Friday, October 31, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival - Derby Super Saturday

maldivian (Small)

It's super Saturday tomorrow for the running of the Victoria Derby with four Group One races on the program. Including the Derby, there is the Coolmore Stud Stakes, a 1200 metre race for three year olds, the Mackinnon Stakes over 2000 metres, the traditional last chance for Melbourne Cup hopefuls to qualify, and the Myer Classic, for fillies and mares, over 1600 metres.

Last week's Cox Plate was won by Maldivian (pictured above) who lead throughout and dictated the pace of the race, thus ruining the chances of the back markers, which included Princess Coup, to gain any headway in the straight. Zipping ran second and Samantha Miss proved her worth by coming a close third. She will be running in the Oaks next week.

Maldivian's trainer Mark Kavanagh had a very successful day, with Whobegotyou easily winning the AAMI Vase and Sea Battle winning the Crystal Mile. It certainly made up for the disappointment he suffered when Maldivian was sensationally scratched from the Caulfield Cup last year. Whobegotyou will be attempting to make it four wins in a row in the Victoria Derby tomorrow. I can't really see anything beating him, though there may be an outsider in the field who will surprise us all.

Princess Coup gets a second chance for Group One glory tomorrow in the Mackinnon Stakes. Also in the field is her old rival Sirmione (who won this race last year), Littorio who lowered Weekend Hussler's colours a few weeks ago, and Sydney horse Theseo, trained by Gai Waterhouse. There is always a question mark over Gai's horses racing in Melbourne, as more often than not they fail to handle the reverse way of going. The Mackinnon Stakes has a long and glorious history, and it has been won by many famous racehorses- Empire Rose, Let's Elope, Better Loosen Up and At Talaq to name a few, who all went on to win the Melbourne Cup the Tuesday following. They bred them tough in those days.

Along with Princess Coup the only other member of my Super Stable running tomorrow is Forensics in the Myer Classic. If it doesn't rain too much tonight (that would be a surprise!) she should have a very good chance. She's a class mare, having won several group one races in the autumn and is also the 2007 Golden Slipper winner. Competing against her are several other smart girls, including Mimi LeBrock, Absolut Glam and Bellini Rose who beat Forensics at her last start. All in all it's a pretty classy field, but I hope Forensics wins - my stable needs a boost.

The Coolmore Stud Stakes has an interesting field totalling nine runners. It will be interesting to see if Northern Meteor who has won his last two races in Sydney by 4 to 5 lengths can repeat that form in Melbourne. He will up against some smart boys such as All American who really has not lived up to his early promise, ditto with Von Costa De Hero, Wilander who has great chance and the unbeaten Fist of Fury. I have been following Captain Fantastic because I like his name, and although he was very competitive in Queensland in the autumn, he hasn't done much since. If he won, it would be a boil over as he's currently at odds of 80/1.

Last week I stumbled across a great horse racing blog called Foolish Pleasure, run by a fellow female in America. It is very well written and Valerie has a keen interest in Australian horse racing as well as following the American scene.

If you're after local tips, I recommend you check out Laurie Sainsbury's tips on the Race Net web site. I've been reading his tips for several months, though not necessarily taking his advice as I rarely bet, but he has tipped some very good long shot winners.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Vandas Unplugged at Basement Discs

Mikey Madden & Chris Altmann from The Vandas at Basement Discs
It’s been a while since there has been an in store at Basement Discs so today’s mini show was a welcome diversion from the usual run of the mill lunch hour, where I generally go for a constitutional walk down to the centre of the city.

The Vandas have just released their debut full length CD Slow Burn which has been receiving rave reviews in the music press. They are a local four piece rock band, but today they were represented by two members, Chris Altmann and Mikey Madden, playing an acoustic version of some of the songs on the new album, as well as a few from the past.

They were pretty good I thought – their music being a mix of genres from pop to rock to country. One the songs they performed was a Hank Williams type tear jerker which they played wonderfully.

Chris and Mikey took turns with the vocals and also sounded great in harmony, both having quite distinctive voices. Chris sang with a slight American accent and at other times sounded like Aussie icon Paul Kelly. Mikey had a higher register in terms of vocals and came across as Brit Pop.

I must admit, I had not seen these guys before or even heard of them until quite recently. Basement Discs is to be commended for presenting such a diverse range of artists in their wonderful lunchtime in store shows.

Scheduled for November is Charles Jenkins, local singer songwriter and all round lovely guy, Fireside Bellows with the combined talents of Jodie Lane and Tracy McNeil and Justin Townes Earle, who is of course Steve Earle’s son, so that will really be something special.

