Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Hussler Wins Again!

Weekend Hussler passed the distance test with flying colours on Saturday, winning the Underwood Stakes with panache after travelling three wide into a strong wind for most of the race. He has certainly added something special to the spring racing carnival – like watching racing history happening before one’s eyes. It reminds me of the years when Sunline was racing and how thrilling it was seeing her win over and over again, year after year.

Light Fantastic was another story. He failed woefully and seems a completely different horse from the one who won four races straight in the autumn. His connections have now decided that he obviously is not a stayer as they can find nothing wrong with the horse to account for his poor performance in his last two races.

My other super stable runners fared better than Light Fantastic. Sugar Babe achieved an unlucky third in the fillies’ Guineas prelude, and Time Thief was narrowly beaten into second place in the colt’s Guineas prelude, after expending enormous effort early in the race to take up a position close to the leaders.

As expected, Dorabella failed to win a place, starting as she did from the extreme outside gate. She did well to come seventh. She will be limited from now on to mares’ races, where she might have a chance of winning at group level. I may however substitute her for Tuesday Joy, who is a much classier mare and will be contesting the major spring races. I can easily afford the substitute, with my current stable virtual earnings being over a million dollars. The competition allows for seven subs, so I will have five left to purchase potential Melbourne Cup winners later in the season, when I will have to decide which horses to keep in my current stable, and which to retire.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival – Underwood Stakes

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Maldivian photographed at Moonee Valley
backing up in the Underwood Stakes tomorrow

Tomorrow’s races at Caulfield promises to be a bobby dazzler of a meeting with two Group One races on the program, these being the Underwood Stakes and the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.

Five of my Super Stable horses will be competing in various events. Weekend Hussler and Light Fantastic meet again in what promises to be an exciting competition. The last time they met, Light Fantastic failed to fire and ended up running fourth. The Hussler of course won in spectacular fashion. The Underwood is an 1800 metre race. Weekend Hussler will be racing over longer than 1600 metres for the first time, so it will be fascinating to see how he copes with the extra distance. Likewise with Light Fantastic...

Dorabella will be running in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400 metres). She has drawn the outside barrier in a big field, so will have her work cut out for her if she is even to run a place.

This week I substituted Augusta Proud for Time Thief a very promising three year old colt. Augusta Proud ran a shocker in her last race, so I reluctantly retired her from my stable. I’ve since heard that she will not be racing again this season due to the discovery of stress fractures in her spine.

Time Thief is running in the Guineas Prelude for colts and geldings on Saturday and Sugar Babe will be contesting the fillies Prelude. Both have good chances of winning.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Canon Photo 5 Competition

Canon Australia is having a photography competition. It sounds fun and quite challenging so I have registered to play. The idea is to photograph five objects - sent in a box to all the participants. It is only open to Australian citizens.

canon_box (Small)

My box arrived yesterday and it contained:

  1. a red ribbon
  2. a tea candle
  3. a lime green crayon
  4. a bubble maker
  5. a cocktail umbrella

box_contents (Small)

It is obvious from the start that photographing some of the objects will require the cooperation of a second person, to blow bubbles for instance.

The prizes sound quite good, for instance you can win $5000 worth of Canon products.

The rules stipulate that you have to photograph each object separately, aiming for a creative effect. You can however edit them later in a graphics program which expands the possibilities as I have a lot of special effects filters which no doubt will come in handy.

I shall enjoy thinking up scenarios for the objects. I’ve already had a few ideas on the tea candle and the bubbles, but whether they will work out as I envisage, is yet to be seen.

Anyway when I have something to show and tell I’ll put them up here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Day at the Races – 2008 edition

It was a bright and sunny day last Saturday, perfect for a day at the races.

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Clerk of the Course guiding horse onto track

We, that is myself and two of my friends, arrived at Moonee Valley racecourse at about 1.30 pm just in time to witness the fourth race on the cards - a sprint handicap which was won by an outsider called Chairman of the Board. I didn’t have a bet in this race, being uninspired with the field. It was however a pointer for the rest of day as favourites failed to perform and outsiders won most of the races on the day.

