Monday, November 11, 2013

Boban & Buffering - Emirates Stakes Day Review & Highlights & Lowlights of the Spring Racing Season

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The ornate mounting yard gate – surrounded & entwined with roses

I’m really glad I went to the final meeting of Flemington’s racing carnival. Despite the day starting with a shower of rain, the weather improved as the day progressed and sunshine shone on the track and provided excellent lighting conditions for photographs.

Starting my afternoon at the races at around 1.45pm, I first visited the stalls area to see the horses in their stalls or walking in the ring.

Chris Waller’s contingent were all in adjacent stalls, so I snapped a few pictures of his star performers…

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Boban who has stamped himself a potential star of the turf, like the  two horses named on his stall walls – Viewed & Shocking.

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Kelinni with attractive strapper nicely posed  in the stalls area

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The handsome Sacred Falls

Moving along, I found the stall where Makybe Diva’s little sister La Armistad was stabled. She’s a big girl who bears somewhat of a likeness to her sister. Her strapper obliged me by posing with her.

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La Armistad in her stall

Back at the track, race 5, the Group 2 Momentum Energy Stakes was about to start. I placed a bet on the Gai Waterhouse trained Queenstown and got into position on the fence to see the runners emerge from the mounting yard.

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Miss Zenella

The race resulted in a win by outsider Girl Gone Rockin who overtook Queenstown to win by a nose with Keep De Rose running third.

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Girl Gone Rockin returns to scale after winning the Momentum Energy Stakes

The first of the Group 1 races, the VRC Sprint was up next and I watched the contestants parade in the mounting yard. Yes, the crowds were not as great as Derby Day, so it was easy to get a spot on the fence surrounding the mounting yard.

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Hong Kong star Lucky Nine

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Bel Sprinter

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Buffering scored his second Group 1 win, leading from start to finish. Lucky Nine, of whom much was expected, fizzled out and finished in 6th place. Newmarket winner Shamexpress came second with Moment of Change running third. A big cheer greeted the erstwhile Group 1 bridesmaid as he returned to scale.

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Buffering returns to scale after winning the VRC Sprint.

Boban added another paling to the picket fence representing his latest race results, accumulating five straight wins, and a rare Group 1 double. A horse has not won the Epsom Stakes/Emirates Stakes double for 27 years. West Australian bred Chanteclair was last to do so in 1986.

It would have been a terrible upset if 20/1 long shot Smokin’ Joey  had won as he looked like doing, but Boban who came from the back of the field lunged on the line for a popular win. Speediness ran third.

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Boban returns to scale after winning the Emirates Stakes

The final race I watched before going home was the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes where Precedence prevailed and was thus  compensated for missing a run in the Melbourne Cup. La Armistad ran a pretty good race in her first outing in the city and finished 8th. Sertorius ran second with Let’s Make Adeal scoring third.

I was able to get photos of the main contestants in the mounting yard.

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Precedence in the mounting yard

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Let’s Make Adeal – Let’s Elope’s granddaughter.

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La Armistad

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Precedence returning to scale after winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes

As mentioned before, the crowds on Emirates Day were not overwhelming and there were lots of children, this race day being traditionally for families. There was a children’s fashion show and every so often you would see some young thing sporting a Barbie Doll prize.

The roses were still in full bloom and as glorious as ever.

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Rose bowers line the walkway to the back of the stalls area and the Birdcage.

And so ends another spring racing season. It had it all, upsets and surprises and resulted in the retirement of some stars and the emergence of new pretenders to the title of champion of the turf.

This was the first year that I have attended just about all the Group 1 race meetings of the Melbourne spring racing season.  I only missed the Rupert Clark Stakes, Manikato Stakes, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup meetings. I must admit that I enjoyed all the race meets I went to. My only complaint was the programming of the feature races as the last on the card at Caulfield, which I found tiresome.  Let’s hope next year they revert to standard scheduling, as I found the Flemington program much more to my liking and convenience.

As for luck on the punt, my modest outlays were occasionally rewarded, which covered the unsuccessful bets. I generally returned from my day at the races with money in my pocket more often than not.

