Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Chill & Thrills–Memsie Stakes Day

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Boban parades after winning the Memsie Stakes

Weatherwise, it was a terrible day for going to the races, with intermittent rainy periods, a cold wind and generally miserable conditions.

I’ve been to the races where it was 40° + and still had a good time, so last Saturday the weather was not enough to dampen my spirits as the racing was pretty interesting throughout.

Reaching Caulfield half an hour before race 4, the HDF McNeil Stakes, so had some time to cruise through the stalls area to see who had arrived.

Unfortunately the misty rain made taking photos rather difficult, but surprisingly most of my snaps turned out alright.

Trackside, most of the front lawn had been fenced off for a special equestrian event running concurrent with the racing program. This featured ex racehorses in an off the track Triequithon competing in trials, including dressage, cross country and show jumping.

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Triequithon competitor over the jumps

The horses in this event were beautifully turned out and made a pleasant spectacle to watch between races.

The HDF McNeil Stakes was the first of the Group races on the program and was won by Gold Symphony registering his second win in succession for the season.

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Gold Symphony in the mounting yard

Ready for Victory ran a close second with Demonstrate filling third place.

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Gold Symphony hits the front 100 metres to go.

Returning to the stalls area I found several of the horses I had come to see, Cosmic Endeavour among them.

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Cosmic Endeavour in her stall

And the Chris Waller contingent were there as well.

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Weary snuggling up to his strapper

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Boban in his stall

For the fifth race I decided to go up the hill and photograph the runners as they returned to scale.

The Shark.com.au Stakes featured Rich Enuff resuming from an injury induced break. He was one upped by former New Zealand mare Bounding who won by 4 lengths. Miss Promiscuity ran third a further 4 lengths behind.

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Past the post – Bounding (white silks) is outside Rich Enuff (hot pink silks)

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Bounding returning to scale after winning the Shark.com.au Stakes

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Miss Promiscuity returns to scale

Back in the stalls area Volkstok’n’barrell was being walked. He’s a lovely looking animal – quite the poster boy.

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Volkstok’n’barrell posing for admirers in the stalls area.

In the mounting yard, the runners for race 6, the Hocking Stuart Handicap, were parading.

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Charmed Harmony - the winner

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Jacquinot Bay – runner up

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Awesome Rock – third place

Charmed Harmony led from start to finish and didn’t look beatable at any time, more than validating his favouritism for the event. This race was a sort of consolation prize for him as he was originally entered in the Memsie Stakes. As third emergency he failed to make the field.

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Charmed Harmony zooms down the straight with Jacquinot Bay & Awesome Rock in pursuit.

It was freezing cold track side, so I took shelter in the Norman Robinson building and relaxed with a drink before the next race.

The Triequestrian was still in progress and I watched a bit of that while waiting for the mares to assemble in the mounting yard for race 7, the William Hill Sprint Series Heat 1 Stakes.

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Triequithon contestant

Soon enough the mares arrived in the mounting yard.

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Cosmic Endeavour – finished 7th

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Madam Gangster – the eventual winner

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Hazard – second place

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Vezalay – third place

Madam Gangster was underrated in the betting with Vezaley starting as favourite. The race ended in a three horse finish with Vezalay, Hazard and Madam Gangster hitting the line together. The gangster lady got the nod.

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100 metres to go and Vezalay is in the lead. Madam Gangster (centre) and Hazard (white blaze) are closing in

Race 8 was the feature Group 1 Memsie Stakes and finally the contenders were assembling in the mounting yard.

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Rising Romance

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Stratum Star

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Entirely Platinum

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The sun briefly emerged as the Memsie Stakes was run and it resulted in another three horse finish with Entirely Platinum, Stratum Star and Boban hitting the line together. Boban snuck in on the inside to win with Entirely Platinum, who led for most of the race, hanging on for second with the fast finishing Stratum Star running third.

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Memsie Stakes up the straight – Entirely Platinum leads with Boban on his inside and Stratum Star just behind them.

I’d had my money on Volkstok’n’barrell and Weary, so didn’t have a collect. I picked the wrong Waller horse.

It is remarkable that Chris Waller has had so many wins at Group 1 level, so it was not surprising that Boban won his stable yet another one.

Will Chris Waller go on to be a great of Australian Racing History like the late great Bart Cummings?

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Bart Cummings statue at Flemington Racecourse

There has been plenty written about Bart Cummings since his death on Sunday morning, so I’m not going to add to it.

