Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Damp but Profitable afternoon at the races

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Bletchingly Stakes heroine Thiamandi in winners rug

I’m glad I went to the races yesterday. I needed an outing, and the weather wasn’t too bad overall -  slightly chilly, with misty rain every so often – so spending a few hours trackside was pleasant.

Particularly gratifying was coming home with more money than I set out with. Jupiter in Leo brought me luck with three winners in succession.

I arrived at Caulfield about half an hour before Race 3 which was the MyPunter.Com Handicap, a race for three year olds over 2400 metres. After viewing the contenders in the mounting yard I decided to put my money on the second favourite Self Sense. Despite his weight impost of 60kg and wide barrier, he struck me as the likely winner. And win he did, at the last moment, overtaking race leader Pharrell  on the line.

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Race 3 finish – Pharrell leads with Self Sense (lime silks) storming down the outside.

Race 4, the Chris Flavelle Handicap, was one for mares over 1200 metres. Sydney mare Kristy Lee started the favourite. I was tossing up between her and Sino Eagle and settled on the latter. I’m glad I did, as Kristy Lee finished second last and Sino Eagle won easily by 2 lengths from longshot Aces and Angels, with another longshot Forgeress running third.

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Kristy Lee

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Sino Eagle

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Race 4 finish – Sino Eagle is comfortably ahead up the straight.

Feature race, the Bletchingly Stakes was next up and Lord of the Sky was the hot favourite as expected. I managed to get odds of $1.55 on him and placed a small wager each way. Something was nagging me to put money on the sole filly Thiamandi so fortunately I did so at really good odds of $13.00. I had a look at her in the mounting yard and she looked a big strapping girl.

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Thiamandi in the mounting yard

 Lord of the Sky is a handsome young horse, but alas yesterday was not his day. He appeared to overrace and lacked his usual finishing sprint. His connections are scratching their heads as to his defeat.

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Lord of the Sky in the mounting yard

Le Bonsir took the lead shortly after the start and maintained it until the turn into the straight. Lord of the Sky looked like he might challenge, but the filly Thiamandi sprinted past both them and took command of the race. She won by a couple of lengths from Gig, who came from last, with Nearest To Pin running third. Lord of the Sky finished in fourth spot. It was an upset, no doubt about it, so I was pleased I had caved into my hunch and put money on Thiamandi.

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Bletchingly Stakes finish – Thiamandi shows a clean pair of heels to Lord of the Sky and Nearest To Pin  down the straight.

I stayed for the next race, the Champagne Pommery Masters Handicap for three year old fillies over 1200 metres. I had my money on Sydney filly Copper, but she ran out of the places. Long odds Jemerica led from start to finish, winning by 2½ lengths from Paddy’s Gem and Hot Mama.

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Race 6 finish – Jemerica leads

As my luck appeared to have disappeared, I decided to head home while still in front; content and well pleased with my afternoon at the races. Thanks to Thiamandi and the other winners my pockets were full and the old body had got some exercise in the open air.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Intimations of Spring & the State of Cat Politics

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Lord of the Sky – potential star of the turf – photographed in February 2014

This Saturday Caulfield Racecourse hosts the Bletchingly Stakes, a Group 3 sprint over 1200 metres. It is also the last Group race of the racing year, but I always see it as a harbinger of the new Spring racing season.

I miss going to the races, so even though the Bletchingly Stakes meeting is not all that interesting overall, I mean to venture to Caulfield to see young potential star Lord of the Sky race in the feature event. At his last outing he won the Sir John Monash Stakes by 4 lengths from Le Bonsir and Riziz, so he will no doubt start as hot favourite. Le Bonsir is also part of the Bletchingly field and may mount a challenge this time, that is if he can beat Nearest To Pin who narrowly beat him a fortnight ago. Others with a chance are Ready To Rip who won this race in 2012 and in form filly Thiamandi.

The first Group 1 race of the new spring season, the Memsie Stakes, is only a month away, so I don’t really expect any truly interesting competitions before then, though Puissance de Lune, who has been off the scene since suffering an injury in the 2013 Cox Plate, is expected to resume in the P B Lawrence Stakes in mid August. He won the race last year – his only win for the season as it turned out. 

