Sunday, June 17, 2018

Winter in Ivanhoe

rhodendron  1
Yellow Rhodedendron – spot of colour to spite the cold

I am not looking forward to this first winter in Ivanhoe, not that I welcomed it in the old house in Northcote either.

This current residence is a cold house, due to the insulation which makes it cool in summer, but in winter it’s a different matter.  A giant gum tree in the next door neighbour’s garden effectively  prevents sunlight from reaching our back yard, and a distinct chill invades the house.

The house has three different warming systems, only one of which we use. B  has objections to the ducted heating system, arguing that it is wasted energy in that it heats the entire house and we both prefer a cool bedroom at night. 

When we first moved here back in September there was a gas flame fire, but it turned out to be purely decorative and was useless as a heater. Thankfully it has been replaced with a real gas flame fire, which works, and is the sole means of heating we use. 

Bingo the cat loves it and toasts himself in front of it when it’ s operating – later in the day when the chill really sets in. The rest of the time we rug up and endure the cold.

Speaking of the cats, Bingo is now fully grown, a small but perfectly formed cat with a big attitude, and is still as naughty as ever.

bingo_mat 1
Bingo shredding the door mat

He has however learned better table manners and now responds (with vocal objections) to NO when told to get off the table when we’re eating.

These days he has been spending a lot of time under the house growling at another cat, an oldish long haired tabby who lives a couple of houses up and visits every morning. According to its owner, Bingo visits their house too and the two cats engage in the same growling and howling activity there as well, though it doesn’t escalate into anything more serious.

There are other cats around – a young rag doll called Theo and other moggies of varied colours.

Talya understandably loathes Bingo, but has learnt some of his bad habits, such as climbing all over the benchtops and licking out saucepans in the sink, something she would not dream of doing before. 

She has also become incontinent, pissing inappropriately on the floor, and shitting on the rugs, which we’ve been forced to take up and put out of her reach and close doors to rooms we don’t use regularly. Her behaviour is stress related I think and we can’t think of any way to break her of the habit, other than forcing her to go outside last thing at night and early morning,  the usual times these “accidents” are likely to occur.

talya 1

Bingo is merciless as far as Talya is concerned, constantly teasing her and disrupting her peace by jumping on her when she’s sound asleep.  Both cats get fractious when they’re hungry and are terribly distracting until they are fed.

That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been writing any posts of late, but truth to tell I haven’t been feeling all that inspired to add words to a screen and nothing much has happened to excite my interest in writing anything.

I did attend the Eilen Jewell concert back in May and it was as good as always. I took along the Canon G16 camera, but found to my dismay that the battery was almost flat as was the spare, so I couldn’t take many photos.

eilen jewell 4
Eilen Jewell and her ace band at Thornbury Theatre – 23 May 2018

I  couldn’t resist purchasing the below poster that was on sale at the merchandise table and get it signed.

poster
Eilen Jewell poster produced by Moon Rabbit Press

As usual I’ve been passing the time reading and playing computer games…

Back in April I downloaded to my Kindle six Joan Aiken novels that had just been issued as eBooks, having been out of print as physical books for many years.  As they were only $6.00 each it was an irresistable temptation.

Joan Aiken is one of my favourite writers who I have been following since the 1960s, when I first discovered her “Wolves” series of alternate history children’s novels, which encompass 12 books in all, the last published after Joan Aiken’s death (in 2004) in 2005.

She was a prolific writer, producing over a hundred books, for both children and adults.

The six novels I downloaded were her delightfully wicked Regency and Gothic romances, and I binge read them one after the other over the past month or so, and thoroughly enjoyed indulging in their guilty pleasures.

Most of the computer games I’ve been playing were ones I had played before, except for Keepsake a game I actually have on DVD, but was unable to play it when I got it in 2006, due to various issues.

It was recently released on Steam, so I purchased it and played it and found it to be a quite engaging game with an interesting plot and unusual puzzles, some of them very hard to crack.

683636-keepsake_front 

It was also a lengthy game with many locations to explore and is set in school for magic ala Harry Potter. The heroine is Lydia who arrives at the school to begin a course in magic, only to discover that the academy is deserted, with no sign of pupils or teaching staff.  Lydia is particularly distressed by the non appearance of her childhood friend Celeste whom she has been looking forward to seeing again after many years.

The game basically centres around Lydia’s search for answers to the mystery of the deserted academy, in which she is assisted by Zac, a shapeshifted wolf who claims he is really a dragon, whom Lydia releases from a cupboard where he had been locked up before everyone went missing.

