Thursday, August 28, 2014

Super Cool–The First Group 1 of the Spring Racing Season

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Super Cool at Caulfield - Memsie Stakes Day 2013

The excitement of first class racing builds this weekend with the running of the first Group 1 race of the 2014 Spring Racing season.

The Group 1 Memsie Stakes is the feature race at Caulfield on Saturday and is run over 1400 metres. Also on the card are several Group 3 races with classy fields.

You will have gathered from the photo above, that my old fave Super Cool returns to racing this Saturday. He’s had a long spell after his gruelling spring last year, so I’m curious to see how he runs in the Memsie Stakes, which has attracted an excellent field of contestants with no less than six Group 1 winners in the mix.

Atlantic Jewel won the race last year by three lengths, but it is harder to pick the winner this time round. A top chance is Boban, who is avoiding the currently heavy tracks in Sydney and has two Melbourne wins on his CV. His  fellow Sydneysider Sweet Idea started off her spring with a bang, winning the Group 2 Missile Stakes and could possibly repeat that feat. There’s also Caulfield specialist Moment of Change, running at his favourite distance and with the Peter Moody/Luke Nolen factor and Messene who was runner up in the Missile Stakes. Super New Zealand mare Silent Achiever kicks off her spring campaign and cannot be ignored – after all she has beaten the likes of Carlton House and It’s A Dundeel . Then you have others like Puissance de Lune, Happy Trails and Super Cool - all of whom have a chance to take home the prize. It looks to be a fascinating race, which I intend to witness first hand.

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Atlantic Jewel winning the 2013 Memsie Stakes

Atlantic Jewel’s little sister Commanding Jewel returns to the track after a long injury induced lay off in the Group 3 Cockram Stakes (1200 metres). She faces stiff competition from the likes of Dear Demi, Gregers, Thiamandi, Bonaria and Sino Eagle, but class could well prevail.

The Group 3 HDF McNeil Stakes looks interesting as well. For three year olds it is also run over 1200 metres and has familiar contestants from a fortnight ago – Cornrow and Jabali for instance -  but also the very promising Nostradamus who won the San Domenico Stakes at his last outing. Other interesting runners are Chivalry, Tan Tat Diamond and Moonovermanhattan.

Melbourne is enjoying a warm and sunny break this week and these pleasant conditions are expected to continue into the weekend, so the track at Caulfield will be in good shape.

I’m keenly looking forward to getting to the track on Saturday to soak up the sunshine with the racing action, as well as seeing my favourite race horses competing again.

Spring has finally sprung!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Moon On The Rise Again–Caulfield Racing

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Puissance de Lune in the mounting yard prior to winning the 2013 P B Lawrence Stakes

The impending spring racing carnival gathers momentum this coming Saturday with the most interesting race card for some time.

Caulfield is the venue and the feature race is the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes. Last year it was won by Puissance de Lune at his first start for the spring. After not being seen since Cox Plate day last year, where he was injured, he makes a welcome return to the track to defend his title.

Of course it’s not a foregone conclusion that Puissance de Lune will win this year, but if he has recovered from his injury and is back to his best, the opposition shouldn’t be too hard to beat as not many of them are running first up at a suitable distance. The field does contain his nemesis in the 2013 Makybe Diva Stakes, Foreteller, who is kicking off his spring campaign in this as well. Others resuming are Queensland Derby winner Brambles, Let’s Make Adeal, Blamey Stakes winner, Lidari, among others. I reckon in form mare Gig who ran second in the Bletchingly Stakes behind Thiamandi could be a main contender and will possibly run a place.

The Listed Regal Roller Stakes appears to have a classier field. It is run over 1200 metres as opposed to the 1400 metres of the Lawrence Stakes, so has attracted a good field of sprinters that include dual Group 1 winner Moment Of Change. He’s the top pick, but South Australian mare Thiamandi, who  sensationally won the Bletchingly Stakes at her last start, could well give him a run for the money. Others in contention are Pillar Of Creation, Electric Fusion, Hard Stride and the other mare Jemerica.

