No two race days could have been so dissimilar, weather wise, as Derby Day and Cox Plate Day, with Saturday’s race meeting at Flemington being held under blue skies and bountiful sunshine. There wasn’t even much of breeze, though when it blew across the wide open spaces of the big track, it was refreshing and a welcome change from the heat of the sun.
I had not dressed for the day, unlike the majority of the huge crowd in attendance, and felt overdressed in my jeans and sensible shoes and socks, but not overly uncomfortable.
The crowd may have been huge, but they were cheerful and friendly and my services as photographer were called upon quite few times to take iPhone photos of various young persons posing in front of the finishing line.
It was easy to get my favourite photographing spot on the gate just past the finishing post as it is an access gate for punters in the expensive enclosures on the other side of the track to enter the main area of the racecourse.
All I had to do was wait until the gates were closed and slip into position.
I was there shortly after arriving at Flemington to witness race 3, the Group 3 Sensis Stakes, a sprint for mares over 1100 metres.
As usual with sprints down the Flemington straight, the field splits into two sections, one on the inside rail, the other on the outer rail.
Fortunately I had my camera focussed on the outer rail and caught the actual finish with the winner in the picture, in this case Sheidel who beat Wild Rain by a nose with Private Secretary running third.
Having established that it would be no problem getting into my favourite spot, I wended my way through the throng, taking the short cut via the bookies ring to the stalls area, where all was calm and relatively uncrowded.
One of my aims for the day was to get Winx trainer Chris Waller’s signature on my two Cox Plate racebooks (2015/2016) so I hoped to catch him in the stalls area, saddling up his runners.
Though I did not manage to run into Chris Waller, I asked one of the stable strappers to get the signatures for me. I’d come prepared with pen and markers in the relevant pages, the books enclosed in a plastic bag. This ploy worked and my racebooks were signed when I dropped back later in the afternoon to collect them.
Whilst in stalls area I did get photos of some of the main Group 1 race contenders.
Failing to make it back in time to photograph the runners in race 4, the Group 3 Lexus Stakes, I was trapped on the east side of the mounting yard, so decided to stay there and photograph the winner, Oceanographer, coming back to scale.
Between heads I got a few snaps of the horses leaving the mounting yard for the track and they actually captured the crowded precinct.
The Lexus Stakes gives automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup for the winner and is a race for stayers over 2500 metres.
Oceanographer was the favourite and one of the few top fancies to win on the day. He overtook tearaway leader Tom Melbourne to win on the line with Tally running third.
I eventually got back to my prime spot and pretty well stayed there for the rest of afternoon, deserting my post only to get a drink and collect my signed Cox Plate race books. It was while returning with them that I tripped over a step and overbalanced, thankfully not taking a tumble, but strained my left calf muscle. It didn’t hurt much and it was only on Sunday that I felt the full effect.
Race 5 was the first of the Group 1 events, the Coolmore Stud Stakes for three year olds over 1200 metres.
Astern started as the favourite, but he was beaten into second place by the Mick Price trained Flying Artie. His stable mate Extreme Choice was disappointing and finished fifth, the excuse being that he didn’t take to the Flemington straight, having a preference for the cornering on other tracks. Star Turn finished third.
As the Group 1 Myer Classic was a 1600 metre race, the horses leave the mounting yard and head west, past the finishing post on their way to the starting gates, so you can photos of the runners as they pass.
The lightweighted filly I Am A Star proved too good for the older mares winning narrowly from long shots French Emotion and Denmagic. First Seal disappointed and finished way back in the field.
The feature race, the Victoria Derby was up next and it resulted in a win for Bart’s grandson, James Cummings when the unfancied Prized Icon won the race by 2½ lengths from favourite Sacred Elixir with Inference running third.
The last Group 1 race on the program was the Group 1 Cantala Stakes and it was anyone’s guess who would win, with The United States being the 6/1 favourite.
The Chris Waller and Hugh Bowman combo resulted in a win for longshot Le Romain over stablemate McCreery with Tivaci running third. The trifecta must have paid a fortune!
I called it quits after the Cantala Stakes and headed for the station and home. With my left leg feeling the effects of my stumble, it was a relief to sit down after an afternoon on my feet.
Back on home turf walking from the station I came across one of the local ravens rummaging around on the nature strip of the first house on my street. Fortunately I had the camera handy and got some photos from close up without it flying away.
Photography conditions were much better at Flemington in the sunshine, so most of my images turned out fine, though the security guards on duty at the access gate impeded my view when they stood at the fence on the other side of the gate.
Somehow, though it had been an interesting and enjoyable afternoon at the races, and a perfect spring day, it was missing that special magic of Moonee Valley last week in the wind and rain.
I’ve been writing this post while waiting for the running of the Melbourne Cup. There’s only half an hour to go before it’s on, but I’ll update this post later with the result.
And it has just started pouring down with rain!
UPDATE - Melbourne Cup Result
The Lloyd Williams imported stayer Almandin won the 2016 Melbourne Cup by a nose from Heartbreak City with Hartnell running third 4 lengths behind. Not a totally surprising result after all and I’m pleased that I mentioned all three place getters in my Melbourne Cup preview.
As for the punt, my Sportsbet online account was down to $35.00 so I had only enough money to bet $5.00 each way on three horses and included Almandin as one of them, the others being Jameka and Oceanographer who both finished unplaced.
Almandin’s payout doubled my outlay, so the account is looking healthy again. It’s about time my luck changed!