I will be on recreation leave from work for the next two weeks, oh joy unbounded, though I won’t be going anywhere. I plan to lounge around at home and read, for a start, Neal Stephenson’s new monster novel Anathem.

Also I have just purchased a new desktop computer and will be spending a fair bit of time transferring everything from my old computer onto it. The new computer is sitting in boxes at the moment, but I am really looking forward to seeing how it performs when it’s up and going. By all accounts it should be really speedy and powerful, being equipped with a Core 2 Quad processor and 4 gigabytes of RAM.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival – The Cox Plate

Last Saturday’s running of the Caulfield Cup resulted in a 40/1 winner, the totally overlooked Godolphin horse All The Good who won by a couple of lengths from the New Zealand stayer Nom de Jeu with rank outsider Barbaricus coming third. Weekend Hussler showed definitively that he can’t stay, finishing way back in 12th place. He has now been spelled for the rest of the spring, but will be back in autumn to compete in shorter races, in which he obviously excels.

Mad Rush, the other runner I was interested in, put in an excellent run, being guided by his jockey through the pack of tiring horses to flash into fourth place.

This Saturday sees the running of the second big race of the spring, the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. It has to be one the weakest Cox Plate fields I have ever seen, but it is not without interest.

One can only speculate on the outcome with such questions as:
Will Samantha Miss live up to her hype and be the first filly to win the race in 30+ years?

Can Princess Coup, fresh from two consecutive Group One victories New Zealand, finally win a Group One in Australia? In autumn she seemed to be the eternal bridesmaid, storming home late to just miss winning.

And how will she handle the Moonee Valley track, on which she will be racing for the first time?

Ditto with Samantha Miss whose previous victories have all been in Sydney against her own age group.

There are only 12 runners in the Cox Plate this year and any one of them could be the winner. The race has yielded some unexpected results in the past - witness Fields of Omagh in 2006 winning the race for a second time at the grand old age of nine.

Princess Coup’s nemesis in the autumn was Sirmione who beat her twice in the Australian Cup and the Mackinnon Stakes, and he, being trained by the great master trainer Bart Cummings, cannot be overlooked. Nor can Zipping or Alamosa be totally ignored.

Mares have a good record in the Cox Plate, so I think I will stick with the girls in particular the Kiwi Princess.

Current hyped colt Whobegotyou is also racing on Saturday in the Group 2 AAMI Vase. His trainer wisely refrained from being tempted with the Cox Plate millions and settling for an easier race, stating he didn’t want to crucify the colt by throwing him into the big end of racing too early in his career.

And the BAFAB Winner is…

…Gautami Tripathy who runs the Reading Room Blog. Actually, Gautami was the only entrant in my BAFAB giveaway (see below) so she wins hands down. Sinai Tapestry is now winging its way to its new home in India. As Gautami has already read one Whittemore book, Jericho Mosaic the fourth volume of the Jerusalem Quartet, she will surely enjoy the first book, Sinai Tapestry.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Biting the Sun – rediscovering Tanith Lee

Rummaging through my fantasy book collection for book covers to display on my Eye Candy for Bibliophiles Blog, I have come to realise that I haven’t looked at, let alone opened many books in this category for several decades. What a wealth of books to be rediscovered are hidden there!

One of the authors whom I was very taken with back in the 1970s, was
Tanith Lee. I have practically a whole shelf full of her books, original first edition paperbacks published by DAW Books, including her debut novel The Birthgrave – a rich swords and sorcery fantasy featuring a heroine with super powers. I recently reread it and I must admit I quite enjoyed it. I even read one of its sequels Quest for the White Witch which I liked as well.

However, her most interesting books of that time were Don’t Bite The Sun (1976) and Drinking Sapphire Wine (1977), which are set in a utopian society of the far future. I’ve just reread Don’t Bite The Sun and whilst reading it realised, that although the society is based on a sixties hippy culture of sex and drugs and rock n roll, it has a prescience in relation to today’s popular culture and youth lifestyle. You see, in Lee’s Utopia, a high tech domed world called Four BEE, the populace are encouraged to live their teenage years (which last for centuries) in total abandonment of responsibility, to take drugs (one is called Ecstasy), indulge in free sexual relationships, change bodies and gender at will. They are called Jang and being Jang, as the narrator tells us, is to be conspicuous, wear outrageous clothing and generally act like young racegoers do during the Melbourne racing carnival, - over the top high spirits and generally pretty disgusting.

The nameless heroine and narrator of Don’t Bite The Sun, though Jang to a tee, is dissatisfied with Utopia – a rebel angel in paradise. The novels trace her disillusionment with, and eventual exile from, the Four BEE Eden.

