Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the Decade, Brand New Year

Melbourne saw out the 2000s with a scorcher, temperature wise. It was in the high 30s for most of day, but as anticipated, a storm broke over the city at 9.00 pm last night, Mother Nature putting on a show that rivalled the fireworks, and dropping a deluge of welcome rain to mark the year’s end.

I didn’t celebrate the turning of the decade in any real way, having a quiet night at home, playing one of my Tex Murphy games. That is, until I thought the thunderstorm was getting too severe to keep my computer safe from power surges, as dramatic lighting displays and rumbles of thunder disturbed the atmosphere.

So to welcome in the New Year an update on cat politics with a few recent cat photos.

The first photo is of Willy, caught lounging in the living room. He has been very erratic about eating this past week, though today with the cool change he was back to normal. He’s not a cat that hangs out for food, unlike Lizzie, and tends to turn up when he feels like it. He also has the peculiar habit of trying to bury his food plate, going through the motions when he has finished.
Update:changed Willy’s pic for a better one I shot today

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Here is Lizzie posing on the dining table. She always occupies a corner, the better to call attention to herself. Me me me, she says. It’s her 14th birthday on Tuesday, so she’s getting on in cat years and slowing down. She doesn’t bother going after birds any more, and the birds realise this, just shuffling out of her way when she ventures outside. Even the blackbirds, so vigilant to threat when Pickle (a neighbour’s cat) is in our back yard, fail to raise a peep when Lizzie passes by.


To welcome in the New Year I tested my luck once again with a small bet on the Perth Cup which was run today. It’s still looking rosy, as I had small each way bets and a quinella on Lords Ransom, who won, and Ma Chienne who ran second, resulting in a $49.00 payout. Whoopee!

I hope the hunches and luck continue as the year progresses, especially as the start of the autumn racing carnival is only a few weeks away.

I wish all readers of this blog a very happy 2010. May you all have more wins than losses and may benign fortune smile on all your endeavours.

PS. I know this post says 31 December 2009, but it really is meant to be 1 January 2010 - Blogger won't let me change the post date.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Handsome Is as Handsome Does

After getting back home from a pleasant Christmas Day at my brother’s place, I spent most of this afternoon, watching or listening to the races. I know it’s out of season but I felt like having a flutter and a few horses I have been vaguely following were running today.

First up was The Opera House, a rare pure white filly by Zabeel who is a three quarter sister to former champion Might & Power (her dam, Carmina Burana, is the daughter of Might & Power’s dam, Benediction).

The Opera House with glamorous strapper

There has been a great deal of interest in The Opera House and a larger than usual crowd was at the Newcastle race meeting to watch her debut race. She didn’t win, but did pretty well coming fifth in 1400 metre race. Her breeding suggests that she will be better over longer distances.

In race three at Caulfield, running my eye down the field for the Hanrahan Handicap I was attracted by the name of The Handsome One. He has only raced once at a provincial meeting at Traralgon which he won, and was having his first run in the city today. I had a small bet on him and he rewarded my hunch by winning at 10/1, so the payout was handsome as well. He looks to be well named, a beautiful big chestnut colt with white blaze and socks. Sounds like Apache Cat, you say, but even though he is trained by Greg Eurell, he actually bears no resemblance to the Cat and his pedigree is completely different. He is by Shamardal out of Dehere And Now. Anyway, he looks very promising, so I’ll be following him from now on.

The final race at Doomben saw potential star filly Graceful Anna beat the boys in the Group 3 Vo Rogue Plate. I had a modest bet each way on her and the runner up, Shoot Out so ended the day, betting wise, $60.00 up.

That’s encouraging, as I haven’t backed a winner for ages and was thinking my luck had totally deserted me. Pray it continues into the New Year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sunline’s Children Do Her Proud


In New Zealand today in Race 6 at Te Rapa, Sunstrike & Sun Ruler, the two oldest progeny of the late, great New Zealand mare Sunline, ran an exciting quinella. Sun Ruler prevailed over his big sister Sunstrike, winning by a nose.

Out of sentiment for Sunline, I follow her children’s careers so I listened to the race today, and brother and sister both ran a great race fighting out the finish. An unusual situation to see siblings race against each other, let alone the offspring of such a hallowed champion.

Though neither Sunstrike or Sun Ruler have shown anywhere near the freakish ability of their famous dam, they obviously have some talent. Sunstrike , now 5 is by Rock of Gibralter and Sun Ruler, 4 years old, is by Zabeel . They have two unraced filly siblings Sunsett (Hussonet) and Sunalta (Rock of Gibralter) who in time may keep the Sunline flag flying either on the racetrack or in the breeding barn.

I’m curious to see how Sun Ruler acquits himself from now on, as the Zabeel factor in his breeding indicates that he will be better over longer races than the 1200 metres today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apache Cat Retires!

Australia’s favourite horse Apache Cat has run his last race and is to retire from racing and will most probably spend his golden years at Living Legends with other old greats of the Australian turf.

He raced last Sunday in the Hong Kong Sprint, but pulled up sore after the race. After a veterinary examination it was discovered that Apache Cat had sustained a sesamoid fracture, which thankfully is not life threatening, and will heal in time. Considering his age (rising 8 years old) his connections decided on retirement.

He goes out with 19 wins (8 at Group One level) and 11 placings from 43 starts and more than $4 million in prize money.

If you read my racing posts you will know that Apache Cat has been a great favourite of mine. I have followed him since his first race back in 2004/2005. Initially attracted by his name, I was delighted when he proceeded to win races against the stiffest competition.

His most successful year was 2008 where he won 5 Group One races in succession, equalling the record of Tulloch and winning Champion Sprinter of the year for 2007/2008.

He beat the best – Haradasun, Gold Edition, Takeover Target, to name a few top class gallopers he thrashed.

I first saw him in the flesh on Manikato Stakes Day 2006 and was able to take the picture of him above. He was stunning to look at with his glowing chestnut coat with the big white blaze on his face and matching white stockings. He didn’t win that day, being pipped at the post by Lad of the Manor after leading most of the trip.
His last win was on Cox Plate Day this year, and he received a bigger crowd ovation than the Cox Plate winner was accorded. He was truly the peoples champ over the years he raced and immensely popular with die hard racing fans and casual punters alike.

It is unfortunate that his illustrious career ended with an injury, but I will retain fond memories of the years he did grace the Australian turf. No flash in the pan racehorse, Apache Cat was around year after year and always competed in top company.

So enjoy your retirement at Living Legends, Apache Cat. You have nothing left to prove and deserve to rest on your laurels, though I’ll miss seeing your baldy face at Moonee Valley, where I was hoping to see you contest the Australia Stakes again in February.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Recent Reading

As usual I always have a book on the go and recently finished reading the new Barbara Kingsolver novel The Lacuna. It was certainly up to expectations – I’ve always loved every one of her books. It is set in Mexico in the 1930s and America in the 1950s. The main character is Harrison Shepherd, born of a Mexican mother and American father. His mother Salomé leaves his father, and flees to Mexico with the child, in pursuit of a comfortable living with a rich hacienda owner which fails to eventuate. Mexico, its history and the people he meets there, have a profound affect on Shepherd’s life.

