Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Showdown–Chills & Thrills at Caulfield

Prince of Sussex wins The Showdown
Normally, I would not attend a race meeting at Caulfield in April, but the prospect of witnessing the first running of the The Showdown was an attractive proposition, worth braving the chilly weather and the vagaries of public transport.

I was looking forward to seeing star filly Sunlight’s little sister Sisstar in the flesh and also keen to obtain the signature of Mystic Journey’s trainer Adam Trinder on my All Star Mile racebook.

 Adam Trinder was making a rare trip to the mainland from Tasmania with former Darren Weir trained mare, Twitchy Frank, who was entered into the third race, the Blue Gum Farm VOBIS Gold Distaff, a race for fillies and mares over 1400 metres.

With this in mind, I reached Caulfield in plenty of time to hang around the stalls area and catch the Tassie trainer’s attention.

Twitchy Frank, according to the racebook was supposed to be accomodated in Stall 87, but failed to arrive at that location, so we (my friend Rebecca & I) had to cruise the rest of the stalls and try and find her. As the runners for race 3 were being saddled up it wasn’t that hard to track Twitchy Frank down and attract Adam Trinder’s attention.

He obligingly signed our racebooks and also told us of his future plans for Mystic Journey, who possibly will kick off her Spring campaign in the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes at the end of July.  Her main target for the Spring will be the Cox Plate.

It wasn’t a wasted trip to the mainland for Adam Trinder,  as Twitchy Frank leading from the start to the finish, won the Gold Distaff by half a length from Spannerhead with River Jewel running third.
Twitchy Frank returns to scale
Spannerhead on her way to barriers 

River Jewel on her way to the barriers
As The Showdown was scheduled as Race 6, there were two races to watch before it was set to run.

The first of these, the Spendthrift Australia VOBIS 3YO Sires was a race over 1600 metres and resulted in a very impressive win by Tarwin, who raced at the tail of the field, then stormed to the finishing post to win by three quarters of a length. Wham ran second with Duke of Magnus third.

Had we just seen a future star of the turf? At least, being a gelding, he might be around for a while and not be packed off to stud after winning a few races.

Tarwin in the pre-parade ring – a handsome son of
2011 Melbourne Cup winner 
Tarwin returns to scale

Wham running second
Duke of Magnus returns to scale
It was a day for favourites or second favourites to win with most of the nine race card delivering a popular victory, and such was the case in race 5, the Gold Dash, a sprint over 1100 metres.

Halvorsen was the punters second pick and he didn’t let them down winning by two lengths from Divine Mr Tycoon and Fine Dane.

Halvorsen still ahead just past the finishing post 
Prince of Sussex was the early favourite for The Showdown after impressing at his last start in Bendigo,  but the splendidly named Sartorial Splendor was the popular pick of the day. Though racing on the speed, Sartorial Splendor faded to finish fifth. 

Prince of Sussex did it harder, racing wide for most of the race, then bursting through a gap to storm home and win by 1.75 lengths from Hightail and Mishe Mokwa.

Sisstar was disappointing, certainly not as talented as her big sister so far.  She finished way back, over racing bringing about her failure to feature in the finish.

Prince of Sussex in the pre-parade ring
Sisstar in the pre-parade ring 
Hightail in the pre-parade ring

Mishe Mokwa in the pre-parade ring
The Showdown finish just past the post
Prince of Sussex returns to scale 
The afternoon was overcast and grew darker as the day progressed, which made taking photographs challenging, so I called it quits after the Showdown and headed home.

The focus of Group 1 racing switches to Morphettville this coming weekend with the Australasian Oaks and TAB Classic (formerly Robert Sangster Stakes) being the feature races.

Sunlight was nominated for the TAB Classic, but has been sent for a spell instead, which decision I applaud as she has had a hard campaign this autumn and probably needs a break.

I won’t be going to the races again until late winter/early spring, unless a special horse piques my interest

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

After Winx–The Easter Cup

Winx at Rosehill 23/3/19
It is old news now that Winx culminated her illustrious career on the turf with an easy win in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on 13 April 2019. The stands were packed with a sell out crowd and I’m sure the atmosphere would have rivaled Cox Plate day last year, which remains the highlight of all the race meetings I have attended over the years.

Though it’s sad to see her retire, Winx went out in blooming health and at the height of her remarkable ability. She was the perfect race horse and stayed sound throughout the four years she graced the racetrack.

Chris Waller and his team are to be commended for keeping her healthy and safe over that extensive period of time.

As I have remarked before, with Winx retired, the races will lack sparkle for a while, but there are still some very promising up and comers who will hopefully bloom in Spring.

I’m looking forward to seeing Mystic Journey again and of course the redoubtable Sunlight whose next start will be in the Group 1  Robert Sangster Stakes at Morphettville in early May. Others likely to star come Spring are Verry Elleegant who was very impressive winning the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes and ATC Oaks during the Sydney racing carnival and Brutal who took out the Doncaster Handicap and ran second to Winx in the George Ryder Stakes.