I’m of course hanging out for the beginning of the spring racing season, still a month or so away, but promising to be a bit more interesting than last year, with a few new potential stars of the turf emerging recently over the Sydney and Brisbane carnivals. And Winx will be back in action soon, quite possibly on 18 August in the newly promoted to Group 1, Winx Stakes  - formerly the Warwick Stakes, now renamed in her honour. 

I’ve already purchased a ticket to the Cox Plate;  Winx’s main target this spring, where she will be aiming to become the first horse to win it four times.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Literary Lights Jennifer Egan & Fran Lebowitz at Athenaeum Theatre

jennifer egan 3
Jennifer Egan at Athenaeum Theatre 8 May 2018

On Tuesday  night I ventured into the city to attend the sole literary event  in which I was interested to see in the Wheeler Centre’s Mayhem Series.

I had read and enjoyed Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit From The Goon Squad back when it was first released in 2010, and acquired her latest novel Manhattan Beach redeeming a gift voucher I received for Christmas.

Though completely different from Goon Squad, being a more conventional novel, Manhattan Beach was an enjoyable read nonetheless.

The event was at the ancient Athenaeum Theatre in Collins Street and pretty well a sell out. When I arrived at around 7.15 pm the theatre was half full, but I managed to get a seat up the front on the aisle in the third row. It turned out to be a handy position for taking photos and also exiting the auditorium after the show so as to get close to the front of the queue for book signings.

jennifer egan 4
Michael Williams & Jennifer Egan – Athenaeum Theatre

Michael Williams, Director of the Wheeler Centre, chaired the discussion, which mainly covered  the aforementioned novels.

A Visit From The Goon Squad is not a novel as such, but more a collection of interrelated short stories, so it was interesting to hear Jennifer Egan’s account of how she came to write it.

If you have read the book, you would know that the first story features Sasha who has problem with kleptomania, the opening sentence being “It began in the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel”.

When Jennifer Egan first began Goon Squad, she explained, she had no idea what it would become, her original intention being to write a short story inspired by her own brush with theft (her wallet was stolen and she was scammed in a phone call to reveal her Credit Card pin number)  and her subsequent observation of a wallet carelessly left in the open by a user of the facilities in the lady’s room of a hotel. 

Having written the first story, she became intrigued by the character of Sasha’s old boss, Bennie Salazar, whom Sasha casually mentions as having a habit of spraying his armpits with pesticide and sprinkling gold flakes into his coffee. This resulted in a story explaining Bennie’s peculiar habits, and so on, characters in each previous story inspiring another until she had a book – thirteen stories in all.

Manhattan  Beach took many years to write and required a great deal of research. Set during the second world war, the action mostly centred around Brooklyn Navy Yard. Egan said that her first version of the book was awful and that her second version wasn’t much better, adding that this was normally the case when she writes a novel.

The heroine of Manhattan Beach is Anna Kerrigan, daughter of an Irish immigrant, growing up poor in New York. She gets a job in the naval yard and eventually becomes a Navy diver. Of course the novel  is far more complex than that, but the topic of discussion at the Athenaeum concentrated on Jennifer Egan’s research, particularly her first hand experience of trying on a 1940s diving suit.

Jennifer Egan admitted that the 19th Century was her favourite literary period and that George Eliot’s Middlemarch was her favourite book. She recently wrote a wonderful article about George Eliot and Middlemarch for The Guardian which made me wish to read it again. 

It was an interesting event and Jennifer Egan came across as charming and articulate. I really must read some of her other novels.

Update 31/5/18

Jennifer Egan’s event is now available to watch  on video at the Wheeler Centre website.

**************



Fran Lebowitz signing books at the Athenaeum Theatre – 2 March 2018

Earlier this year in March I attended another literary event at the Athenaeum Theatre where noted New York bibliophile, wit and social commentator Fran Lebowitz was the star attraction. She was very funny, but as it is a while since the event I can’t remember specific quotes. She was  interviewed by Michael Williams for a short time, then he threw the audience to the wolves by inviting Fran Lebowitz to answer their questions. Some answers were a simple yes or no,  others were more expansive.

I was interested to hear that when looking for a new apartment, the major requirement she needs is enough room to fit her personal library which numbers many thousands of books.

So she struck me as a person after my own heart as I agreed with many of her opinions expressed that night, except her professed lack of interest in technological gadgetry of any kind.

