For a welcome break from the tiresomeness of unpacking boxes, I headed off to Flemington for the Makybe Diva Stakes Day race meeting. It promised quite a few exciting competitions and didn’t disappoint.
There were finishes that were spectacular in a variety of ways – several nailbitingly close and others where the winner was impressively dominant with a long margin separating first from second.
My intention was to arrive at Flemington half an hour before Race 2 as I wanted to see unbeaten colt Royal Symphony, who had won all three of his starts by several lengths and appeared to be a potential super star.
This I accomplished, so I headed for the mounting yard to watch the field parade. They hadn’t started the parade as yet, but Living Legends Paris Lane and The Cleaner were being walked around the mounting yard and posing for photographs.
The Listed Pin & Win Plate, run over 1400 metres, was Royal Symphony’s toughest test to date, and though he only won narrowly over Eclair Sunshine, he did so in spectacular fashion. He was bumped and blocked all through the charge up the straight and looked in an impossible postition as the finishing post loomed closer, but as soon as he got clear running he went boom and won at the last minute.
Saturday in Melbourne had dawned cold and wet, but fortunately the weather cleared by lunchtime, and the rest of the afternoon was overcast with an occasional burst of welcome sunshine.
It made taking photos a challenge, with alternate dark and bright lighting playing havoc with one’s exposure settings.
I was pleased to catch up with my photographer friend Rebecca who had kindly obtained a Winx cap for me, as an expression of gratitude for helping her get her camera at Caulfield on Memsie Stakes Day.
After watching Royal Symphony’s race, we headed to the stalls area to see who had arrived.
Catchy who was entered in the Group 2 Danehill Stakes was there, as was her trainer David Hayes who graciously signed our race books. I was hoping we didn’t put a jinx on Catchy.
Also waiting for the Danehill Stakes was New Zealand colt Summer Passage…
With Race 3, The Sofitel, up next we returned to our prime spot at the access gate just past the finish post.
Like the Pin & Win Stakes it is run over 1400 metres and Theanswermyfriend started as race favourite ahead of Mr Sneaky and they finished in that order, Theanswermyfriend winning by 1¾ lengths.
The Bobbie Lewis Quality, a Group 2 sprint over 1200 metres was first of the Group races scheduled and Voodoo Lad, a last start winner, was the favourite. However, Redkirk Warrior, the former British horse now with the David Hayes stable, who won the Newmarket Handicap at his first Australian start in autumn, then failed to place in two Sydney starts, was the sensational winner. He took command halfway up the straight to win by 2½ lengths from Scales Of Justice with Land Of Plenty a further length back running third.
My photo of the finish has Redkirk Warrior as the sole runner in the frame.
It seems patently obvious that Redkirk Warrior is dynamite when he is first up, and he obviously loves the big Flemington track.
Back in the stalls area more horses had arrived , namely Hartnell and Inference who I was hoping to get snaps of.
Back trackside the field for the Group 2 Danehill Stakes were parading in the mounting yard. For three year olds, run over 1200 metres, the field comprised eight colts or geldings and three fillies.
The dramatic fall of Limestone near the finish line somewhat marred the outcome of the Danehill Stakes which was won by Catchy, her second victory over the boys. She is of course the winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes. Jukebox finished second with Booker the other filly (along with Limestone) in the race running third. Fortunately both Limestone and her jockey Damian Lane both were uninjured in the fall, which was caused by interference from Jukebox who clipped heels with another horse who in turn clipped heels with Limestone.
Limestone runs riderless after recovering from her fall
We returned to the stalls area after the Danehill Stakes and were hovering around waiting for Winx to race in the George Main Stakes which was scheduled for 3.15pm. There are screens scattered throughout the stalls area, and we found one and noticed Peter Moody, famous as the trainer of Black Caviar, was close by. As the George Main Stakes field were loading into the starting gates, a small group gathered around the screen. I thought it was poignantly ironic, and felt chuffed, that Peter Moody was part of the group as we watched Winx win her 20th race in succession and 13th Group 1, again seeming as if she couldn’t catch the leader Happy Clapper in time. But she ended up winning comfortably by over a length.
The next race at Flemington was named to honour another great mare, this being the Let’s Elope Stakes, a Group 2 race for mares over 1400 metres, and a big field of 16 contendants had accepted. I Am A Star was the pre-race favourite, but she failed to place. It was won by Sword of Light narrowly from Swampland. Lovani finished third.
By the time the feature event, race 7, the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes was run, the afternoon had turned quite chill and shadows were encroaching over the track.
It was however worth staying to witness Humidor upstage hot favourite Hartnell and win by over 3 lengths in impressive style. He’s another one that loves Flemington, his last win being on the track in the Australian Cup in autumn. He’s now favourite to win the Caulfield Cup. Good old Black Heart Bart, honest as the day is long, finished third.
I would have liked to have stayed for Race 8, the Japan Racing Association Trophy, where a good field of stayers had been assembled to contest the 2500 metre event. But as I’d been at the course since early afternoon, I didn’t feel inclined to hang around and wait. Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Almandin won the race by over 2 lengths, toting a massive 61.5 kilos of weight to defeat his stablemates Crocodile Rock and Aloft. It wouldn’t surprise in the least if Almandin won the Melbourne Cup a second time, a feat not accomplished since Makybe Diva in 2004, who of course went on to win it a third time in 2005.
It was a great day’s racing, somewhat surprising this early in the season when it’s generally pretty low key. Flemington was nowhere near crowded, which is the good thing about attending at this time of year.
Next week, the sole Group 1 race is the Golden Rose in Sydney at Rosehill. In Melbourne Caulfield has the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes as its feature race. I may attend, but if the weather is too miserable I’ll think twice about going.