Plein Ciel wins from Furrion (no 5) and Morton’s Fork (no 7)
The Easter Cup meeting last weekend at Caulfield was a low key meeting that featured two Group 3 races – the Victoria Handicap and the Easter Cup. I basically attended to give my friend Rebecca the Golden Slipper race book and pin I’d got for her in Sydney and collect the Queen Elizabeth Stakes race book she had acquired for me.

The races were not terribly interesting overall, but good for action photo practice. I arrived in time for the fourth race and stayed till the Easter Cup was run and won.

Graceful Storm and Thrillster fight out the finish of the Geoff Murphy Stakes
Streets of Avalon  winner of the Victoria Handicap
I’m thinking of attending Caulfield again next Saturday for the inaugural running of a new million dollar race for two year olds, called The Showdown after a top sire of the 1960s/70s named Showdown. The race is open to Victorian bred horses and I’m pleased to see that Sunlight’s little sister, appropriately named Sisstar, has been nominated for it.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Winx Grand Finale

Winx - Caulfield - October 2016
Day 2 of The Championships at Randwick racecourse is a sell out, and it’s all because of Winx, who will be running her last race at 3.05pm on Saturday afternoon in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Over the four years of Winx’s racing career, she has contested a total of 46 races, winning 36 of them, 24 of them at Group 1 level. She has remained unbeaten since May 2015, notching up 32 wins in succession.

In the 2019  Queen Elizabeth Stakes she will surely register her 33rd consecutive win and 25th Group 1, not to mention winning the race for a third year in a row. 

As her winning streak has grown, so has her popularity, hence the sell out at Randwick on Saturday.

I first noted her in my blog back in September 2014, though it wasn’t until she won her first Cox Plate that my interest was piqued.

The 2015 Cox Plate was the first time I saw her in the flesh, and she attracted hardly any interest at the course that day, standing unattended in her stall with very few interested bystanders. That’s quite a contrast to the present where crowds around her stall are ten deep.

I have had the privilege of seeing Winx racing live 11 times all up and I have devotedly watched all her races outside Melbourne wherever I may be. 

Without Winx the racing scene will lose some sparkle, especially as star colt The Autumn Sun has been retired to stud as well.

It will probably be a long time before a horse of Winx’s calibre comes along again.  However, we said that after Black Caviar’s retirement and look what happened.

That’s the good thing about following the horses, there’s always promising new runners every year. Some go on to glory, some fade away and hopefully go to fair pastures.

Anyway, I hope Winx  goes out on a high note in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Old rivals Hartnell and Happy Clapper will be there to send her off, along with new contenders He’s Eminent, Japanese challenger Kluger, and New Zealand mare Danzdanzdance.

For one last time – Go Winx!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

A Thousand Blog Posts

Though no doubt many other weblogs have celebrated (or not) one thousand posts, I’m pleased to have achieved this milestone in the almost thirteen years I have been maintaining this blog.

To celebrate I will write about the Escher X Nendo Exhibition at National Gallery of Victoria, which I finally attended last week.

Sign outside Gallery
Subtitled “Between Two Worlds”, the exhibition is a masterful blending of the remarkable mind bending graphic art of Dutch artist M. C. Escher and Japanese design studio Nendo, the art being displayed within a  physical space created by Nendo.

It worked a treat.

Escher’s art was very popular in the 1960s and 70s and indeed was used in a number of record covers at the time.  I have a large paperback edition of The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher published in 1973 (third printing) which I acquired during that time.

Many of the graphic works in the book were on display at the exhibition.

Hand with reflecting globe

Three Worlds

Rippled surface

Bond of Union
The exhibition was comprehensive, detailing Escher’s development as an artist and master of his craft (wood engraving and lithography).

The Nendo installations scattered throughout did indeed give a dizzying version of what was on the walls. I took some photographs in the Nendo Transforming House installation which turned out remarkably well; even the blurred photo looks mysterious and out of this world.

Transforming House installation
Section of installation

Section of installation with silhouette
Installation section – blurred with silhouette
There was a lot to absorb, and it grew quite disorienting by the end, the brain ( a heavy cold didn't help) growing tired of optical illusions. You’d need a few days (with breaks in between) to take in the whole exhibition.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sydney & Winx Invincible 32

Winx in full flight after winning the George Ryder Stakes
It has taken some time to settle down and write an account of my venture to Sydney for the Golden Slipper meeting at Rosehill, but various distractions, not mention the cold I managed to bring back from Sydney, have made me disinclined to post.

I’m also discouraged by having to use the clunky Blogger editor for composing posts since Open Live Writer, the nifty software I’ve been using to create blog posts, has not been updated to cope with Google’s new photo application. I can post text from Open Live Writer but not images. I’ve been using Open Live Writer and its predecessor Windows Live Writer since 2006 and it has simply been the best WYSIWYG blog editor around.

Anyway on to Sydney…

There were no transport issues this time, planes leaving pretty much on time, and trains easy to catch from Central Station and running limited express to Rosehill Racecourse and back again.

As I’d arrived on Friday evening I was up early and after breakfasting, I headed out to Rosehill and got there before the first race, so I had time to look around Rosehill in more detail. Looking at the Rosehill racecourse map, I was curious about a building called the Grand Pavilion situated next to the Members Stand beyond the winning post that appeared to have a grassed area in front of it.

