Monday, February 27, 2017

Catch of the Day–Blue Diamond Stakes Day Review

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Catchy returns to the stalls after winning the 2017 Blue Diamond Stakes

The races at Randwick were run on a heavy track with inclement weather putting a dampener on the meeting. However, all was not lost to the rain when Winx demonstrated to all and sundry that she could handle the soggy conditions and still win with ease.  Her Chipping Norton Stakes victory was her 15th in succession, and raised her tally of Group 1 wins to ten.  Tough filly Lasqueti Spirit ran second with Who Shot Thebarman third home. Hartnell was never in the picture and finished at the tail of the field.

At Caulfield, by contrast, it was a perfectly lovely day for racing, with sunshine and a cool breeze making it comfortable to be outside.

I got to Caulfield in time to watch Race 3, the Group 2  Autumn Classic, a 1600 metre race for three year olds.

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Race 3 aftermath – the winner Farson leads

It was won by the Gai Waterhouse trained Farson from Cliff Hanger and Captain Rhett.

Annoyingly, as had happened last year, my favourite spot for taking photos was reserved for a Young Members event.  Not much was happening there with few young members bothering to get up from their chairs and champagne to watch the racing. What a waste of a good space!

So I had to resort to the more distant (from the finishing line) area adjacent to the parade ring. At least you can get good snaps of the horses going to the barriers and returning to scale after the race. And it was bereft of crowds, which suited me fine, with only the gate keepers to chat to.

Race 4 was the Group 2 Angus Armanasco Stakes, a race for three year old fillies over 1400 metres.

“Magic Man” Joao Moreira demonstrated his uncanny touch guiding Savanna Amour to victory over the more fancied runners. Ellicazoom (a daughter of Group 1 winning WA mare Ellicorsam) finished second and Oregon’s Day ran third.

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The Angus Armasnasco field sweep round the bend from the finish line – Savanna Amour (gold silks) is slightly ahead of Ellicazoom (blinkers)

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Savanna Amour returns to scale

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Ellicazoom on her way to the barriers

In between the races I wandered around the stalls area, but most of my photos of horses in their stalls turned out rather dark, which even the nifty perfect exposure plugin I use to enhance photos not making much difference. The light varied over the afternoon with cloud cover occasionally obscuring the sun.

The first of the Group 1 races, the Futurity Stakes was up next and I was hoping that Turn Me Loose would be the winner, but he finished second last, being denied his preferred front running racing style by the tearaway leader Ecuador.  Or perhaps I put a jinx on him getting his trainer’s signature in my racebook before the race was run.

Black Heart Bart bagged the booty again, from stablemate Tosen Stardom with Ecuador hanging for third.

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Futurity Stakes aftermath – the first four home from the left Black Heart Bart, Tosen Stardom, Attention and Ecuador

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Black Heart Bart returns to scale

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Ecuador returns to scale

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Turn Me Loose returning to the stalls post race – handsome fellow

There was only one more race to go before the Blue Diamond Stakes and this was the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800 metres).

Stratum Star gave Darren Weir a second winner for day (after Black Heart Bart).  His stablemate Humidor finished second and The United States ran third. Jameka started favourite and finished fourth, less than a length from the winner.

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Round the bend from the finish line – Stratum Star still in the lead.

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Stratum Star returns to scale

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Humidor returns to scale

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The United States returns to scale

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Jameka returning to the stalls post race -  a nice head shot

In my preview of the Blue Diamond Stakes in my last post I mentioned seven runners likely to be in the finish.  I’m pleased my assessment was spot on, except for Jukebox (who was scratched) and Blondie who finished last, while the other five – Catchy, Pariah, Formality, Tulip and Property all finished in that order in the first five.

Catchy appears to be an exceptional filly, judging by the way she won the Blue Diamond Stakes, coming from an apparently unwinnable position way back in the field, with an incredible burst of speed, to overtake Pariah and win by a neck . Formality ran third two lengths behind.

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Just past the post in the 2017 Blue Diamond Stakes

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Catchy returns to scale

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Pariah returns to scale

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Formality returns to scale

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Tulip returns to scale

In no rush to get home, I stayed for the final Group 1 race, the Oakleigh Plate, a sprint over 1100 metres.