Shepherd becomes addicted to writing as a child and records his observations in a series of notebooks. His style is curiously distant – he remains the observer not the subject in all his personal records.

It is through Harrison’s notebook observations that the story is transmitted. His path crosses that of the revolutionary muralist, Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo. The portrayal of Frida is wonderfully executed; she is brought vividly to life from the first encounter, when Shepherd sees her in a market buying birds. He describes her as a tiny Aztec queen.

Through the Rivera’s, Shepherd eventually meets Trotsky and becomes his cook and typist and witnesses his assassination.

A common theme through the novel relates to the power of words to influence other people for good or evil and how the truth is so easily twisted when used for political ends.

By the McCarthy era, Shepherd is living in America, and is the author of two very successful adventure novels set in ancient Mexico. McCarthy’s anti communist movement catches up to him with tragic consequences.

The Lacuna is a wonderful book, beautifully written – a many layered novel with a powerful message for these weasel word times.

Also recently read and very different to The Lacuna was
Jeff VanderMeer’s noir fantasy, Finch.

A remarkable novel, it’s a noirish detective story ala Raymond Chandler, set in the surreal city of Ambergris, the locale for several of Jeff’s earlier novels. A city of nightmare, in this circumstance ruled by alien mushroom people called Gray Caps who have no love for humanity. Finch is pretty well unremittingly dark and bleak in tone and written in short, sharp sentences, a prose style that emphasises the hard boiled detective style.

John Finch, a reluctant detective is called in by his gray cap boss to investigate the double murder of a human and a gray cap, the human intact with no sign of violence, the gray cap missing its legs. Finch’s investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into the heart of Ambergris and beyond.

If you’re after a detective novel with a difference and appreciate strange fiction, you can’t go past this masterwork of surrealism. Even the cover art is tempting; the stunning design is by
John Coulthart.

More reviews of Finch can be found here:
Washington Post review by Victor LaValle
Barnes & Noble Review by Elizabeth Hand
LA Times Review by Michael Harris

Monday, November 30, 2009

To Catch A Thief

Our neighbourhood, particularly the street where I live, has been under siege for several weeks. People are afraid to go out and leave their homes for fear that they will be robbed, due to a serial housebreaker who has broken into up to a dozen houses. He has stolen articles like cash, laptops and digital cameras, and other small portable items. Some of the houses have been damaged by the break-in method, for instance our next door neighbour’s back door was removed from its frame and the frame damaged beyond repair when the thief jemmied the door off.

The neighbourhood was galvanised into watchfulness – any strangers wandering the streets were observed suspiciously, and one in particular stood out as he regularly walked up and down the street. From police investigations, the thief was mooted to have small hands, and one neighbour actually found him in his house, though we only found that out the other day. A short guy was his description.

Yesterday at about 1.30pm B observed the suspect as he walked down the street. The suspect actually knocked on a door at a house across the way, and asked the resident if he had any work. A false ploy, obviously - he was casing the joint.

B has had a digital camera parked near the front door, so that if he saw the suspect, he could try and get a photo of him. This he managed to do yesterday, just before the thief broke into another house across the road. After snapping several photos, B rang the police. They arrived pretty fast. Meanwhile I cropped the clearest photo and printed it for B to give to the police as they went in pursuit of the suspect.

The outcome is that the thief was caught, carrying a stolen leaf blower, the police recognizing him from the photo as they drove around the area. They were pleased as punch to finally nab the guy.

B is now the local hero, and the neighbourhood can finally rest easy. That is, unless the guy is released on bail. Not that I wish to further malign the culprit, we suspect he’d immediately reoffend.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Last In –Store for the year – The Funky Rhythms of Jack Howard & the Nightbirds

jack_howard_271109 (Medium)

Basement Discs hosted Jack Howard and the Nightbirds for their last in-store for 2009, and it was a terrific way to end the year.

Jack Howard and band showcased songs from their latest CD Lost Horizon as well performing several from previous albums. Included in the mix were If I Were A bird, Crescent Moon, Nightbird and My Lucky Day

I was most taken with the song Frankenstein. It had great lyrics written from the point of view of the misunderstood monster and was powerful and dark in tone.

The band today comprised Jack on trumpet, Jo Schornikow on piano, Jeremy Hopkins on drums, Barry Stockley on bass and Nicky Del Ray on guitar. They packed a punch sound wise, playing excellent Latino rhythms.

As usual check them out on their My Space page.

Book Launch at Docklands


I have hardly ever been down to Waterfront City, a new development on Melbourne’s precincts. Nor, it seems, has anyone else, as the usual crowds teeming on Melbourne’s streets were noticeably absent.

Melbourne is a far cry from what it was in the 1950s where the apocalyptic film On the Beach was made in 1959. Ava Gardner, one of the stars of the film, is purported to have described Melbourne as 'the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.'

Waterfront City is a pleasant spot with wide open spaces close to the water, on the former docklands site. Everything looks shiny and new with a set of sculptures of famous Australian entertainers by sculptor Peter Corlett providing a splash of colour.

Graham Kennedy, a famous TV personality in the early days of Australian television.


John Farnham, Australian pop star idol.


Dame Edna, the famous alter ego of comedian Barry Humphries(detail).


Dame Nelly Melba – Australia’s first opera diva (doesn’t she look grumpy?)


Kylie Minogue – the Aussie pop diva (detail).


My reason for venturing down to Waterfront City was to attend a book launch for Oceans -Recipes and Stories from Australia's Coastline, by Andrew Dwyer. It is published by Melbourne University Press.


There’s a story to how I came by this invitation to Andrew’s book launch as I have never met him in person.

Some months ago Andrew commented on a post on this blog, asking if he could have a copy of a live Mary Gauthier concert, which had been kindly sent to me by the video editor of Nu Country. It is a wonderful recording of Mary Gauthier’s set at Northcote Social Club in January 2007.

Consequent to Andrew’s comment I sent him a copy of the concert and a brief exchange of emails ensued. He sent me a copy of his first book Outback. So, because of blogging I made a new acquaintance, dare I say, friend.

Much to my surprise, I received an invitation to his book launch, so I decided to attend and make contact in person. It also presented a good blogging opportunity so I took my camera.

The launch was interesting and was held at the Melbourne Yacht Club Hotel, a snazzy establishment close to the water.

Andrew’s book was launched by Sir Andrew Grimwade patron of Miegunyah Press and imprint of MUP.

Andrew himself was a pleasure to meet, being a friendly soul with an outgoing vibrant personality.

Unfortunately my photos of the launch were not successful, being too blurry. I had the G10 on a different setting to normal, so ended up with less than satisfactory photos in poor light.

