Personally, I prefer Melbourne’s summer/autumn racing season to the overhyped spring carnival. For a start the race meetings are not overcrowded and secondly the silliness of the spring carnival is not as glaringly obvious.
The Melbourne autumn racing carnival may be the poor cousin to the spring carnival as far as the media is concerned, but the racing action is just as thrilling as was observed on Saturday afternoon at Flemington.
Having attended the excellent Dave Rawlings Machine concert the night before, I was feeling a tad bleary as I set out for Flemington, but once arrived that wore off and I was keen to see the two year olds strut their stuff in the Talindert Stakes.
In 2012 I witnessed All Too Hard win the Talindert at his first start, and we know how good he turned out to be.
So you wonder, as you watch the young things parading, which of them could be future stars of the turf.
I was interested in seeing two of the fillies in the race, the first, Conscious, being one of the first crop of So You Think’s progeny to hit the track. The other, Clockwork Orange, is the daughter of multiple Group 1 winning mare Private Steer. They were both having their first start. As you can see in the photos below they are lovely looking fillies.
Clockwork Orange started as favourite but only managed to run sixth.
Conscious did better, running 1.5 lengths second to Weatherly, over three lengths in front of third placed Jackson.
Race 3 was the Auckland Racing Club Trophy, a sprint over 1000 metres.
It was won by the favourite Estaminet, with Scratchy Lass and Afleet Esprit running second and third.
You certainly get plenty of exercise at Flemington, as the walk to and from the prime photo spot just past the winning post to the stalls extends almost the length of the straight.
In the stalls several of the main contenders for the Group events had already arrived, as had the Living Legends representatives, Bullish Luck and Silent Witness.
Speaking of legends, there was a special ceremony on Saturday afternoon for the late Red Cadeaux whose ashes are buried in the stalls area near where he was stabled.
Unfortunately he died from complications after suffering an injury on Melbourne Cup Day last year. If he had survived he would have joined the old boys at Living Legends.
A plaque has been installed on a bench near where he is buried.
Back trackside, Race 4, the Japan Racing Association Trophy (2000 metres) was about to start.
This was also won by race favourite, Pemberley, from Word of Mouth and Falago.
Tramping back once again to the stalls area, I was keen to get photos of the feature contenders…
Race 5, was the first of the feature races, the Group 3 Vanity Stakes for three year old fillies over 1400 metres.
Unbeaten Western Australian filly Perfect Reflection started as favourite but both she and Jameka were upstaged by Don’t Doubt Mama.
The C.S. Hayes Stakes was next up. Also graded as Group 3, it is one for the colts and is run over 1400 metres as well.
The Darren Weir trained Palentino was the warm favourite and he did indeed win, before losing out to an upheld protest by the rider of second placed Tivaci for interference. Tivaci’s stablemate Tulsa ran third.
Last year on Lightning Stakes day, a storm passed through just before the feature race. Appropriately lightning flashed and a smattering of rain fell on Flemington.
Not so this year, as the afternoon was sunny with a cool southerly wind keeping the temperature at a comfortable level.
I was fortunate enough to personally witness Black Caviar win two of her three Lightning Stakes, so it was almost a blast from the past to see her colours decorating the finishing post.
Her walk of fame was back on the public lawn with two extra posters, showing her with her first two foals.
This year’s edition of the Black Caviar Lightning was just as exciting as you’d expect. Chautauqua’s connections must have nerves of steel to be able to watch their champion sprinter compete, as he races at the back of the field then nail bitingly launches his brilliant finishing burst at the last minute. He looked in a no win situation with only 50 metres to go, but somehow overtook Terravista and Japonisme, who were fighting out the finish, to win by a nostril.
Only six started in the race, Kinglike being scratched early in the morning. After leaving the barriers Terravista, Delectation, Japonisme and Chautauqua headed for the outside grandstand side of the track, leaving Va Pensiero and Exosphere running a separate race on the inside. Exosphere didn’t look at all comfortable and was all over the place. His trainer blames the track bias for his failure to place, but his jockey admitted that he made the wrong call as far as the horse was concerned and stated that he would have performed better with the bunch on the grandstand side; ie having horses to race against.
I doubt if we’ll see Exosphere in Melbourne again, especially not at Flemington.
Exosphere returns to scale
As the trains departing Flemington for the city did not start to run until 4.45 pm I decided to stay and watch Race 8, the Ascot Racecourse Trophy, mostly because Divan was in it.
He ran a great race, doing it tough racing wide throughout to run second to the favoured Dan Zephyr over the unsuitable distance of 1400 metres.
The trip home by train was without incident and avoided the crowds streaming into the city for White Night. I was home in 40 minutes, the trains coinciding neatly at Southern Cross Station.
I managed to either hear or watch the feature Sydney races. The Silver Slipper Stakes was won by Astern from Defcon with Mount Panorama running third. First Seal signalled that she had returned fighting fit, when she won the Millie Fox Stakes. Catkins lacked her usual zip and finished last. It looks like she may be retired. Telepathic ran second with I’ve Got The Looks taking third place. And Press Statement easily won the Hobartville Stakes from Le Romain and Montaigne.
Next Saturday I’ll be heading back to Caulfield for the Blue Diamond Stakes meeting, which has three Group 1 races on the program, the aforementioned Blue Diamond Stakes, plus the Oakleigh Plate and Futurity Stakes.