When getting my ancient paperback copy of her book Metropolitan Life signed, she was surprised  to see that it was an edition she hadn’t come across previously, hence the remark about rare book collecting.

metro life_sig

With winter coming and a while to wait until the spring racing season I haven’t much on, other than a concert later this month, where I am going to see the delightful Eilen Jewell at Thornbury Theatre.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Winx & Day Two of The Championships

qe stakes_winx 1
Winx on her way to winning the 2017 Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Much as I would like to be there to witness Winx match Black Caviar’s record of 25 straight wins, economic prudence compels me to forgo the pleasure.

In her final appearance for the autumn racing carnival, Winx will be aiming to win her second Queen Elizabeth Stakes, 18th Group 1 and 25th race in succession.

It’s hard to believe that the wonder mare has finally reached this milestone, as it seemed so distant back in 2015, when I first had the thrill of seeing her winning her first Cox Plate. That was her fifth consecutive win, and now twenty races later, she hopefully will remain unbeaten. Go Winx!

Winx faces nine rivals in the 2018 edition of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and has drawn the outside gate. That should not be a problem with her pattern of racing, midfield and generally a bit wide, to avoid interference.

The most threatening of her rivals are Happy Clapper, Humidor and Gailo Chop, all of whom she has thrashed in the past.  Of the rest, Japanese import Ambitious and her stable mate Comin’ Through, on form, could be in the finish.

As well as the  QE Stakes, there are three other Group 1 races on the card - the Australian Oaks, Sydney Cup and Coolmore Legacy Stakes.

First up is the Australian Oaks, run over 2400 metres. Last year it was won by New Zealand filly Bonneval who previous to that victory had won the New Zealand Oaks.  This year’s New Zealand Oaks winner, Savvy Coup is aiming to emulate Bonneval  and three previous New Zealand winners (Sofia Rosa, Gust of Wind and Rising Romance) on Saturday, and on that effort looks a top chance.  The NZ Oaks runner up Contessa Vanessa is also worthy of consideration. 

Of the local girls Vinery Stud winner Hiyaam and last week’s Adrian Knox Stakes winner Luvaluva could well turn the tables on the NZ fillies.

The Sydney Cup, like its Melbourne counterpart,  is run over 3200 metres and a hard race to assess, with the majority of the field hailing from outside Australia, albeit  adapted to Australian conditions.  Last year, the race was declared void after the unfortunate breakdown of Almoonqith shortly after the start, which caused Who Shot Thebarman to lose his rider and raced riderless.  Let’s hope that scenario is not repeated this year. 

Top pick is 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin, who looked back to his best winning the Group 1 Tancred Stakes, and is proven over the distance. Likewise old Who Shot Thebarman who has finished second in the Sydney Cup on two occasions in 2015 and 2017. Even at his age (nine) he could well run a place again. Almandin is the class stayer in the race, but he is top weight on 57 kilos, and there are lighter weighted horses who will aim to topple him, such as the New Zealand stayer Sir Charles Road and Japanese visitor Pre Stwick, along with the usual suspects Auvray, Aloft , Libran and former New Zealander, now with the Chris Waller stable, Patrick Erin.

A classy field of 16 mares and one filly will contest the final Group 1 race of the day. This is the Coolmore Legacy Stakes, formerly known as the Queen of the Turf Stakes, and it is run over 1600 metres.

Foxplay won it last year from Zanbagh and Dixie Blossoms. These three are all in the field with new challengers such as Victorian mare Spanish Reef who has won her last three starts.  Others likely to be in the finish are Daysee Doom, Silent Sedition, Oregon’s Day and Prompt Response. The sole filly Alizee has been somewhat disappointing this autumn, but does have a 2.5 kilo weight advantage and is being touted as a live chance by her trainer James Cummings.

It looks to be another fabulous afternoon of racing that will be run on a good track, quite a contrast to the usual wet tracks that generally plague Sydney’s Autumn Racing Carnival.

I’ll be watching with interest again, especially the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

*Update Saturday Evening*

What a fantastic afternoon of racing from Sydney it was, with Winx achieving her 25th win in succession in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and doing so with consummate ease, defeating race leader Gailo Chop by almost four lengths. She gave the field a big start, racing at the tail  until near the turn into the straight, where, as she usually does, she came wide around the corner and tore away in a trice to score another amazing win. Happy Clapper ran third a half length away.

Chris Waller had a very successful afternoon winning three of the four Group 1 races, with Unforgotten winning the Australian Oaks from Hiyaam and Miss Admiration, and tough old trooper Who Shot Thebarman winning the Sydney Cup at his fifth attempt, beating outsider Zacada by a whisker with Sir Charles Road running third.