Fortunately it was easy to get home from Waterfront City on the 86 Tram, whose terminus is at Waterfront City, and runs through the city to my suburb.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rockin’ Out at Basement Discs with Dave Hogan’s Meltdown

Dave Hogan's Meltdown

Dave Hogan’s Meltdown live performance at Basement Discs at lunchtime today, was the perfect music for the weather - hot and sultry - as it is in Melbourne today.

Dave Hogan has been part of the local Melbourne scene since the 1970s, performing in bands like Southern Lightning, The Paramount Trio & Blues Hangover. I remember going to see Southern Lightning back in the early ‘80s. They used to play at the John Barleycorn Hotel in Johnston St Collingwood then, and were a fantastic rocking blues band.

Originating in 2002, the current band is a classic harmonica/guitar combo with five players in all. Dave Hogan leads the singing and plays a mean harmonica, David Adam and Paul Neuendorf are both wonderful electric guitarists, and husband and wife, Ken and Chris Farmer, play drum and bass respectively. Together they create a satisfying big rich sound - the best rock ‘n’ roll money can buy.

They have a new CD called Holler And Twang which was the recipient of several awards in MBAS (Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society) Awards this year. We were given a sampler today to the tune of about half a dozen songs that included the title track a country rock number, That’s How I Got to Memphis, a Tom T Hall song which is also covered by Buddy Miller, an artist Dave Hogan admires. Also in the mix was April Fool, sung by Paul Neuendorf who wrote it and Going To Texas QLD.

Today also happened to be Dave Hogan’s 60th birthday, so Happy Birthday Dave, keep on rocking.

Check out Dave Hogan’s Meltdown on
My Space or their website.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Melbourne Buskers – a walk through the Bourke Street Mall

Not only does one have the opportunity to see great live music any night of the week in one of Melbourne’s many venues, the city centre is home to an extraordinary range of buskers, playing all sorts of music on the street.

On Wednesday at lunchtime I decided to go down to the Bourke Street Mall and take photos of the buskers who were playing there on the day. Bourke Street Mall, for those who don’t know, is a short block between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street and is traffic free, except for trams.

The buskers seem to change daily, but some are regulars.

This bloke plays golden oldies on the piano. As you can see he’s quite a character.

Yesterday, in his spot was a guy simultaneously playing a double necked guitar and a didgeridoo, with a sound effects machine providing further accompaniment.

Santos, plays Latin/Flamenco guitar, striking dramatic soulful poses. He’s actually very good and creates beautiful music.

The Peruvian pan piper who looks like a member of the band that entertain shoppers at the Victoria Market, is also in the mix of music as you stroll through the mall. He wasn’t playing as I walked past, so I didn’t photograph him.

Bonjah are the princes of the sidewalk. A five piece band, they’ve been playing outside the GPO for a couple of years, and appear to have gained a large following, judging by the crowd sitting on the GPO steps watching their show. I’ve enjoyed their music while waiting for the tram, thinking to myself…these guys are pretty good. They reminded me originally of Ryan Adams, and still do, though there is a touch of Bob Marley in there as well.

They released their debut CD earlier this year, called Until Dawn, and it’s a beauty. I finally got around to buying it and listened to it the other night. It’s a great mix of roots rock tunes, all original songs that encompass reggae, rock, blues and alt country. The band apparently launched the CD at their spot in the mall outside the GPO.

The Bonjah band is led by Glenn Mossop who sings lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar. He has an interesting and attractive voice that is hard to define, though at times it reminds me of Ryan Adams and someone else I can’t quite place.

The rest of the band is made up of an electric guitarist (Regan Lethbridge), bass (David Morgan), drummer (Dan Chisholm) and percussionist (James Majernik).

Besides doing street shows in the mall, they have been touring extensively everywhere and have supported some class acts such as Paul Kelly, The Original Wailers, Counting Crows to name a few. They will be at the Queenscliff Music Festival later this month and also at the Port Fairy Folk Festival next year.

Definitely a band on their way up, I encourage you to check them out either online or if you’re in the city, stroll to the corner of Elizabeth & Bourke and perhaps you’ll catch them live.

Or if not them, some other performer is sure to be roundabouts somewhere.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday 13th - Spooky! Angie Hart at Basement Discs

The first single off Angie Hart’s new CD Eat My Shadow, was appropriate for her in store appearance on this Friday, which is course the 13th. Angie’s new single is called “I’m Afraid of Fridays” and it’s a great little pop tune, as catchy as any that her former band, Frente! produced.

Angie was in store promoting her brand new disc which has been receiving postive reviews. Her voice shines on this Shane Nicholson produced CD. In fact I think Angie’s voice has strengthened over the years and developed depth and character.

The audience were treated to about 5 songs from the album this afternoon - a sweet taster to the whole. I wish her every success with it – it’s a winner.

Whilst on the topic of music, I should mention the delights in store for music lovers next year.

The music festivals scheduled for March and April 2010 – the East Coast Blues Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival and Brunswick Music Festival to name a few, have started announcing participating artists, and the line up for each of them looks spectacular. No doubt there will be side shows in the capital cities of the major artists.

I’m mostly looking forward to Lyle Lovett (first time ever), Mary Gauthier (she was fantastic last time I saw her), Eilen Jewell (a new discovery this year) Old Crow Medicine Show and The Flatlanders (a first for them as well). That’s for starters. No doubt I’ll be tempted again when further announcements are forthcoming.

The Argonauts Club Redux

Back in June 2008 I wrote a post about the Argonauts Club, which was an Australian children’s radio show of the 1950s and 60s.

The post has proved quite popular and still elicits comments, as old members of the Argonauts Club stumble across it.

A recent comment by
Whispering Gums alerted me to a project of the Friends of the NFSA (National Film and Sound Archive) inviting old members of the Club to register their ship name and record their memories.

The Argonauts Club now has
Wikipedia page too.

So if anyone stumbles over this entry, you may like to register at NFSA (the link is above).

Erato 30, over and out.

The Carnival is Over

Shocking wins the Melbourne Cup

The Spring Racing Carnival that is…

Now that the Spring Super Stable results are in I thought I’d do a review of how my stable fared.

No surprise I didn’t win, but was I pleased to see that the competition organiser The Shu won it. He deserved to after the sterling effort he puts in each year running this excellent competition.

My stable managed to hang together pretty well for the whole season, with a minimum of retirements due to injury. All of them were in the money, but of course didn’t win any of the big rich races, so my final winning virtual funds were a modest $2 million.

BLACK CAVIAR – One of the most promising fillies to come along recently, she won every race she contested this spring. Unbeaten against her own sex, proved she can beat the boys as well. Pulled a muscle in the Danehill Stakes after blundering the start then was spelled for the rest of the spring.

BLACK PIRANHA – The closest he got to a win was early in the season when he came second to Absolutelyfabulous in the Group 3 Cameron Handicap. Didn’t race up to expectations after that.

DAFFODIL – came fourth in Caulfield Cup and eleventh in the Melbourne Cup. A super, staying mare that I’ll look forward to seeing race again in the autumn.

DENMAN – A superb young colt, surely one of the future stars of the turf and one to follow in the autumn.