The books are written in a wonderful vernacular style, the heroine grabbing the reader’s sympathy from the word go. I really liked her relationship with her stolen pet and the pet itself, another non conformist – fierce and wild and representative of the natural world outside the dome.

Written, so speak from an insider’s point of view, the heroine has a jaundiced view of her society. As she emerges from Limbo in yet another new body she describes it, “As usual it was depressingly lithe and glamorous…willow waisted, with an exotic bust and long, long scarlet hair” or when referring to her physical environment “Outside it was one of those depressing blue-crystal-golden-drops-of-sunlight afternoons. The weather is always perfect at Four BEE...”

By no means great literature, these books are nonetheless great fun to read and beautifully written– the irrepressible voice of the heroine is thoroughly addictive. Don’t Bite The Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine are currently available in an omnibus edition entitled Biting The Sun.

There’s a rather good recent review of the omnibus volume by Jo Walton on the
Tor Books Blog

Cover artists for the above pictures for those who are interested are Brian Froud (Don't Bite The Sun) and Don Maitz (Sapphire Wine)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival – Caulfield Cup

It’s now officially the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival even if it has been ongoing for the past few months. On Saturday the first of the big rich Group One races, the Caulfield Cup is to be run.

It’s an intriguing race this year, with any number of interesting runners, including Weekend Hussler who will be out to redeem his failure in the Turnbull a couple of weeks ago. He’s currently at fairly good odds, his last race performance creating doubts as to his ability to win over a mile and a half (2400 metres). I certainly hope he can win and put the mockers on the knockers. He is top weight, so he has his work cut out for him.

The contenders also include Maldivian who caused a sensation last year by rearing in his barrier stall and cutting his head on some television equipment that was fixed to his gate, which resulted in him being summarily scratched from the race. The race was won by Master O’Reilly who is also part of the action this year; though in my opinion he won by default last year. I’m interested to see how the British horse Mad Rush goes and also Guillotine who has drawn a wide gate, but is a lightweight chance.

Several New Zealand stayers are in the mix – Nom De Jeu, Red Ruler and Boundless. It is not wise to doubt their ability these days.

As someone on the Racing & Sports forum said, the Caulfield Cup is a dart board -it’s anyone’s guess which horse will win.

Last week’s Yalumba Stakes yielded a surprise result. Douro Valley, who hardly ever wins anything, snatched the victory from Pompeii Ruler with Guillotine coming third. Douro Valley is also running in the Caulfield Cup – he came second last year, so has a long chance.

The Caulfield Guineas was won by a horse with the peculiar name Whobegotyou, a super star in the making, so the pundits aver. My favoured runner, Time Thief came second. Whobegotyou won very convincingly by several lengths and Time Thief just couldn’t catch him.

The fillies Thousand Guineas, run on Wednesday was won by Gallica with Cat’s Whisker coming second.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Spring Racing Carnival – The Caulfield Guineas

What an old fashioned term "guineas" is! If I recall, a guinea was twenty-one shillings back in the old days of imperial currency. The actual race is worth considerably more than that - $1 million dollars in prize money no less.

The race is for three year old colts and geldings and is run over 1600 metres (a mile in old parlance).

Time Thief is my stable representative in the race. It will be his toughest test to date. However, he is very smart, judging by his previous runs, so has a good chance.

There are two other group one races on the card tomorrow, one being the Yalumba Stakes a weight for age handicap race over 2000 metres. A small field of class competitors will be vying for the money and include Pompeii Ruler, who after returning from a long injury recovery has shown spirit in this spring’s races and will probably start favourite. Guillotine, who I witnessed winning the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes is also a major contender along with the New Zealand Derby winner C’est La Guerre and Sirmione the winner of the Australian Cup earlier this year.

The other Group One, the Toorak Handicap has a large field of middle distance runners. It is hard to pick a winner, so I won’t even try a prediction.

I’ve made a few changes to my super stable this week, retiring Tuesday Joy and Sugarbabe and buying a couple of stayers, these being Efficient, last year’s winner of the Melbourne Cup, and Mad Rush a British horse trained by Luca Cumani, here especially for the cups. Cumani’s entry into the cups last year was Purple Moon who did very well coming second to Efficient in the Melbourne Cup. Mad Rush is apparently a similar type of horse to Purple Moon and he will have one of Melbourne’s top jockeys, Damien Oliver as his rider in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

I have two substitutions left and may use them to acquire a few more stayers closer to the Melbourne Cup.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Cat Politics Update

I took the above photo of Willy last Sunday so it’s a timely excuse to write about the state of cat politics in the household. Willy is sporting his new collar and tag as he recently lost the old one somewhere or other. The other two cats are not tagged as they generally stay close to home and don’t wander about like Willy who is tagged due to his tendency to climb into open cars. As you can see his ears are still unmarked as he’s not brawler and runs away from fights.