The Coolmore Legacy was won by the filly Alizee who took the prize by a comfortable two lengths from Prompt Response and Heavens Above.

Happily there are no immediate plans to retire Winx, so we’ll hopefully get to see her again in the spring where one of her targets will no doubt be a fourth Cox Plate.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Doncaster– Derby Day 2018

race 5_ryder_kementari 6
Kementari – Doncaster Favourite photographed at Rosehill 24/3/18

The first Saturday of Sydney Racing’s  pompously named The Championships takes place this weekend at Randwick racetrack and features four Group 1 races -  the time honoured Doncaster Mile and  Australian Derby as well the Inglis Sires and T J Smith Stakes.

There’s something for everyone in the schedule with the Inglis Sires being a race for two year olds over 1400 metres, the Derby, a 2400 metres race for three year old stayers, the Doncaster a top class 1600 metres competition for middle distance runners, and the T J Smith a sprint over 1200 metres.

The first of the Group 1 events to run is the Inglis Sires and has attracted a field of 12 colts/geldings and 3 fillies. I’m interested in seeing how Encryption performs and whether he can emulate his ancestors and take home the Group 1 prize. His dam Guelph won the Sires in 2013, his granddam Camarilla in 2007 and his grand sire Octagonal won it in 1995. So it would be fitting if Encryption could do the family proud.

He’ll have to beat classy fillies Oohood and Seabrook, the former in particular who ran third in the Blue Diamond Stakes and second in the Golden Slipper at her last start and surely deserves a win.

The Australian Derby has been won over the past three years by New Zealand invaders  - Jon Snow (2017) Tavago (2016) and Mongolian Khan (2015) so it’s quite likely that Kiwis will take home the prize this year.

There are 7 New Zealanders in this year’s  Derby with the Murray Baker trained New Zealand Derby winner Vin De Dance being the pick of them. He’s one of the few runners to have won over the distance. Victoria Derby winner Ace High has been a tad disappointing so far this autumn, but he is proven over 2400 metres so has to be the best of the locals, along with Levendi, and Tangled and Furore who ran second and third in the Rosehill Guineas.

Redzel, who narrowly lost to Redkirk Warrior in the Lightning Stakes, is the top pick for the TJ Smith Stakes. Chautauqua won the race the last three years in succession, but is not part of the field, after he refused to leave the barriers in several trials recently, and has subsequently been sent for a long spell.

Despite Chautauqua’s absence it looks a classy field with mares, In Her Time, Global Glamour and English being Redzel’s main rivals. Also in with a chance is Brave Smash and Trapeze Artist, both with good recent form.

Happy Clapper, Humidor and Kementari are the three top chances in the Doncaster Mile, though one of the other runners such as Tosen Stardom, Lanciato or Prized Icon could steal the show. The last three year old to win the Doncaster was Triple Honour in 2008, so can the beautiful Kementari, with a generous weight advantage over the older horses, succeed ten years later?

It looks a great day of racing, run on a good track, which I shall watch at home with interest. 

*Update Saturday Evening*

As expected is was an interesting race meeting with one sensational result, when 100/1 shot El Dorado Dreaming took out the Inglis Sires, winning by a nose from the favourite Oohood, with 50/1 shot Outrageous finishing third.

Ace High, fighting out a thrilling finish in the Derby, was defeated by a nose by Levendi with Tangled several lengths behind running third.

Redzel was rolled in the TJ Smith by the three year old Trapeze Artist. In Her Time ran third.

And the Doncaster was won by the tough Happy Clapper from Comin’ Through and Arbeitsam.

So my analysis above was not all that out except for the Inglis Sires.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Planes, Trains & Winx

race 5_ryder_finish 4
Winx overtakes Happy Clapper on her way to winning the George Ryder Stakes

Unlike the last time I went to Sydney for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, on this occasion the only travel hitch was the plane from Melbourne to Sydney, which took off a hour after the scheduled departure time.

So I got to Sydney around 12.30pm, but everything proceeded smoothly from then on. Stowing my carry on case at a storage facility at Central Station took only a few minutes, so I was on a train to Rosehill by 12.40 pm.

As it’s quite a long trip out to Rosehill, it was fortunate the train was a limited express, and took approximately half an hour to reach Clyde, where you were obliged to change to a train heading to Rosehill. It was not a long wait between trains and I arrived at Rosehill shortly before the running of Race 3, the N E Manion Cup, a Group 3 race for stayers run over 2400 metres. After purchasing racebooks and Golden Slipper pins, I headed trackside and easily found a spot on the fence near the mounting yard to practice photography.

