We woke to an overcast sticky morning in Melbourne on Saturday and those conditiions prevailed for the rest of the day.
That suited me fine, as the lighting for photography was excellent - not too bright or too dark.
I arrived at Flemington Racecourse earlier than anticipated, in time to watch Race 2, the Listed 3AW News Talk Sport Stakes, a race over 1000 metres for two year olds.
It ended up with Selenia winning from Alter Call and Creativity.
The Flemington roses were rampantly in bloom, particularly in the stalls area, where rose hedges surround the bird cage walking ring and the stalls. The bushes were so high that it was difficult to get clear shots of horses in their stalls and many a photographer looked as if they had been playing with feisty kittens after being in the area.
Living Legend Brew was the first horse I came across as I entered the lower stalls area and his kindly attendants brought him out for a pat. What a thrill!
He’s a big boy, but gentle and friendly and I was delighted to meet him. I still recall vividly his Melbourne Cup victory in 2000 . That year my astrological analysis of the field led me to decide that a strong Cancerian influence was the main aspect of the day. Brew’s name, signifying domestic duties, was spot on for Cancer. It also helped that he had the breeding of a Melbourne Cup winner – Sir Tristram from Horlicks - a blue blood indeed.
He started from Gate 24, and his saddle cloth number was 24 as well which made him a light weight chance. A very young Kieran McEvoy was his jockey.
Whilst in the area I cruised through to see which Guineas contenders had already arrived.
Along with the three year olds, former Western Australian mare Real Love was there as well. She was favourite for Roy Higgins Quality scheduled as Race 4.
Back track side, Race 3 was about to start, so I made my way to the prime spot just past the winning post to get action shots of the finish and the field returning to scale.
The Mrs Mac’s Bakery Sprint, for fillies and mares, is run over 1100 metres, and last start winner Estaminet started as favourite, but failed to fire, finishing well back in the field. New Zealand filly Miss Seton Sands, having her first start in Australia, narrowly won over Exclusive Lass and Hijack Hussy.
The stalls area at Flemington is in two sections, the front stalls being easily accessible from just outside Carbine’s stall, but you have to walk down Crabapple Lane to access the back section.
More Guineas contenders were stabled there, including hyped New Zealand colt Xtravagant, who had quite a crowd of interested spectators outside his stall.
Close by was Tarzino along with the other Mick Price runners, whom I failed to get photos of, or couldn’t identify.
Back in the front stalls was Divan who was entered in the last race on the program, which I didn’t stay to watch.
He was being rather naughty in his stall, pawing the ground and tossing his head around, which I remarked to his strapper, who said that at home he was a lamb, but he got excited coming to the races.
Back trackside the Roy Higgins Quality was the next race to run, and Real Love was the warm favourite.
She didn’t disappoint, finally winning her first race in the East after running a place in her last two starts.
After tramping back and forth from the stalls to the upper public lawn several times I felt like a break, so went a bought a drink and watched the Canterbury Stakes from Sydney on the big screen. Holler, who was underestimated in the betting, won from First Seal with Kermadec running third.
The earlier Todman Stakes resulted in a boilover as well, when the Gai Watherhouse trained Kiss and Make Up rolled the highly touted short priced favourite, Capitalist.
Brew was parading around the mounting yard as I waited for the Canterbury Stakes to screen and grazing on the centre lawn whilst the Living Legends chief vet posed for photos with him.
Only two more races were scheduled before the feature, and they were only of interest in helping the time pass.
There wasn’t much of a crowd, certainly not a spring racing levels, and the kids were kept well out of the way in the Kids’ Zone and entertained in various ways. I saw Peanuts characters wandering around and posing for photos.
Race 5 was the Group 3 TAB Rewards Stakes an open handicap over 1400 metres. It resulted in Red Bomber beating Burning Front and Puccini. It was Red Bomber’s first win in a year.
In Race 6, the ATA/Bob Hoysted Handicap, race favourite Malaguerra romped in by almost two lengths from Grane and Thermal Current.
The Randwick Guineas was scheduled to run 15 minutes before the Australian Guineas, so I wandered back towards the mounting yard to get a better view of the big screen to watch it. Le Romain caused an upset, beating hot favourite Press Statement, who was blocked for a run and couldn’t catch him in the straight. Rank outsider Gold Ambition ran third.
A similar scenario occured in the Australian Guineas where Xtravagant was the hot favourite, but failed to run a place. He burst from the gates at lightning speed and led for most of the race. He was overtaken in the straight by a mass of horses and Palentino pushed through at the last minute to win from Tarzino and the filly Risque.
As happened when he won, then lost, the CS Hayes Stakes, there was a protest against him from second place, Tarzino’s jockey, alleging interference, but this time the protest was dismissed. A collective groan rose up when the protest siren was sounded – not again!
Xtravagant has returned to New Zealand, his colours lowered considerably.
I went home after the Guineas, not staying for the Frances Tressady Stakes or the Antler Luggage Trophy, where Divan ran second again to runaway long shot Tom Melbourne.
It’s back to Flemington next Saturday for Super Saturday which features the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap and the Group 1 Australian Cup, always a fabulous day of racing with a quality support card.
The final Group 1 of the Melbourne Autumn racing carnival is the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on 25 March, which I may attend, even though it’s a night meeting.