Nothing much has changed as regards the Timmy vs Willy antagonism. Willy makes sure that he and Timmy do not cross paths. Timmy is still aggressive towards Willy and either lurks in doorways waiting to pounce on him or chases him if he can get away with it. When we are around he knows he can’t – we’ve reinforced the message with loud vocal remonstrance which actually works, or by shooing him aggressively away. He’ll never learn I suppose. He and Lizzie generally coexist fairly peacefully with an occasional boxing match when Timmy gets above himself and tries to bully Lizzie. You mess with old lady cats at your peril as Timmy has found out - the hard way.

During winter it became obvious that Timmy was suffering from arthritis – his movements were restricted and he was hopping around on three legs. He’s now on a drug called Metacam, which has had a remarkable effect. It worked first up. One day Timmy was hobbling round like an old man, the next he was swinging from trees. Perhaps we should have left him half crippled to reduce the aggression between the two male cats, but in all conscience you can’t really let an animal suffer, even if that animal is a recalcitrant curmudgeon of a be

Monday, October 06, 2008

Ginja Roe CD Launch

Paul William Ray Band - l to r - Michael Hall, Darren Steel, Paul William Ray

Yesterday afternoon Ginja Roe had a launch of their new CD Polished at the East Brunswick Club. Being a fan of their music I naturally attended with a couple of friends who had never heard their music before except when I myself first heard their first CD being played between acts at the Fred Eaglesmith show in March 2006.

I got there early to get a good position for photos and managed to grab a table with seating near the front.

The warm up band,
Paul William Ray band were a pleasant surprise. They performed an entertaining set of country rock music very much, to my mind, influenced by Ryan Adams, whom the lead singer, Paul William Ray, readily admits as being his favourite artist. The band did a creditable version of a Whiskeytown song Bar Lights, and also performed Hank Williams Love Sick Blues, which has Ryan Adams connotations as well, being Ryan’s offering on a Hank Williams tribute back in 2001.

For the occasion of their CD launch, Ginja Roe had a greatly expanded band which comprised besides themselves, Bob Spencer on electric guitar, a bass player, a keyboard player, ace violinist John Kendall and Bindy Cohen on drums.

Ginja Roe - l to r - Meg Doherty, John Kendall, Bindy Cohen, Pam Wouters

Altogether the band sound was big and loud, too loud for my friends whose ears are not as accustomed as mine to loud rock music. They didn’t last the distance. Sorry guys, I didn’t realise when I invited you to attend that it would be as loud as it was.

A good crowd was in attendance to watch the girls present the Polished CD in its entirety.

I stayed for the whole show and thoroughly enjoyed it. Both Meg and Pam were in fine form, playing and singing with enthusiastic verve.

I’ve written extensively about Ginja Roe before, so will only say they are really worth going to see live. They certainly put on a good show.

On the subject of music, I’m very much looking forward to Ryan Adams and the Cardinals new CD, Cardinology, which is to be released in late October. Also coming soon is Lucinda Williams latest offering, Little Honey, and a new CD from Ray LaMontagne. So, lots of good music coming my way this month.

The Hussler Comes Undone

I would dearly have liked to write “the Hussler wins again!”, but alas the Turnbull Stakes on Saturday was not to be one of Weekend Hussler’s winning days. In fact he failed to even get a place, being found flat footed when it really counted and failing to show his usual fighting spirit in the finish. I can’t really believe that the distance was the problem as he raced over 1800 metres and won convincingly a couple of weeks ago, so the extra 200 metres shouldn’t have made that much difference. He did have a hard race, forced to race three wide for most of the race, but he was expected to fire in the finish, being the champion he is. His Spring racing campaign is now up in the air, and the knockers are out in force in typical Australian fashion – delighted to see tall poppies lopped. I myself feel disappointed that he couldn’t manage the clean sweep, but I haven’t given up hope that he will still prove the knockers wrong. The Turnbull was won by Littorio who tracked Weekend Hussler throughout and stormed past him when he went flat footed.

Saturday saw some interesting results. The only predictable result was in the Flight Stakes where Samantha Miss smashed her rivals with a dazzling win. She is now being compared to the mighty Sunline and there is talk of running her in the Cox Plate. Speaking of New Zealand mares, Princess Coup won her second Kelt Capital Stakes in NZ on the weekend. She performed really well last Spring in Australia and will be apparently coming back here soon to try her luck in the rich spring races in Melbourne.

