Monday, November 04, 2019

Mud & Champagne–That Was Derby Day 2019

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Warning wins the 2019 Victoria Derby

Derby Day dawned with a downpour of rain that persisted practically the whole day. Cox Plate day was inclement, but this was the worst weather I’ve experienced at the races in all the years I’ve been going to the track.

You may say that  I was mad to attend the event, but strangely, challenging weather conditions made the experience memorable and unique.

It was raining when I left home, B obligingly driving me to the station, and was still raining when I arrived at Flemington. Race 4, the Lexus Stakes was in process of being run and was won by Downdraft who gains automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup.

As the next race was the first of the four Group 1 events of the afternoon, I decided to visit the stalls area and kill time before it ran.  I didn’t linger long and only got photos of Melody Belle and Derby favourite Shadow Hero.

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Melody Belle in her stall

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Shadow Hero in his stall

Squelching back to my accustomed spot just past the winning post I endured the downpour while waiting for the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes to start.

The super New Zealand mare Melody Belle, who has won more Group 1 races than any other horse this year, started as favourite and relished the soggy conditions, winning the Empire Rose easily from local mare Aristia with Spanish Reef running third.

To say that photographic condition were difficult is an understatement and there is not much you can do when the rain is bucketing down.  Hence the speckled effect in most of my photos of the action.

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Melody Belle wins the Empire Rose Stakes

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Melody Belle in full flight

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Aristia with an umbrella clutching audience watching on the opposite side of the track

Melody Belle may race again next weekend at Flemington in either the MacKinnon Stakes or Matriarch Stakes, hopefully in kinder conditions.

I was quite wet, as was my camera, after the Empire Rose Stakes, so I took shelter in the crowded Saintly Stand to dry off.

By the time I got back to the fence the rain had eased and the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes was run in a light shower rather pouring rain. Another mud lark, Exceedance, won from the well fancied Golden Rose winner Bivouac.

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Exceedance wins the Coolmore Stud Stakes

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Exceedance returns to scale

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Bivouac returns to scale

The rain held off for the running of the Victoria Derby. The hot favourite was Shadow Hero who had recently won the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes, but he didn’t fancy the soft track and finished fifth, 10 lengths from the winner Warning who won by over 3 lengths from Southern Moon, with Soul Patch another length in arrears, running third.  Southern Moon, incidently, is the son of Puissance de Lune, a photogenic grey I followed in 2013/2014.

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Warning returns to scale in the rain

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Southern Moon & Soul Patch cross the finish line in the wake of Warning

The rain returned with a vengeance after the Derby, so I decided not to wait for the fourth Group 1 – Cantala Stakes – and headed for the station and home.

Champagne still flowed abundantly and the mode du jour appeared to consist of rainwear and umbrellas on top of flimsy finery.

In Sydney, on Saturday the feature race was the new fangled Golden Eagle,  a 7 million dollar race for 4 year olds that had attracted a very classy field.  Run over 1500 metres, it resulted in a win for the Chris Waller trained Kolding. Sunlight, having her first start beyond 1200 metres, almost stole the show, losing by a whisker on the line after leading throughout.

Tomorrow is the Melbourne Cup, which I might ponder in a blogpost. It’s the usual puzzle, the field mostly comprised of International runners. I won’t be attending, but will go to Stakes Day on Saturday, which hopefully will not be as wet as the last few Saturday racedays, but I’m not holding my breath for a sunshiny day.

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