He was indeed an Australian treasure and a great trainer of stayers and will be remembered, like Don Bradman, for many years to come. Rest in Peace Bart.

Next Saturday the racing action in Melbourne is at Moonee Valley and features the Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes. Looking at the nominations it looks a higher quality field than was contested last year, and includes last year’s winner and runner up The Cleaner and Mourinho.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The New Gothic–Kelly Link & Mike Jones at Melbourne Writers Festival

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(L to R) Mike Jones, Meg Mundell & Kelly Link – The Cube 30/8/15

The Melbourne Writers Festival wound up yesterday after a week of literary events, though I only attended the seminar with Louis de Bernieres and, yesterday morning, the session on The New Gothic.

The only one of the writers in this session I had heard of was Kelly Link, an American short story writer of some note. Kelly Link has won several prestigious awards for her quirky, clever stories, including the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. So her fiction leans to the fantastic side of the literary spectrum, which accords well with my own tastes in literature.

She has released four collections and her latest is Get In Trouble, which I have yet to read. I have in my personal library her first two books Stranger Things Happen and Magic For Beginners.

Mike Jones is an Australian multi media artist, a writer of novels, screenplays and interactive media. He has just released the first novel in his Transgressions Cycle, a trilogy of Horror novels.

The session began with a discussion on the meaning and history of Gothic Fiction, which of course has been a popular genre for centuries, encompassing ghost stories, horror, fantasy and science fiction.

Kelly Link and Mike Jones then read excerpts from their recent works.

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Kelly Link reading

I enjoyed Kelly Link’s story more than Mike Jones’s. It was deceptively light hearted, but chilling and left me wanting more. Mike Jones, on the other hand, despite the depth of description in his prose, failed to thrill me half as much. It’s just that Horror is not a genre that I like all that much. I don’t mind ghost stories or tales of the supernatural, but violence creeps me out.

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Mike Jones reading

It was however an interesting seminar and I enjoyed the discussion as I’m interested in Gothic sensibilities, and was pleased to get my copies of Kelly Link’s books signed.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Spring Stars Rising–The Memsie Stakes

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Rising Romance – Derby Day 2014

After what has seemed a long wait during an exceptionally cold and miserable Melbourne winter, the promise of Spring brings keen anticipation of  a brand new racing season, along with the warmer weather.

It kicks off this coming Saturday at Caulfield with the Memsie Stakes, the first Group  1 race of the Spring.

A full field will contest the event and includes seven Group 1 winners. Fawkner, originally an acceptor, has been scratched after drawing Barrier 18. I’m disappointed, as I was looking forward to seeing him again. He’ll start his season now a fortnight hence in the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington.

The main contenders with Fawkner out are:

- Boban who redeemed an otherwise uninspiring autumn by winning the Doomben 10,000 back in May then followed that up by running second in the Stradbroke Handicap.

- New Zealand bred, Volkstok’n’barrell, winner of the Rosehill Guineas, and fellow New Zealander, Rising Romance, the sole mare in the race, who ran second to Admire Rakti in the Caulfield Cup, and won the 2014 ATC Oaks.

Then there are the old stalwarts like Happy Trails, Temple of Boom, Smokin’ Joey and smart young things like Magicool and Hi World and the other Waller runner Weary.

It being their first start for the season for most of the runners, the result could likely surprise.

As the Memsie Stakes is being run as Race 8, I plan on delaying my arrival at the course until Race 4, otherwise it’s an extra long afternoon.

Fortunately there are several interesting Group 3 events in the interim and the first of these is Race 4, the HDF McNeil Stakes for three year olds run over 1200 metres. Gold Symphony who won the Vain Stakes at his last start has to be one of the main chances as well as Top Me Up who ran second in that race, and Demonstrate who started favourite, but had a torrid run that dashed his chances. But they’ll have to beat the so far unbeaten Prince of Brooklyn kicking off his spring campaign.

However, the sole filly in the field, Stream Ahead, could well trump the boys. At her last start she ran second to the speedy Petits Filous and will have a 2 –4 kg weight advantage over the boys as well.

Race 5, theshark.com.au Stakes sees the return of Rich Enuff who won three successive races in Spring last year before fighting out the finish in the Caulfield Guineas with Shooting To Win, losing by a nose. By all accounts he has trialled really well, so is expected to win this race. He faces seven other competitors, all older and more experienced, the biggest threats being The Bowler and the two mares Bounding and Miss Promiscuity.

