, I headed off after the Toorak Handicap, catching an express train at Caulfield and a nicely coinciding connecting train at Parliament, then the bus, and managed to get home in 1¼ hours. 

Next Saturday is the Caulfield Cup meeting which looks to have a decent support card as well, so I’ll be back at Caulfield again and hope the stars smile this time on my fancied runners.

* Lankan Rupee failed to run a place in the Scillaci Stakes and has been retired. A beautiful bay gelding with a distinctive heart on his forehead, he was the top sprinter and Australian Horse Of The Year for 2013/2014 and will be missed, though I’m glad his connections have finally ended his racing career.

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Lankan Rupee – Flemington 8 March 2014

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Caulfield Guineas Day – Spring Heats Up

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Royal Symphony at Caulfield 1/10/17

I haven’t previewed a race meeting for awhile, the recent house move intruding on the time I had to scan the form and write about it.

However, the super race meeting at Caulfield this coming Saturday is worth writing about, with the stars of the turf out in force.

It’s only two weeks to the first of the big Cups, the Caulfield Cup, and the Caulfield Guineas meeting is always held the weekend prior, and offers a considerably better race card than on the big Cup day with four Group 1 races,  and several Group 2 and Group 3 races.

The first of the Group 1 races is the fillies Thousand Guineas. It is run over 1600 metres and has been won by some classy girls in the past such as Alinghi,  Miss Finland, Atlantic Jewel, Commanding Jewel ( AJ’s sister) and Guelph (who actually is the dam of one of the debutants – Encryption -  in Race 1 on the program).  Sydney filly Global Glamour won it last year.

Only eight acceptors will contest this year’s edition and another Sydney filly Alizee appears the top pick. She won the Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes and Group 1 Flight Stakes at her last two starts, which is a similar profile to previous Thousand Guineas winners.

Of the local girls, Booker and Shoals are in with a chance, both having recent wins to their credit. 

The Group 1 races are scheduled in consecutive order and the Caulfield Stakes (2000 metres) is run 40 minutes after the Thousand Guineas. Last year the Caulfield Stakes was a three horse race between Winx, Black Heart Bart and He Or She who finished in that order. This year, without Winx in the field, there are 11 acceptors. They include the regulars Hartnell, Gailo Chop, Single Gaze, Inference, Jon Snow and Abbey Marie, and the wonderful New Zealand mare Bonneval who beat them all in the Underwood Stakes. Also in the field are several International runners here for the Cups, the Aiden O’Brien trained The Taj Mahal and Johannes Vermeer, and the Willy Mullins trained Riven Light, which makes the race unusually interesting. I’ll be barracking for Bonneval and hope she prevails again.

Catchy, rather than running in the Thousand Guineas against her own sex, will be taking on the boys in the Caulfield Guineas. She’s a big strapping girl who has won against the boys twice in the past and has a 2kg weight advantage to assist her. History is against her however, as the last filly to achieve this was Surround in 1976, who also won the Cox Plate the same year.

Of the boys, the top picks are Royal Symphony, Summer Passage, Perast, Kementari, Showtime and New Zealand bred colt Salsamor.

Royal Symphony had his colours lowered in his last start where he finished fourth in the Guineas Prelude. I hope that was just a hiccup in his career and that he can resurrect his reputation with a good win in the Caulfield Guineas.

The Toorak Handicap is the final Group 1 race of the day and has a huge field of 18 acceptors. It is run over 1600 metres and the most interesting runner is the Chris Waller trained mare Egg Tart who is making a second  start to her spring racing campaign, having recently suffered from an eye infection that interfered with her preparation. She’s a classy mare who won the Group 1 South Australian Oaks and Queensland Oaks in the autumn. Interestingly her granddam is Born To Be Queen, a talented staying filly of the 1980s that I followed at the time.  Egg Tart will probably start as favourite and her main threat comes from the likes of I Am A Star, Mr Sneaky and Tom Melbourne.

Trying, and probably succeeding, to steal some of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Glory, Sydney  is running the richest race in the world at Randwick on Saturday.  A sprint over 1200 metres the winner takes home a massive $5.800,000 out of the $10 miilion in prize money.  It is called The Everest and has to its credit attracted a very classy field of 12 sprinters that include Chautauqua, Redzel, Vega Magic, Redkirk Warrior, She Will Reign and Houtzen. I kind of hope that the grey flash wins it, but I’d be equally pleased if She Will Reign was the victor. Whatever the result, it is a must watch race.

As the Group 1 races at Caulfield are later in the day, the first to run at 3.15pm, I’m going to take my time getting to the course and won’t be so fretful at all public transport complications still besetting the Hurstville train line.

Of course if I was still living in Northcote, none of that would have mattered with other transport options being available.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Day In The Sun Celebrating Winx 21st

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Winx wins the Turnbull Stakes

Though the rest of the racecard was pretty ordinary, it was worth getting to Flemington to witness the magic mare Winx win her 21st race in succession. And she accomplished this in spectacular fashion, winning by 6½ lengths.

A lot of other people had the same idea, as twice the number who attended the Turnbull Stakes meeting last year were present for the event. It was quite like the old Black Caviar days, though instead of salmon with black spots,  it was Winx’s blue colours that predominated.  The Merchandise stall were selling Winx caps, stubby holders, vests etc, and throughout the afternoon the promoters were handing out Winx flags for fans to wave.

It took over an hour for me to reach Flemington being obliged to travel by bus to Clifton Hill, then a train to the city, followed by another train to Flemington, but I set out early and reached the course around 1.00pm.

