Sunday, February 22, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival 2009 – Week 4

I didn’t have time to do my usual preview as I was bogged down with work, so it’ll have to be a review this week.

Yesterday saw the running of two Group One races, the Blue Diamond Stakes for 2 year olds , and the Oakleigh Plate a time honoured sprint over 1100 metres.

The Plate was won by Queensland horse Swiss Ace, much to everyone’s surprise, who beat Lucky Secret. Reward For Effort won the Blue Diamond easily. After his second to Real Saga at his last start, he lost favouritism for the Blue Diamond, but was obviously capable of winning. Real Saga came second on this occasion. I had my money on the previously unbeaten filly, Rostova, but she failed to get a place, and appeared not to have her usual zip in the finish.

Theseo, a Gai Waterhouse trained gelding, won the St George Stakes in spectacular fashion and is the obvious favourite for the Australian Cup now that Maldivian has been sidelined by injury.

In Sydney, Tuesday Joy proved she was back to her best with a stylish win in the Winning Edge Presentations Classic, and in Adelaide, Augusta Proud, who I have been following for a couple of years, was beaten by a nose in a tightly contested finish with Cardinal Virtue.

Other horses to watch are Dameselfly (a pretty name) daughter of former champion mare La Bella Dame x Flying Spur, continued her winning ways, being unbeaten in four starts.

And Coubertin, the little brother of Haradasun & Elvstroem won against the older horses in Sale on Friday, indicating that he might have some ability to match his brothers exploits.

Next Saturday sees the return of Weekend Hussler in the Futurity Stakes. He really needs to redeem himself, so here’s wishing for a victory for him next weekend.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Apache Cat - Everybody’s Valentine

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Apache Cat on his way to winning the Australia Stakes

The fact that it was Valentine’s Day yesterday totally escaped my notice. It certainly wasn’t all that obvious at Moonee Valley when, with my friend Bernie, I went to the races.

It was a pleasant, but unsuccessful (in terms of winning bets on my part) day at the races. Moonee Valley has a sort of provincial track feel about it and is excellent if you want to take photographs of the horses. Bernie had a good day backing several long shot winners. So much for studying the form guide, you might as well just pick them by name.

We arrived at the course just before the third race, the Schweppervescence Stakes. It was won by the favourite Mic Mac.

The next race on the program, the Newmarket Insurance Brokers Plate was a race for mares. I had my money on Brazen Hussey, but veteran grey mare, Sensational Toy, won convincingly. A pretty horse, here she is posing for the cameras.

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The winner of the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes, Pre Eminence (below) caused a boilover. He is a very good horse who ran second in the VRC Derby last year, so everyone, except Bernie considered the race unsuitable for him. He paid something like $19.00 for the win.

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Race 6 was the 1500 metres Group 2 fillies race. Romneya (below)the gutsy little filly started favourite and won easily.

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After that race we decided we should go and have a look at the mounting yard for the parade for the Australia Stakes. I managed to get some good photos of Apache Cat, Time Thief and Weekend Hussler. The Cat is so distinctive you couldn’t miss him. While I was snapping a photo of him, someone remarked near me, that he must be the most photographed horse in Australia.

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Weekend Hussler was very disappointing in the race. Perhaps he didn’t take to Moonee Valley, but he failed quite badly finishing 5th.

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Time Thief, however, raced very well, leading for most of the race and finishing a fighting third.

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The race itself was worth the cost of entry – a great run by Apache Cat who made it back to back victories in the race. His win was greeted by a cheer from the crowd. He does like Moonee Valley and perhaps the change of rider made all the difference. But the Cat is definitively back. I should have had a sentimental bet on him as his odds were very good yesterday, but alas I had my modest bet on Time Thief. Weekend Hussler started short priced favourite.

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We didn’t hang around much after the feature race, but before we left we decided to check out the band that was playing in between races.

The younger race goers were having a ball, dancing to classic songs like Summer of 69 .

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The below young man – wearing a sort fluffy pink tiara posed very nicely for a photo.

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And that was how I spent Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Queen of Country Soul – Suzannah Espie at Basement Discs

At lunchtime today I took a wander down to Basement Discs to see and hear Suzannah Espie perform in store at Basement Discs accompanied by her band The Last Word.

The Last Word are:
Dave Folley: drums, Graham Franklin: bass, Dean Schulz: guitar, Andrew Ogburn: piano

I have listened to snippets of Suzannah’s latest CD and liked what I heard, so today it was a pleasure to see her perform live some of the songs off the new album which is entitled First & Last Hotel.

She certainly has a powerful voice – no wonder she is nicknamed the Queen of Country Soul, for her voice has a very soulful quality which can range from alto to soprano.

It struck me today that since I last saw Suzannah in action, her voice has actually improved and gained more expression.

She has long been part of the local music scene, first emerging as one of the trio that made up GIT, an all girl (with the occasional guy) country harmony band that was very popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

You can check out Suzannah’s music on her
my space page

The next in store at Basement discs is not until March 5th when the wonderful US singer songwriter
Eliza Gilkyson is scheduled to play.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival 2009 – Week 3

Another exciting weekend of racing is coming this Saturday with the running of the Group One Australia Stakes over 1200 metres at Moonee Valley. Weekend Hussler and Apache Cat are part of the small field that includes Time Thief. The Hussler has not run at Moonee Valley before, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it. He has drawn barrier 3 and the Cat has drawn barrier 2 with the colt Time Thief drawing the outside. Apache Cat won this race last year, so he well may win it again this year. I follow all three of the aforementioned horses, so I am unable to choose a favourite.

