Monday, March 13, 2017

Hot & Steamy – Super Saturday Review

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Humidor wins the 2017 Australian Cup

God knows why this particular Saturday in March is called “Super Saturday” when only two Group 1 races are featured, with the rest of the card being a bit ho hum, something to watch while waiting for the main event.

Yes, I sound underwhelmed and have been for most of this year’s Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival.

I was discussing this with my photographer friend George, on Saturday and he reckons it is because there were no charismatic equine stars this year to add excitement to the events. No doubt if Winx had contested a few races in Melbourne (we hope she does so next year) it would have been a different story.

However, Saturday’s meeting was quite enjoyable really, and flashed by relatively quickly, considering I was obliged to arrive early owing to the train timetable.

So I arrived at Flemington in time to watch Race 3, the Listed Incognitus Stakes a race for three year olds over 1100 metres. Hugh Bowman rode the longshot winner Falcool, who beat favourite Ken’s Dream by over a length. Sheriff John Stone finished third.

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Falcool winning the Incognitus Stakes

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Falcool returns to scale

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Ken’s Dream returns to scale

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Sheriff John Stone returns to scale

The Flemington Members Stand has recently been demolished to make way for a new stand, so the members have invaded areas that once were the province of Joe Public. Luckily Flemington is so large an area that such accommodations hardly inconvenience anyone, be they members or casual racegoers.

In the stalls area, to which I walked after Race 3, I found the two Living Legends special guests, Apache Cat and Zipping.  They were appropriate equine guests, one, Apache Cat,  being a former champion sprinter, the  other, Zipping, formerly a fine stayer, who won the Australian Cup in 2010.

They were both outside their stalls being fed carroty treats by their admirers.

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Apache Cat with Living Legends CEO Dr Andrew Clarke

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Zipping holding still for a moment

Whilst in the area I had a quick stroll through to see who had arrived, and found a few of the main contenders for the feature Group 1 races.

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Extreme Choice – look at his lovely long forelock

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Terravista communing with his strapper

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Sheidel headshot in the walking ring

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The Quarterback – a photo of him without blinkers

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Humidor in his stall

Back trackside, Race 4 was about to run.

It was the Group 2, Sires Produce Stakes, for two year olds, run over 1400 metres.

Eshtiraak started favourite, but as seemed the case for most of the day, he was never in the picture, finishing sixth.

Female jockey Linda Meech steered Sircconi to victory, leading all the way, to narrowly defeat Aspect and Feng Chu.

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Sires Produce Stakes Stakes finish

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Sircconi returns to scale

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Aspect on his way to the barriers

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Feng Chu returns to scale

I Am A Star was one of only three favourites to win on Saturday, winning by a whisker Race 5 , the Group 2 Kewney Stakes, a 1400 metres race for three year old fillies.

Ellicazoom ran second with Kenedna a length behind taking third place.

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I Am A Star and Ellicazoom neck and neck at the finish of the Kewney Stakes

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I Am A Star returns to scale

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Ellicazoom returns to scale

In between the Flemington races, I caught glimpes on screen, or heard through the loud speakers, the races from Sydney.  Like Flemington, very few favourites saluted.  2016  Australian Derby winner Tavago was back in winning circles defeating hot favourite Antonio Guiseppe in the Sky High Stakes, and outsider Heavens Above won the Coolmore Classic from Silent Sedition and Danish Twist. The highly fancied Omei Sword, Global Glamour and La Bella Diosa all finished well back.

Race 6, the Group 3 Schweppervescence Trophy was the last race before the two features, and “magic man” Joao Moreira, guided the starting favourite Circular to his only win for the afternoon, his “magic” image being a tad muggled as a result.

Zasorceress nudged out Miss Rose De Lago for second.

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A close finish in the Schweppervescence Trophy

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Circular on her way to the barriers

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Zasorceress returns to scale

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Miss Rose De Lago returns to scale

Finally at 3.55 pm the Newmarket Handicap was set to run.

Rather than split into two sections, as is mostly the case with sprints at Flemington, the entire field stuck to the inside fence, the colt Star Turn leading for most of the race with Redkirk Warrior handy in second or third place. He took over half way up the straight and drew away from the rest of the field to score a two length win. Voodoo Lad ran second and Star Turn hung on to run third.

Extreme Choice was the favourite, but it’s obvious now that he doesn’t handle Flemington. He finished sixth.

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Jockey Regan Bayliss celebrates Redkirk Warrior’s Newmarket Handicap win

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Redkirk Warrior in winners rug in the mounting yard

Redkirk Warrior came in at huge odds, paying over $30 for the win.

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Voodoo Lad returns to scale

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Star Turn returns to scale

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Extreme Choice returns to scale

Jameka started as warm favourite for the Australian Cup and she almost won, if it hadn’t been for Humidor who tackled her close to the finish line and stole her glory. Exospheric ran third.

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Humidor (green silks) and Jameka neck and neck approaching the finish line.  Exospheric is inside Jameka and Stratum Star is behind the leading bunch.

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Humidor returns to scale

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Jameka on her way to the barriers

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Exospheric returns to scale

That was it for the afternoon, as I headed home after the Australian Cup.

The weather stayed fine all day and the forecast showers failed to eventuate.

I may go back to the races at on Easter Saturday for race caller Greg Miles’ farewell at Caulfield. He’s been calling races for over 40 years, and was a clear and articulate caller who will be sadly missed. There’s no news on his replacement as yet.

The racing focus heads to Sydney from now on and next Saturday’s meeting at Rosehill features five Group 1 races that include the Golden Slipper Stakes, always a fascinating event, and the George Ryder Stakes where Winx will be aiming for her 16th consecutive win. She’s rapidly catching up to Black Caviar’s record and could well surpass that great mare’s accomplishments in time.

As for the Melbourne autumn racing carnival, as previously mentioned, it lacked a certain oomph. There were few, if any, wow moments and probably the most exciting race was the Blue Diamond Stakes and Catchy’s amazing win.  Sure, Black Heart Bart won two Group 1 races, and he is a good honest horse who is always in the picture, but lacks the glamour of the likes of Winx.  Ditto with Hey Doc who has really developed into a potential star, who I’ll follow in the future.

Anyway, Catchy will be racing in the Golden Slipper Stakes next Saturday and will face a very classy field that includes She Will Reign and the unbeaten Houtzen.

And lastly, I promised another amateur photographer acquaintance Paul Colachi that I’d put a link to his Facebook page on my blog.

It’s dedicated to giving the humble and often overlooked strapper some love and is called Thankyou Strappers.

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