Friday, October 12, 2018

Super Saturday–Caulfield Guineas Day

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Mighty Boss wins the 2017 Caulfield Guineas

With fine and sunny weather forecast for Saturday, the Caulfield Guineas meeting promises to be a sterling afternoon of first class racing with four Group 1 races and a strong support card.

It’s going to be a very long day with the races run at 35 minute intervals early in the day, but longer intervals of up to 50 minutes from Race 7 to Race 9, to accommodate coverage of The Everest in Sydney.

I normally would take my time getting to Caulfield on Guineas Day but this year I’m keen to get a look at an unusual white filly running in the first race. Aptly named Utzon, she is a daughter of The Opera House,  a pure white mare who raced briefly without much success earlier this decade. I mentioned her in a blog post back then.

Exceptionally well bred, being a three quarter sister to Might and Power, The Opera House has produced three white foals and Utzon is the first hit the racetrack. Utzon trialled the other day and showed great promise, winning comfortably after leading throughout.

There is a plethora of quality racehorses performing at Caulfield on Saturday, several of whom I have not seen in the flesh, such as the Chris Waller contingent of D’Argento, Unforgotten and The Autumn Sun, all potential stars who have previously won at Group 1 level.

Then there are the Internationals having their first run on Australian soil, and personal favourites such as golden girl Sunlight who is one of a field of 13 in Race 3, the Group 3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes. Sunlight shares topweight with the talented Enbihaar who was the Blue Diamond Stakes runner up, so it looks a match race between these two fillies.  Others in the picture are Humma Humma and Meryl.

The first of the Group 1 races to run is the Thousand Guineas, the fillies equivalent of the Caulfield Guineas and a stellar field of talented girls will contest the 1600 metre event. Top picks are Smart Melody, Thrillster, Amphitrite, Fiesta and El Dorado Dreaming.

More class is on display in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap, run over 1600 metres as well. Hartnell, the surprise Epsom Handicap winner is top weight and faces stiff competition from the likes of Rupert Clark Stakes winner Jungle Cat, Dollar for Dollar, Land of Plenty and mares I Am A Star, Shillelagh and Noire.

Two high class International race horses, out here for the Cups and Cox Plate, have accepted for the Caulfield Stakes (now called Ladbroke Stakes), these being Benbatl, a Group 1 winner in the UK and Thecliffsofmoher trained by the canny Aiden O’Brian from Ireland.  It will be interesting to see how they fare against the locals – Humidor, Night’s Watch, D’Argento and Unforgotten – and acclimatised imports such as Tosen Basil and Homesman. 

The Caulfield Guineas is scheduled to run at 5.15pm as Race 9, but is well worth hanging around for, having attracted an excellent field.  Last year rank outsider Mighty Boss won at 100/1 denying highly fancied Sydney colt Kementari the prize, and this year the top contenders are Sydney colt The Autumn Sun and the locally trained Native Soldier and Leonardo Da Hinchi.  Also in with a chance are the Hawkes trained contender Outrageous, the Mick Price trained Tavisan and sole filly, the ever honest Oohood.

In Sydney, The Everest,  the richest sprint race in the world is run at 4.15pm on a heavy track. There are many chances the best being last year’s winner Redzel, latest sprint sensation Santa Ana Lane, Vega Magic who ran third last year in the race, and speedy mares Viddora and Shoals.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Wonder Mare Winx Wins Again

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Winx returns to scale after winning the Turnbull Stakes

On Saturday blue was the predominant colour – blue skies matching Winx blue colours all over the expanses of Flemington. And Winx, of course, didn’t disappoint her many fans (who were out in force), winning her 28th successive race, not exactly with ease, but convincingly enough.

I reached Flemington at around 1.00pm and headed directly to the stalls area to see if the star attraction had arrived.

According to the racebook she was accommodated in stall 66 and the large crowd of her fans surrounding the stall made it easy to find. She looked cool and queenly as she surveyed her subjects.

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Winx in her stall

Also out and about was the other star attraction Chautauqua, present for his special farewell ceremony.

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Chautauqua in the walking ring

Returning trackside I came across a pair of Winx super fans who had dressed for the occasion and obligingly posed for the following photo.

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Winx fans at Flemington

The runners for Race 3, the Paris Lane Stakes, were parading in the mounting yard led out by non other than Paris Lane himself, who along with birthday boy Might and Power, was a Living Legends special guest for the day.

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Paris Lane in the mounting yard

Unfortunately the inner rail was out by 9 metres on Saturday, which made it difficult to get rail free shots. Flemington, like Caulfield, have raised the outer fence level – a sore trial for amateur photographers in what used to be an excellent spot to capture racing action. You need to stand on a chair to circumvent the high rail, but alas chairs were hard to come by on Saturday.

