Monday, February 29, 2016

Extreme Choice Shines in the Blue Diamond

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Extreme Choice parades in the mounting yard after winning the 2016 Blue Diamond Stakes

Last Saturday, Melbourne woke to a mild sunny day that was perfect for attending the first class race meeting at Caulfield, where three excellent Group 1 competions delivered on their promise of thrilling racing action.

As planned, I arrived at Caulfield Racecourse about 20 minutes before Race 3, the Angus Armanesco Stakes was scheduled to start and watched the fillies parade in the mounting yard…

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Catch A Fire

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Mossin’ Around

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Pasadena Girl

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… then found a good postition on the fence to observe the race.

Pasadena Girl started as favourite, and performed really well, running third to runaway longshot winner Catch A Fire, who beat Mossin’ Around by over two lengths.

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Down the straight in the Angus Armanesco Stakes - Catch A Fire leads the rest of the field.

Catch A Fire’s saddlecloth number was 8, and remarkably horses wearing saddlecloth number 8 won four of the nine races on the program.

As Mahuta had been scratched from the Autumn Classic (race 4) the new race favourite was Tally (number 8 saddlecloth) who justified his support by easily winning the race from Flying Light and Top Ravine.

I watched this race from the other side of the stalls area. The prime spot on the hill above the stalls area was fenced off to restrict the area to young members. What a waste of a useful space! There were more security personnel than young members so it was observed.

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Race 4  finish just past the winning post – Tally (blue silks) leads

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Tally on his way to the barriers

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Flying Light on his way to the barriers

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Top Ravine returns to scale

Whilst in the stalls area, and as there were a wealth of horsey stars in attendance, I cruised through to see them.

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Extreme Choice in his stall – as good as gold

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Flying Artie next door

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Zamzam smooching with her strapper

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Fell Swoop – ear muffed to keep him calm

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Mourinho with his devoted strapper

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The United States

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The beautiful Turn Me Loose – photos don’t do him justice

Back trackside, Race 5, the Peter Young Stakes was about to begin.

Irish import Bow Creek, whom I’ve overlooked despite other pundits having a high opinion of him, started as favourite, and finally delivered on his promise with a convincing win in the 1800 metre race. Fenway finished second. Good old Mourinho who was kicked by Fenway before the start of the Orr Stakes, and passed fit to race, and finished second last,  ran third in the Peter Young Stakes, which he won last year.

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Bow Creek on his way to the barriers

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Fenway on her way to the barriers

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Fawkner on his way to the barriers

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Happy Trails on his way to the barriers

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Mourinho on his way to the barriers

Fawkner finished a distant third last after a torrid run six horses wide. He may be a spent force, so it wouldn’t surprise if he was retired. Happy Trails fared slightly better finishing seventh. Bow Creek was outstanding, as he missed the start and had to make up ground, then was held up by a wall of horses, but after finding a gap he exploded away to win by 1½ lengths.

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Peter Young Stakes finish – Bow Creek breaks through.

The first of the Group 1 races, the Futurity Stakes was up next, and with its classy field was the best race of the afternoon.

As it was a 1400 metres race, I went back to the spot on the other side of the stalls area.

The race lived up to its promise, with Turn Me Loose the popular winner.  This time he raced back in third or fourth spot instead of leading, and surged late to grab Suavito (third) and Stratum Star (second) to win by ¾ length. Hucklebuck overraced in the earlier part of the race and ended up uncharacteristically leading, then faded to finish eigth. Unfortunately Boban bled from both nostrils and is banned from racing, so that is the last we’ll see of him, which is a pity as he was great horse on his day.

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Stratum Star

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Hucklebuck & Stratum Star

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Scissor Kick

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The United States

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Turn Me Loose

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Futurity Stakes – just past the winning post -  head on shot

For the Blue Diamond Stakes I returned to the public lawn and grabbed a good spot early to see the young things head out to the track.

The late afternoon sunlight was glaring and bad for photos, so the few I took are darkish.

However, I got a good photo of the finish down the straight where Extreme Choice is several lengths ahead of his stablemate Flying Artie, and the rest of the field is out of the frame. The filly Zamzam finished third six lengths behind the leading pair.

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Extreme Choice burns up the straight with Flying Artie in hot pursuit.

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Extreme Choice in the winners rug in the mounting yard

Extreme Choice does look special. Only a small horse, he has a calm temperament and is yet to lose a race. He’s now favourite for the Golden Slipper Stakes, which he could well win too.

I stayed at the course for the final Group 1 race, the Oakleigh Plate, and decided to have a small wager on both Fell Swoop and Heatherly. Top weight Flamberge, who has a good first up record and has won at Group 1 level before, was unfavoured in the betting. He started at 30/1 and won by a nose from Fell Swoop who was held up in the straight and couldn’t quite catch the Flamberge. Heatherly, who was prominent throughout and led for most of the race hung on for third.

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Oakleigh Plate finish down the straight – Flamberge (yellow silks) is about to overtake Heatherly (red cap) with Fell Swoop charging down the outside

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Flamberge parades after winning the Oakleigh Plate

After collecting my winnings on Heatherly and Fell Swoop for a small profit, I headed for the station and home.

The afternoon at Caulfield sped by very fast even though the interval between races was back to its usual 40 minutes. 

Thank goodness MRC have finally come to their senses and not run the feature event as the second last last race on the card.

I did get to watch the Chipping Norton Stakes on the big screen while waiting for the Blue Diamond Stakes to start. Winx enhanced her claims to being the best horse in Australia with an easy win from Dibayani and Hauraki.

Next Saturday the action is at Flemington for the Group 1 Australian Guineas meeting, whilst Randwick hosts the rival Randwick Guineas and the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes.

Here in Melbourne we at least get the first chance to see star New Zealand colt Xtravagant in the flesh.

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