Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More Literary Luminaries – David Mitchell & Jonathan Lethem at The Edge

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David Mitchell with Suzanne Donisthorpe – Deakin Edge 19/5/15

When David Mitchell last visited Melbourne in May 2011, a big crowd turned out to see him at the Athenaeum Theatre. The venue this time was Deakin Edge at Federation Square, a modern and edgy space – a startling contrast to the old fashioned charms of the Athenaeum -  but an equally large number of fans were present last night.

I managed to get a seat in the front row, as is my wont with music shows, i.e. my favourite spot to be. So my view was unimpeded.  I took along the Canon G16 this time and shot some decent photos.

David Mitchell bounced onto the stage greeting the audience with a friendly hello as he took his seat. The topic of discussion was of course his latest novel The Bone Clocks, a mind teaser of a novel that involves several different narratives like his earlier novel Cloud Atlas. The Bone Clocks however has a central character, Holly Sykes, who appears peripherally in the various other character’s stories. There is a supernatural thread running through the novel, and indeed there’s a terrific supernatural battle towards the end. The prose is dazzling and pleasurable to read.

It was an engrossing conversation and David Mitchell presents as charming and unaffected, funny as well.  It was thrilling to be present in person at the event, seeing one of my favourite writers in the flesh again.

There was some discussion about whether Mitchell is writing an “uber” novel as in each of his books characters from previous books reappear. There is a scholarly work entitled  A Temporary Future: The Fiction of David Mitchell by Patrick O’Donnell, a study of all David Mitchell’s fiction up to The Bone Clocks which explores this idea. I have a copy of it, which I have yet to read in full. It’s somewhat abstruse and hard to read, I must admit, but I’ll persevere with it when I run out of more engaging reading matter.

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David Mitchell reading from The Bone Clocks –note: the protrusion on David’s lip is the remote mike.

I had taken along a big bag of books – it weighed a ton –  with five Mitchell novels and some of my collection of Jonathan Lethem novels.

One of the disadvantages of sitting in the front row, is getting out of the venue quickly enough to get a forward spot in the book signing queue.  It was a long queue and moved fairly slowly, but after hanging on for at least half an hour, I was able to get the rest of my David Mitchell collection signed, and express my appreciation for the care he takes in creating beautiful sentences, which was something he talked about in the session.

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Jonathan Lethem & Chloe Hooper - Deakin Edge 19/5/15

It would have been a perfect occasion seeing just David Mitchell, but Jonathan Lethem was the icing on the cake.

His latest novel is Dissident Gardens, a “multigenerational saga of revolutionaries and activists, the civil rights movement and the counterculture, from the 1930s Communists to the 2010s Occupy movement, and is mostly set in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens and in Greenwich Village” from Wikipedia.

I recently read this novel and identified with the period and its leftist sympathies. It took me back to my revolutionary days in the 1960s and 70s.

The two leading characters are Rose Zimmer and her daughter Miriam and their strong personalities are portrayed vividly, Rose in particular.  Jonathan Lethem said in the discussion that Rose was based on his Communist grandmother and Miriam on his activist mother, who died when he was 13 years old.

His novel The Fortress of Solitude is semi autobiographical, set as it is in Brooklyn, where Jonathan Lethem lived as a child.

He had an unconventional bohemian childhood and originally wanted to be an artist like his father. However, from an early age he steeped himself in counterculture falling in love with books and music of all genres, and spent 12 years working in second hand bookstores whilst writing his early novels. He said he loved old battered second hand books and unfashionable writers of whom nobody, these days, has heard.  

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Jonathan Lethem reading an excerpt from Dissident Gardens

Not as many people attended the Jonathan Lethem event, so the signing queue was shorter. Jonathan was friendly and pleasant in person, and obligingly signed the six novels I’d brought along, remarking on my old paperback copies of his first two books. He’d be pleased to know that three of the novels I took along were second hand copies.

The four literary events that I have attended in the last week, were all different and interesting, from the old school literati of Claire Tomalin and Michael Frayn, to the young bloods of the Internet age  in the persons of David Mitchell and Jonathan Lethem, they were more than worth the cost of entry.

I hope to attend more in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Warm Glow of Literary Lights

Last night I attended the first of the literary events I had booked for at the Wheeler Centre, that being the double header of married literary lights Claire Tomalin and Michael Frayn.

They are now both 81 years old, but they certainly don’t look it nor had their mental acuity been tempered by age. Both events were interesting in different ways.

