Monday, September 18, 2023

Queens of the Turf – Makybe Diva Stakes Day

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Makybe Diva Statue at Flemington

When I read that Makybe Diva, three time Melbourne Cup winner, was to make a special appearance at Flemington, how could I not attend.

Fortunately there were no public transport disruptions last Saturday, so I arrived at Flemington shortly after 1.00 pm, in time for Race 3, The Sofitel, a race over 1400 metres.

This resulted in a win for Kalino who narrowly beat Umgawa and Detonator Jack.

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The Sofitel finish – Kalino is the widest in purple silks

With time in hand I decided to tramp up to the stalls area for a look at Makybe Diva who was in Stall number 1.

A big crowd of admirers surrounded her stall, but I managed to get a few photos, including one of her with Glen Boss who rode her in all three of her Melbourne Cup victories from 2003 to 2005.

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Glen Boss is obviously delighted to see Makybe Diva again

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Makybe Diva in the stalls area

There was display on the public lawn close to her statue of symbols of her three Melbourne Cups.

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Makybe Diva’s Cups Display

All this dilly dallying in the stalls caused me to miss Race 4, the Poseidon Stakes, but I had returned to my usual spot for Race 5, the Exford Plate, which was won by Griff from Surprise Coming and King of Fighters.

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Griff (no 8) is the widest with Surprise Coming in yellow silks

The feature race of the day was of course the Makybe Diva Stakes, scheduled as Race 7, so there was still one more race to run before it occurred. Luckily, the weather on Saturday was fine and sunny, so it was pleasant to bask in the sun after the chill winter we had recently experienced.

This was the Cap D’Antibes Stakes, a sprint over 1100 metres that had attracted a largish field of 19 runners.

Shesallshenanigans (a mouthful of a name) was the victor at big odds, beating Stretan Angel and Skirt The Law to the post.

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Shesallshenanigans (foreground)  wins the Cap D’Antibes Stakes.

Finally it was time for the Makybe Diva Stakes and the result was pretty much as predicted by the experts with Mr Brightside, tongue lolling out, winning the bickies from Alligator Blood with Osipenko running third and Princess Grace fourth.

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Mr Brightside wins the 2023 Makybe Diva Stakes from Alligator Blood

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Mr Brightside on his way to the barriers

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Alligator Blood on his way to the barriers

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Osipenko on his way to the barriers

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Princess Grace on her way to the barriers

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Mr Brightside celebrates with his connections in the mounting yard

Mr Brightside has won his last five races and is one of the shining lights of the Spring racing season.

Another bright light of this Spring is undoubtedly Amelia’s Jewel who contested and won the Group 2 Let’s Elope Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.

Amelia’s Jewel was bred in West Australia and has had ten starts for eight wins and two seconds.

The Let’s Elope Stakes was her first start in Melbourne and she passed the test with flying colours, doing it easily after drawing the widest gate, winning by over a length from Life Lessons and El Patroness.

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Amelia’s Jewel parading in the mounting yard

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Amelia’s Jewel on her way to the barriers

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Amelia’s Jewel overtaking Life Lessons & El Patroness

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Amelia’s Jewel returns to scale after winning the Let’s Elope Stakes

I’m pleased that I was there to see her in the flesh and hope I get to see her race again later in the Spring. There is some talk of her tackling the Cox Plate.

It was pleasant being back at the big track. The roses were not yet in bloom; no doubt timed as always to reappear in stunning arrays during the Melbourne Cup  Carnival.

Next Saturday I plan to head to Caulfield for the running of the Group 1 Underwood Stakes.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Feehan Stakes Day at Moonee Valley

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Pinstriped on his way to winning the 2023 Feehan Stakes

The weather was awful – a brisk cold wind and the occasional shower marring the afternoon, but the racing made it worth while attending Feehan Stakes Day at Moonee Valley.

Particularly impressive was the sensational win by New Zealand mare Imperatriz of the Group 2 McEwen Stakes.

As the best races were scheduled towards the latter part of the afternoon, I took my time getting to track, arriving just before Race 5, the Listed McKenzie Stakes, run over 1200 metres.

A contest for three year old colts and geldings, Steparty started as the warm favourite and didn’t disappoint, winning by a length from Scentify, with Brave Mead taking third spot.