The mounting yard view is limited for general admission patrons, so I concentrated on getting photos of horses leaving the yard and proceeding under the Yellow Rose Arch to the track, and action shots of the races, as the fence is quite low and you can get rail free shots.

race 3_manion cup_imperial avaitor 1 
Alward (who ran second) heading to the track from the mounting yard.

The race was won by the Darren Weir trained Master of Arts, with Alward a narrow second and race leader Peribsen hanging on for third.

race 3_manion cup_finish 1
Master of Arts leads the field to the finish line

race 3_manion cup_master of arts 3
Master of Arts returns to scale

I killed time until the next race by visiting the stalls area, and found Winx there. As usual there was a crowd outside her stall, but nothing like the throngs that surrounded her stall at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day last year.

stalls_winx 2
Winx in her stall

Nearby was star three year old colt Kementari, a beautiful black son of Lonhro, who is  said to be the spitting image of his famous sire.

stalls_kementari 2
Kementari in his stall

The first of the Group 1 races was up next, the Ranvet Stakes, and the Darren Weir trained Gailo Chop was the starting favourite and didn’t disappoint, winning the Ranvet by three lengths from the game Single Gaze, with Prized Icon running third.

 
race 4_ranvet_gailo chop 4
Gailo Chop streets ahead charging to the finish line

race 4_ranvet_prized icon_single gaze
Prized Icon (red silks) and Single Gaze neck and neck in pursuit of Gailo Chop

race 4_ranvet_gailo chop 7
Gailo Chop returns to scale

race 4_ranvet_single gaze 6
Single Gaze returns to scale

race 4_ranvet_prized icon 3
Prized Icon returns to scale

As the George Ryder Stakes was next to run, I stayed where I was to be sure of getting a good spot to watch Winx. A lot of other people had the same idea and soon fence positions were scarce. Winx flags fluttered from hands along the fence and an air of sharp anticipation rippled through the course.

The small field proceeded along the path to the mounting yard, but everyone had eyes only for the star attraction.

race 5_ryder_happy clapper 1
Happy Clapper on his way to the mounting yard

race 5_ryder_crack me up 2
Crack Me Up

race 5_ryder_invincible gem 1
Invincible Gem

race 5_ryder_kementari 2
Kementari

race 5_ryder_winx 1
Winx – masked

Here’s some more photos of the main contenders leaving the mounting yard

race 5_ryder_happy clapper 2
Happy Clapper


race 5_ryder_kementari 5
Kementari

race 5_ryder_winx 5
Winx- unmasked

race 5_ryder_winx 14
Winx on her way to the barriers – glowing with health

Any race Winx contests is always of the utmost interest, and even though you expect her to win, there’s the question of how she will accomplish it and by how much of a margin to the second horse. Winx’s first race this autumn saw her win by 7 lengths. This time she had a fight on her hooves with Happy Clapper putting up a challenge down the straight. Winx ran the fastest last 600 metres section of the day and prevailed over Happy Clapper by almost a length. Kementari did well to run third 1.5 lengths behind.

Winx has now won 24 consecutive races and a record breaking 17 at Group 1 level. She is set to equal Black Caviar’s unbeaten winning sequence of 25 in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on 14 April and will possibly surpass the great sprinting mare’s tally either overseas (now thankfully off the agenda), or next Spring, which will hopefully include a 4th Cox Plate.

If we lived in extraordinary times during Black Caviar’s racing career, racing fans are now enjoying  an even more awesome champion of the turf in Winx, perhaps the best ever.

race 5_ryder_winx 22
Winx returns to scale

Rosehill is a pleasant little race course, much the same size as Moonee Valley, and I was glad to be back there again. There were obviously no restrictions on taking photos or the focal size of lenses. There were several other amateur photographers near where I was standing, including a guy with an enormous lens that blocked everyone else’s views.

After the Ryder Stakes I decided to go and get a drink from the nearest bar in the JR Fleming Stand, which meant standing in a queue for quite a while before being served.  I visited the stalls after that to see if Chris Waller was around and willing to sign my racebook. There was no sign of him, but Winx was resting in her stall, looking bright and beautiful despite just running a race.