Claire Tomalin is a noted biographer of such literary figures as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys, Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft. She created a storm of controversy when she revealed in her biography of Dickens, that he had long term mistress, for whom he abandoned his wife and children. Claire Tomalin also wrote a biography – The Invisible Woman - of said mistress, Ellen Ternan,  a young actress, who by all accounts led a very interesting life, ending up, after Dickens death, as a respectable woman, managing to keep her relationship with Dickens and her previous less than respectable life a secret until her death.

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Claire Tomalin was interviewed by local writer Toni Jordon and spoke at length about her life and works.

She wrote her first book, The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft in her late thirties, her life up to that time being busily filled with her career as Literary Editor for New Statesman and The Sunday Times as well as bringing up her children.

The Wollstonecraft biography was a great success and won the Whitbread Book Award in 1974. I have a copy of the hardcover, but it is not the first edition, which according to Claire Tomalin, was a small issue. My copy is the second edition published in 1975. However I did take it along last night and got it signed by the author.

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A somewhat out of focus Claire Tomalin signing books.

The discussion evolved into the question of how Claire Tomalin chooses her biographical subjects. She remarked that in the process of researching and writing a biography she felt as if she was obliged to live their life and she was attracted to subjects that she could love. Her emotional engagement with her biographical subjects was profound and she admitted to weeping when she wrote of their deaths. She makes a point of literally walking in her subjects shoes, traversing on foot the locations in which they lived their lives.

Her favourites, she stated were Mary Wollstonecraft and Samuel Pepys.

It was an engrossing hour of conversation and I was delighted to have been present for it.

The event was pretty well booked out and was held at the Wheeler Centre in the former Barry Hall in the South Wing of the State Library in Little Lonsdale Street. The audience was mostly in the older age group, though I did spot a few young faces.

The Michael Frayn event was a completely different kettle of fish. He was introduced by Chris Mead , the Literary Director of the Melbourne Theatre Company, so his emphasis was more on Michael Frayn’s theatrical creations, though the acclaimed literary light is noted for his journalism , novels and screen writing as well as his dramatic works. His segment was titled “How To Begin”, so Michael Frayn began by talking for at least twenty minutes on how he came to a writing career.

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Also out of focus, Michael Frayn speaking on the podium.

He was a humorous and entertaining speaker, having a fine sense of irony and an appreciation for the ridiculous things life throws up, relating several stories where he was the butt of the joke.

This year, 2015, is the 50th anniversary of the publication of his first novel The Tin Men, and he has 10 other novels to his credit. His plays include Copenhagen, Democracy and Noises Off.

He didn’t start to write for the theatre until the 1970s, eschewing the literary form out of prejudice caused by a rejection of his first attempt at theatre in his University days. 

I notice on the Wheeler Centre website that events are recorded for posterity, so you can view some past events about a month after they occurred, should you be interested in checking them out.

It was a chilly day yesterday, Melbourne shivering under an early onset of winter, so it was good to venture out and bask in the warm glow of literature. It’s a pity my photos didn’t turn out well, but I was nervous about taking photos in the venue, so the two photos above are sneak shots hastily snapped on my smallest and not very good camera.

Next Tuesday I am looking forward to seeing the David Mitchell - Jonathan Lethem double header at Deakin Edge in Federation Square.

The horse racing scene is rather dull in Melbourne at the moment with the Group 1 action happening in Adelaide this weekend and in Brisbane throughout late May and June, but I have booked for several concerts over the coming months, the first being Iris Dement on 28 May.

I’m particularly delighted that my favourite artist Ryan Adams is coming in July. Both his Melbourne shows have already sold out, but I managed to get tickets for both nights.

I’ve got winter covered, entertainment wise at least.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Art Fix: The Golden Age of China

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It has been almost a year since I last attended an exhibition, so feeling in the mood to rest my eyes on beauteous objects, I sallied forth to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the new International exhibition of Chinese Art.

The paintings and objects are on loan from the Palace Museum in Beijing. The Palace Museum is housed in the old Forbidden City, where countless dynasties of Chinese Emperors resided.

One of these was Qianlong Emperor who ruled China from 1736 to 1795, and it was from his period that the objects and paintings on display were drawn.

I’m very hazy as to the history of China and couldn’t tell you when any particular dynasty of Emperors ruled, so I found the Golden Age of China exhibition to be both educational and enlightening and a feast of beauty for the eyes.

There was plenty to see, the exhibition being quite extensive with paintings, jewellery, weaponry, costumes, as well as household and religious items.