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Steparty wins the McKenzie Stakes

With a bit of time to kill before the next race, I headed off to the stalls interested in getting photos of New Zealand mare Imperatriz and Giga Kick.

This I succeeded in doing, both horses being stabled close to each other in Stalls 135 and 137.

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Giga Kick

Race 6 was the Atlantic Jewel Stakes, also run over 1200 metres, but for three year old fillies.

Charm Stone came out the winner in this case, beating Inhibitions by over a length.

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Charm Stone wins the Atlantic Jewel Stakes

Run over the Cox Plate distance of 2040 metres, Race 7 was the Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Handicap, where a large field of stayers were kicking off their spring campaigns.

English bred Future History started as favourite, but he was upstaged by Young Werther with Born A King running third.

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Young Werther holds off a challenge from Future History to win Race 7

Up next was the Group 2 McEwen Stakes, the pick of the afternoon, a sprint over 1000 metres and seen as a match race between Imperatriz and Giga Kick, the latter being the hot favourite.

It was an exciting competition with Giga Kick being slow to begin tailing the field for most of the race, until his jockey, Craig Williams, urged him forward  as they entered the straight. Imperatriz swept past all the contenders to register a sensational  2½ lengths win from Rothfire. Giga Kick ended up finishing third.

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Imperatriz wins the McEwen Stakes

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Giga Kick and Rothfire vie for second place

The feature Feehan Stakes was certainly  upstaged by the McEwen Stakes, but worth lingering at the track for.

The highly touted, so far unbeaten, Globe was the favourite, but he faded to finish last after racing on the pace from the beginning. It was discovered that he suffered Cardiac Arrhythmia during the race and was eased out of the running.

Pinstriped won the Golden Ticket into the Cox Plate beating Attrition by one length with Tuvalu filling third place.

Throughout the afternoon a band on the public lawn had been entertaining the crowd with tasteful covers of popular songs, including Moonee Valley favourite Horses where I found it amusing to note the drunks dancing and singing along.

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A portion of the band

And so ended another afternoon at the races.

I was pleased to have attended the event and glad to have witnessed a potential new sprinting Queen of the Turf in Imperatiz.

She will do all her Spring racing in Melbourne, so I’ll get to see her again later in the season.

Next Saturday I hope to attend the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes meeting at Flemington, where the grand old lady and triple Melbourne Cup winner, Makybe Diva herself, will be a special guest.

Also on the program is star Western Australian mare Amelia’s Jewel contesting either the feature Group 1 race or the Let’s Elope Stakes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

A Rare Pleasure –The Milk Carton Kids at Thornbury Theatre

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The Milk Carton Kids  - live 9 July 2023 at Thornbury Theatre

I’d be the first to admit that I have been neglectful in blogging, though truth to tell there is not much happening in my life worth reporting, as we endure another winter.

In the past I attended many musical events, but these days, with old age diminishing my hearing I’m less inclined to go.

However I made an exception for The Milk Carton Kids having seen them twice before, firstly at Thornbury Theatre way back in June 2013, then again at the Athenaeum Theatre in July 2015.

Before attending I did purchase and listen to their latest CD I Only See The Moon, a masterful collection of ten beautiful songs, and was particularly taken with several of them, namely  One True LoveNorth Country Ride and Will You Remember Me.

The Thornbury Theatre was configured for concert mode, in rows of reserved seating and I’d booked tickets early enough to secure seats three rows from the stage in the centre section, a perfect position.

The show was opened by the support act, Canadian- American singer songwriter Vera Sola.

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Vera Sola live at Thornbury Theatre 9 July 2023

I must admit her act was quite dramatic, though not really to my personal taste.

The Milk Carton Kids on the other hand were just as engaging as previously witnessed and performed a wonderful set of thirteen songs, drawn from their 10 record repertoire.

They are a minimalist act, just the two of them – Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale – standing around a single mike and combining gorgeous harmony singing with guitar (and banjo) accompaniments.

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The Milk Carton Kids – Joey Ryan & Kenneth Pattengale

I was delighted that they performed my favourites from their new record - exquisite renditions as you’d expect.

The audience in attendance were predominantly in the older age bracket, a circumstance remarked on by Joey Ryan when he singled out a young person sitting in the front row during one of the breaks between songs. Us older folk were amused rather than affronted by this, and gave the boys a rousing reception and even a standing ovation at the end of the night, where they returned for an encore of two songs, a fabulous cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and the final track on I Only See the Moon, Will You Remember Me?