The fifth race was the Champagne Stakes for fillies and I put my money on Cats Whisker and Burgeis, neither of whom managed to get a place. My friend B picked the winner Dan Baroness, selecting her on the basis that the horse’s name reminded her of her son Daniel. As good a way as any for picking winners, I’m all for omen bets. Dan Baroness paid very handsomely.

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Dan Baroness

The Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes was won by another outsider, Guillotine. The half brother to Melbourne Cup winner Efficient, he was given no chance by any of the pundits; the money was all for Maldivian. Even though I do have Guillotine in my personal black book as a horse to follow, I didn’t even consider him as a prospect. A handsome grey horse he flashed past us to win by a length over two other outsiders. The trifecta paid a fortune.

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I had a bit more luck in the feature race the Manikato Stakes. I had my money on Absolut Glam who was narrowly beaten by Typhoon Zed. Still she paid pretty well on the place dividend.

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Typhoon Zed

My only winner for the day was Tuesday Joy, the super Sydney mare, having her first start at Moonee Valley. She was the class horse in the race and proved it by pipping the favourite, Devil Moon, at the post.

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Tuesday Joy

The crowd on the Public Lawn seemed to be predominantly young men wearing team tee-shirts.

One lot was a country football team from Euroa with their Melbourne hosts, very much in party mode.

In the end I only took photos of horses, along with all the other amateur photographers. There was a young woman with a serious camera standing next to me. She knew the horses and was obviously a keen follower of horse racing unlike her male companion to whom she was exasperatingly explaining points of form.

Only one of my Super Stable horses was racing on Saturday, this being Forensics in Sydney, beginning her spring campaign. She came second in her race, so my stable virtual funds have been augmented by $40,000.

All in all it was an interesting day at the races, though not particularly successful financially for me though my friend B cleaned up. I think I came out even, my winnings offsetting the losses. And we all benefited from spending a day in the sun - a vitamin D boost after the grey days of winter. It even remained warm all afternoon – the first day this spring where a jacket was unnecessary.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival – first Group One of the season coming up

I’m really looking forward to Saturday and the races. It is Manikato Stakes Day at Moonee Valley Racecourse, a day at the races I have been attending for the past six or so years. I’ve seen some great races there on the day and many of the great Australian racehorses of recent history like Sunline, Northerly, Makybe Diva, Apache Cat, El Segundo, Haradasun to name a few.

The weather promises to be warm and sunny and the racing card is full of interesting runners. Unfortunately Weekend Hussler will not be there but other stars like Tuesday Joy, Pompeii Ruler and Maldivian will be competing,

Last weeks racing produced a few disappointing performances on the part of Augusta Proud and Light Fantastic, though Weekend Hussler’s win in the Makybe Diva Stakes was stunning. It will be one of the highlights of this spring’s racing to see how far the Hussler can go. He’s been entered in all the major races – Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup. Only super stars the likes of Phar Lap, Kingston Town and Might and Power win all, or most, of those competitions in one year. It would be great if Weekend Hussler can emulate those old champions this season - he certainly has the potential to do so.

Anyway, I'll report back on my day at the races next week. Hopefully there will be plenty of photo opportunities.

Liz Stringer provides sweet respite from the daily grind, at Basement Discs

Liz Stringer - Basement Discs - 12 September 2008

Melbourne today is warm and sunny but also packing gale force winds which makes the day uncomfortable. Despite this I did venture down to the Basement Discs for today’s in store performance by
Liz Stringer.

I recently received in the mail a promotional brochure for a show called Broad – a collective effort by five local female singer songwriters. It included a mini CD with a sample song from each of the artists. I fell in love with Liz Stringer’s song Drawn To You on firstlisten. It is a gorgeous song, a beautifully written, melancholy lament of a failed love affair, which somehow or other has a Leonard Cohen sensibility.

Liz Stringer arrived out of nowhere a couple of years ago with the release of her debut album Soon in 2006. She did an in store at Basement Discs then which I attended. I came away from that performance favourably impressed.

