The Darren Weir machine rolls on with remarkable success, the Ballarat based trainer scoring his second Group 1 win for the season.
No other Victorian trainer gets a look in when it comes to the major races these days, though that may change as the spring racing carnival progresses and the Sydney stars come to Melbourne to challenge for the riches on offer.
My afternoon at Flemington began early where I got to the course in time to watch race 2, the Cap D’Antibes Stakes, a Listed race for three year old fillies run over 1100 metres.
The trouble with taking photos of sprints down the Flemington straight is that the field generally splits into two sections, one moving to the grandstand side, the other staying on the inside or in the middle. It’s hit or miss, depending on which side you are focussing on, whether you will get a photo of the winner crossing the line.
Such was the case in the Cap D’Antibes Stakes where the winner, Kentucky Miss came down the grandstand rail and I was concentrating on the inside rail. So I got a nice shot of fourth placed Super Too and missed the winner and runners up, Beyond The Dream and My Country who ran down the middle of the track.
Race 3, the Starlight Express Room Stakes was a 1400 metre race for three year olds and less complicating to photograph, the runners sticking to the inside of the track.
In between the races, as usual, I tramped back to the stalls, about six times in all, so I got plenty of exercise over the afternoon.
The Living Legends special guest was Paris Lane who was being polished up in his stall, preparatory to parading in the mounting yard.
To refresh your memory, Paris Lane won the 1994 Caulfield Cup and MacKinnon Stakes, and ran second in the Melbourne Cup. He’s now 26 years old, looking pretty spry none the less.
It was a bit early in the day at this time (1.3opm) for the Makybe Diva Stakes field to have arrived, but I pleased to see New Zealand colt Saracino in his stall. He was entered in Race 5, the Danehill Stakes, scheduled to run at 2.50pm.
Alpine Eagle had arrived early, and was in the stall next to Saracino.
Back trackside, it was pleasing to see Bon Aurum take out race 4, The Sofitel (aka Tontonan Stakes), a Listed race over 1400 metres. I’ve been following Bon Aurum for awhile, and he hadn’t won a race since winning the Guineas Prelude in late September last year.
The first of the Group races was next on the program. This was the Group 2 Danehill Stakes for three year olds over 1200 metres.
I keen to see how Saracino would go in this and he exceeded expectations leading the field from start to finish, scoring by a narrow margin from Archives and Samara Dancer.
Back in the stalls area, most of the Makybe Diva field had arrived, so I cruised through to get snaps.
The Weir mob were in neighbouring stalls…
Nearby were Happy Trails and Rising Romance…
It was certainly a case of handsome is as handsome does in the Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality, race 6 on the program.
New Zealand stallion Xtravagant is a stunner to look at, but he disappointed, finishing last. His jockey Damian Oliver stated that the horse raced on his wrong leg, and refused to respond to any urgings to race on the right leg. Perhaps he needs to corner as he obviously doesn’t like the long Flemington straight, or maybe his mind is on other things judging by his tumescent state when leaving the mounting yard.
I photographed the contenders in the mounting yard and leaving for the track.
The race was won by Faatinah from Tivaci and We’ve Got This. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of Faatinah before, but he’s done most of his racing in Adelaide.
The excitement was building for the next race which of course was the feature Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes.
As it was a pretty even field it was hard to single out a winner, other than Black Heart Bart who started as the warm favourite, despite there being a question mark over his ability to win over a mile.
It ended up with Palentino and Black Heart Bart fighting out the finish down the straight, the stablemates winning the quinella, Palentino scoring by a length from Black Heart Bart with He Or She three lengths behind in third place.
I got some nice photos of the field in the mounting yard and going to the barriers…
Alpine Eagle was again disappointing, finishing at the tail of the field. Like Xtravagant, perhaps his mind is on other things. Rising Romance raced on the pace, but faded to finish seventh.
As I’d been at the track since 12.45pm I decided to head home after the feature race. I didn’t have any bets on the day, and having hardly sat down all afternoon, I was somewhat tired.
The afternoon was mostly overcast with the sun rarely showing its face, but the time as usual passed really fast. And I seem to have solved the Nikon’s light problem, the exposure compensation settings doing the trick. Despite the overcast day, I didn’t get any dark photographs.
Next week the only Group 1 race is in Sydney at Randwick where the feature race is the George Main Stakes which is now strangely called the Colgate Optic White Stakes. Anyway, Winx will be making her second appearance for the spring in this race and so far only six other competitors have nominated, which makes it look like a walkover for the wonder mare of Australia.
The racing in Melbourne will be at Caulfield and the feature race is the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes, a race over 2000 metres for Caulfield Cup bound horses.
The news today was of the death of 1991 Melbourne Cup winner Let’s Elope. She apparently passed away in her sleep during the night. She was 29 years old.
As well as the Melbourne Cup, Let’s Elope won the 1991 Caulfield Cup and MacKinnon Stakes and in 1992 won the Turnbull Stakes, Australian Cup, Orr Stakes and St George Stakes.
She was a great race mare and I was pleased to see her grand-daughter Let’s Make Adeal win The Bart Cummings last year at Flemington in early October.