The Paris Lane Stakes resulted in smart mare Eckstein winning the prize by two lengths from Spanner Head and Plein Ciel.

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Paris Lane Stakes finish – Eckstein is about to overtake Spanner Head

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Eckstein on her way to the barriers

Truth to tell I did not pay much heed to the early races on the program as the feature races were scheduled later in the day, with the eagerly awaited Turnbull Stakes set to run at 3.00pm as Race 5.

Therefore after the Paris Lane Stakes there was one more race to watch before the big event.

Before that occurred, the grey flash Chautauqua paraded in the mounting yard, as his illustrious racing career was recapped on the big screen and he was farewelled in style to cheers from the crowd.

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Chautauqua parading in the mounting yard

Race 4 was the UCI Stakes run over 1800 metres. Extra Brut proved the outstanding winner, prevailing over Sikorsky by over a length. The favourite Savoie finished third.

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Extra Brut about to overtake Sikorsky as they race to the finish line

The excitement was building as the time ticked down to the start of the Turnbull Stakes, and I was hoping as ever to get some good photos of Winx, and took a great many as she made her way to the barriers.

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Winx on her way to the starting gates

The race itself has been written of substantially and was as usual fascinating to watch. I’m sure I’m not the only person to think that Hugh Bowman had stuffed up, when Winx was trapped on the inside and needed a gap to break through, as the race leaders Trap For Fools and Divine Unicorn appeared to be getting further ahead.  The gap came and Winx caught up, unleashing her extraordinary acceleration in the closing stages to win by a length from her stablemate Youngstar with Kings Will Dream running third.

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Turnbull Stakes approaching the finish line – Winx about to accelerate

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Turnbull finish (crop)

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Winx returns to scale

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Youngstar on her way to the barriers

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Kings Will Dream on his way to the barriers

After the Turnbull Stakes I decided to see if my strategy of last year would work again, when hoping to get Chris Waller’s signature in my racebook I waylaid him as he returned from the presentation to the stalls area. Alas, that didn’t happen this year. Never mind there will opportunities aplenty at Caulfield next Saturday.

Winx wasn’t in her stall, having left the course shortly after the race, though a large crowd of fans still hung around hoping for a glimpse.

Having missed race six with all this loitering around, we returned to our spot on the fence for The Bart Cummings.

It was apt that a horse now trained by James Cummings won the race named for his famous grandfather. Avilius, a handsome beast, started as the favourite and won narrowly from Jaameh with whom he fought out the finish down the straight. Yogi finished third a length behind the leading pair.

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Avilius and Jaameh head to head down the straight

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Avilius returns to scale

With The Bart Cummings run and won I headed to the station and home.

It had been a splendid afternoon weather wise, and stirring to see Winx win her 28th consecutive race and 21st at Group 1 level.

Her next race is the Cox Plate in three weeks time, where we all hope she wins the race for a fourth time, a feat never before achieved in Cox Plate history.

In the meantime, there is a great line up of races next Saturday at Caulfield with four Group 1 contests and a constellation of equine stars participating in them.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Winx in Melbourne Again

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Winx at Flemington – October 2017

It goes without saying that I am keenly anticipating Winx’s return to the big dance floor – AKA Flemington – on Saturday, where she will be attempting, and probably succeeding, to win the Turnbull Stakes for the second year in succession. In doing so she will also notch up her 28th consecutive win and 21st at Group 1 level.

Last year she thrashed six rivals and the only one of those six to face her again this year is runner up Ventura Storm.  Eight others have accepted and include the handsome Mick Price boys Grunt and Mighty Boss, Winx’s stablemate Youngstar, Caulfield Cup favourite Kings Will Dream and New Zealander Jon Snow who ran third in the Makybe Diva Stakes.

Having watched Winx easily win six races since her last appearance at Flemington, it’s hard to see any of the aforementioned beating her. Go Winx!

The rest of the racing card is moderately interesting with several Group 2 & 3 races, most particularly the Group 3 The Bart Cummings, which awards the winner ballot free entry into the Melbourne Cup. Avilius is the current favourite having won his last three starts, but I’ll be barracking for Vengeur Masque who rewarded me handsomely when he won the Geelong Cup at big odds last year.  He has narrowly missed out on gaining entry to the Melbourne Cup the past two years, but if he does gain a place he would be a good chance being sired by Monsun whose sons Fiorente, Protectionist and Almandin were all successful in the race recently.

I plan to get to Flemington fairly early, around 1.00 pm. No doubt the crowd will be larger than last year, Winx fame increasing attendances where ever she races.

