Monday, February 13, 2012

Cheer Squadding Again – Black Caviar clocks up her 18th win in succession

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Black Caviar cantering to the barrier stalls prior to winning the Orr Stakes

It is certainly good to get out of one’s comfort zone and try something different, like attending a race meeting at a track that you’ve never been to previously. Such was the case on Saturday where I went to Caulfield Race Track to participate in the Black Caviar Cheer Squad, and I came away at the end of the day impressed with the course, and of course awed by the ease with which Black Caviar won her first trip over 1400 metres.

Caulfield Race Course is very easy to get to via public transport – it took me about 40 minutes and two trains, practically from door to door, arriving at around 11.30am to check in to the Cheer Squad. As the squad was not amassing until 12.00, I decided to go exploring the course and came upon the stalls area, where I spied Apache Cat, easily recognisable by his distinctive markings.

Apache Cat in his stall

He was playing up something shocking, restlessly pawing the floor of his stall, earning a scolding from the strapper who was attending to him and Silent Witness in the next stall.

Silent Witness

Silent Witness was better behaved though he was a tad piqued when Apache Cat was getting attention. Two very spoiled boys I suspect. They were on display later in the day in the Fountain lawn area, where I managed to get better photos of them.  An admiring crowd were gathered around them most of the afternoon and both were receiving lots of attention.

Apache Cat in his Living Legends rug – what a handsome boy!

Silent Witness – handsome as well

The Cheer Squad was accommodated in a prime area of the course –  trackside,  next to the mounting yard. In fact it was the spot I would choose, if solo, to watch the races.

Cheer Squad area next to the mounting yard

Also it was great for taking photos and really testing the capacities of my fairly new Panasonic Lumix GF3, which is a micro 4/3 mirror less camera with interchangeable lenses in a compact body.  Much as I love my Canon G10, I’ve always found the shutter action to be sluggish, not ideal when photographing moving subjects. The Lumix is super fast and takes very sharp good quality photos. Anyway, it passed with flying colours on Saturday, what with the weather not being as bad as predicted by the weather bureau –I got sunburned rather than wet.

Back to the racing…

There was not much of a turn out for the Cheer Squad, but that was OK with the rest of us – more room to move. I was pleased to see Debbie (who I met at Moonee Valley) had made it with her son in tow. So hi Debbie, if you read this and I hope you saw your photo in The Age. Tommy Little, a celebrated young stand up comic, was on hand to lead the squad. He’s a genial young fellow, very friendly and engaging.

So there we were in the Cheer Squad area for the the first race the BMW Melbourne Handicap a race over 1800 metres. Spirit Song started favourite and won with Our Spirits Bay running second.

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Our Spirits Bay

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Spirit Song

Race 2 was the first of the Blue Diamond Preludes, this one for colts and geldings. Outsider General Rippa was the winner with favourite Rusambo running second with Ferment filling third spot.

The fillies Prelude was next up and was won by favourite Samaready with Formidable (who appears to be destined for bridesmaid status, having run second in her last two runs) filling second place and Sweetener coming third. Samaready is now the new favourite for the Blue Diamond, but the picture as far as that race is concerned, is far from clear, what with different horses winning each of the build up races. There’s no Sepoy this year. He won the all of them last year, as well as the Golden Slipper.

Middle distance and staying horses featured in Race 5 the Group Three Carlyon Stakes (1600 metres).  I totally overlooked Manighar who won at good odds. He came over for the Melbourne Cup last year as part of the Luca Cumani team, but stayed on and is now trained by Peter Moody.


Everyone seemed to fancy Ranger the Western Australian stayer, some even going so far as to compare him with Northerly, and indeed I admit I put my money on him as well. He came 5th.

Manighar leads down the straight in the Carlyon Stakes, Shadowfax in hot pursuit

In Race 5 the Group  Two Autumn Stakes (1400 metres), I fancied Proliferate and Specter, so had a small wager each way on both. The favourite Pied A Terre won and Proliferate ran second, so I got my money back.

By the end of Race 5, the crowd had grown to  almost 30,000 strong and the place was packed, but not uncomfortably so. Black Caviar’s colours were everywhere, with banners proclaiming all sorts of extravagant things – Blink and You’ll Miss her, Made in Victoria, Tomorrow the World etc. etc.

In the Cheer Squad we were gearing up for the big cheering moment prior to Race 6, the Group One C F Orr Stakes. Channel 9 was there filming it all, so if you watched the racing coverage on free to air last Saturday you would have seen the squad in action.

We had on our I ♥ B C  tee-shirts and were equipped with hand wavers and masks. A miscellaneous group, the Black Caviar Cheer Squad, range from baby boomers to babies. By that time everyone was in high spirits, no doubt in part due to the complimentary drink vouchers which were being handed out generously most of the afternoon.

Cheer Squad in action.

So on to THE RACE

It‘s a rare experience seeing Black Caviar in action. Heart in mouth, you watch her from race start, and there she is sitting pretty in fourth position behind Danzylum, Midas Touch and stable mate Doubtful Jack. At the turn into the straight, she’s moving forward and your heart quickens in expectation. As they enter the straight, Luke gives the reins a shake, and she takes off , galloping effortlessly to the finishing post for a 3½ length win from Southern Speed and Playing God. The crowd goes wild, cheering the champion home.  And indeed, looking at my photo of the finish it shows Black Caviar and daylight.

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Black Caviar and Luke Nolan saluting the crowd after her win

After that it was pretty much anti climax, but I hung around for Race 7,  the Rubiton Stakes to see Karuta Queen, despite a patch of rain which chanced to fall as the horses were proceeding to the starting gates. 

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Karuta Queen on her way to the barriers

Unfortunately Karuta Queen drew Barrier 2, while notorious barrier rogue Here De Angels had Barrier 1.  He played up as usual and was withdrawn from the race before it started. The little Queen was no doubt unsettled by his antics and missed the start by 3 lengths. As she is usually a front runner, playing catch up is not her style. But she did make up ground and managed to run fourth, which was a commendable effort. When Black Caviar drew a barrier next to Here De Angels in the Schweppes Stakes on Cox Plate day, Peter Moody, fearing for the safety of the champion, forced the the issue, and an empty barrier was left between the two.  A pity this was not done on Saturday as I’m sure Karuta Queen would have at least run a place if not won the race.

I called it a day after Race 7 and headed for the train station, very happy with my day at Caulfield Race Course. I must say, it is a lovely course, roomy with a pleasant vibe, and considerably better organised than Moonee Valley. I’ll certainly go back again, considering it’s so easy to get to and only 20 minutes more than I would usually travel to Moonee Valley.

Peter Moody is considering running Black Caviar in the Group One Lightning Stakes next weekend at Flemington.  Whether the Cheer Squad will be in action for that is uncertain, as we will not know if Black Caviar is running until mid week at the earliest. However, she is scheduled to run in the Group One Futurity Stakes the Saturday after at Caulfield, so hopefully I’ll be cheer squadding at that race meeting.

Before closing this post I really must commend and thank Racing Victoria for so splendidly catering to the Black Caviar Cheer Squad. It  was so well organised and amiably executed and I had a great time yet again.

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