I’m really looking forward to the return of Lankan Rupee, now dubbed the world’s best sprinter. He is to resume in the Group 2 McEwan Stakes in early September at Moonee Valley on Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes day, which I will surely attend as I have done for the past 10 years or so. As Lankan Rupee’s schedule includes two night meetings at Moonee Valley, I’ll miss seeing him run in them as I dislike night racing, but hopefully I’ll catch him in the Patinack Farm Classic on Emirates Stakes Day on the last day of the Flemington racing carnival .

I have not resubscribed to the Moonee Valley season ticket this year, as I found I hardly used it last season, but I have renewed my season ticket for Flemington and look forward to attending the major race days at that hallowed course, perhaps even the Melbourne Cup.

Many of the Group 1 stars of the autumn and last spring will be missing this year – It’s A Dundeel, Fiorente, Shamus Award etc. all being retired to stud – but several other old favourites will be resuming such as Super Cool and Commanding Jewel, along with new favourites like Earthquake, La Armistad, Rubick, May’s Dream to name a few. And who knows what new stars of the turf will emerge over the coming months. That’s the good thing about horse racing, there’s always the chance of something new to capture one’s fancy.

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To finish this entry here are some recent photos of the resident cats.

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Talya – such a pretty girl

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Willy – the handsome one

The cats are not getting on any better than the last time I reported, but at least they don’t fight.  It being winter, they have been spending much more time inside wanting to sit on their human slaves laps.  No sooner do you sit down than a cat is clambering onto your lap or there’s one sitting in front of the computer trying to attract your attention.

Willy is the bane of visitors, hauling his bulk onto their knees. He weighs a good 8kg, so it’s a burden one must bear, and a snappy one at that, as he’s always been a bit of biter -  more a nipper really as he doesn’t bite hard enough to break the skin.

Winter starts to wear on a body at this time of year so I can’t wait for spring and warmer weather to arrive and the resumption of Group 1 racing of course.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jupiter, Winter Chill & Aztecs

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Statue of Aztec God of the dead -  Mictlante

I have noticed that there seems to have been a general malaise on blog posts across the sites I regularly visit, and I have been guilty of the same disinclination to write.

However, yesterday the sun moved into my birth sign Leo to accompany the recently arrived beneficent planet Jupiter, transiting Leo for the first time in twelve years.  Already I feel lighter and more enthusiastic than I have been of late mooching around under the influence of darker Astrological aspects. So welcome Jupiter!

Yesterday was one of the coldest days of the year, so rather than freeze at home, I decided to go to the Aztec Exhibition at Melbourne Museum. It turned out to be an excellent solution to the grim Melbourne day as the exhibition was both thoroughly engrossing and enlightening, and kept me warm for a couple of hours.

I won’t go into any great detail about the exhibition, but it covered the history of the Aztec settlement in Tenochtitl├ín in Mexico from the early 13th Century AD to the overthrow of their Empire by the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th Century. Many aspects of Aztec culture were covered, including their blood thirsty tributes to their gods. But overall the picture emerged of a quite sophisticated well ordered society that was fond of music and dance and revered and honoured animals.

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Dog statue

Fortunately photos were permitted, so I snapped away at objects that took my fancy like this extraordinary Eagle soldier terracotta statue. The Aztec warriors must have been a sight to behold going into battle, all dressed in animal costumes. Apparently they were not really aiming to kill their enemies, but rather disable them and take them prisoner to be used in sacrifice.

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Eagle soldier

The most famous of the gods for Westerners is Quetzalcoatl, the Rainbow Serpent.

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A compact stone representation of Quetzalcoatl

Various goddesses were also represented.

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River goddess, I think, whatever her name is…

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I’ve forgotten (blame old age) what this  macabre figure is supposed to represent.

And finally a mask from an even earlier civilization – Teotihuacan which occupied Mexico 1000 years before the Aztecs

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The exhibition will run to August 10, so if you haven’t yet got around to visiting it, I recommend you do so before it closes. It’s certainly worth the cost of admission and will keep you enthralled over the two hours it takes to see and read everything.