EFFICIENT – Justified his purchase with a stunning win in the Turnbull Stakes, though was disappointingly scratched from the Melbourne Cup again.

HEART OF DREAMS - He was never far away in all the races he contested and won the Underwood Stakes defeating Whobegotyou and Predatory Pricer. He’s too good to dismiss out of hand, so keenly anticipate his return in autumn.

MANHATTAN RAIN – The much hyped (by Gai Waterhouse) Sydney colt, he managed to score second in the Cox Plate behind So You Think and third in the Guineas, so not totally hopeless.

METAL BENDER – out injured before the carnival began. Would he have made a difference if he had been sound?

MIC MAC – A very consistent performer, originally aimed for the Cox Plate, but his trainer wisely gave up that idea after his defeat by Whobegotyou in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, and freshened him up for shorter races later in the season, where he has done well in the past.

TYPHOON TRACY - A wonderful race mare, who remains unbeaten against her own sex, she was thrown in at the deep end early in the season in open fields, where she acquitted herself well without winning. One of my favourites of 2009 and hopefully will be back next autumn.

SHAMOLINE WARRIOR - No sooner had I added him to my stable than he was scratched from the Derby.

– Ran well in the Derby, but failed to get a place.

– Added as a substitute for Efficient for the Melbourne Cup in which he failed to place.

– A Melbourne Cup substitute who was not successful in that race.

It was a great racing season with many unexpected results, favourites failing, outsiders winning – the usual in other words. Some potential new stars of the turf emerged from the scrum - So You Think, for one, Avenue a very classy filly, Denman the stunning Lonhro lookalike, Kidnapped who is racing again this weekend, Battlefield, Shamoline Warrior, Black Caviar of course and that other star filly More Joyous. What a mouth watering prospect - to see Avenue, More Joyous and Black Caviar all competing in the same race, if it ever happens.

Now I’ll have to think of other things to blog about…

Friday, November 06, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week 15 - Emirates Stakes Day

Nicconi at Moonee Valley – September 2009

I had a very quiet and sober Melbourne Cup Day for a change. Over the past few years some friends of ours always hosted very enjoyable Melbourne Cup parties. Since the last one in 2008, they have moved to Northern New South Wales, so we are now left to our own devices on the Cup Day holiday. I chose not to party, and stayed home, placing a few bets online.

The Melbourne Cup itself was of course responsible for a certain amount of anticipatory excitement, though it was run at a slow pace. According to the jockeys reports it was also quite rough. Daffodil got hit on the head, Viewed almost fell, and various other mishaps destroyed the winning chances of other contenders. However, it was a good win by Shocking. He stayed out of trouble by racing three wide for most of the race and was therefore able to sprint freely at the finish. A good quinella in terms of names, Shocking and Crime Scene – if only I’d thought of it earlier. In fact Crime Scene, my roughie bet, was the only one who won me money.

The Victorian Oaks was run yesterday and Bart Cummings added to his spring haul when his filly Faint Perfume won, as was expected.

So on to the last day of the Melbourne Spring Carnival – Emirates Stakes Day. To mark the end of the season there are two Group One races, the Patinack Farm Classic, a sprint over 1200 metres, that has Apache Cat having his last race in Australia before heading to Hong Kong. There’s also his stable mate Mic Mac who was narrowly beaten by the Cat in the Schweppes Stakes a few weeks ago. As usual it’s a good field that also contains top class sprinters Nicconi, All Silent and Danleigh, all in with a chance.

The feature event, the Emirates Stakes run over 1600 metres, sees Cox Plate winner So You Think back to claim more scalps. He’s up against the older horses again, Vigor, Black Piranha, Eagle Falls, Road To Rock and Rightfully Yours, a full brother to Heart of Dreams to name a few. Will So You Think win again and prove to be the freak racehorse he appears to be?

And so ends the Spring Racing carnival for this year, it’s been fun and fantastic as usual.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – The Melbourne Cup

Viewed narrowly wins the 2008 Melbourne Cup

Can he do it again?

From all angles Viewed looks the one to beat. He’s in great form, is proven over the distance and is trained by the great Bart Cummings who is having a very successful Spring carnival. Of the others, Alcopop could become a fairytale hero, being trained by young cattle farmer/ trainer Jake Stephens with provincial jockey Dom Tourneur onboard. Alcopop is the son of 1994 Melbourne Cup winner Jeune, so is likely to be able to run out the 3200 metres. He, as well as Viewed, has the Foolish Pleasure Factor from his dam side. The Foolish Pleasure Factor is not to be sneezed at, as one of his descendants, Scenic Shot , took out the Mackinnon on Saturday.

Admittedly when I first saw the acceptances for the Melbourne Cup, I was astounded at how many unfamiliar (to me) runners there were – particularly the six or so International horses. As International horses have won the Cup several times in recent years, it is wise to give them respect, but judging how Kirklees and Cima De Triomphe ran in the Caulfield Cup, and Basaltico and Crime Scene ran in the Geelong Cup, they appear to be hardly a threat to the locals this year. The best of them appears to be Mourilyan and Munsef , but having not seen them in action, I have no confidence in their winning chances.

Unfortunately Efficient was scratched from the Cup, there being some doubt about his fitness as regards an old injury. Bart has two other runners besides Viewed, these being Roman Warrior who was second to Viewed in the Caulfield Cup and has excellent credentials, and Allez Wonder, a lightweight chance with female jockey Michelle Payne on board. Zavite  has claims despite his lack of form, being the son of multi winning Melbourne Cup sire Zabeel and is trained by Bart’s son Anthony.

One of my personal fancies, Daffodil, who ran fourth in the Caulfield Cup has drawn barrier 21 and will most likely be in the finish if she  gets a soft run, and the track is not too hard for her.  Rain is forecast, also gale force winds, so the one weather condition could negate the other.
Others to consider are Shocking who ran a great race on Saturday, C’este La Guerre who may surprise after a terrible run in the Caulfield Cup (he came third in the MC last year) and Warringah simply because he has Damien Oliver on his back.

Derby Day was a thriller with drama at the barrier before the start of the Mackinnon Stakes, when Zipping was trapped under the gates. Thank goodness he was pulled out safely and sustained no serious injuries, though it was enough to scratch him from the Melbourne Cup.

The Derby was won convincingly by the favourite Monaco Consul. I was disappointed that Shamoline Warrior was scratched as I’d just added him to my super stable, so we’ll never know if he would have made a difference. Still, that’s racing!

It was however delightful to see Typhoon Tracy blitz the field of the Myer Classic and win by 4 1/2 lengths. She remains unbeaten against her own sex and may race again on Emirates Stakes Day.

I have used up my final substitutions in the Spring Super Stable competition, by replacing Efficient with Viewed, and Gathering with Alcopop.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week 14 – Derby Day

So You Think wins the 2009 Cox Plate (photo from The Age)

A sensational day of racing is on the cards for this Saturday with no less than four Group One races, including the Victoria Derby. The spring racing carnival in Melbourne is drawing to a close with only three more meetings after this weekend, the most interesting of course being the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday.