Overall the entire race card looks pretty good, and of special note are the two Group 3 races for three year olds – the Quezette Stakes for fillies and the Vain Stakes for colts and geldings – run over 1100 metres.

The fillies race looks the pick between the two with a field of smart fillies that include London Lolly and Royal Snitzel as the top contenders. They are both returning from a spell with two consecutive wins on their CVs.  Also in the picture are Sunset Rock, Empress O’Reilly and Down The Hatch who have all won city races.

Cornrow and Jabali are the top chances in the Vain Stakes. Cornrow ran third in both the Blue Diamond Stakes and the Sires Produce Stakes at Group 1 level, whilst Jabali ran second in the Blue Diamond. Both have yet to win a race, but they get their best chance here.  Other runners with a good chance are Nordic Empire and Reigning Meteor who both have won in lesser grades in the past.

The weather is expected to be fine tomorrow, so the light should be good for photos and a bit of fresh air and sunshine will do me good as I take in the sights and watch some excellent races in the process.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Wide Open Spaces of Flemington

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Beluga Caviar – a close relative to you know who

Psyching myself up for the Spring racing carnival, which will take off in earnest in two weeks, I decided to test if my Flemington season pass was working, so headed off to the big track yesterday.

By no means first class racing, it was however a moderately interesting meeting with the feature race being the Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap, run over 1200 metres.

It was scheduled as Race 7, but as I arrived in good time to place a bet on a runner in the third race, the Trevor Dray & William Nield Handicap, I was obliged to stay for several hours to witness the main event. The time flitted by pretty fast.

Race 3 was for fillies and mares and run over 2000 metres. My selection Reckless Assassin romped home the winner 1½ lengths from Zazparella with Anfitriona running third, so I was pleased to see my afternoon at the races start on a winning note, even though my luck went down from then on.

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Reckless Assassin being paraded after her win.

I was interested in witnessing the next race, the Joyann Erskine & Philip Carroll Handicap (1400 metres) due to the presence of Beluga Caviar, a three year old colt who is a close relative to Black Caviar. His dam Scandinavia is Black Caviar’s grand dam. Beluga Caviar was having the second start in his career. At his debut he ran third and yesterday he scored that placing again. So. he’s no Black Caviar or All Too Hard, but it’s early days yet. He’s a big boy and quite a good looker.

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Beluga Caviar in the mounting yard

The race was won by the sole filly Fontein Ruby from Coram.

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Fontein Ruby returns to scale after winning the Joyann Erskine & Philip Carroll Handicap

The fifth race was an open sprint over 1200 metres. I had my money on Hot Mama who only managed to run sixth. The race was won by Play Master, who I must admit I hadn’t even considered as a chance.

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Hot Mama on her way to the track

I didn’t bother having a wager on the next race, rather I was more interested in the Sydney races at Randwick where two much more interesting races were featured. The first of these was the Listed The Rosebud for three year olds over 1200 metres. It had a crack field of classy colts and fillies that included the unbeaten Inkling, Sarajevo and Nayeli who I had witnessed winning the Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes in Autumn. The race was won by long shot Scissor Kick, from Better Land with Inkling running third.

The other Sydney race, the Group 2 Missile Stakes was the pick of the afternoon with a fabulous field of Autumn and last Spring stars resuming, including Boban, Hawkspur, Rebel Dane, Kirramosa, Sweet Idea and Weary. Sweet Idea led from start to finish and managed to hold off a challenge by Messene to win, with Rebel Dane (who started as favourite – again!) running third.

Back at Flemington, the Aurie’s Star was about to start and the runners were assembling in the mounting yard.

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Tiger Tees the winner

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Mr Chard – ran second

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Sino Eagle – ran fourth

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Shanghai Warrior – ran ninth

I didn’t wait for the horses to return to scale after the Aurie’s Star, but left for the station. As I’d had my money on Shanghai Warrior , I didn’t have to wait for a collect.