I’m really looking forward to seeing dual Group 1 winning mare Cosmic Endeavour making a rare appearance in Melbourne in
Race 7, the Group 3 William Hill Sprint Series Heat 1 Stakes.  She’s up against some smart mares resuming as is she. These include Vezalay (if she gets a run) Madam Gangster, Hazard, Jessy Belle and Griante. 

Yesterday the rain bucketed down on Melbourne, and more rain is expected on Saturday, so the track could well be on the soft side, which makes analysing the form all the more difficult.

In Sydney the track will certainly be on the heavy side after the drenching the State received earlier in the week. The feature race is the Group 2 Run To The Rose, for Golden Rose bound three year olds. Japonisme will be aiming to add a fifth win in succession to the picket fence against his name. However, he faces the unbeaten Press Statement winner of the Group 1 JJ Atkins Handicap, so it looks like it could be a fine battle between these two. I like the name of  Raphael’s Cat a colt from Gai Waterhouse’s stable, who has some claims on form.

Last week’s feature race in Sydney, the Warwick Stakes was won by Royal Descent who thoroughly deserved the win, after being so consistent, placing in a number of Group 1 races in the past.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Life Well Travelled–Louis de Bernières at Melbourne Writers Festival

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Louis de Bernieres (left) & Patrick Allington at the Wheeler Centre 21/8/15

The annual Melbourne Writers Festival kicked off  on Thursday 20th August, and International Guest Louis de Bernières delivered the opening address at Melbourne Town Hall on the night.

I did not attend the event, but chose to book for a 90 minute session entitled “Ask A Novelist” with Louis de Bernières and Patrick Allington  discussing the subject at the Wheeler Centre on Friday afternoon.

A surprisingly low key affair, it was pretty well attended for a mid afternoon event. I managed to get a seat in the front row, so was well placed to snap a few surreptitious photos.

It was an interesting and entertaining seminar, where Louis de Bernières, an articulate and erudite speaker, explained his writing process in some detail. For instance, he said he tended to write crucial scenes first, no matter where they occurred in the overall layout of the book in progress, and liked to slowly develop the novel as a sort of journey to completion. To illustrate his approach to writing a novel, he quoted the first few lines of Ithaka by Greek poet C P Cavafy:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

He is widely travelled himself, having in his late teens spent some years in Columbia South America. This experience and the novels of magic realist writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez influenced his early writing and his first three novels, the so called Latin American Trilogy.

When researching the historical and physical background for his novels, he travels to the locations and gets the lowdown on the history of the place from the locals. He finds inspiration from many sources and his latest novel, the newly published The Dust that Falls From Dreams was inspired by the life of his grandparents.

His best known book is of course Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a runaway best seller published in 1994.  I have read it, but appear to have mislaid my copy of it. I do have Birds Without Wings, purportedly de Bernières favourite of his novels. I actually wrote a review of it on this blog way back in 2006.

A friend gave me The Dust that Falls From Dreams recently for my birthday, so I’m looking forward to reading it, especially after meeting the author.

There was curious case of synchronicity last night, when I resumed reading The Confusion, book two of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy, my current book on the go. 

Louis de Bernières at one stage quoted Leibniz; his best of all possible worlds statement.

When I opened  page 646 of The Confusion, what should the chapter quotation be but:

God has chosen the world that is the most perfect, that is to say, the one that is at the same time the simplest in hypotheses and the richest in phenomena.
- Leibniz

My mind was accordingly blown.

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Louis de Bernières reading a poem at the end of the session

It was an enjoyable seminar and I was pleased that I attended the event, and delighted to have my copies of Louis de Bernières books signed.

I don’t plan to go to many other of the Melbourne Writers Festival events, but have pencilled in Kelly Link on Sunday morning, 30 August. As I have two of her short story collections, which I have read and enjoyed, I’m keen to see her in person and of course get them autographed.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Petits Filous Wins Again!

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Petits Filous parading in the mounting yard prior to winning the Quezette Stakes

The photo above of Petits Filous has echoes of the great Black Caviar. They have a similar look; both dark brown with no white markings, though Petits Filous is nowhere near as large in size as the great mare.  She’s a slight filly, but has speed and a determination to win that marks her as special. Whether she can emulate the exploits of Black Caviar is yet to be seen, but we followers of the turf live in hope that a new star of the turf has arrived.