Last Saturday’s Cox Plate was a ripper, with Bart Cummings surprising everyone (again!) when his three year old colt So You Think turned the tables on all the fancied runners and won by two and a half lengths to the other three year old Manhattan Rain, with the oldster Zipping coming third.

I had been contemplating the Plate in terms of planetary influences having drawn up a horoscope for the occasion out of interest. Mercury was in exact aspect to the Ascendant at the time of the race, which indicated a horse with a Mercurial name would win. With Uranus also in aspect to the Ascendant the indications were for a surprising winner. I woke in the middle of the night with the thought that So You Think was the name most applicable to Mercury. Did I follow this hunch? Unfortunately, no.

It was great to see Apache Cat in winning circles again. His win drew a huge cheer from the crowd. He’s enormously popular, and even though he’s now getting on in years, he can still beat high quality fields like the Schweppes Stakes.

Avenue also won as expected. She has now been spelled so we’ll have to wait for autumn to see her race again.

So onto Derby Day…

The Coolmore Stud Stakes over 1200 metres is the first of the Group One races and is an open race for three year olds. It has a very classy field which includes Phelan Ready, the Golden Slipper winner, Demerit with both Lonhro and Foolish Pleasure factors in his breeding, brilliant fillies Irish Lights, Headway and Paprika, leading to the question - will the girls be able to beat boys?

Traditionally the last chance for unqualified horses to qualify for the Melbourne Cup, the Mackinnon Stakes (2000 metres) has an interesting field which includes Caulfield Cup winner Viewed, unsuccessful Cox Plate contenders, Scenic Shot and Zipping , and others like Racing to Win, Vigor, Rangirangdoo, who won the Crystal Mile last Saturday, and Cima De Triomphe, unsuccessful in the Caulfield Cup, no doubt running in the hope he can win some honour for Luca Cumani, who brought him all this way with disappointing results so far.

The Derby is always hard to pick and often results in a surprise winner. Run over 2500 metres it is a staying contest for colts and geldings. Half brother to last year’s winner Rebel Raider, Shamoline Warrior is one of the main chances, along with New Zealand hope Monaco Consul. I rather like Gathering who has not been out of place in all his starts and has run close second to the best. There’s also Viking Ruler, one of Gai Waterhouse’s youngsters. His father Elvstroem won this race in 2003. Rockferry and Our Heir Apparent also cannot be overlooked.

The stars say (according to my interpretation of a horoscope of the race) that a horse with a Martian or Lunar name has a chance. Mars in Leo is trine to the Moon in Aries and the Mid Heaven in Sagittarius, a grand trine in fire, which being a favourable alignment of planets, could indicate victory for the favourite.

Typhoon Tracy will be contesting the Myer Classic (1600 metres), against her own sex again. She’s drawn wide this time, but shouldn’t be too disadvantaged by this as she likes to mix it with the leaders, if not lead. She will be up against Hot Danish once more and super smart mare Zarita. Glowlamp is also in the running as is Gold Water and Jolie’s Shinju. I’ll be barracking for Tracy.

My Super Stable has 3 runners this weekend – Typhoon Tracy, Shamoline Warrior & Gathering, the last two being substitutes for Denman and
Heart of Dreams.

I still have two substitutes left, so after the Derby I can buy two Cup horses to compliment Efficient and Daffodil.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Sweet & Seductive Music of the Mercurials

The Mercurials - Adi Sappir, Mark Ferrie, Andrew Pendlebury
A pleasant way to beguile away Friday lunchtime in sunny Melbourne was seeing The Mercurials perform live at Basement Discs.

The Mercurials, a trio comprising two guitars and a cello, are Mark Ferrie, Andrew Pendlebury and Adi Sappir. The have been playing as a threesome since 2003, though previously Andrew and Mark performed for many years on and off as a duo, and individually in other bands such as Truckasaurus, Sports, The Models among others.

Andrew Pendlebury is a virtuoso musician and plays exquisite ornate guitar, and together with Mark’s more than adequate guitar playing and Adi’s mastery of the cello, they produce a beautiful sound. Mark and Adi take turns on lead vocals, though all three provide harmonies for each other’s songs. Adi, who is originally from Israel, has a wonderful voice – sweet and sad like the cello she plays.

I must admit I’m partial to cellos. You don’t get to see them played all that much, but they add a wonderful gravity and drama to any music piece.

The Basement Discs in store performance was to promote their latest CD Silver and Gold - a collection of folk and pop originals and covers. They performed about half the CD today – including Redemption Song, How Come, Hope Springs Eternal, The Same Sun and Adi’s song about her daughter, Yalda sheli ktana (my little girl).

Check out the
band’s My Space page and listen to their music. I’m sure you’ll agree that they are something special.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week 13 – The Cox Plate

Whobegotyou with trainer Mark Kavanagh posing for photos after winning the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes

It is many years since I last attended a Cox Plate meeting at Moonee Valley, but I used to go regularly in the past and witnessed Octagonal winning in 1995, Saintly in 1996, Dane Ripper in 1997 and, probably the most memorable, Might & Power in 1998. After the 1998 Cox Plate the cost of entry doubled as did the crowds, so I contented myself with watching the race on television after that, much as I would have liked to see Sunline’s two Cox Plate victories in the early 2000s.

This year’s Cox Plate has a better field than last years offering, with a good mix of old and young horses, but no mares or fillies this year.

Whobegotyou is the favourite, but I’m hoping Heart of Dreams can beat him this time. They have each beaten the other twice, so they’re evens at the moment. Of course they may not even feature in the finish, though that would be surprising as I regard them the top chances. There’s the Foolish Pleasure factor to consider in Scenic Shot, then there’s Speed Gifted, the much touted Lee Freedman trained import. Vision And Power can’t be overlooked either, nor 2007 winner, good old El Segundo or Black Piranha who, though he finished out of a place last start, has good claims. Of the two three year olds, everyone is wondering if the Bart Cummings trained So You Think can add to Bart’s already illustrious record or can Manhattan Rain give Gai Waterhouse her first Cox Plate. The last three year old to win was Savabeel in 2004.

Whatever, the Cox Plate is always an interesting competition owing to the peculiarities of the course and the high powered nature of the race.

Besides the Cox Plate, the program also offers some mouth watering competitions, for instance the Group 2 Schweppes Stakes (1200 metres), with top sprinters Apache Cat, Lucky Secret, Mic Mac, Light Fantastic, Ortensia and Danleigh all in the mix.

The Group 2 Aimee Vase, run over the same distance as the Cox Plate (2040 metres), will surely give one some idea of who to back in the Victoria Derby next week. Carrara, runner up in the Guineas, will be running beyond a mile for the first time and faces a big test with competitors such as Viking Legend, Space Craft and filly Miss With Attitude among others.

The Group 3 Red Anchor Stakes (1200 metres) for three year olds sees Avenue competing again. Can she continue her winning ways?

