On Friday night I spent as much time getting to and from Moonee Valley Race Course as I passed at the venue.
As Friday was a public holiday for AFL Grand Final Eve, buses were running on a Saturday time table, so the regular bus I catch to Moonee Valley had stopped running by the time I departed from home. I was obliged to seek an alternative route further up in Northcote and had to wait 30 minutes for it to arrive.
An hour after I left home, I arrived at Moonee Valley, fortunately in time for the running of the Group 2 Stutt Stakes, a race for three year olds over 1600 metres.
I was keen to see how Hey Doc would fare in this race. He’d impressed me winning his last start at Moonee Valley on Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes Day, and he was facing a classier field than he ran against on that day.
He won the Stutt Stakes convincingly by 1½ lengths from Land Of Plenty, with Kaching three lengths back running third.
His next assigment is the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas next Saturday where he’ll meet an even more talented field of rivals.
As you can see from the photos above, Moonee Valley at night is not conducive to good sharp images. I’d inadvertently left my camera setting at a high noise reduction, so all the photos I took have an unpleasant over aggressive smoothness.
The next race was the Group 2 Stock Stakes for mares. It also had a fine field that included class mares such as Rising Romance, Miss Rose De Lago and Don’t Doubt Mama.
The redoubtable Don’t Doubt Mama was the outstanding winner, narrowly beating Kaniana with Miss Rose De Lago running third.
The races were spaced at 30 minutes intervals so there wasn’t long to wait for the feature Group 1 Moir Stakes. I’d been unable to buy a race book as they’d all sold out by the time I got to the track, so I killed some time cruising through one of the bar areas to see if anyone had dropped their race book, and found one eventually – in mint condition on an unoccupied table.
Chautauqua naturally was the hot favourite for the Moir Stakes, but the lightweighted Extreme Choice, came from the back of the field and caught everyone by surprise to win by 1½ lengths from mares, Heatherly and Wild Rain. Chautauqua was just winding up when the race was over, so 1000 metres is probably too short for him. He finished fourth, 3 lengths from the winner.
Leaving Moonee Valley after the Moir Stakes, I tramped up to Moonee Ponds Junction aiming to catch the 10.05pm bus back to Northcote. It failed to arrive on time, and another lady waiting at the stop rang the bus company to ascertain its likely arrival and was told that it wasn’t running and that the next bus was due at 11.05pm.
I gave up and managed to hail a taxi, and got home 1½ hours after leaving the race course. The unreliability of the Moonee Valley buses rather puts me off going to Moonee Valley night races ever again.
Fortunately Friday night was fairly mild with little wind, but it was completely different, weather wise, on Sunday at Flemington, where it was warm and sunny with gale force winds.
Compared to the trials and tribulations of public transport on Friday night, it was a cinch getting to Flemington, the two trains coinciding nicely with little waiting time in between.
So I got to Flemington early, in time for Race 2, the Poseidon Stakes which was a Listed race for three year olds over 1400 metres.
What a relief it was to be back using the Nikon, after the Canon G16 on Friday night. I must admit, now that I’ve worked out the best settings, I prefer the Nikon over my other cameras and prefer using the Viewfinder over the LCD screen, it not being affected by sunlight which renders screens virtually useless.
The Poseidon Stakes was won by Inside Agent having only his second start. Magnarock ran a close second and Peacock was two lengths back in third place.
Checking out the stalls area, I came across first of all, the Living Legend guest Zipping. His mate Efficient was supposed to be present as well, but apparently he had a foot abscess so was obliged to stay at home.
Zipping ran in two Turnbull Stakes finishing first in 2010 and second in 2008. He’s now 16 years old and enjoyed the attention, and carrots, given to him by an admiring crowd.
In the walking ring nearby to Zipping’s stall, I spotted Sydney champ Hartnell being walked. I recognised him instantly, much to my surprise and was pleased to have my suspicians confirmed by the tag attached to his bridle. He’s a handsome fellow, with large nostrils – that’s supposed to be a good sign for a stayer.