As a consequence of all this dillying and dallying I missed the Rosehill Guineas and arrived back trackside as the winner, D’Argento, was returning to scale, an elated Hugh Bowman on his back. Hugh had reason to be cheerful having just won a Group 1  double.

race 6_guineas_d'argento 2
D’Argento  returns to scale

race 6_guineas_d'argento 3
Hugh Bowman being uncharacteristically exhuberant

As the Golden Slipper Stakes was up next, I figured it was time to peg out a spot on the fence to watch it.  Unlike Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day last year, where we had to guard our spot on the fence for over four hours, at Rosehill it was amazingly easy to find a good position. The Rosehill outdoor public area is tiered, with several steps going up from ground level, so just about everyone gets a good view of the racing action.

This was the first time I had attended a Golden Slipper meeting and watched the famous (and richest) race for two year olds in person, though I have religiously watched it over the years on TV. So it was a bit of thrill to be at Rosehill for the 2018 edition.

I was particulary keen to get photos of Sunlight, the winner of the Magic Millions Two Year Classic, and I got quite few, such as the one below

race 7_golden slipper_sunlight 8
Sunlight leaves the mounting yard for the track

The best looking colt was Blue Diamond Stakes winner Written By.

race 7_golden slipper_written by 5
Written By

Anyway before the race was run, there was a bit of pomp and ceremony, starting with a line of 16 girls bearing name banners for each horse in the race. They marched up the path to the mounting yard, and stood around colourfully while the Golden Slipper jockeys were introduced one by one.

race 7_golden slipper_pageant 1
Banner girls

Then the field started assembling in the mounting yard, and shortly afterwards proceeding to the track.

The weather looked threatening with a dark cloud moving over the course, but the rain held off until after the race was run and won.

Unfortunately my photos of the race finish turned out too dark to use, but I got lots of photographs of Estijaab returning to scale after her thrilling victory. She led from the start to the finish, and had enough in the tank to hold off Oohood who finished second, and Sunlight who ran third. So it was a fillies trifecta, with Written By officially fourth.

race 7_golden slipper_estijaab 4
Estijaab returns to scale

race 7_golden slipper_oohood 2
Oohood head shot

race 7_golden slipper_sunlight 9
Sunlight head shot

Though the final Group 1, the Galaxy was yet to run, I decided to call it quits after the Golden Slipper and head back to the city, as I was feeling weary after a long day on my feet.

On the train back to the city a couple of guys were sitting near me all dressed up and ready to party. They obliged me by posing for the following photograph – Sydney personified!

guys on train
Guys on train

Once back in the CBD I collected my bag from the storage place and headed for my hotel, where I dined in the Bistro and retired early to my room.

I had to get up at 5.00 am the next morning to catch a 7.00 am plane to Melbourne. This flight departed only ten minutes late and I got back to Melbourne well before midday after an uneventful flight.

By the time I finally made it home, I had travelled by train to Sydney airport, by plane to Melbourne airport, by bus to Southern Cross station, from where I caught a train to Clifton Hill, then a bus to Ivanhoe Station and walked the rest of the way.

So that was my weekend.

Though tiring, it was worth the effort and I’d do it again, now that I’ve sorted out all the contingencies involved.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Golden Slipper & Winx

blue diamond_written by 4
Written By – can he win the Blue Diamond / Golden Slipper double?

As I’ve previously mentioned the Melbourne autumn racing season was disappointing overall, but in Sydney this weekend the race card at Rosehill looks excellent by contrast.

It’s Golden Slipper Day and it features five Group 1 races that include wonder mare Winx in the George Ryder Stakes.

As I had a concert to attend on this coming Saturday night, I originally planned not to attend the Golden Slipper meeting. That’s all changed as B, who was attending the concert with me, decided he didn’t want to go as getting to the venue (Palais Theatre in St Kilda) would be difficult in the extreme. With all the roadworks in progress between the northern and southern suburbs, it would be a pain to drive through. I have seen the artist Jason Isbell several times before, so don’t really mind missing the show. I sold the tickets on Gumtree in no time flat as the seats were actually very good.

Anyway, with the concert no longer an obligation, I decided I’d  go to Sydney for the Golden Slipper after all. So I’m Sydney bound again and hope things go more smoothly than the last time I travelled there.

Besides the Golden Slipper and George Ryder Stakes, there is also the Rosehill Guineas, Ranvet Stakes and Galaxy, all attracting quality fields, so it promises to be excellent in terms of good racing.

Winx faces five rivals in the George Ryder Stakes,  and should win it easily, especially as the track is likely to be on the slow side.  Her biggest threats are Happy Clapper and three year old star colt Kementari.  Hopefully the unthinkable will not happen and that Winx will clock up her 24th win in succession and 17th Group 1 victory. Go Winx!