Last week’s Caulfield Cup, as I’m sure everybody knows, was won by Viewed, giving Bart Cummings his 7th Caulfield Cup victory. It was a splendid win and a beautiful ride by Brad Rawiller, who patiently awaited his chance on the inside and, unimpeded, drove Viewed through for a two and a half length win over stable mate Roman Emperor. The International runners were never a threat, despite the pre race hype.

Typhoon Tracy proved unbeatable back against her own sex, easily winning the Tristarc Stakes by a couple of lengths.

My super stable this weekend is represented by Mic Mac, Heart of Dreams and Manhattan Rain. After Black Piranha’s failure in his last race, I substituted him with Daffodil who managed to run fourth in the Cup and is still a good chance in the Melbourne Cup.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Go Ask Alice – John Coulthart’s Psychedelic Wonderland

Looking for that elusive Christmas present for the old hippy in your life? Have a hankering to listen to that old Jefferson Airplane record again? Or maybe you’re just feeling nostalgic for the sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll of the 1960s.

John Coulthart has designed a drop dead gorgeous calendar for 2010, incorporating 60s psychedelic art and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

I admire John’s designs immensely and regularly visit his wonderful blog, {
feuilleton}, wherein he explores art and design through the ages and also provides illumination on his own methods. He has excellent taste.

His latest project is the 2010
Psychedelic Wonderland Calendar, but he has collaborated with the well known dark fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer on his projects, recently designing fabulous covers for Jeff’s latest books Finch and Booklife.

You can check out (and buy) the entire Wonderland calendar

Friday, October 16, 2009

Archetypal OZ Rocker - Nick Barker at Basement Discs

Nick Barker - live at Basement Discs - 16/10/09

A sunny break in the weather coincided with a wonderful in store performance by Nick Barker at Basement Discs this afternoon.

He has a newly released album called Black Water Blues which was of course the motivation for his appearance today on the Basement Discs stage. There’s a nice review of the record on
The Dwarf here.

Nick Barker has been part of the Australian music scene since the late 1980s, first joining Punk band Wreckery before forming Nick Barker and the Reptiles who rocked Melbourne’s socks off for several years. He is also well known for writing killer songs and this latest offering is no exception, Nick describing it as ‘a good old break-up record’.

We were treated to several songs off it today, including a great version of a Jerry Garcia (whom Nick professed to loathe) song called Sugaree.

Helping out on electric bass was Al Brooker, formerly of the Dots and Yardhands, and playing a box was Michael Barclay, well known as a member of Paul Kelly’s Messengers and Mick Thomas’ Weddings Parties Anything

So it was an heart warming half hour or so of rock ‘n’ roll goodness, interspersed with Nick Barker’s wry reminiscences of his disaster prone career as a rock star. He certainly looks and sounds like an archetypal rocker.

You can check his
My Space page to see/hear his music.

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week 12 – the Caulfield Cup

This coming Saturday, the first of the three big rich races, the Caulfield Cup is to be run.

It has attracted a top field, and includes several European horses having their first crack on Australian turf. Last year’s Caulfield Cup was won by such a horse – the totally overlooked Godolphin horse All The Good, so it is wise to be wary of the Internationals in trying to pick the winner.

Before I consider the Caulfield Cup form, I’ll muse first on last week’s results.

The Caulfield Guineas was won by Starspangledbanner who led from start to finish. Denman didn’t fire after running wide for most of the race. Perhaps he’s had enough this season. I’d be very surprised to see him in anything else this spring. Manhattan Rain managed to score third place, and Carrara after racing up with Starspangledbanner, showed grit in holding on to finish second.

Whobegotyou got his own back on Heart of Dreams in the Yalumba Stakes and they will meet again in the Cox Plate. Heart of Dreams, spent most of the race at the tail of the field and was therefore unable to catch Whobe at the finish. His jockey was criticised for his ride on Heart of Dreams - if he had been up behind the leaders he may well have won.

Bart Cummings pulled one of his surprises with his mare Allez Wonder winning the Toorak. It was a big thrill for female jockey Michelle Payne who gets to ride her again in the Caulfield Cup.

Other eye catching performances last Saturday were Lucky Secret, breaking the race record in the Schillaci Stakes beating Apache Cat, who was also impressive, and Avenues, a full sister to former Group One winning mare Virage de Fortune, who trounced her rivals in the Thoroughbred Club Stakes. Alcopop wowed punters with his win in the Winning Edge Presentation Stakes, but is not running in the Caulfield Cup.

So on to the Caulfield Cup

The two European runners, Kirklees and Cima De Triomphe have good wraps on them after trial gallops and will start as favourites, both drawing good barriers. The New Zealand contingent includes Daffodil who was a tad disappointing in the Kelt Capital Stakes, though that is put down to the track being too hard for her liking and being blocked for a run. If the Caulfield track is slow on Saturday she has a very good chance. As it has been raining for most this week, it is likely the track will be wet, but that is also advantageous to Efficient’s stable mate, C’este La Guerre, Viewed and several other mudlarks.

In fact it is hard to pick a standout runner – any of the 18 strong field could win.

Typhoon Tracy is entered in the 1400 metres Group 2 Tristarc Stakes, so it will be good to see her race again - against her own sex this time. She’s up against class mares such as Hot Danish, Chinchilla Rose, Gold Water and Jolie’s Shinju.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lucky to be Alive

Meet Lucky - the baby ringtail possum...

Three weeks ago we were woken at an early hour by the sound of munching. It was Willy the cat devouring a ringtail possum in a corner of the bedroom -too late for rescue, alas.

However, an hour or so later he was back with a baby ringtail possum, which B managed to wrest from him before it was harmed. B handed the possum to me to keep under the bedclothes, and the little thing clung to my fingers in the most endearing way. It was too late in the morning – past dawn – for the mother possum to be still around so we were obliged to keep the baby possum – tucking it into an old wool beanie and putting back in the bed – until a solution as to its welfare could be found. In fact it could have been mother possum Willy was devouring earlier.

Fortunately, where I work, there is a woman who recues native wildlife and cares for them until they are fit to be released back into the wild. Pat already had a couple of young possums with her – she brings them to work with her - and was willing to take on our baby.

B brought her in and Pat took her over. She was named Lucky (to be alive) and she has survived very well, and is the darling of the office. A lively little possum she has doubled her weight since her rescue and looks bright and healthy.

Baby possums are the cutest little beasts and cling with feet and tail to anything they can attach to.

When I was a child my mother used to rescue motherless possums or damaged possums. There was one we brought up from babyhood, and then released into the bush. It came back every so often and would come if called.

There are troops of possums in our back garden, both of the brush tail and ringtail variety, and at this time of year they all have baby possums in tow, though we suspect that Willy caught Lucky down the road at a neighbour’s house. The neighbour has a large hedge growing on her side fence where obviously Lucky’s family made their home. It’s an unfortunate choice of nesting on the part of the possums, as hedges are more accessible to cats than trees, where ringtail possums, being lightweights, can take shelter on the outmost twigs and move quickly. They are very much at a disadvantage on the ground.