Despite not being an overly successful afternoon at the races , it was pleasant being back at Flemington. In case you’re wondering, the weather was overcast and the track was rated good. However a very chilly wind was blowing over the wide open spaces of the public lawn.

Next weekend a much classier race meeting is scheduled at Caulfield with the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes (formerly Liston Stakes) as the feature. Also on the cards is the Group 3 Vain Stakes (for colts and geldings) and the Quezette Stakes (for fillies), which always make for interesting viewing in terms of Golden Rose/Guineas prospects.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Damp but Profitable afternoon at the races

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Bletchingly Stakes heroine Thiamandi in winners rug

I’m glad I went to the races yesterday. I needed an outing, and the weather wasn’t too bad overall -  slightly chilly, with misty rain every so often – so spending a few hours trackside was pleasant.

Particularly gratifying was coming home with more money than I set out with. Jupiter in Leo brought me luck with three winners in succession.

I arrived at Caulfield about half an hour before Race 3 which was the MyPunter.Com Handicap, a race for three year olds over 2400 metres. After viewing the contenders in the mounting yard I decided to put my money on the second favourite Self Sense. Despite his weight impost of 60kg and wide barrier, he struck me as the likely winner. And win he did, at the last moment, overtaking race leader Pharrell  on the line.

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Race 3 finish – Pharrell leads with Self Sense (lime silks) storming down the outside.

Race 4, the Chris Flavelle Handicap, was one for mares over 1200 metres. Sydney mare Kristy Lee started the favourite. I was tossing up between her and Sino Eagle and settled on the latter. I’m glad I did, as Kristy Lee finished second last and Sino Eagle won easily by 2 lengths from longshot Aces and Angels, with another longshot Forgeress running third.

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Kristy Lee

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Sino Eagle

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Race 4 finish – Sino Eagle is comfortably ahead up the straight.

Feature race, the Bletchingly Stakes was next up and Lord of the Sky was the hot favourite as expected. I managed to get odds of $1.55 on him and placed a small wager each way. Something was nagging me to put money on the sole filly Thiamandi so fortunately I did so at really good odds of $13.00. I had a look at her in the mounting yard and she looked a big strapping girl.

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Thiamandi in the mounting yard

 Lord of the Sky is a handsome young horse, but alas yesterday was not his day. He appeared to overrace and lacked his usual finishing sprint. His connections are scratching their heads as to his defeat.

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Lord of the Sky in the mounting yard

Le Bonsir took the lead shortly after the start and maintained it until the turn into the straight. Lord of the Sky looked like he might challenge, but the filly Thiamandi sprinted past both them and took command of the race. She won by a couple of lengths from Gig, who came from last, with Nearest To Pin running third. Lord of the Sky finished in fourth spot. It was an upset, no doubt about it, so I was pleased I had caved into my hunch and put money on Thiamandi.

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Bletchingly Stakes finish – Thiamandi shows a clean pair of heels to Lord of the Sky and Nearest To Pin  down the straight.

I stayed for the next race, the Champagne Pommery Masters Handicap for three year old fillies over 1200 metres. I had my money on Sydney filly Copper, but she ran out of the places. Long odds Jemerica led from start to finish, winning by 2½ lengths from Paddy’s Gem and Hot Mama.

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Race 6 finish – Jemerica leads

As my luck appeared to have disappeared, I decided to head home while still in front; content and well pleased with my afternoon at the races. Thanks to Thiamandi and the other winners my pockets were full and the old body had got some exercise in the open air.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Intimations of Spring & the State of Cat Politics

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Lord of the Sky – potential star of the turf – photographed in February 2014

This Saturday Caulfield Racecourse hosts the Bletchingly Stakes, a Group 3 sprint over 1200 metres. It is also the last Group race of the racing year, but I always see it as a harbinger of the new Spring racing season.