The Golden Slipper has a field of 16 runners and comprise equal numbers of colts and fillies. Top picks of the colts are Blue Diamond Stakes winner Written By who is yet to be beaten having won his four starts, Santos and Aylmerton who have both won their last two races, and the Chris Waller trained Performer who was the early Golden Slipper favourite.

Of the fillies the standout is Sunlight who has a picket fence of five wins from her last five starts against her name, winning the Magic Millions Two Year Old Classic back in January , and the Group 2  Silver Slipper Stakes and Group 3 Magic Night Stakes at her last two starts. She certainly looks special. Other fillies with a chance are Enbihaar, Estijaab and Seabrook. As it’s a race for two year olds, anything can happen and often does.

The Ranvet Stakes (2000 metres) is the first of the Group 1 events and has a small field of familiar contestants that include the 2018 Australian Cup trifecta  Harlem, Gailo Chop and Ventura Storm along with Single Gaze and The Taj Mahal and 2016 Victoria Derby winner Prized Icon. The last mare to win the Ranvet Stakes was Silent Achiever back in 2014 , the only time before next weekend that I  have been to Rosehill. Does that bode well for the honest Single Gaze?

As for the Rosehill Guineas eight of the eigthteen strong field are New Zealanders with good NZ form and it’s understandable that NZ trainers would send their young stayers to Sydney in the autumn, as quite few Kiwis have won the Rosehill Guineas and Sydney Derby.  Last year Gingernuts won the Rosehill Guineas, and before him there was  Volkstok ‘n’ Barrell (2015) and It’s a Dundeel (2013). My sentimental pick is Ace High, so I hope he wins, but he’ll have to beat New Zealand Derby winner Vin De Dance, trained by the canny Murray Baker, and the in form Cliff’s Edge among several other challengers.

Sydney weather on Saturday is forecast to be partly cloudy and 28°C, though as it has rained there over the past few days, the track should be rated soft, which will suit the mighty mare.

Anyway, here’s hoping for good fortune in Sydney on Saturday and that I am not cursed by public transport, as I was yesterday when I went to Victoria Market and chose to catch the 250 Bus. Just near Rushall Station (my old stamping ground) the bus driver advised that he had been ordered to terminate the bus trip. So I plodded to Rushall Station and caught the train for the rest of my journey to the city.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Seeing Double - Blue & White Stripes to the Fore

aus cup_finish 4
Harlem wins the 2018 Australian Cup

The training team of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig certainly had a good day last Saturday, winning both Group 1 races with imported horses.

Redkirk Warrior accomplished a rare consecutive win of the Newmarket Handicap and Harlem, unfancied in the betting, won the Australian Cup at big odds of 60/1.

Despite the extreme heat of the day, it was worth making the effort to attend, though it seemed to me to be a long drawn out afternoon, and it was with relief that I climbed onto the train after the running of the Australian Cup.

Being obliged by train timetables – the last Flemington train was at 12.30pm – I arrived at the course as horses engaged in Race 2 were filing onto the track.  I didn’t bother photographing the action, but noted that Kings Will Dream notched up his fifth win in succession.

I headed for the stalls and dallied there, missing  Race 3 as well, as it didn’t strike me as all that interesting. It was almost impossible to get photos of the horses in their stalls owing to the rampant roses, and besides many of the Group 1 runners had not yet arrived.

roses_stalls 2
Rose hedge around the stalls

Might and Power and Efficient were the special guests from Living Legends so I did manage to snap a shot of old fave Efficient.

stalls_efficient 1
Efficient

The Group 2 Sires Produce Stakes was the fourth race on the card, so I trudged up the public lawn to my favourite spot at the access gate on the west lawn. As the rail was out 4 metres, it was difficult to get shots without the outer rail intruding. I’d normally move further up the west lawn to get clear photos of horses going to the barriers, but this area was blocked off by a wine and food pop up facility.

A race for two year olds over 1400 metres, it was won by the unfancied Not A Single Cent, having only his second start.  Favourite Seberate ran second with Akkadian running third.

race 4_finish 2
Sires Produce Stakes finish – Not A Single Cent is about to overtake Seberate

race 4_not a single cent 4
Not A Single Cent returns to scale

As it was far too hot in the sun, between races I sought out shade in various spots around the public lawn, and only returned to the access gate when the runners in the next race were leaving the mounting yard for the track. I don’t know why I bothered taking photos with the rail being a problem, but I suppose it was a distraction from the relentless sunshine.