Qianlong Emperor was a cultured person with an artistic bent. He was skilled in both painting and calligraphy and a noted poet. Several paintings and scrolls contained his poetic observations.

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Qianlong Emperor on horseback in ceremonial armour – 1739 -painting by Giuseppe Castiglione

If you’re wondering at the name of Giuseppe Castiglione, he was a Jesuit Missionary with a talent for painting.  He gained access to the Imperial Court and painted the royal family in an European style, that was an influence on future generations of Chinese artists.

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Pine, hawk, and lingzhi fungus by Giuseppe Castiglione

The most resplendent items in the collections were the ceremonial robes. They were gorgeous garments with elaborate decorations – works of art in their own right.

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Detail from Empress’ robe – mid 18th century

I was arrested by the following portrait of Imperial Honourable Consort Huixian. She has a striking face and is wearing a gorgeous gown.

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Imperial Honourable Consort Huixian

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The Empress Xiao Yichun in ceremonial robe

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Forbidden City from a bird’s eye view – envoys from vassal states and foreign countries presenting tributes to the Emperor

The above pictures were mostly scanned from the exhibition brochure or postcards I purchased at the Gallery Shop.

Unfortunately there was no postcard of a cool Steampunk barometer in the shape of a locomotive, but I’ve found a photo of it on the internet at a Decorative Arts Flickr Group.

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Locomotive shaped barometer on French origin

After looking at the wonderful objects in the Golden Age of China exhibition, I moved on to view two other smaller exhibitions, one featuring the Gallery’s collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and objects , titled Medieval Moderns - The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Exquisite Threads – English Embroidery 1600s-1900s.

Both exhibitions were pleasing to view and I  must admit the embroidery was indeed exquisite.

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Jacobean Embroidered bed hanging 1600 –99

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Waistcoat 1780 -silk, silk (thread), linen (back, lining)

The National Gallery of Victoria will be holding a major exhibition over winter featuring works of art from The Hermitage – The Legacy of Catherine the Great.

I will probably go and have a look at it some time or other when I feel like another art fix.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Time Travelling with Pokey LaFarge Again

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Pokey LaFarge live at the Corner Hotel – 9 April 2015

Proust may have had his petit madelaine  to evoke the past, but you didn’t need any memory joggers at the Pokey LaFarge concert last night to be swept back in time. The music does it from the first song, as you feel a rush of pleasure in the toe tapping syncopated rhythms of Pokey’s excellent band, playing the old time music that Pokey LaFarge specialises in.

Hell, even us senior music lovers weren’t born when this kind of music was the rage, but Pokey attracts fans of all ages and the music is apparently timeless.

The band are now a seven piece (including Pokey) with a drummer recently being added.

They are Joey Glynn on bass, Adam Hoskings on guitar, Ryan Koenig on harmonica, washboard and snare drum, T J Muller on cornet and trombone, Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet and saxophone and Matthew Meyer on drums & cymbals.

We were given a taster before the feature act with New Orleans musician Luke Winslow King playing a great opening set. He also has a vintage look about him, and his taste in music is similar to Pokey’s encompassing old time blues and jazz.

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Luke Winslow King live at the Corner Hotel – 9 April 2015

Unfortunately I didn’t note his set list nor could it be lifted from the stage, but I recall he sang Travellin’ By Myself which I have previously watched on You Tube.  He’s worth checking out as he’s an excellent guitarist and has an engaging stage presence.  Let it be said, he was a quality opening act.

Pokey LaFarge and band didn’t waste any time getting the crowd up and dancing (where space permitted) and singing along. As I noted at last year’s Pokey LaFarge concert at the same venue, Pokey establishes an instant rapport with the audience that is amazing to experience.  He’s a consummate showman of rare talent and dresses the part.

This time he wore a stylish blue denim suit over a blue shirt, with a flashy diamante studded bow tie and cool black shoes, and I noticed that he was wearing bright red socks underneath it all to match the red and white checked handkerchief poking from his breast pocket..

Pokey has just released a new record entitled Something In The Water and the band kicked off their set with the lively closing track, Knockin’ The Dust Off The Rustbelt Tonight following that with another new one, Underground.  Most of the songs on the set list were in fact drawn from the new album, but they played many old favourites as well, like Bowlegged Woman, Devil Ain’t Lazy, La La Blues for instance.

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Pokey and Chloe share the mike in a duet.