Today’s performance showcased songs from her recently released second CD Pendulum, which includes the song Drawn to You. Liz sang it today, much to my satisfaction, despite the fact that she deleted the expletive. In my own personal opinion, I think the expletive (the "F" word) fits the song perfectly in the context. She was suffering from the flue bug that is running rampant through Melbourne at the moment, but she soldiered on admirably.

She is an accomplished and gifted artist, having a mastery over several instruments, though today she limited herself to guitar. Not only that, Liz has a very pleasant singing voice. It has an attractive melancholy quality which tugs at the heart strings. She also writes great songs with strong lyrics and attractive tunes.

Check out her
My Space page to listen to some of her songs. Alas Drawn To You is not on it, but Alone – another fantastic song - is.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sarah Carroll & Van Walker share the spotlight at Basement Discs

Sarah Carroll, Marcel Borrack & Van Walker - 4/9/08

Finally, after the seemingly endless long cold winter, Melbourne today put on a little sunshine, gladdening the hearts and minds of the populace. They were certainly out in force on the city streets as I made my way down to the Basement Discs for the first in store of the spring.

I have seen
Sarah Carroll perform many times, the last time at Basement Discs in July 2006, but Van Walker was new to me.

They were both promoting their brand new CDs Wahine and Celestial Railway respectively. Both CDs released by
Croxton Records which is a boutique record company founded by well known and well loved Australian performer Mick Thomas.

Appearing with them was local singer songwriter Marcel Borrack on electric guitar and Van’s brother Cal Walker on mandolin and harmonica.

Sarah and Van took turns playing songs from their new records, but the entire ensemble kicked in with instrumental and vocal support for whoever was leading.

It was a jolly session of music – Sarah has a lively stage presence- and the eight or so songs performed by one or the other artist was engaging and thoroughly enjoyable.

In other music news,
Steve Earle, one of my all time favourite singer songwriters, is touring in November with his wife, the lovely Allison Moorer, also a very fine singer songwriter.

I’ve been to see Steve Earle four times in the past. Those concerts were standing only shows at the Prince of Wales Hotel in St Kilda. This time however, the shows are at seated venues, thank goodness (I’m getting a bit too old to stand these days). I managed to score good seats in Row D at the
Forum Theatre, a lovely old venue in the city. It’s an old picture theatre - I remember seeing the film 2001 A Space Odyssey there back in the early 1980s. Very ornate, both inside and out, it has statues of gods and goddesses and a glorious star spangled ceiling of azure blue. It has been a venue for concerts for the past ten years or so.

Steve’s son
Justin Townes Earle is also touring in November. I’m still making up my mind about that one as his Melbourne concert is at the Toff In Town, general admission and probably standing only.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival – the excitement starts to kick in

This coming Saturday features a sizzling program of races, most notably the return clash between Weekend Hussler and Light Fantastic in the Makybe Diva (formerly the Craiglee) Stakes, run over 1600 metres.

I am also interested to see how Augusta Proud goes in the Danehill Stakes against an open field of three year olds. She’s got her work cut out for her in this race having drawn an outside barrier, but as it is being run at Flemington, that may not be so much of a disadvantage. Flemington has a long wide straight.

In Sydney, Triple Honour is back in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes. It’s a small field (5 horses) but there are some smart ones among them like Derby winner Fiumicino and the in form Kishkat.

In a way it’s a pity the Hussler is running this week as it means I will not get to see him in the flesh at Moonee Valley the week after when I anticipate making my annual pilgrimage to the track. Still I dare say there will still be heaps of excitement on the day and ample opportunities to take photos.

My super stable virtual bank now stands at $490,700, but I am still waiting for further developments before I contemplate substitutions.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Apropos Kate Atkinson & Music

Further to my post below, there is a terrific interview with Kate Atkinson on ABC Classic FM where she talks about writing, interspersed with music she has selected for the program. She certainly has good taste in music.

The direct pod cast can be downloaded or listened to here.