Melbourne’s weather this summer has been unusually cool, temperatures beyond 30Cº being a rarity rather than the norm. One seems to be wearing sandals and t-shirts one day, then jumpers, socks and shoes the next.
Strange days indeed, but fortunately Saturday turned out to be a mild day, though overcast for the main.
It made taking photos of the races rather challenging with light and shadow alternating throughout the afternoon.
At Caulfield, where crowds of up 15,000 were permitted for the first time, it seemed like the old days at the races with Covid 19 restrictions not being as rigorous as the previous two meetings I have attended. General patrons were allowed to watch the races on the fence and the mounting yard was once more accessible.
The front lawn was lively; families galore with their feral children in tow. So there were quite a lot of people in attendance, but Rebecca and I were pleased that we could once again take photos from the fence without pretending to be Media.
It was a long afternoon, the Group 1 CF Orr Stakes being the feature race of the day, scheduled to run at 4.55 pm, and the other must see Blue Diamond Preludes being scheduled as races 2 and 3, early in the afternoon.
I arrived at Caulfield in time to witness (and photograph) Race 1, the Big Screen Company Handicap run over 1400 metres.
Regardsmaree started as the short priced favourite and delivered in spades winning by 3¼ lengths from Mystery Shot and Imperial Lad.
It was a day for favourites to win, with favoured runners taking out six of the nine races on the card.
Such was the case in Race 2, the first of the Blue Diamond Preludes, this one for fillies. Arcaded was the star performer, winning the Prelude by 2½ lengths from Scorched Earth and Wolves.
The colts and geldings Blue Diamond Prelude was up next and General Beau, winner of the Blue Diamond Preview on Australia Day, was naturally the starting favourite. He prevailed narrowly, holding off a late challenge from Anamoe to win by a whisker. Jigsaw finished third a length behind the leading pair.
Race 4, the Group 2 Autumn Stakes for three year olds, is run over 1400 metres. Amish Boy started as favourite, but he was unable to overtake 13/1 shot Poland who went on to win by a length. It’sourtime finished third.
La Mexicana was the warm favourite for Race 5, the Kevin Hayes Stakes, which is a Group 3 race for three year old fillies over 1200 metres. She narrowly prevailed by a nose, after fighting out the finish with Malicorne and Pinkham.
The afternoon was more than half over, but there were still two more races to run before the Orr Stakes.
The Group 3 TS Carlyon Cup is an interesting race run over 1600 metres and was won by Miss Siska last year, and one of the main contenders this year. Race favourite Best of Days led from the start and prevailed to win by 1¾ lengths from Miss Siska with Nonconformist running third.
One of the main attractions of the afternoon for me was to see classy New Zealand mare Probabeel in the flesh. She has done most of her racing in Sydney where she won the Group 1 Epsom in the spring. Her only race in Melbourne previous to Saturday’s Bellmaine Stakes was last year’s Cox Plate where she finished seventh. She’s been racing against first class competition so the Group 3 Bellmaine Stakes was an easy assignment and it was no surprise that she started as favourite, despite having top weight of 60kg and starting from the widest gate.
Racing wide for most of the trip, Probabeel took the lead half way up the straight and accounted for her opposition easily, winning by over a length from Paul’s Regret and Snapdancer.
And so the afternoon progressed until it was finally time for the feature CF Orr Stakes.
I was keen to see 2020 Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet who was part of the field and expected to perform well, starting as favourite. He turned out to be a major disappointment finishing third last in the field of nine contenders.
It was not all that surprising that the Orr Stakes winner turned out to be trusty old Streets of Avalon, who has been in good form of late having won the Group 3 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley in late January. He raced on the speed in second place behind Sovereign Award then charged to the front half way up the straight. He held off a strong challenge from Imaging to win by half a length. Three year old colt Crosshaven ran third two lengths behind.
I didn’t tarry after the Orr Stakes, heading homeward to the station.
It had been a long afternoon, but enjoyable to be back at the races in almost normal conditions.
Security guards kept people off the fence in between races, and told us – puzzlingly – that we could go back in five minutes. If you had booked seating, it kind of made sense, but we had to rely on whatever we could find to get the weight off our feet.
Next Saturday is Great Horse Day at Flemington featuring the Black Caviar Lightning. I’d like to be there but individual GA tickets are not available for sale, more’s the pity.
My next afternoon of live racing will therefore be Blue Diamond Stakes Day at Caulfield in a fortnight.