As mentioned previously there was a lot of audience participation, executed with great enthusiasm I might add, with sing-alongs to many songs and muted dancing. As it was a stand up gig, there wasn’t much room for dancing, though the young out of it thing next to me thought she was dancing in time, but alas was not. I was seriously considering giving her the elbow when she kept stumbling into me. Thankfully she moved elsewhere and annoyed someone else.

Pokey and band played for 1½ hours and returned for a three song encore, finishing with the old Ray Charles song Let’s Get Stoned.

It was a superb concert, even better than the one last year. You emerge from a Pokey LaFarge concert as if from a dream time – a Golden Age so to speak - of the pre war American Mid West expressed through its music. Listening to Pokey’s CDs does not have the same impact as seeing him live, so catch him if you can.

The guy standing next to me was some kind of music journalist who enthused to me that he’d just discovered his new favourite band.

He kindly allowed me to steal the set list from the stage.

Pokey LaFarge Set List – Corner Hotel – 9 April 2015

  1. Knockin’ The Dust Off The Rust Belt Tonight
  2. Underground
  3. Bowlegged Woman
  4. City Summer Blues
  5. Wanna Be Your Man
  6. Actin’ A Fool
  7. Goodbye Barcelona
  8. The Spark
  9. Something In The Water
  10. All Night Long
  11. Let’s Get Lost
  12. Devil Ain’t Lazy
  13. La La Blues
  14. When Did You Leave Heaven
  15. Close The Door
  16. Drinkin’ Whisky Tonight
  17. Central Time

He also sang a few other songs not mentioned on the official set list as I distinctly remember Hard Times Come And Go was sung at one point.

Encore

  1. Far Away
  2. What’s The Matter With The Mill (Muddy Waters cover)
  3. Let’s Get Stoned

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Sydney Cup Day–The Championships Week 2

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Contributer – Emirates Stakes Day 2014

Another big day of racing is coming up this Saturday with the second race meeting of the The Championships at Randwick. That is of course if they’re not cancelled by the atrocious Sydney weather.

There are another four Group 1 races on the program, and exceptionally good fields contesting them.

First to kick off is the Australian Oaks, for staying fillies, run over 2400 metres. Top pick is Fenway, who won the Vinery Stud Stakes at her last start, beating First Seal and Thunder Lady. First Seal will be contesting the Queen of the Turf Stakes, but Thunder Lady is a contestant in the Oaks and a viable chance.  New Zealand Oaks winner Savaria  is also worth consideration as she won that race on soft going at the distance. along with Candelara who won the Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000 metres) on Monday.

The splendid Catkins will be having another bash at winning her first Group 1 – which she surely deserves - in the Group 1 Queen of the Turf Stakes (1600 metres). Heavy tracks don’t worry this girl, so it might be her best chance yet for Group 1 glory.  Her competition is formidable with Group 1 winning mares Cosmic Endeavour, Diamond Drille, Bonaria, Amicus, Diademe (NZ Group 1) and filly First Seal in the field. But my heart will be with the game little grey mare.

Run over the same distance (3200 metres) as the Melbourne Cup, the Sydney Cup offers $1 million to the winner, so is worthwhile for International racehorses to contest. Can Protectionist win the Melbourne/Sydney Cups double? His build up form has been indifferent, but his form over the distance is unquestionable and could well be his forte. English import Hartnell is the top pick. His current form is excellent with two consecutive wins, the last being the Group 1 BMW and he also has won a race over 3200 metres. He has a 6kg weight advantage over Protectionist

Who Shot Thebarman ran third in last year’s Melbourne Cup and is the great white hope for locally(Australia/NZ)  bred horses in this race – there are only two - the other one being NZ bred Don Doremo.  Others with a chance are Renew who won the Sandown Cup over the distance, and Hong Kong stayer Dominant who has Joao Moreira in the saddle.

As racing fields go, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000 metres) is quality with a capital Q.

Sydney’s answer to the Cox Plate, it is the richest 2000 metre race in Australia – the Cox Plate winner gets $1,800,000, but the QE Stakes winner earns a handsome purse of $2,400.000.

It will be a fascinating race to watch, and the most exciting horse in the field is last year’s Cox Plate winner Adelaide. Who could forget his stunning long run down the outside in the Plate to grab the prize on the line. He hasn’t raced since then, so he faces a field of fitness hardened veterans, most notably Contributer who has won his last three starts, including the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes and Ranvet Stakes.