Race 5 was the Group 2 Kewney Stakes for three year old fillies and is run over 1400 metres.  The so far unbeaten Summer Sham was the starting favourite and led for most of the race, but she was outclassed over the distance and finished well back in eighth place.  The winner Bella Martini raced just off the speed in third place and toughed it out to beat Shokora and Palazzo Vecchio.

race 5_finish 3
Bella Martini wins the Kewney Stakes

The Newmarket Handicap was the next race to jump, so I pegged out a rose free spot on the mounting yard fence for the pre-race parade.

Here are some of the main contenders.

newmarket_brave smash 2
Brave Smash

newmarket_redkirk warrior 4
Redkirk Warrior

newmarket_merchant navy 3
Merchant Navy

newmarket_so si bon 3
So Si Bon

As is the norm in sprints down the long Flemington straight, the field split into two, one on the inner rail and the other on the outer. As a result, Redkirk Warrior who was brushing the roses on the outer fence, defeated Brave Smash on the inner fence by a half head, with Merchant Navy running third.

newmarket_finish 1
A distant shot of the Newmarket halfway up the straight with split field

newmarket_finish 2
Outer fence view approaching the winning post

newmarket_finish 4
Inner fence view approaching the winning post

newmarket_redkirk warrior 6
Redkirk Warrior returns to scale

The first of the Group 1 races at Randwick, the Canterbury Stakes,  was scheduled shortly after the running of the Newmarket Handicap, so I sauntered closer to the big screen to watch it and found a place to sit down, albeit in the sun.

The rose hedge was splendidly in full bloom…

roses_lawn 2
Rose hedge close to the Clock Tower

Anyway, the Canterbury Stakes resulted in a win for Happy Clapper with Global Glamour running second and Invincible Gem third.

Back at Flemington, Race 7 was the Group 3 Schweppervescence Trophy, a race for fillies and mares over 1600 metres. Spanish Reef was one of the few favourites to win at Flemington on Saturday. She defeated Samovare by three quarters of a length with Jester Halo two lengths back running third.

race 7 _finish 1
Spanish Reef wins the Schweppervescence Trophy

As I was fed up with trying to get rail free photos, I decided to go back to a spot opposite the finish line where the horses returning to scale enter the path to the mounting yard. It’s not a bad spot for taking photos from a different angle, with the bonus of the winning post in the background.

race 7 _spanish reef 7
Spanish Reef returns to scale

race 7 _samovare 2
Samovare returns to scale

race 7 _jester halo 2
Jester Halo returns to scale

Before the Australian Cup field assembled in the mounting yard, I watched the Randwick Guineas on the big screen. Kementari was the outstanding winner.  Pierata ran second and Trapeze Artist third.

I’d been at Flemington for four hours, so I was thankful the feature race was finally ready to race.

Here are some of the major contenders in the mounting yard…

aus cup_harlem 1
Harlem

aus cup_gailo chop 3
Gailo Chop

aus cup_single gaze 1
Single Gaze

aus cup_ventura storm 2
Ventura Storm

It was reported in the racing press that Lloyd Williams, who had three horses entered in the Australian Cup (Almandin, The Taj Mahal and Homesman)  had advised that he would recommend that The Taj Mahal and Homesman be ridden positively (i.e. on the speed) and Almandin ridden quietly. This all sounded as if he was using the former two horses as pacemakers for Almandin, and a challenge for Gailo Chop who likes to lead.

That plan unravelled when The Taj Mahal and the Gai Waterhouse trained Supply and Demand fought out the lead for most of the race, only to fade and finish well back. Harlem raced handy in fourth spot on the fence, then was blocked for a run, but he found a gap and went on to beat Gailo Chop by half a length with Ventura Storm another length back running third. Almandin ended up running fourth.

aus cup_harlem 8
Harlem returns to scale

aus cup_gailo chop_homesman 1
Gailo Chop and Homesman return to scale

And that was another Australian Cup run and won.

I was contemplating going to the Blamey Stakes meeting at Flemington next Saturday ostensibly to see 2017 Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling who was nominated for the feature race, but owner Lloyd Williams has decided not to run him this autumn after all.

Anyway, next Saturday is forecast to be as hot as the previous one, so I’m glad not to attend.

As for Melbourne’s autumn carnival, as I’ve mentioned before, it has been underwhelming with very few highlights that I can think of, though of course I can say I saw Redkirk Warrior win both the Lightning Stakes and Newmarket Handicap

Group 1 racing continues on in Sydney and we have Winx next race to look forward to on 24 March.