Willy got his share of karma later in the week, damaging the paw pad on his left back foot which slowed him down for a few days. and resulted in an unpleasant visit to the Vet.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week 11 – Caulfield Guineas Day


The carnival is now in full swing and each week the picture as to who the likely winners of the big three will be, is becoming clearer.

Last week Efficient surprised everyone with a sensational win in the Group One Turnbull Stakes. I was wondering when I selected him as a substitution in my Super Stable, why I had chosen him, other than for his qualifications for the Melbourne Cup. Now he has justified my hunch with this win. Actually I had a dream about a month ago wherein Efficient was the winner of a major race, so it appears to have been prophetic after all. A pity I didn’t have any money on him last weekend, though I was sorely tempted to have an each way bet on him. If I had been more organised last Saturday I may well have done so.

Only two favourites won the Group One races last weekend – More Joyous and Speed Gifted (2nd favourite actually). The other winners were outsiders – Monaco Consul taking out the Spring Champion and Rock Kingdom winning the George Main Stakes. The track at Randwick was rated heavy so that explains the surprise outcome.

Four of my Super Stable are racing at Caulfield this weekend – Denman (who I subbed for Black Caviar who is out for the Spring), Heart of Dreams, Black Piranha and Manhattan Rain.

The Group One Caulfield Guineas is a 1600 metre race for three year old colts and geldings and this year’s edition sees the best field in many years. Denman and Manhattan Rain are both in the field, so I’m hoping they can quinella the race. Denman, who has won all six races he has contested this Winter/Spring, will start favourite. His sire Lonhro won this race in 2001. Manhattan Rain is half brother to the 1999 winner, Redoute’s Choice. Other smart runners in contention are Tickets, Trusting, So You Think and Star Spangled Banner and Carrara the son of another old favourite Elvstroem.

Heart of Dreams, who won the Underwood Stakes in September, will be gunning for another win in the Group One Yalumba Stakes (2000 metres). He faces stiff competition from the likes of Whobegotyou whom he defeated on that occasion, Vision And Power (the Foolish Pleasure factor), Nom De Jeu, a very classy New Zealand Stayer, and one cannot overlook the game mare Zarita who might crack a place.

The other Group One on the program is the Toorak Handicap (1600 metres) and I’m hoping Black Piranha can win this, though he faces a tough field of recent winners such as Racing To Win, Gold Salute, Raheeb and Rock Kingdom. This is Black Piranha’s third race, this spring and he hasn’t been very far away on each of the two previous occasions, coming second both times.

With the Caulfield Racing Carnival beginning on Saturday the races will be on free to air television – saves me squandering my bandwidth allowance on my ISP account for the rest of the racing season.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Justin Townes Earle at Thornbury Theatre

justin_townes_earle 007
Justin Townes Earle – live at the Thornbury Theatre – 2 October 2009

Another WOW here for a thoroughly entertaining show last night at Thornbury Theatre watching Justin Townes Earle in action.

It was the first time I had been to this theatre and I must say I was impressed. It’s a grand old picture theatre which has recently been converted into a music venue. It has great ambience and is spacious and comfortable.

We went for the dinner and show, so were able to remain seated all night and what’s more had a good view of the stage from fairly close up.

Wagons started the show with a lively, funny set. Henry Wagons is a character and his music packs a punch. Very enjoyable it was too, and pleasant change from the usual solo singer songwriter support act one normally has to endure.

Henry Wagons (right) and guitarist.

Anyway, on to the JTE show…

Justin bounced on stage and immediately launched into “They Killed John Henry”, the first of a total of 26 songs including encore.

I’ve still yet to decipher my notes and cobble together a set list, but it was a mix of new stuff, covers and of course songs from his albums.

He has an extraordinary stage presence – quite uncanny with his old time radio voice harking back to the past, yet being thoroughly modern at the same time. And of course his absolutely amazing skill on the guitar. Quite a showman is Justin Townes Earle.

I’m still too bleary to write much about the show, but believe me it was fantastically good. I went with people who had never seen Justin Townes Earle live before, and they like me, when I first saw him last year, were totally blown away by his performance.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week Ten

Light Fantastic returns tomorrow
There are five Group One races on the cards this Saturday, four at Randwick (Sydney) and one in Melbourne, so it’s there’s a lot to look forward to this weekend racing wise.

Last weekend yielded some unexpected results, with Sydney sprinter Danleigh taking out the Manikato Stakes and Road to Rock winning the George Main Stakes. Denman, however was consistent, winning the Stan Fox Stakes as he liked.

So onto this weekend’s expected delights…

The racing is at Flemington this Saturday in Melbourne and the feature race is the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2000 metres) and has a field of the usual suspects, they being old troopers El Segundo, Maldivian, Viewed, Efficient, Red Lord with up and comers like Vigor, and Predatory Pricer in a classy 16 horse field. It would be good to see El Segundo win with female jockey Michelle Payne on his back but there is a question mark regarding his performance at Flemington.

There are several other interesting races on the program at Flemington - for instance the Group 2 Rose of Kingston Stakes over 1400 metres for mares. Hot Danish will start the deserved favourite. Other contenders include the classy Romneya, Augusta Proud (perhaps out of her depth in this) Cat’s Whisker and Neroli.

And it will be good to see old favourite Light Fantastic returning in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes, and may surprise with a win.

The first of the four Group One races at Randwick is the Flight Stakes (1600 metres) for three year old fillies. It has a dazzling line up of talented fillies, notably More Joyous who won the Tea Rose Stakes so convincingly last start. The place getters in that race Melito and Deer Valley, a daughter of the sire of the moment, Lonhro plus Run for Naara who ran second to Denman last week, represent her major threats. But then again there is also the wonderfully named Little Surfer Girl, Sister Madly, and Hurtle Myrtle.

Heraklion, another of Lonhro’s offspring, is running in the Spring Champion Stakes (2000 metres) though will have plenty of competition from the likes of Onemorenomore, Love Me like A Rock, Viking Legend to name a few.

The Metropolitan is run over 2400 metres, and represents a last chance for some of the runners, Speed Gifted in particular, to qualify for the Caulfield Cup. Newcastle Cup winner, Streetfighter is one of the main fancies along with Mr Clangtastic. Also let us not forget solid stayer Fiumicino with Darren Beadman in the saddle, or well performed mare Ready To Lift if she can get over her horror barrier draw.

Last week’s surprise winner of the George Main Stakes, Road to Rock is back again this week in the Epsom Handicap (1600 metres). He is understandably the favourite and will be hard to beat. O’Lonhro who failed to gain a place at his last start after previously winning two in succession against the older horses, is worth consideration nevertheless as is Drumbeats and Rangirangdoo.

In New Zealand all eyes will be on Daffodil, the super staying mare who thrashed the local fillies earlier this year in the AJC Oaks. She will be contesting the Kelt Capital Stakes (2040 metres). She is one of the main fancies for the Caulfield Cup so we’re all interested in how she goes.

Justin Townes Earle – WOW!