Also in the field are Japanese stars To The World and Tosen Stardom who are surely not to be dismissed out of hand, and popular old stayer Red Cadeaux who could easily run a place.

Of the locally bred runners, Criterion has a good chance as he was only beaten by a nose in the George Ryder Stakes by Japanese horse Real Impact who was beaten by Kermadec last Monday in the Doncaster.  

I’d like to think that the only two mares in the race – Royal Descent and Lucia Valentina – could feature in the finish, but would be surprised if either won. Like wise with other locals Happy Trails and Fiveandhalfstar – they’re probably outclassed by the Internationals and the Imports, though NZ stallion It’s A Dundeel won this race last year, beating Sacred Falls and the Queen’s horse Carlton House, so anything could happen.

In Melbourne, Flemington has a low key meeting that I am not tempted to attend, so I’ll be staying home watching the Sydney action on my computer or the TV.

Update: Sunday afternoon

The track at Randwick was heavy and the results of the Group 1 races threw up long shots in most cases.

Who could have picked Gust of Wind winning the Australian Oaks? she paid over $20.00 for the win. Winx finished second and Candelara ran third. Early favourite  Fenway was scratched from the race early on Saturday morning.

Another 20/1 shot Amanpour won the Queen of the Turf Stakes, and denied Catkins, who ran her usual honest race, group 1 glory. Noble Protector finished third.

The Sydney Cup result was also taken out by 40/1 shot Grand Marshall pipping Who Shot Thebarman on the line. Hartnell led for most of the race, but was unable to keep up with the swoopers and finished fourth, and Protectionist failed to feature at all. Like A Carousel finished third.

Locally bred Criterion beat a crack field in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, winning by 2½ lengths from old trooper Red Cadeaux with the ever reliable Royal Descent taking third place. Contributor was scratched early Saturday, so who knows what would have resulted had he run.  The Japanese horses failed to handle the heavy track, as did Adelaide who finished in eighth place.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Sunny Melbourne, Rainy Sydney

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Sertorius – winner of the Easter Cup – in his stall

Sydney experienced a downpour on Saturday that resulted in the cancellation (or postponement) of the Group 1 race meeting at Randwick. It is being run today instead.

By contrast, Melbourne on Saturday was mild and sunny and the track at Caulfield was good and speedy.  It was perfect weather for spending an afternoon trackside, despite the hordes of children in attendance hyped to eyeballs by chocolate treats. There was even an Easter egg hunt for the junior racegoers.

I took my time getting to Caulfield as the races I was most interested in watching were scheduled for mid to late afternoon. So I arrived just after 2.00pm in time for race 4, the Jack Elliott Handicap, an open race over 1400 metres. It was won by Bel Rhythm.

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Race 4 – down the straight – Bel Rhythm (no. 8) is about to overtake the leaders

My main reason for going to Caulfield was to see The Cleaner, Disposition and Prince Harada and the only one of the three that won was Prince Harada, having his first start for a year. The break and his gelding obviously did him good, for though he only won by a short margin he looked good doing it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Race 5 was the Geoff Murphy Handicap for three year old fillies over 1400 metres.  I observed the contenders in the mounting yard.

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Japhils who ran second

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Sea Spray – ran third

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Samartested – the winner

Samartested is a half sister to the 2012 Blue Diamond winner Samaready though she has not shown the same talent as her big sister so far.

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Race 5 down the straight – Samartested is about to overtake Japhils

Prince Harada’s race was next on the card, TheShark.com.au over 1100 metres.  He was the short priced favourite and as reported before he won narrowly from early leader Boomwaa with Agent running third.

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Prince Harada being difficult in the mounting yard

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Boomwaa on his way to the barriers

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Agent on his way to the barriers

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Race 6 – down the straight – Boomwaa leads with Prince Harada zooming down the outside.

As expected, The Cleaner took the lead in the Easter Cup, but he couldn’t maintain the pace and was overtaken by Escado, Sertorius and Shoreham. Sertorius ended up the winner, finally scoring some cred for himself after trying and failing in harder races.

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The Cleaner in the mounting yard

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Sertorius in the mounting yard

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Race 7  finish – Escado leads with Sertorius in hot pursuit

I felt tempted to go home after the Easter Cup, but decided to stay for race 8, the Victoria Handicap, a Group 3 race over 1400 metres. I was interested in seeing how Disposition would perform. Ironically a fellow Western Australian horse, Waterman’s Bay, won the prize from The Peak and Sistine Demon. Disposition ended up finishing fourth.