I miss going to the races, so even though the Bletchingly Stakes meeting is not all that interesting overall, I mean to venture to Caulfield to see young potential star Lord of the Sky race in the feature event. At his last outing he won the Sir John Monash Stakes by 4 lengths from Le Bonsir and Riziz, so he will no doubt start as hot favourite. Le Bonsir is also part of the Bletchingly field and may mount a challenge this time, that is if he can beat Nearest To Pin who narrowly beat him a fortnight ago. Others with a chance are Ready To Rip who won this race in 2012 and in form filly Thiamandi.

The first Group 1 race of the new spring season, the Memsie Stakes, is only a month away, so I don’t really expect any truly interesting competitions before then, though Puissance de Lune, who has been off the scene since suffering an injury in the 2013 Cox Plate, is expected to resume in the P B Lawrence Stakes in mid August. He won the race last year – his only win for the season as it turned out. 

I’m really looking forward to the return of Lankan Rupee, now dubbed the world’s best sprinter. He is to resume in the Group 2 McEwan Stakes in early September at Moonee Valley on Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes day, which I will surely attend as I have done for the past 10 years or so. As Lankan Rupee’s schedule includes two night meetings at Moonee Valley, I’ll miss seeing him run in them as I dislike night racing, but hopefully I’ll catch him in the Patinack Farm Classic on Emirates Stakes Day on the last day of the Flemington racing carnival .

I have not resubscribed to the Moonee Valley season ticket this year, as I found I hardly used it last season, but I have renewed my season ticket for Flemington and look forward to attending the major race days at that hallowed course, perhaps even the Melbourne Cup.

Many of the Group 1 stars of the autumn and last spring will be missing this year – It’s A Dundeel, Fiorente, Shamus Award etc. all being retired to stud – but several other old favourites will be resuming such as Super Cool and Commanding Jewel, along with new favourites like Earthquake, La Armistad, Rubick, May’s Dream to name a few. And who knows what new stars of the turf will emerge over the coming months. That’s the good thing about horse racing, there’s always the chance of something new to capture one’s fancy.

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To finish this entry here are some recent photos of the resident cats.

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Talya – such a pretty girl

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Willy – the handsome one

The cats are not getting on any better than the last time I reported, but at least they don’t fight.  It being winter, they have been spending much more time inside wanting to sit on their human slaves laps.  No sooner do you sit down than a cat is clambering onto your lap or there’s one sitting in front of the computer trying to attract your attention.

Willy is the bane of visitors, hauling his bulk onto their knees. He weighs a good 8kg, so it’s a burden one must bear, and a snappy one at that, as he’s always been a bit of biter -  more a nipper really as he doesn’t bite hard enough to break the skin.

Winter starts to wear on a body at this time of year so I can’t wait for spring and warmer weather to arrive and the resumption of Group 1 racing of course.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jupiter, Winter Chill & Aztecs

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Statue of Aztec God of the dead -  Mictlante

I have noticed that there seems to have been a general malaise on blog posts across the sites I regularly visit, and I have been guilty of the same disinclination to write.

However, yesterday the sun moved into my birth sign Leo to accompany the recently arrived beneficent planet Jupiter, transiting Leo for the first time in twelve years.  Already I feel lighter and more enthusiastic than I have been of late mooching around under the influence of darker Astrological aspects. So welcome Jupiter!

Yesterday was one of the coldest days of the year, so rather than freeze at home, I decided to go to the Aztec Exhibition at Melbourne Museum. It turned out to be an excellent solution to the grim Melbourne day as the exhibition was both thoroughly engrossing and enlightening, and kept me warm for a couple of hours.

I won’t go into any great detail about the exhibition, but it covered the history of the Aztec settlement in Tenochtitl├ín in Mexico from the early 13th Century AD to the overthrow of their Empire by the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th Century. Many aspects of Aztec culture were covered, including their blood thirsty tributes to their gods. But overall the picture emerged of a quite sophisticated well ordered society that was fond of music and dance and revered and honoured animals.

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Dog statue

Fortunately photos were permitted, so I snapped away at objects that took my fancy like this extraordinary Eagle soldier terracotta statue. The Aztec warriors must have been a sight to behold going into battle, all dressed in animal costumes. Apparently they were not really aiming to kill their enemies, but rather disable them and take them prisoner to be used in sacrifice.