The weather is predicted to be warm and sunny, pleasant for an afternoon at the races, hopefully celebrating another win by the great mare.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Home Boy Victory – Underwood Stakes Day at Caulfield

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Underwood Stakes finish – Homesman wins from Tosen Basil & Humidor

Due to the AFL Grand Final being contested on Saturday, the Melbourne race meeting at Caulfield was held on Sunday, and the fine sunny day was perfect for a trackside outing.

Admittedly I had over dressed (for warmth) so I spent the afternoon feeling uncomfortably hot, which I suppose is a change from being uncomfortably cold.

The feature race on Sunday was the Group 1 Underwood Stakes, a race over 1800 metres for horses hopeful of gaining a ballot free entry into the Caulfield Cup. Last year New Zealand mare Bonneval was the winner, and she was among the field of contestants.

I arrived at Caulfield around 1.20pm in time to watch Race 3 , the Inglis Cup run over 2000 metres. Sydney visitor Prized Icon started as favourite, but he finished unplaced, the winner being the Darren Weir trained Bondeiger, the second winner of five who saluted for the canny trainer on Sunday.  Legale finished second and Octabello third.

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Inglis Cup result – Bondeiger (orange & black checks) is the winner

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Prized Icon & Bondeiger on their way to the barriers

I didn’t take half as many photos as I normally would, not bothering to get images of the horses returning to scale. I was distracted as well by the possibility of getting Chris Waller’s signature on a couple of Winx racebooks I had taken along on the chance that he would be at Caulfield on Sunday.

There was a couple from Ballarat who were waiting for Chris Waller as well, to get his signature on the wonderful painting the husband had done of the star mare.

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Ian Drever with his painting of Winx

Anyway, they had a long wait as Chris Waller’s plane from Sydney had been delayed (no surprise there) and he was expected later in the afternoon, turning up just before the feature event.

We all (the Drevers, friend Rebecca & I ) got our stuff signed. I was delighted to see that Chris had added a small note under his signature in my copy of the Golden Slipper Day racebook.

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Chris Waller signature in Golden Slipper racebook

The races were being run 30 minutes apart so the afternoon flashed by quite fast.

Race 4 resulted in another Darren Weir trained winner in Gray Shadow who defeated Fragonard by a length with Miss Leonidis running third and Race 5, another sprint over 1200 metres, resulted in the Godolphin owned Trekking winning comfortably from former Japanese sprinter Kemono with long shot Heart of a Lion running third.

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Trekking winning the Testa Rossa Stakes (race 5)

Races 6 and 7 were the Guineas Preludes, Group 3 races over 1400 metres, one for the colts and the other for the fillies.

The colts Prelude was the first to jump, and the race favourite was Long Leaf who was outclassed again by the Darren Weir trained Native Soldier who relished being back at Caulfield after failing to place at his last start at Flemington. Tavisan ran second, relegating Long Leaf to third.

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Native Soldier

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Long Leaf

Hot favourite for the fillies Guineas Prelude was the so far unbeaten Smart Melody. She added another picket to the fence against her name in the form guide, now having won five in succession. She beat Thrillster with a length to spare and El Dorado Dreaming was another length behind in third place.

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Smart Melody in full flight

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El Dorado Dreaming

Half an hour later the Underwood Stakes field was ready to start. As previously mentioned the Lloyd Williams owned Homesman won the bickies and earned himself a place in the Caulfield Cup. Bonneval finished last and has been reportedly retired, having failed to fire in her two starts this season.

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Homesman on his way to the barriers

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Tosen Basil on his way to the barriers

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Humidor on his way to the barriers

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Bonneval on her way to the barriers

I headed home after the Underwood. It had been a moderately interesting afternoon of racing, though not a patch on the Sydney races on Saturday, where three Group 1 contests were run.  Hartnell demonstrated that he was not a spent force by winning the Epsom Handicap carrying top weight, defeating the classy Chris Waller runners D’Argento and Unforgotten.

Oohood finally broke through for a well deserved win in the Group 1 Flight Stakes, with the Chris Waller trained Fiesta running a close second and long shot Nakeeta Jane third.

Chris Waller trained stayers Patrick Erin and Brimham Rocks ran the quinella in the Group 1 Metropolitan.

On Friday night Moonee Valley kicked off its Night Racing Season and featured the Group 1 Moir Stakes which was won by South Australian mare Viddora. Hot favourite Nature Strip was unplaced as was Houtzen, and the former has now been sent for spell and is out of contention for The Everest. Brave Smash and Spright filled the minor places.

Chautauqua was another attraction on Friday night where he was scheduled to undertake a barrier trial to lift the ban on his racing again. He failed to jump and has now been retired.  He was a super sprinter who provided race followers with many wow moments with his nailbiting last to first style of racing.  I’ve heard that he will be farewelled at Flemington next Saturday, where of course I’ll be present to witness Winx gunning for her 28th successive win in the Turnbull Stakes.