So heading off that way I came across the Golden Slipper Trophy

Golden Slipper Trophy
…and Todman’s statue in a little courtyard, with a wreath of flowers around his neck.

Todman Statue
Though there appeared to be a corporate event in the lower part of the Grand Pavilion, there was access to the lawn at the top end of the straight.  The only people present were track workers who didn’t object to me occupying the space and nobody showed any inclination to turf me out.

It wasn’t a bad spot for taking photographs, as for every race all the horses passed by on their way to the starting gates, and returned to scale the same way after the race. The light was excellent.

The early part of the day was hot, humid and sunny, though it grew overcast later in the day, affording some relief from the sun. The track was a heavy 8 even so.

I tested photography conditions in the first race of the day, the Birthday Card Stakes, a race for fillies and mares over 1200 metres. New Zealand filly Avantage, beat Resin and Star Reflection.

Avantage returns to scale
In between races I sought the shade close the Grand Pavilion ground floor entrance, where there were a few chairs to sit on. I liberated one of the chairs to stand on for the next race, to overcome issues with rails intruding on shots.

Melbourne filly Krone was victorious in race 2, the Darby Munro Stakes. She defeated Wild Planet and race favourite, Classique Legend.

Krone returns to scale

Wild Planet returns to scale

Classique Legend returns to scale
After race 2, I wandered back to the main section of the course to get a bottle of water and also check out the stalls area. Though Winx had not yet arrived at the course there was a large crowd of Winx fans surrounding her stall.

Winx fans surround her stall waiting for her arrival
This was quite a change from last year, where there was hardly anyone in the stalls area.  But as her winning streak grows ever longer, Winx’s popularity has expanded exponentially.

The race meeting was practically a sell out and the grandstands were packed to the rafters.

Crowded Grandstands
Back on the Grand Pavilion lawn, race 3, the Group 3 N E Manion Cup was next to run. For Sydney Cup  bound stayers it’s a race over 2400 metres.

The Lloyd Williams stayer, British import Midterm won from Big Duke and Shraaoh.

Midterm returns to scale

Big Duke returns to scale
Shraaoh returns to scale
One of the good things about being up the Grand Pavilion end of the course was that for 2000 metre races, the starting gates were placed just next to the lawn on a track extension.

As the next race was the Rosehill Guineas (2000 metres), starring The Autumn Sun,  I had an excellent view of the start.

Rosehill Guineas start
The Autumn Sun and Arrogant fought out the finish up the straight, with The Autumn Sun prevailing to win by  a narrow margin. Chapada finished third  2½ lengths behind.

The Autumn Sun & Arrogant still head to head past the finish line
The Autumn Sun returns to scale
Arrogant returns to scale
Chapada returns to scale
Of course I was missing out on the electric atmosphere that infects a racecourse when Winx is running, but knowing the propensity of today’s young racegoers to use their iPhones for photos, I was glad to be out of the scrum on the fence near the mounting yard, which would have been very difficult for decent photos.

Winx in the mounting yard
As ever, I was hoping for the perfect shot, and though I did get some good photos of Winx, the fact that she raced on the widest part of the track meant that a lot of them are head on shots.

Winx on her way to the starting gates
Winx returns to scale
Winx heading back to scale - iPhones at my end of the track
Winx naturally won her 4th successive George Ryder Stakes and 32nd consecutive race by 3½ lengths from Brutal with Dreamforce a further 3 lengths behind in third.

In the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes, Avilius returned to form registering a two length win over He’s Eminent and New Zealand mare Danzdanzdance.

Ranvet Stakes finish
Avilius returns to scale

He's Eminent returning to scale
Danzdanzdance heading back to scale

The feature race of the day was of course the Golden Slipper Stakes and it was next on the program.

The royal blue silks of Godolphin were prominent in the Golden Slipper finish, with Kiamichi, Microphone and Lyre running the trifecta with Bart’s grandson James Cummings training the first two.

Golden Slipper finish just past the post
Kiamichi returning to scale
Microphone returns to scale
Lyre returns to scale
After the Slipper I decided to move back to the main area of the course to be closer to the exit for trains. A lot of people had departed after the Golden Slipper, so it was easy to get a position on the fence near the mounting yard to watch the final Group 1 race of the afternoon.

This was the Galaxy and  Nature Strip started as favourite.  He led for most of the race and looked to have it won as he approached finish line, until challenged by a flying Pierata. It looked like a dead heat between Nature Strip and Pierata, with Nature Strip in the end being declared the winner.

Nature Strip leaves the mounting yard for the track
James McDonald celebrates Nature Strip's narrow victory in the Galaxy

James McDonald commiserates with Tommy Berry on Pierata
As by this time I’d been at Rosehill for five hours, I didn’t stay for the last race or the free Jimmie Barnes concert that was happening afterwards.

On Friday night I watched the running of the Group 1 Willaim Reid Stakes on my iPad and was delighted by Sunlight’s commanding win, where she led from the start to the finish to beat a fast finishing Spright and Ellicazoom by three quarters of a length.