Joao Moreira, sorcery in a saddle, rode Sheidel boldly in a leading position to score a narrow win over Faatinah. Extreme Choice flew home from the back of the field to run third.

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Oakleigh Plate finish

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Sheidel returns to scale

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Faatinah returns to scale

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Extreme Choice returns to scale

Remarkably, three of the four Group 1 races run on Saturday were won by the female of the species.  A lot of this has to do with young entire males being retired early to stud if they have any ability. We rarely get to see them race into their fourth or fifth year.

Next weekend there are two Group 1 Guineas races, one at Randwick and one at Flemington.  And after that there is only one more weekend of Group 1 racing in Melbourne, which basically winds up on Australian Cup Day on 11 March.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Blue Diamond Stakes Comes Around Again

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Catchy  - 2017 Blue Diamond Favourite

This coming Saturday will be the sixth time I’ve been to the Blue Diamond Stakes Day at Caulfield.

Samaready won the Blue Diamond back in 2012 where I recall the temperature being 40°C . She went on to win several other Group  races, most notably the 2013 Moir Stakes.

The most memorable Blue Diamond Stakes was the 2013 edition where fairy tale filly Miracles of Life romped in and everyone got very emotional.

Last year the two Mick Price colts Extreme Choice and Flying Artie ran the quinella.

This year’s field contains ten colts/geldings and six fillies.

Having watched most of the build up races I reckon the best chances are colts Property, Jukebox and Pariah and fillies Catchy, Tulip, Formality and Blondie. It being a mad two year old race over 1200 metres, run at speed, anything could happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of the abovementioned were in the finish.

As well as the Blue Diamond Stakes, there are two other Group 1 races, the Futurity Stakes over 1400 metres and the Oakleigh Plate, a sprint over 1100 metres.

The Futurity is the first of the Group 1 races on the program, run as Race 5 and has a small field of nine runners. Black Heart Bart is naturally the top pick and short priced favourite.  He narrowly beat Turn Me Loose in the Orr Stakes who may be able to turn the tables on him this time.  Turn Me Loose is a particular favourite of mine, a really pretty young stallion who has been specifically aimed at this race, which he won last year.

Others likely to be in or close to the finish are Lucky Hussler,  Palentino and former Japanese horse Tosen Stardom.

A huge field has accepted for the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate, 18 in all. The interesting runners are Extreme Choice, Fell Swoop, Sheidel,
I Am A Star
and Wild Rain.

The support card at Caulfield is also worth the price of entry, with two Group 3, and three Group 2 races.  I’m looking forward to seeing Jameka again, who is running in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes.

In Sydney at Randwick, the wonderful Winx will be aiming to win her 15th race in succession in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes. Most of her rivals are resuming stayers along with long time rival Hartnell who is yet to get the better of her.  Here’s hoping she keeps her winning sequence intact.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Great Horse Raceday–AKA Lightning Stakes Day

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Terravista in winners rug

Because the feature race was named for the triple winner of the Lightning Stakes, i.e. Black Caviar, the raceday was advertised as The Great Horse Raceday and ten of the Living Legends were present to celebrate the occasion.

They were all next to each other in stalls 72 to 81.

In stall 72 was the popular champion sprinter Apache Cat who, among his other achievements, won the Lightning Stakes in 2008.

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In stall 73 was the 2000 Melbourne Cup winner Brew

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In stall 74 was three time Sandown Classic winner Zipping

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In stall 75 was Efficient who won the 2007 Melbourne Cup

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1994 Caulfield Cup winner Paris Lane occupied stall 76

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In stall 77 was 1997 Caulfield & Melbourne Cups & 1998 Cox Plate winner Might And Power

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In stall 78 was Rogan Josh who won the 1999 Melbourne Cup

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Hong Kong champion Bullish Luck occupied stall 79

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Another Hong Kong star Good Ba Ba was in stall 80

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Winner of 17 successive races in Hong Kong, Silent Witness was in stall 81

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It was great to see so many of the old gentlemen of the turf together, particularly my old favourites Apache Cat, Efficient and Brew.