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The Grey Flash Chautauqua at Caulfield – February 2017

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cats Rule! Group 1 Racing at Caulfield

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Jungle Cat  on his way to the barriers prior to winning the Rupert Clarke Stakes

Was it an omen that the first horse I saw when walking into Caulfield Racecourse last Saturday was Apache Cat, in light of the feature event, later in the afternoon being won by another cat, in this case the Irish sprinter Jungle Cat?

Apache Cat was there as the special guest from Living Legends and corralled in the kids zone, where I paused to take a photo.

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Apache Cat

It was by chance that I passed by the popular Living Legend as my time of arrival coincided with the start of Race 3,  where Blue Diamond Stakes winner Written By kicked off his spring campaign with a win.

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Written By returns to scale after winning the Skyline Education Foundation Plate

Written By hasn’t started since running fourth in the Golden Slipper Stakes back in March, so it’s pleasing that the handsome colt is back on the scene in good form.

The feature race on Saturday at Caulfield was the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, a sprint over 1400 metres. It was scheduled as Race 8, so there were four other races to watch before it was run.

Race 4 was the Living Legends Handicap, a race for mares over 1400 metres.

Again it was a pleasing result where class mare Tulip was victorious, beating Shoko by a narrow margin, with Mamzelle Tess running third.

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Just past the post in the Living Legends Handicap

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Tulip returns to scale

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Shoko on her way to the barriers

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Mamzelle Tess on her way to the barriers

As it was an alternate weekend, the afternoon was mild and sunny, quite a contrast to the ghastly weather at Flemington last week, and the light was excellent for photos.

A not particularly interesting race, the Grassroots Sports Club for Mirabel Handicap resulted in a win for Sydney based sprinter Spending To Win.  The highly regarded and previously unbeaten Eduardo was not disgraced running a close second and Bryan ran third.

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Spending to Win on his way to the mounting yard

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Eduardo on his way to the mounting yard

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Bryan on his way to the mounting yard

Race 6 was the Aquis Jim Moloney Stakes for Pinchapoo, for three year old fillies over 1400 metres.  Tasmanian filly Mystic Journey upstaged the local girls, winning at big odds. Spanish Whisper and Tahitian Dancer filled the minor placings.

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Just past the post in race 6 

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Mystic Journey returns to scale

Next up was the Naturalism Stakes, considerably of more interest than the preceding races. It gives the winner ballot free entry into the Caulfield Cup, so a good field of stayers accepted for the 2000 metre event. The field included English stayer Folkswood, last seen in Australia in the 2017 where he won the Cranbourne Cup, then finished third to Winx in the Cox Plate.

Race favourite however was Night’s Watch who delivered in spades in quite spectacular fashion, running wide from the tail of the field to snatch victory from Rising Red and Odeon.

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Naturalism Stakes just past the post

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Night’s Watch returning to stalls after presentation

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Rising Red on his way to the barriers

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Odeon returns to scale

Folkswood after running on the pace for most of the race finished last, leaving his connections puzzled.

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Folkswood on his way to the barriers

Finally it was time for the feature Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes. My photos of the finish were not worth saving, but I did get decent shots of the field as they headed to the barriers, though not all of them.

Jungle Cat, as previously mentioned, won the bickies. This was his first start in Australia, his previous start being in Dubai where he won the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in March.

Home of the Brave was the starting favourite, but he finished out of a place in fourth.  Runner up was long shot Dollar for Dollar and the well fancied Land of Plenty finished third.

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Jungle Cat returns to scale

Mid afternoon I took time out to watch the other feature race of the day, which was the Golden Rose at Rosehill.  The Chris Waller trained The Autumn Sun was the outstanding winner, swooping from the back of the field to overtake his stablemate Zousain with race favourite Graff finishing third. 

I’m looking forward to seeing The Autumn Sun racing in Melbourne in the Caulfield Guineas next month. He arrived in Melbourne yesterday with stablemates Winx, Youngstar, Invincibella and Another Dollar.

I didn’t tarry after the Rupert Clarke and headed home despite the next race being quite interesting with a super field of mares competing. It was won by Winter Bride from Ellicazoom.

Next weekend the races in Melbourne are at Caulfield again, but run on Sunday so as not to clash with the AFL Grand Final. The Group 1 Underwood Stakes is the feature with a good support card that includes two Guineas Preludes.

In fact it is a super weekend of races with Moonee Valley kicking off their Friday night meetings with the Group 1 Moir Stakes, and Sydney featuring three Group 1 races on the Saturday.

A final photo before I close this post of ravens in flight, captured at Caulfield during a lull in proceedings. I’ve been trying to get such a photo for ages, so I’m glad the opportunity presented itself when I had a camera in hand.

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Ravens in flight – ragged silhouettes in the blue sky