Also present in the stalls area were other Turnbull Stakes contenders…
The colts and geldings engaged in Race 3, the UCI Stakes were soon parading in the walking ring. I was keen to get a glimpse of New Zealand colt Highlad.
By the time I returned trackside it was not long before the field were making their way to the barriers.
The race resulted in Sydney colt Wine Bush pipping Rocketeer at the post, relegating him yet again to second place. Highlad finished third.
I couldn’t be bothered taking photos of the horses parading in the mounting yard, deciding to concentrate on action photos, but I did return to the stalls area to get a photo of Eleonora, the granddaughter of 2001 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups winner, Ethereal.
Eleonora is a really pretty chestnut filly, and has lots of attitude according to her strapper, who remarked that the stable hands described her as a good date, but you wouldn’t want to marry her.
Race 4 was the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes, a sprint down the Flemington straight over 1200 metres. Chautauqua won the race the last two years in sucession.
This year there were no real standouts, the field being evenly matched. Fatinaah, who won the Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality at his last start, was the favourite, with Under The Louvre being highly fancied as well.
However, The Quarterback , who won the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap back in autumn, having his first start of the spring, proved too good for the rest of the field with a solid win, beating longshots We’ve Got This and Durendal.
The wind as mentioned before was fierce, and almost knocked you over on occasion. It also made holding the camera steady into the wind a struggle. That’s not to mention the hell of wearing contact lenses in windy conditions when dust gets under them and renders you practically blind.
However I persevered and was back in the prime spot for Race 5, The Bart Cummings, run over 2500 metres.
The race start is half way down the straight and run the full circuit.
Almandin who I last witnessed winning the Harry White Stakes at Caulfield a fortnight ago, put himself well into contention for the Melbourne Cup with a comfortable win in The Bart Cummings, which gives him automatic entry in the Cup.
Zanteca was the runner up and Excess Knowledge ran third.
The fillies race, the Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes was the next race on the program and last start winner Exocet started as the favourite. She finished unplaced, the race being taken out by Serenely Discreet from long odds Bella Sorellastra and Waterloo Sunset. Eleanora was badly blocked for a run and finished well back in the field.
I was well and truly battered by the wind by the time the feature race was run. My left contact lens had become displaced when I was trying to execute the removal of a mote of dust from my eye, so when looking through the viewfinder of my camera it was a bit blurry. Luckily the camera knew what it was doing and stayed sharp and true.
Here are the leading contenders for the Turnbull Stakes making their way to the barriers.
For the first time this spring racing carnival, the Turnbull Stakes delivered the wow factor, when Hartnell, coming around the field on the outside into the turn into the straight, powered past the leaders to gallop away to a commanding victory, Jameka in hot pursuit finishing 3¼ lengths behind in second place, and a further 3¼ lengths separating her from third place runner Tally.
My camera’s burst mode shows Hartnell, then daylight, then Jameka, then Tally and the rest of the field.
I didn’t stay for the last two races, and it was relief to get out of the wind and into shelter on a train.
Despite the wind, it had been a wonderful afternoon of racing and I felt privileged to have been there to see Hartnell frank his Sydney form in such a spectacular fashion.
Speaking of Sydney racing the feature race day on Saturday yielded interesting results.
The Roman Consul Stakes was won by Russian Revolution, who led throughout and hung on for a narrow victory over Astern. Capitalist finished third.
Gai Waterhouse trained filly Global Glamour won the Flight Stakes from Yankee Rose with Sezanne running third.
Hauraki won the Epsom Handicap in sensational fashion, coming from last to just win on the line, pipping Dibayani, with Mackintosh finishing in third place.
And Sir John Hawkwood won the Metropolitan from Antonio Guiseppe and Allergic.
Next Saturday the racing action is back at Caulfield for Caulfield Guineas Day, with four Group 1 races on the program. Winx will be racing in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes, which I am very much looking forward to seeing in person.