Justin Townes Earle - Basement Discs - 2 October 2009
Yes, Justin Townes Earle is in town again and of course I couldn’t miss his in store performance at Basement Discs at lunchtime today. It was very much up to expectations, Justin giving his all to entertain the larger than usual crowd in attendance. I’m very much looking forward to going to see him again tonight at the Thornbury Theatre.

Justin Townes Earle toured here for the first time in
November last year, and blew the minds of everyone who witnessed his performances then. Since then he has a new album to tout – Midnight At The Movies which was released earlier this year and is a terrific CD.

Today Justin naturally sang several songs from this album, the wonderful “Mama’s Eyes”, “They Killed John Henry” and the title track. He also tried out a few new songs, saying he was getting tired of singing the same old stuff after being on the road so long. The new songs were great and are sure to be winners on his next album. One was possibly called “I’m Learning How To Cry” a classic tearjerker in an old country blues style. There was another, possibly called “Christchurch Woman”, which Justin claims was inspired by a conversation he had with a young woman in Sydney on his last tour.

He very obligingly posed for the photo above after I got him to sign my copy of Midnight At The Movies. He’s friendly and engaging in person, and on stage has esprit and charisma to spare.

I’d say go and catch one of his shows while you can, but they’ve all sold out - at least his Melbourne shows have.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week Nine

apache cat_aus_stakes
Apache Cat – after winning the Australia Stakes – 14 Feb 09

What a shemozzle last Saturday’s races proved to be, especially the Rupert Clark Stakes, where top fancy Gold Salute reared in the stalls as the gates opened and failed to start at all. He, as well as Estee (who was in the neighbouring stall), was designated a non-starter.

However, the Underwood Stakes was run without mishap and resulted in a win for Heart of Dreams at last, relegating Whobegotyou into second place with Predatory Pricer filling third spot. Typhoon Tracy took a leading position, after jumping from her wide barrier, but faded in her run to finish eighth, being swamped by the fast finishing back markers. It is obvious she is not suited to running more than a mile, so the Cox Plate is off her agenda. Her trainer Peter Moody has indicated that she will be freshened and set for mare’s races later in the season.

The Guineas Prelude for colts was won by yet another of Lonhro’s sons, Demerit. He also is a descendant of Foolish Pleasure through his dam side. And in Sydney it was good to see More Joyous back in winning circles. She won the Tea Rose Stakes in a very convincing fashion. More Joyous of course is related to the very classy Tuesday Joy who has now been retired.

Anyway, this coming weekend promises more excitement for the racing fan, with the Group One Manikato Stakes on the program for next Friday night. It has a top field of sprinters and sees my old favourite Apache Cat stepping out for the first time this spring. The Cat loves Moonee Valley and if it is wet, is sure to feature in the finish. Mic Mac, despite his good showing in the Dato Tan Chin Nam stakes over 1600 metres, will be kept for shorter races from now on. He is to run in the Manikato Stakes, as is Nicconi. Also in the field is last Saturday’s long shot winner Turffontein, and Lucky Secret (a Moonee Valley specialist), as well as Sydney sprinters Danleigh and Swift Alliance.

The rest of the races listed for Friday also contain a number of interesting runners, most notably Jolie’s Shinju in the JRA Cup, which is run over the Cox Plate distance - 2080 metres. She has drawn the inside barrier so will probably take the lead, as apparently is her wont.

On Saturday, AFL Grand Final Day here in Melbourne, the horseracing focus shifts to Sydney for the Group One George Main Stakes (1600 metres). It has an excellent field that includes Black Piranha, Racing to Win, Vision & Power, Mentality and Triple Honour.

I’ll be watching the Group Two Stan Fox Stakes too, to see Denman in action once again in a very small field which he should account for easily, his only threat seemingly being the well performed More Than Great.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week 8 - The Underwood Stakes

Typhoon Tracy

The season really heats up this Saturday with two Group 1 races at Caulfield, the Underwood Stakes and the Rupert Clarke Stakes.

Several of my super stable will be running…

Efficient (who I substituted for Metal Bender), Heart of Dreams, Typhoon Tracy all in the Underwood & Manhattan Rain (who was scratched from the Danehill Stakes) will tackle the Guineas Prelude.

It was pleasing to see Black Piranha, who along with Manhattan Rain, was the only member of my super stable who had not raced this season, start it off with a second in the Cameron Stakes at Newcastle on Wednesday.

The Underwood field looks sensational – with the majority of the runners being Group One winners.

1-EFFICIENT (NZ)-Nicholas Hall-12-59

2-VIEWED-Brad Rawiller-11-59

3-MALDIVIAN (NZ)-Craig Williams-13-59

4-FIUMICINO (NZ)--15-59

5-MASTER O'REILLY (NZ)-Noel Callow-1-59

6-SCENIC SHOT-Shane Scriven-7-59


8-KIBBUTZ (NZ)--6-59

9-C'EST LA GUERRE (NZ)-Steven Arnold-14-59

10-RED RULER (NZ)-Danny Nikolic-3-59

11-VIGOR (NZ)-Damien Oliver-5-59

12-WHOBEGOTYOU-Michael Rodd-10-58

13-HEART OF DREAMS-Craig Newitt-4-58

14-PREDATORY PRICER-Steven King-2-58

15-ZARITA (NZ)-Dwayne Dunn-9-57

16-TYPHOON TRACY-Luke Nolen-16-56


17e-MACO'REILLY (NZ)-Glen Boss-18-59

18e-ZAGREB-Chris Symons-19-59

19e-MISS DARCEY-Mark Zahra-17-56

Run over 1800 metres, here’s the chance for proven stayers, and aspiring stayers, to show what they’re made of. The two Melbourne Cup winners, Efficient and Viewed may need it a little longer, and they do come up against some very smart young middle distance runners, such as Whobegotyou backing up this week after his win last Saturday and Predatory Pricer, out to redeem his disappointing run last start in the Makybe Diva Stakes. Also there’s Vigor, the winner on that occasion and of course Typhoon Tracy who I hope can turn the tables on the lot of them this time round. She’s drawn the outside barrier, so she’ll need plenty of luck to be in the picture at the finish and moreover is having her first start at the distance. The in form Zarita is also running again – no worries about her making the distance. Heart of Dreams has been most unlucky in his two runs this season, so here’s hoping he gets his chance to star this time. It’s a fascinating race which I’ll be watching for sure.

But then again as Valerie at Foolish Pleasure says, follow the Foolish Pleasure descendants – Viewed and Scenic Shot. It’s amazing how often they win. They starred in the Australian Horse of the Year awards and even last week I struck lucky with Nicconi, also descended from Foolish Pleasure through his dam side.

The Rupert Clarke Stakes, the other Group One (1400 metres), has also attracted a large field, from which it is hard to pick a winner as none of the competitors stand out as a dead cert. Gold Salute, Chasm and Raffaello appear to have the best form, but any one of the others, say Von Costa de Hero or All American could win.

Work interrupted my contemplation of the form – so that’s all for this Saturday’s study even though Rosehill has a good card too.