My first stop on arrival was the stalls area to see if Winx was there. Sure enough she was, with a big crowd gathered outside her stall. I managed to wriggle in and got some photos of the super star with her regular strapper Umut Odemislioglu.

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Winx in her stall – for once without ear muffs – with her strapper Omut Odemislioglu

I must admit I did not pay much attention to the other races on the program, but they were handy for photography practice.

Unfortunately the rail was out 9 metres, which as always makes it hard to get clear shots with a high focal length,  the rail cutting off the view as in the first photo above.

My early start meant that I got to Flemington in time for Race 2,  the Poseidon Stakes, a 1400 metres race for three year olds. It was won by long shot Snitzepeg from Brave Tango and Sircconi.

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Poseidon Stakes - down the straight to the finish line, Snitzepeg leads

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Snitzepeg returns to scale

Back in the stalls area I paused to say hello to the Living Legends Fish and Zip…

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At Saintly Place, one of the public precincts of Flemington, there was a display of Bart Cummings trophies, open for the first time last Saturday. There are 149 trophies in all that include his Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate wins.

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A small part of the Bart Cummings Trophy display

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Four Cox Plate Trophys – Saintly 1996, Dane Ripper 1997 & So You Think 2009/2010

Back trackside Race 3, the UCI Stakes was set to run.

Another race for three year olds, this one was over 1800 metres, it was won by the unfancied Main Stage by a neck from Cliff’s Edge with outsider Johnny Viko running third.

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Down the straight in the UCI Stakes – Main Stage (red cap) is about to hit the front

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Main Stage on his way to the barriers

As the Turnbull Stakes was scheduled as Race 5, my friend Rebecca and I  decided to stay put after Race 4, the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes, so we wouldn’t lose our spot at the access gate just past the finishing post.

The Gilgai Stakes favourite was Spieth who disappointed finishing second last.  Keen Array, who seems to have been around forever and hasn’t won a race for year, narrowly won from Queensland mare Sold For Song  and outsider Malibu Style. The trifecta must have paid a fortune.

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Gilgai Stakes finish – Keen Array (blue & green silks) is about to overtake Sold For Song & Malibu Style

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Keen Array returns to scale

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Sold For Song returns to scale

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Bons Away (4th) & Malibu Style return to scale

The excitement was building as the time ticked by to the Turnbull Stakes and everyone jostled for position on the fence to see the great mare in action.

I saw two ravens (for joy) fly over the track, and one settled itself atop the finishing post – an heraldic raven on the ornate structure.

Raven perched on the finishing post

A big cheer greeted Winx as she stepped onto the track.

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Winx on her way to the barriers

Winx previous three runs this Spring have been nailbiting to watch,  but this time around the race result was never in doubt  from the turn into the straight. Winx took command half way up the straight to draw further and further away from her nearest rivals Humidor and Ventura Storm as sequenced in the following photos.

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Up the straight – photo 1

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Up the straight – photo 2

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Up the straight – photo 3

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Up the straight – photo 4

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Up the straight – photo 5

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Winx returns to scale – Hugh Bowman being interviewed by Dean Pettit

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Winx in the mounting yard in the winners rug

After squeezing in on the fence around the mounting yard to get snaps of Winx parading, I decided to try and get Chris Waller’s signature in my racebook, so headed off to the stalls as the most likely place to find him.

When I got to Winx stall, there was still a big crowd outside it. She was taken off to be hosed down, and Chris Waller was obviously still at the Presentation, so I had brief sit down and then had the brain wave that I could most likely cross Chris Waller’s path as he returned to the stalls area from the Presentation which is held in the Mounting Yard. My hunch and timing were spot on, for as soon as I had reached the end of the stalls area and was heading towards the mounting yard, I spotted Mr Waller emerging and accosted him. He very obligingly signed my racebook and seemed in a happy mood, as why shouldn’t he be after Winx senstational win.

Interestingly Winx goes very well the Melbourne way (anticlockwise); according to her jockey Hugh Bowman better than on the Sydney clockwise circuit, so it’s pity they don’t race her Melbourne more often. Anyway, the Cox Plate is a little over two weeks away where hopefully we’ll get to see Winx win her third Cox Plate.

I stayed on for the next two races interested to see Almandin in The Bart Cummings, a race for stayers over 2500 metres, which Almandin won last year before going on to win the Melbourne Cup. The winner of The Bart Cummings gets exemption from the Melbourne Cup ballot, so is assured a start in the famous race.

Before that was run, we watched Race 6, the Edward Manifold Stakes, a Group 2 race over 1600 metres for three year old fillies.

Again the favourite, in this case Leather‘N’Lace,  was rolled and the race was won by outsider Bring Me Roses from the equally long odds Hiyaam with Leather‘N’Lace running third.

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Edward Manifold Stakes finish – Bring Me Roses overtakes Hiyaam near the post

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Bring Me Roses returns to scale

Darren Weir trained mare Amelie’s Star won herself a place in the Melbourne Cup with a two length victory over 100/1 shot Granddukeoftuscany and 50/1 shot Kellstorm in The Bart Cummings. Almandin ran fourth.

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Amelie’s Star & Granddukeoftuscany fight out The Bart Cummings finish

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Almandin returning to scale

The weather was perfect last Saturday for a day at the races, sunny but not too hot with very little wind, compared to last year when it blew a gale and was quite unpleasant.

It took me about 1½ hours to get home, even though the trains and bus coincided in a timely fashion.

No doubt the same will apply next Saturday where the racing action is at Caulfield for Guineas Day, featuring four Group 1 races.