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Eagle soldier

The most famous of the gods for Westerners is Quetzalcoatl, the Rainbow Serpent.

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A compact stone representation of Quetzalcoatl

Various goddesses were also represented.

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River goddess, I think, whatever her name is…

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I’ve forgotten (blame old age) what this  macabre figure is supposed to represent.

And finally a mask from an even earlier civilization – Teotihuacan which occupied Mexico 1000 years before the Aztecs

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The exhibition will run to August 10, so if you haven’t yet got around to visiting it, I recommend you do so before it closes. It’s certainly worth the cost of admission and will keep you enthralled over the two hours it takes to see and read everything.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Well, I’ve Played the Game…

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…and now I’ve read the book.

I’ve been awfully remiss in keeping up this blog, feeling uninspired as regards putting words on screen.

However, I thought I’d post about Tex Murphy and The Tesla Effect – a novelisation of the recently released game, written by Aaron Conners.

Even though I had pre-ordered a signed copy of the novel from Aaron Conners website, I couldn’t wait to read it, so downloaded the eBook version for my Kindle as soon as it was available.

I was half way through the novel when my Kindle gave up the ghost - somehow or other the screen broke. Either I sat on it or one of cats walked on it. Anyway it was irreparable, so I ordered a new one, which arrived remarkably fast, but in the meantime I was able to continue reading the book on my iPad, and finished it before the new Paperwhite Kindle arrived.

What’s it like?

Remarkably good in fact -  a wonderfully written, page turning thriller, with an engrossing story and complex plot. Aaron Conners is underrated as a writer, as you don’t really expect the novelisation of a computer game to be anything special. But Aaron Conners succeeds brilliantly, maintaining the right balance of tension and drama, demonstrating fine storytelling skills worthy of more noted writers.

Think noir detective fiction ala Raymond Chandler, but set in a dystopian future San Francisco rather like the Blade Runner universe.

Tex introduces himself in Aaron Conners first published game novelisation The Pandora Directive.

My name is Tex Murphy and I’m a PI. Somebody, somewhere screwed up and sent me here about a century too late. I should be driving a ‘38 Packard with a running board and whitewalls.  Instead I fly a ’38 Lotus speeder. At least I wear the right uniform – soft felt fedora, silk tie, rumpled overcoat and wing tips.

Tex Murphy in the game is played by Chris Jones and he has made the character his own, so when you read the novels, which are written in the first person, you hear and see Chris Jones in your head. If you haven’t played the games, you’ll get into the character pretty fast and perhaps envisage Chris Jones too –he’s an amalgam of Phillip Marlowe and Rick Deckard and their ilk.

In Tesla Effect, as well as feeling out of his century, after being mugged, Tex regains consciousness with seven years of his recent past wiped from his memory. He thinks it’s 2043 when really it is 2050.

Is it the bump on his head  or the strange injection marks on his arm that has caused his memory loss?

The novel and game both begin with that setting, but from there on they  diverge.

In the game the player as Tex faces many obstacles in his quest to discover what happened to him. He is also desperate to find out the  fate of Chelsee (who was with him at the cliff hanger ending of Tex Murphy Overseer).  And so it is in the book, though how the story unfolds is different to the game and Tex’s new female sidekick and love interest, Taylor, plays a much bigger role in the novel than she does in the game.

In all, the novel is more satisfying than the game, the true canon so to speak in the continuing adventures of Tex Murphy Private Eye. It has a perfect ending that does not match any of the multiple endings of the game.

You don’t have to have played the game to appreciate the novel. It stands on its own merits as an engaging read in the Detective genre. I also recommend the earlier novels Under A Killing Moon and The Pandora Directive which will be reissued by the end the month in both eBook and physical formats.

I think it’s rather sweet that an author would take the trouble to enclose a message like the following in his book…

Yes, the physical novel arrived today.

aaron conners