What a day! And it was an enjoyable one at that, despite the big crowds and the threatening weather.
I arrived at the course earlier than I anticipated, shortly before race 2 the listed Essendon Jeep Stakes. Putting a quick bet on Euryale passing through the Bookies area, I ventured out to the public lawn. Normally I would grab a spot on the fence near the finishing post, but this time it was impossible – too crowded – so I wended my way to the top of the straight and insinuated myself into a vacant spot there. It wasn’t bad as places to watch go, as I did manage to photo runners going past to the barriers.
Rather than stay by the fence, I decided to head to the parade ground to check out the runners for race 3, particularly Karuta Queen. I discovered that the parade ground area wasn’t half as crowded as other parts of the course, so I retreated there in between races for some relief from boisterous revellers.
Karuta Queen started favourite in the Australia Stakes and won easily from Miss Stellabelle & Amah Rock. She’s a very pretty filly, almost palomino in colouring. In the following photo you can see her showing a clean pair of heels to the runners up, in the straight.
I had my money on her and she was the first of four straight wins for me.
The next race on the cards was the Mitchelton Wines Vase, for three year olds over the Cox Plate distance of 2040 metres. Manawanui was the one I was looking forward to seeing, and he didn’t disappoint.
Manawanui parades before the running of the Vase
Manawanui, as if we didn’t already know, proved he was one of the best three year olds racing this spring, easily winning over the distance, unlike his great rival Helmet who failed to run 2040 metres in the Cox Plate.
Speaking of Helmet, he spent a great deal of time in the stalls near the parade ground. I photographed him in his stall, while waiting for Black Caviar to grace us with her presence.
Race 5 – the Schweppes Stakes - was of course the one in which Black Caviar would win her 15th race in succession. A big crowd gathered to see her parade…
… but not where I was standing, on the stall side of the parade ground.
And what a big girl she is! Very calm and composed and well behaved, she has enormous presence. In reality she is just a large brown mare with a big bum, but she has captured the Nation’s attention with her extraordinary ability.
I hastened back to a spot on the fence to see her proceeding to the barriers.
Naturally she won easily by 6 lengths from Doubtful Jack and Here De Angels.
The Moonee Valley Cup was the next race on the card, so I was keen to get a photo of Americain, winner of the 2010 Melbourne Cup, and judging by his run in the Moonee Valley Cup, quite possibly the winner of the 2011 edition.
He won by 2.3 lengths with Tullamore and Illo filling the minor placings.
The Crystal Mile was next, but I didn’t photograph any of the runners, just watched them parade trying to make up my mind on who to back. I finally settled on He’s Remarkable the New Zealander who ended up starting favourite. He managed to run third, so at least he covered the bet. Testa My Patience won the bikkies with Hawk Bay running second.
As the feature race drew near, the weather, which had been fairly pleasant most of the afternoon, became dark and threatening. A storm warning announcement came over the loud speakers, and I for one feared a similar situation to that which occurred in March 2010 at Flemington. As the horses paraded before the event, flashes of lightning – which at first I thought were camera flashes – and lowering skies sent the crowds scurrying for cover. I hung out at the parade ground for a while taking photos of the horses, until the light deteriorated to the extent it was pointless to continue. However, I did manage to get a few reasonable shots before giving up.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a shot of Pinker Pinker the Cox Plate winner. And alas I didn’t have any money on her either. I was however delighted that she won, another victory for locally bred horses and one for the girls as well. Her trainer Greg Eurell was over the moon, and I’m pleased for him. He trained my old favourite Apache Cat who won the Schweppes Stakes in 2009. Craig Williams deserves plenty of accolades for his perfectly judged and executed ride.
For the Cox Plate the barriers are placed at the top of the straight, so I had a good view of the start and witnessed Jimmy Choux breaking free early. He’d barely run 100 metres before being pulled up.
As for the race itself, it was as exciting and enthralling as you’d expect. Though the storm held off until after the race, tragedy struck Lion Tamer who broke a leg during the race and was put down soon after it was over. I didn’t witness this as I left directly after the race, not wanting to miss the last bus home and didn’t hear about it until later.
The above - rather murky - photo of the finishing dash down the straight, shows Jimmy Choux in the lead, having overtaken Helmet. Pinker Pinker is looming just behind them. Jimmy Choux hung on for second place and Rekindled Interest, who was seriously held up in the closing stages, ran third.
This post is turning into a marathon, but it was a long day. I witnessed seven races in all, picked the winner in four of them and won third place in two, so all up it was a good day on the punt and I came home with almost as much money as I had when I left.
Though the course was crowded, the punters were in high spirits in more ways than one, and the atmosphere was cheerful and raucous. I actually enjoyed the afternoon and would certainly attend the Cox Plate meeting again. I didn’t take many photos of the crowd, but there were girls dressed in flimsy frocks and high heels, with ridiculous concoctions of hats, guys dressed in loud suits – I spotted two guys wearing a purple and a pink suit apiece.
And of course salmon pink with black spots was everywhere. I was amused to see two guys with fairy wings attached to their backs being questioned by security up near the entrance gates. Who knows what they’d done to cause such interest, though I noticed one of them was clutching a rubber chook.
You may well ask how I was dressed, but I don’t dress up to go to the races, being totally uninterested in fashion. I wore my purple cord jeans with a charcoal hemp long sleeved t-shirt and sensible (waterproof) lace up shoes.
As mentioned before, the storm rolled in shortly after the running of the Cox Plate. By that time I was on the bus stop. Fortune smiled once again when the bus, I and several others were awaiting, pulled up across the road on its way to the terminus (where it turns around and comes back). The driver welcomed everyone to climb aboard for the ride, so when the rain came down in earnest, and the thunder rolled, and the lightning flashed, I was cosily on the bus with a cheerful crowd of race goers. By the time I got home the rain had started to ease, so my umbrella remained furled.
PS: Click on photos for a larger version (in most cases)