They are a class act that I hope to see live again before I die.


Milk Carton Kids Setlist

1. Younger Years

2. Monterey

3. Maybe It's Time

4. Honey, Honey

5. All Of The Time In The World To Kill

6. When You're Gone

7. I Only See the Moon

8. One True Love

9. North Country Ride

10. Heaven

11. Michigan

12. All the Things I Did and All the Things that I Didn’t Do

13. I Still Want a Little More


15. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)

16. Will You Remember Me?

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Australian Cup 2023 Review

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Cascadian wins the 2023 Australian Cup

The Australian Cup used to be run on the same day as the Newmarket Handicap, but this year it was the single feature race two weeks after.

I’m not at all sure that this strategy on the part of Racing Victoria worked, as the other races on the card were not that interesting.

Anyway, it being the final Group 1 race of the Melbourne Autumn carnival, I decided to attend the meeting.

As no City Loop trains were running last Saturday, it was a bit tricky getting to Southern Cross Station to catch the train to Flemington,  but I managed quite comfortably and arrived at the big track at around 1.40 pm.

Race 3 was just about to start as I wandered up the public lawn to the stalls area, so I lingered at the fence to watch favourite Sparkle flash by and win easily by two lengths from Black Penn.

In the stalls area, the first horses I came across were the Living Legends special guests, Harlem and Gailo  Chop  who ran the quinella in the 2018 Australian Cup. Indeed Harlem also won the race again in 2019.

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Gailo Chop

My main aim whilst I was in the stalls was to get a photo of highly regarded  New Zealand mare Campionessa. Her compatriot and stablemate Imperatriz had won the Group 1 William Reid Stakes the night before at Moonee Valley.

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Campionessa was entered in the Australian Cup, and only got a run after several horses were scratched.

Other Australian Cup runners I came across in the stalls were…

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El Patroness

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Smokin’  Romans

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Bear Story

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Figuring I probably needed some action photo practice I abandoned the stalls and wandered up to my favourite spot on the Western Lawn in plenty of time to watch Race 4, the Listed Bob Hoysted Handicap, a sprint over 1000 metres.

Kallos won the race from The Bopper with A Very Fine Red finishing third

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Kallos wins the Bob Hoysted Handicap

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The Bopper

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Kallos returns to scale

Race 5, the  Listed Roy Higgins, run over 2600 metres was of more interest as the winner scores a Golden Ticket into the Melbourne Cup.

Goldman led the race from the start to the finish to win by almost three lengths from Soulcombe with Swords Drawn running third a further length behind. Goldman is now early  favourite for the Melbourne Cup, and I  can understand why; it was an impressive win.

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Goldman wins the Roy Higgins easily

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Soulcombe (blue) & Swords Drawn run second and third

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Goldman returns to scale

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Soulcombe returns to scale

A couple of years ago speedy mare Sunlight was a big favourite of mine, so it was pleasing to see that she now has a race named in her honour. This was the Listed  Sunlight Classic, a sprint over 1000 metres and run as Race 6 last Saturday at Flemington.

A large field of fifteen runners contested the event and What You Need was the starting favourite. He won convincingly by a length from Renosu and Benedetta.

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What You Need (navy & white) overtaking  Renosu  and Benedetta to win the Sunlight Classic

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What You Need returns to scale

Up next was the feature Group 1 race of the afternoon, the Australian Cup.

Whilst waiting for it to start I checked out the band that was playing in the Elms. Over the afternoon, they had been playing soothing pop numbers, the only one I recognised was Water Melon Sugar, mostly because I have fond memories of reading the book  (by Richard Brautigan) with a similar name in the dim distant past.

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It wasn’t the classiest field assembled for the Australian Cup with no real stand out horses. Cascadian started as favourite after his impressive second placing in the All Star Mile.

Here are some photos of the contestants on their way to the barriers…

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El Patroness

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Regal Power

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Smokin’ Romans

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Cascadian won the race in sensational  fashion, storming from the back of field to overtake Numerian who led from the start. Pounding finished third.

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Australian Cup finish – another photo

I didn’t hang around after the Australian Cup was run being anxious to catch the first train back to city from Flemington at 4.39 pm.

The focus of Group 1 racing will switch to Sydney from now on with the so called Championships offering plenty of exciting racing action, which I will be content to watch at home.