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Waterman’s Bay in the mounting yard.

Whilst I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been intermittently watching the races in Sydney. The track was heavy, but the results of the  Group 1 races were not all that surprising.

Pride of Dubai won the Sires from outsiders Odyssey Moon and Rageese who dead heated for second.

The Derby was won by New Zealand Derby winner Mongolian Khan with Hauraki splitting him and fellow New Zealander Volkstok’n’barrell.

Lankan Rupee, though given every chance was unable to feature in the finish of the TJ Smith. Chautauqua won by a nose from Lord of the Sky with Terravista running third.

And the Doncaster was won by three year old colt Kermadec from Japanese horse Real Impact with Royal Descent finishing in third place.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Donny-Derby Day–The first day of The Championships

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Sacred Falls at Caulfield 11 October 2014 – Can he win his third Doncaster?

Easter Saturday used to be known by racing fans as Doncaster- Derby day, but the two races in question have, for the past ten years or so,  been run on different days. This year they return on the same day, along with two other Group 1 races at Randwick on Saturday.

It’s the first day of Sydney’s pompously named The Championships, which continues over the following two weekends, culminating with the All Aged Stakes Day on 18 April.

You have to admit that this first day of The Championships offers a fabulous line up of races with top class fields. Unfortunately the track will be most likely rain affected, but you kind of expect that during the Sydney autumn racing carnival.

The first of the Group 1 races is the Inglis Sires, a race for two year olds over 1400 metres.  It has attracted a cracking field that includes Blue Diamond Stakes winner Pride of Dubai, Golden Slipper runner up English, Melbourne filly Pasadena Girl who has won her only two starts and Always Allison, who looked very promising in her first two starts before going amiss in her last start. She does however have  “Magic Man” Joao Moreira  in the saddle, which gives her a distinct advantage.

The Sires is followed by the Australian Derby, a 2400 metres race for three year olds. The New Zealand pair Mongolian Khan and Volkstok’n’barrell look the top picks, along with Victorian Derby winner Preferment, who finished second to Volkstok’n’barrell in the Rosehill Guineas. Also in with a chance is Hauraki who won the Tulloch Stakes (2000 metres) by 2.5 lengths. He’s part of the Godolphin team who have been very successful of late, winning most of the races last Saturday.

Lankan Rupee, Chautauqua and Terravista meet again in the Group 1 T J Smith Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. Lankan Rupee won this race last year on a heavy track, so I’ll be hoping he can do it for a second time and finally get the better of his two classy rivals. Sweet Idea is also likely to be in the finish, and with a 2kg weight advantage, could well beat the boys. 

Sacred Falls won the Doncaster Mile in both 2013 and 2014 and will be trying to create history by becoming the first horse to win three times consecutively. He has to carry top weight 58kg and beat a full field of 20 runners to do so.  One thing in his favour is that he performs well on soft ground, after all he won both the 2013 and 2014 Doncaster on bog tracks. He’ll be starting at pretty good odds too, as he has not inspired confidence with his runs so far this autumn.

One of the favourites will probably be the Japanese horse Real Impact, who so impressively won the George Ryder Stakes a fortnight ago, and there is a lot of support for three year old Hallowed Crown who has a light weight advantage, though has drawn the outside barrier. There’s also a bit of hype on French import Pornichet who won a Group 3 race last Saturday at Rosehill.

I reckon Royal Descent and Cosmic Endeavour both have a good chance of taking out the race for the fair sex, the former with her excellent form on heavy tracks and the services of Joao Moreira as her jockey, whilst Cosmic Endeavour , despite her poor performance in the Ryder Stakes, is too good to overlook.  There’s also Melbourne mare Suavito who is currently on a run of wins in her home state that included the Group 1 Futurity Stakes.

In Melbourne Caulfield’s Easter Saturday meeting looks interesting enough to attend, with the popular front runner The Cleaner being one of the attractions. He’ll be running in the Easter Cup, a much easier race than the last few he’s contested, so will most likely be the winner. He’s also had a change of gear – blinkers off, visor on, so that he can see other horses overtaking him, which apparently spurs him on.

Also racing at Caulfield on Saturday is Western Australian star three year old, Disposition, last seen finishing second to Wandjina in the C S Hayes Stakes in February.  He’s entered in the Group 3 Victoria Handicap.

I’m also keen to set eyes again on Prince Harada who has been out of action for over a year and was gelded in the interim.  He’s entered in a 1100 metre sprint, which is probably a little short for him.