The Stars of the Spring

Atlantic Jewel added sparkle to every race day in which she participated. Returning from a long injury forced spell she won the first Group 1 of the season the Memsie Stakes, then went on win the Group 2 Stocks Stakes, finished a close second to It’s A Dundeel after a thrilling head to head race down the straight in the Underwood Stakes, then took out  the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes before succumbing once more to injury just before the Cox Plate and was subsequently retired with 10 wins from 11 starts on her CV.

Fiorente started his spring campaign in the Memsie Stakes where he ran 6th, then went on to win the Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at his next start. He finished  4th in the Turnbull Stakes, 3rd in the Cox Plate then rewarded his trainer Gai Waterhouse with her first Melbourne Cup. Surely one of the best looking horses of the spring, I look forward to his return in the autumn.

Zoustar began his spring racing in the Group 3 Run To The Rose finishing 4th. He then won his next three races, the Group 1 Golden Rose, the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes and finally the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes.  He’s a super star in embryo and his return in autumn is keenly anticipated.

Guelph was very lightly raced as well, competing four times, running second at her first start for spring in the Group 2 Furious Stakes, before winning her next three starts – the Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes, Group 1 Flight Stakes and Group 1 Thousand Guineas. She is surely the top three year old filly of the year, and also a potential super star.

Boban won all five of his starts this spring including the rare Group 1 double of the Epsom Stakes and Emirates Stakes.

Buffering should be included here, being the only other horse to win two Group 1 races this spring. Now that sprinting stars Black Caviar and Hay List have been retired, the field is open for an honest nag like old Buffering to win more brownie points in the future.

It’s A Dundeel deserves a mention as he is the only horse to have beaten Atlantic Jewel, and though he was very unlucky this spring, he still is to my mind a star of the turf and will be back in autumn to redeem his reputation.

Others worth a mention are Red Tracer who proved she was not a one Group 1 wonder, when she beat her stable mate Catkins in the Myer Classic, Polanski, the rags to riches story of the spring, who won the VRC Derby, Shamus Award who scored his first win ever in the Cox Plate and Fawkner, who proudly flew the Australian bred flag when he won the Caulfield Cup.

Disappointments of the Spring

As is usually the case there are horses that you regard as particular favourites whose performance during the autumn season would lead you believe that they would make their mark in the spring season, but fail to win, through bad luck or bad management or injury.

Miracles of Life never found the form that won her the Blue Diamond Stakes in the autumn. An exceptionally pretty filly whose return to the turf was keenly anticipated, she failed to win any of the three races she contested this spring, though she ran second to Thump in the Champagne Stakes. Her inexperienced jockey may have spoiled her chances in some races, but she appeared not to have the speedy turn of foot we saw in autumn, and indeed she was discovered to have bled internally in her last start, which accounts for her lack of zip in that race.

Super Cool is a horse of whom I am very fond, so I was disappointed in his performance this spring, but looking back he didn’t totally disgrace himself. He finished third behind Atlantic Jewel in the Memsie Stakes and the Caulfield Stakes, and ran fifth in the Cox Plate.  Some horses perform better in different seasons, so maybe when he returns to the scene in autumn he will have more luck. By then his great rival of the autumn Fiveandahalfstar will have returned from the injury enforced break that ruled him out of the spring.

Puissance de Lune, when he started his spring campaign in the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes was hot favourite for the Melbourne Cup. It turned out that the aforementioned race was the only race he won all spring, though he did finish a close second in both the Makybe Diva Stakes and Turnbull Stakes. After his abysmal run in the Cox Plate it was discovered he was lame which excuses him somewhat for that failure.  By all accounts he will return in the autumn and perhaps will win an elusive Group One race.

Even though the spring racing season is over in Melbourne, there are three more Group 1 races to be contested in Perth before the dead season begins. The summer/autumn racing season will be on us again in a few months. In the meantime I’ll have to think of other ways to spend my Saturday afternoons, and other topics to blog about.

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