I was on the train to Caulfield Racecourse last Saturday when my fellow amateur photographer friend Rebecca rang me and said she was turned back at the gates because her camera had a 300mm lens. She was obliged to take her camera back to her car and gloomily contemplated an afternoon without photos. I understood her predicament as photographing race horses is an addictive hobby. Fortunately my camera lens is only 200mms, so I’d pass the new rules imposed by Racing Victoria or whoever.
I’ve just looked at the Conditions of Entry of all three Melbourne race courses, and it seems that only Caulfield (MRC) has the 200mm lens limitation. As long as you take photos for your own personal use and not for commercial purposes it’s OK on the other courses as there is no mention of lens sizes at Moonee Valley or Flemington.
Arriving at the main entrance gates, I was expecting to be asked about my camera, but I managed to slip past the security guards at the gates without being searched.
I caught up with Rebecca and devised a method to allow her to fetch her camera and get back in without being stopped. I won’t reveal the stratagem here in case Racing Victoria reads this blog, but it was successful. My other friend George had no trouble entering the course and was unaware of the new limitations for amateur photographers, though later he told us that one of the regular casual photographers was prevented from bringing his 300mms + camera into the course and subsequently gave up trying, and headed back home to Phillip Island – quite a drive.
It was a grey old day, but mercifully the rain held off, and the track was upgraded from Good 4 to Good 3, causing the scratching of several runners who are not their best on firm tracks.
Race 4, the Group 3 HDF McNeil Stakes, a race for three year olds over 1200 metres was the first of four races I witnessed over the afternoon. Merchant Navy was the starting favourite and didn’t disappoint winning by short margin over Booker and Muraahib.
Cruising through the stalls area, I did manage to get a lovely photo of Yankee Rose being affectionate with her strapper. She has grown bigger and prettier since I last saw her in November last year.
For race 5, the Cockram Stakes, I decided to watch it from the front lawn. There is a gate for emergency access where you can get a good spot for photos without the hedge being in the way. Unfortunately it was popular with feral kids who, as well as being noisy were unruly too, shaking the gate and attracting the attention of the security guards who subsequently chucked everyone out of the area. Luckily this was after the race was run.
Savanna Amour, unfancied in betting, ended up the winner from Flying Jess and Written Era.
I went back to my usual spot above the stalls area for the next two races which was pretty well deserted and thankfully child free.
Another Group 3 was next on the schedule, The Heath 1100, a sprint for older horses.
The popular Voodoo Lad finally got his 5 minutes of fame and won by .75 lengths from the beautiful So Si Bon and Crystal Dreamer.
The feature race of the day was of course the Group 1 Memsie Stakes and it was up next.
But before that was run, we watched Winx win her 19th race in succession on one of the many screens near the stalls area. It was another of those nail biting races, with the lowly Red Excitement setting the pace. He was miles ahead of the rest of the field when they turned into the straight. Again it looked as if Winx could not get there in time, but somehow she did, winning with a bit to spare over Red Excitement with Chocante several lengths behind running third.
Watching Winx race takes me back to Black Caviar’s days. People gather around the screen to watch her race and all cheer when she wins yet again, just like they did with Black Caviar.
I must admit Vega Magic is not a horse I have taken much notice of in the recent past. Formerly racing in Western Australia he is now with the David Hayes & Tom Dabernig stable and has won 12 of his 17 starts. I witnessed him winning the Regal Roller Stakes at Caulfield at his last start. He started as favourite for the Memsie Stakes with Black Heart Bart highly fancied as well. Vega Magic led from the start and was never headed, winning by almost two lengths from Black Heart Bart with Tosen Stardom running third.
Next Saturday the racing is at Moonee Valley. Looking at the nominations it appears to be a really interesting meeting. Magic Millions Classic winner Houtzen is entered in the McEwen Stakes as is Russian Revolution. Two New Zealand mares are contesting the feature Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes – Bonneval who won the Sydney Oaks and Lizzie L’Amour who has not raced in Australia previously.
I’m pretty keen to attend, so I’ll have to find my way to Moonee Valley from the new residence in Ivanhoe. We’re moving this Thursday – perish the thought – so I’ll need a break from unpacking on Saturday.