Arriving at Caulfield at around 1.40pm, I was in good time get a position on the fence to view the runners in Race 4 going out onto the track. The Williams Plate was a race for mares over 1100 metres, and Vezalay was the hot favourite.  Her racing silks looked familiar – they are in fact the same as Atlantic Jewel.

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Vezalay on her way to the barriers

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More Radiant – runner up

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I’m A Flying Star – third place

Vezalay led from start to finish and won by a good length to More Radiant with I’m A Flying Star three lengths behind, running third.

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Vezalay  zooms up the straight to win the Williams Plate

As there was 40 minutes to wait until Race 4 , the Group 3 Vain Stakes, I wandered out to the stalls area to see who had arrived.

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Petits Filous waiting patiently in her stall

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Petits Filous trainer Ciaran Maher outside her stall

The Gai Waterhouse contingent were nearby and the strapper of Giulietta was posing for an affectionate shot with her charge for another photographer, so I got into the act and snapped the following photo.

Giulietta getting a kiss from her strapper

Next door to Giulietta was Excess Knowledge, a handsome British import who Gai Waterhouse says reminds her of 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente. He does have a similar look and is certainly a good looker.

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Excess Knowledge

Tasmanian star The Cleaner was also present in the next block of stalls.

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The Cleaner

And the David Hayes & Tom Dabernig newly imported stayer Dibayani was nearby and looks a magnificent beast.

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Dibayani in his stall

Back in the mounting the colts and geldings were assembling for the Vain Stakes.

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Demonstrate – started favourite, ran 4th

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Gold Symphony – the winner

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Top Me Up – runner up

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Star Planet – third place

Whereas the previous mares race was run at a rattling pace, the Vain Stakes had no clear leader and seemed to be slightly slower, with runners bunched up and running wide at the turn. Demonstrate was blocked for a run and was never a chance. Gold Symphony and Top Me Up fought out the finish down the straight with Gold Symphony having the winning edge.

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Vain Stakes finish – Gold Symphony & Top Me Up head to head in the lead.

After the Vain Stakes was done and dusted I killed time till the Quezette Stakes getting a drink and watching the  San Domenico Stakes on the big screen. Vancouver was rolled, finishing in 4th place. The honours went to the Chris Waller trained Japonisme who won his fourth race in succession. King’s Troop finished second and Haptic held on for third, after being up on the speed throughout the race.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Quezette Stakes was the most interesting race of the Caulfield meeting with Petits Filous up against other unbeaten fillies like Miss Gunpowder and Don’t Doubt Marley as well as the smart Jalan Jalan

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Jalan Jalan – she has interesting markings looking as if white paint was splashed on her head.
She ran second.

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Miss Gunpowder – finished third

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Petits Filous

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Giulietta – unplaced

The race was a ripper, run at the speed of light, with Petits Filous taking the lead shortly after the start and maintaining a blistering pace until the finish line, where she scored by 1¼ lengths from Jalan Jalan with Miss Gunpowder running third. It struck me as a natural trifecta – the three best fillies in the field taking out the first three places. As a matter of interest, Petits Filous race time was faster than Vezalay and Gold Symphony over 1100 metres.

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Petits Filous comfortably ahead with only 100 metres to go.

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Petits Filous in winners rug

I only stayed for one more race, that being the feature P.B. Lawrence Stakes. With such an evenly matched field it was hard to guess who the winner would be. The Cleaner kept it honest, taking up the running as usual. It finished with he and Mourinho going head for head down the straight and hitting the line together for a photo finish. Mourinho won by a whisker. Dibayani ran third a length behind.

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Dibayani in the mounting yard

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The Cleaner in the mounting yard

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Mourinho on his way to the barriers

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Excess Knowledge in the mounting yard

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The Cleaner (inside) and Mourinho fight out the finish down the straight.

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Mourinho poses for snaps in the winners rug

It was a pleasant afternoon at Caulfield, the weather being on the whole mild with occasional sunny breaks. The Club was celebrating VP Day (Victory Over Japan) on Saturday, so there were military vehicles parked outside the Norman Robinson Stand, and old soldiers wandering about, laden with medals. An army gal sang the National Anthem surrounded by RAF cadets, before the feature race.

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I’m looking forward to getting back to Caulfield in a fortnight for the Memsie Stakes and the true start of the spring racing season.