I’m glad I added Samantha Miss to my super stable but the rest of my stable is in disarray, with Tuesday Joy now out for the Spring after bleeding during the Turnbull Stakes, and Sugarbabe out too due to injury. Dorabella failed to perform on Saturday, so that’s her last chance, but I’ll keep Forensics in hand for the moment as she finished very well in fourth spot after being blocked for a run in the straight. Wither now the Hussler? It might be time to start building my stable more towards the long distance races coming up.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

BAFAB – October 2008

As I have been the grateful recipient of previous BAFAB (Buy A Friend A Book) giveaways on Clare Dudman’s blog Keeper of the Snails, I now donate a book yearly in the cause of good will and fellowship with all men (and women).

Click here to read about the idea behind it.

SInainew This year I have a copy of Sinai Tapestry (Old Earth Books, 2002 edition) by Edward Whittemore to give away. An American author, Edward Whittemore is best known for writing the Jerusalem Quartet. Other than that claim to fame he is virtually unknown, but he is, I can assure you, a highly original writer with an exquisite prose style.
Sinai Tapestry is the first book in the Quartet and is a somewhat bizarre magic realist secret history of the Middle East.

Read more about it here. A friend found the copy of this book in a second hand bookshop and has given it to me for a giveaway on BAFAB. Though second hand, it is in excellent condition.


  1. Name the other three novels in the Jerusalem Quartet
  2. In what year was Sinai Tapestry originally published?
  3. Who published it?
  4. On what day and in which year did Edward Whittemore die?
  5. How old was he when he died?

Please submit your answers to the following email address: pollycatsterATgmailDOTcom or you can answer in the comments below.

All entries will be put in a draw and the first correct entry drawn will win the book. The runner up will receive a hard copy of the limited edition 2009 Edward Whittemore calendar.


Entries close at midnight, Sunday 19th October.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Chasing the Sun at Basement Discs at Lunchtime

Chase the Sun - Basement Discs - 3rd October 2008

Although it is warm today in Melbourne, it is overcast as well, threatening rain. However, I caught a bit of musical sunshine at the Basement Discs at lunchtime watching Sydney Blues outfit, Chase The Sun performing live.

They were excellent - generating a big bold sound that set the ears buzzing. I’d never heard of the band until recently when they were scheduled for this afternoon’s in store performance.

A threesome, they are Jan Rynsaardt on guitar and vocals, Ryan Van Gennip on bass and Jon Howell, on drums and percussion.

Their music is blues and roots orientated but they have, as previously mentioned, a big, electric sound and their blues comes via Jimi Hendrix and ACDC. Jan Rynsaardt is a spectacular guitarist and has a great voice for blues.

They played a short set of songs from their debut self titled CD to the small appreciative audience who were so impressed with their performance they requested an encore. Highly enjoyable it was too.

Check out their My Space page for song samples and videos

Spring Racing Carnival – the Turnbull Stakes

Last weekend there was not much action in the racing scene, the Saturday afternoon being dominated by the AFL Grand Final. I watched a bit of it at a friend’s house, but truth to tell I was not much interested in the result, despite the two contending teams being Victorian clubs.

This Saturday promises to be a bottler as far as racing is concerned.

In Melbourne Weekend Hussler will be taking on a crack field in the Group One Turnbull Stakes over 2000 metres, his first attempt at the distance. He has drawn the outside barrier, but I shouldn’t imagine that will really disadvantage him all that much. The usual suspects will be competing against him – Maldivian, Pompeii Ruler, Zarita, Efficient, Guillotine and Tuesday Joy, who proved that she can handle the Melbourne way of going as I witnessed at Moonee Valley in September.

It is a must see race and fortunately will be on free to air TV. Thank goodness! I have been watching the Hussler’s races so far this Spring on my computer and it certainly eats into my monthly download allowance.

Sydney will feature four Group One races – The Flight Stakes (1600 metres) for 3 year old fillies where it will be interesting to see if Samantha Miss can continue her winning ways, the Spring Champion Stakes for 3 year olds over 2000 metres, the 2400 metre Metropolitan for stayers, and the Epsom Handicap (1600 metres) featuring a talented field of middle distance runners including Mentality, Musket, Gallant Tess and Raheeb.

As there has been no further word on Light Fantastic since his poor run in the Underwood Stakes, I’ve decided to retire him from my super stable and have substituted Tuesday Joy. I’ve also retired Triple Honour who failed to place in his race last Saturday and subbed Samantha Miss in his stead. I still have four substitutions in hand which I will save for later in the carnival.