I arrived at Flemington earlier than I anticipated just before race 2 in fact.

No sooner had I stepped out onto the public lawn than a heavy shower of rain plummetted down which sent the crowd  scurrying for cover. I took shelter under a beach umbrella with several other cheery souls.

The shower passed quickly so I made my way up to my usual spot just past the winning post to watch the Japan Racing Association Trophy, a not terribly interesting race, but good for photography practice.

It was taken out by Zebrinz with Sadaqa and Duke of Brunswick filling the minor placings.

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Japan Racing Association Trophy finish

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Zebrinz returns to scale

The inner rail was out 9 metres, so it was hard to get photos of horses clear of the outer rail.

After Race 2, I wandered up to the stalls area, which was where I came across the Living Legends all together. I dilly dallied there for so long I didn’t have time to get back to my spot on the fence for Race 3, the Singapore Turf Club Trophy.

It was won by Well Sprung from Boomwa and Kirani.

With Race 4 being the Talindert Stakes the racing action grew more interesting, so I was back in my spot for the race, where nearby the ponies for children’s rides were grazing on the lawn.

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Ponies for children’s rides

Up further there appeared to be some sort of martial arts demonstration going on to loud music, but I didn’t bother going there to see it.

Ducimus started as favourite for the Talindert and won by a whisker to Taking Aim, with Sanadaat a further length behind running third.

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Talindert Stakes finish

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Ducimus returns to scale

The first of the Group 3 three year old races were up next, the fillies Vanity Stakes being Race 5. Legless Veuve was understandably the starting favourite, but she finished unplaced.

Kenedna was the long shot winner, beating the more fancied runners by over a length. Extra Olives finished second ahead of Harlow Gold.

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Kenedna overtakes Extra Olives close to the finishing post

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Kenedna returns to scale

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Extra Olives on her way to the starting gates

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Harlow Gold on her way to the starting gates

I was pleased when Hey Doc was victorious in the C S Hayes Stakes, winning easily from long shots Malaise and Land of Plenty.

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C S Hayes Stakes finish – Hey Doc leads

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Hey Doc poses for the press in the winners rug

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Malaise on his way to the barriers

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Land of Plenty on his way to the barriers

Throughout the afternoon, brief showers of rain passed through causing a rush for shelter. It was also quite chilly, so I was glad I’d worn a jumper and put on shoes and socks.

There was only one more race to go before the feature event, and this was the Ascot Racecourse Trophy, a race over 2000 metres for stayers.

A great many in the field were unfamiliar to me, so I had little interest in the outcome. Post d’France was the narrow winner to starting favourite Hursley with Annus Mirabilis running third.

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A blanket finish in the Ascot Racecourse Trophy – Post d’France is the widest in blinkers

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Post d’France returns to scale

It had been a long afternoon, and I’d got plenty of exercise into the bargain, so it was relief when the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes was set to run.

High drama at the barriers delayed proceedings, when The Quarterback became agitated in the stalls, reared and flipped over, getting trapped under the stalls, collecting a few horses in the stalls next to him.

It resulted in The Quarterback, Fatinaah and Oruju all being scratched. Fortunately none of them were seriously hurt.

So a depleted field of nine finally started, all of them racing in a bunch down the middle of track. Heatherly, Illustrious Lad and Star Turn led the rest until close to the finish line where Terravista broke through for a well deserved win. Spieth finished second and Star Turn hung on for third.

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BC Lightning finish – Terravista (orange silks) is about to overtake Star Turn(green cap) Spieth (yellow cap) & Illustrious Lad (lime green cap)

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Terravista returns to scale

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Spieth returns to scale

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Star Turn returns to scale

Flying Artie started as the race favourite but finished third last, reportedly over racing and ruining his chances. 

Terravista finished an unlucky second in the BC Lightning last year to Chautauqua.

With the Lightning Stakes done and dusted I headed for the station and home, avoiding the centre of the city altogether, which was gearing up for White Night.

Next Saturday the racing action is back at Caulfield for the Blue Diamond Stakes meeting, featuring three Group 1 races. And in Sydney. wonder mare Winx will be contesting the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes.