Monday, February 17, 2020

Al and The Cat and Black Caviar

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Alligator Blood wins the CS Hayes Stakes from Catalyst

It was a shame about the weather, which was truly atrocious, but the racing action was superlative last Saturday at Flemington.

A drizzly fine rain was leaking from the sky as I set out for Flemington from Ivanhoe, and was pretty much the same out west at the big track for most of the afternoon.

Upon arrival I headed directly for the Western Lawn to my usual photography spot just past the finishing post. Race 3, the Talindert Stakes was set to run, so I captured the action as best I could  in the conditions. Black Caviar’s cousin Ole Kirk kicked off his career with a win and paid big odds of over $30.00. He beat Nitrous and favourite Mildred by a narrow margin.

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Ole Kirk (no. 12) noses out Nitrous on the line

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Ole Kirk returns to scale after winning the Talindert Stakes

The fine rain created a misty haze on the photo above, but otherwise the afternoon light was quite lovely as a contrast to bright sunlight.

After the Talindert I headed off to the stalls area to see who had arrived.

Alligator Blood was in his stall looking super confident…

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Alligator Blood

…and Catalyst was being groomed in his stall.

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Also present were the special Living Legends equine guests, champion greys Efficient and Fawkner.

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Further along was the hot favourite for the Black Caviar Lightning, Nature Strip

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Nature Strip

…and Loving Gaby.

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Loving Gaby

Back trackside it was almost time for race 4, the Ebor Trophy, a race over 2000 metres for middle distance runners and not terribly interesting over all.

It resulted with Salsamor narrowly winning from Skelm and Classic Wei Wei.

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Ebor Trophy finish – Salsamor has the lime green & blue silks

With time to kill before the highly anticipated CS Hayes Stakes we headed back to the mounting yard to grab a prime spot. Efficient and Fawkner were parading around as their illustrious careers were displayed on the big screen.

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Soon enough the field for the CS Hayes Stakes were filing into the mounting yard.

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Alligator Blood

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Soul Patch

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The 2020  CS Hayes Stakes lived up to expectations and was the highlight of the afternoon racing program. A terrific race, with Alligator Blood and Catalyst racing side by side from the start with Alligator Blood having a slight lead over Catalyst. As they turned into the straight, the real competition began as they upped the tempo, going head to head to the finish line, Alligator Blood winning by a nose. It was classic stuff reminiscent of the great two horse duels of the past – Our Waverley Star vs Bonecrusher, Testa Rossa vs Redoute’s Choice are two that come to mind. Chenier finished third a length behind.

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Alligator Blood returns to scale

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Catalyst on his way to the barriers

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Chenier returns to scale

Catalyst and Alligator Blood meet again in a fortnight in the Group 1 Australian Guineas and Super Seth will be there as well.

Race 6 was a sprint, the Royal Ascot Handicap and was won by Sirius Suspect from Taniko and Prezado.

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Sirius Suspect (yellow silks) wins the Royal Ascot Handicap from Taniko

After the Royal Ascot  we dashed back to the mounting yard as Black Caviar was scheduled to parade after the post race 6 ceremonies and we wanted to get a front fence position.

Though the crowds were down at Flemington last Saturday, no doubt due to the weather, everyone converged on the mounting yard for the great mare’s arrival and the crowd was three deep on the fence. We were lucky enough to score a special poster of Black Caviar being handed out behind us.

Black Caviar’s appearance was heralded by flag bearers who stood around the mounting yard until her connections were in place then marched off elsewhere.

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Flags herald Black Caviar’s appearance

I took over a hundred photos of Black Caviar I reckon. Continuous shooting tends to result in a surfeit of shots, but I saved 50 as they were mostly alright and I couldn’t decide what to keep and what to discard.

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Black Caviar parade 1

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Black Caviar parade 2

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Black Caviar parade 3 – Peter Moody offers the mare a carrot

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Black Caviar parade 4 – the great mare surveys her old kingdom

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Black Caviar parade 5 – not more photographers!

She paraded around the mounting yard for quite some time, doing at least three circuits. She looked extremely well, her coat dappled and glowing with health and it was great to see her again after a 7 year hiatus.

She had no sooner left the mounting yard than the Black Caviar Lightning field were making their way thence.

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Loving Gaby

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Nature Strip

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Nature Strip was the short odds favourite for the Black Caviar Lightning, but ended unplaced after over-racing on the wrong side of the track (outer rail) and tiring before the finish. Loving Gaby who also raced along the outer rail finished third. However, the winner Gytrash, raced along the inner rail with Redzel, hot on his heels, running second. Luckily I focussed my camera on the inside rail so got a photo of the finish.

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Black Caviar Lightning finish – Gytrash heads off Redzel as they approach the finish line.

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Gytrash returns to scale

As trains back to the city were running again I headed home after the Black Caviar Lightning.

It had been a better than usual race meeting despite the less than perfect weather but worth it to see Alligator Blood and Catalyst fight out the CS Hayes Stakes.

Next Saturday is Blue Diamond Stakes Day at Caulfield with the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate and especially the Futurity Stakes being sterling accompaniments to the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes.

Hopefully the weather will be more clement next week.

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