Other interesting races on the cards at Moonee Valley are the Schweppervescence Plate which sees the return of Rebel Raider the surprise winner of the VRC Derby last year, and Reaan who won the 2008 Blue Diamond Stakes. Also worth watching will be the Group 2 Sporting Bet Fillies Plate where classy fillies like Romneya, Estee, both trained by Lee Freedman and the Gai Waterhouse trained Gold Water will be contending against each other.

In fact the whole program looks very interesting, so I’ll be following it closely all afternoon, *though (the thought just struck me) it is tempting to go in person and see the Hussler and the Cat in the flesh and test out the Canon G10 at the races.

In Sydney, super filly Samantha Miss returns to racing in the Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes and in the Widden Stakes a top line up of two year old fillies including Our Joan of Arc and Marquardt will be strutting their stuff.

I am also interested in a couple of races in New Zealand tomorrow, where the regally bred Aetherius (Ethereal x Stravinsky) will be running. Also Sunline’s first daughter, Sunstrike, is also racing after a bit of break. She has had five starts, but has not shown anything like her mum’s ability. I saw a news item on her once on TV after her first race. She was a very attractive filly.

Last week’s C F Orr Stakes was won by Maldivian who pulled the same trick that won him the Cox Plate last year, by leading throughout and sprinting away at the finish with no other horse being able to catch him. Alamosa came second with Theseo filling third position. Light Fantastic, of whom much was expected, failed to make any ground and finished fourth.

Rostova continued on her winning ways, scoring easily in the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude while Real Saga won the colts Prelude.

*I have decided, in the course of writing this entry, to go to Moonee Valley on Saturday – it’s only a short bus trip from home and it shouldn’t be too overcrowded at the track, other than with Weekend Hussler and Apache Cat fans. The weather is supposed to be fine and sunny - about 30°C.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Leonard Cohen at Rod Laver Arena – A Night of Tasteful Music and Beautiful Vibes

I cannot really add to the accolades already accorded the remarkable Leonard Cohen during his tour of the Antipodes, other than to say that everything written previously is true and correct.

And I can’t say that it was an overwhelmingly emotional experience for me, as it was for
Amanda at Flop Eared Mule, but as concerts go, it was very, very good. Personally, I was more blown away by the Ryan Adams concert – anathema, I know, to some people.

My enjoyment of the concert was spoiled somewhat by my front row seat, which I thought would be the pick of the arena. Not so. My view was hampered for the most part by a pesky cameraman, videoing the show for the big screens on either side of the stage. Leonard stationed himself predominantly on the (facing) right hand side of the stage and I was sitting sort of to the left of centre. I had an excellent view of Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters, but only got a good look at Leonard when he ventured over to their side of the stage. However, my neighbours in the seats to left and right were pleasant friendly people, so if you’re reading this, it was a pleasure sharing the concert with you. I daresay they were typical of the crowd - a good audience.

The band was excellent, all master musicians, especially the delightful
Javier Mas, who played a variety of interesting ethnic instruments.

Mention must also be made to the short but excellent opening set by Paul Kelly. Certainly, it was a higher quality opening act than the Clip Clop Club at the Ryan Adams concert.

I still have to look at the bulk of my photos, taken in RAW format, but the above, snapped whenever the cameraman moved out of the way, are a few of the better JPEGs I managed to get.


Set 1
1. Dance Me to the End of Love

2. The Future
3. Ain't No Cure for Love
4. Bird on the Wire
5. Everybody Knows
6. In My Secret Life
7. Who By Fire
8. Chelsea Hotel #29.
9. Sisters Of Mercy
10. Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye
11. Anthem

Set 2

12. Tower of Song
13. Suzanne
14. The Gypsy's Wife
15. The Partisan
16. Boogie Street
17. Hallelujah
18. I'm Your Man
19. A Thousand Kisses Deep [recitation]
20. Take This Waltz

Encore 1
21. So Long Marianne
22. First We Take Manhattan

Encore 2
23. Famous Blue Raincoat
24. If It Be Your Will
25. Democracy

Encore 3
26. I Tried to Leave You
27. Whither Thou Goest

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New look Pauline Hanson by Emma Phillips

The above photo is Emma Phillips entry into the $80,000 Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize. Emma has been receiving a great deal of attention for her photo, which is part of her series on influential women.

I first saw this photo several years ago when we were over at her parents place for dinner. Her parents are very old friends of mine, and I’ve known Emma since she was a baby. Being very impressed by her photo at that time, I’m delighted to see it again. Here’s wishing Emma the best of luck in the photographic competition. She gets full marks for daring and vision, not to mention being able to persuade Pauline Hanson to pose for the photo.

Pauline Hanson, for the benefit of overseas readers, is an Australian right wing politician who caused a big stir about 10 years ago with her red neck policies which included an opposition to multiculturalism and the special treatment of indigenous people. She won a lot of support at that time appealing to the xenophobic white population, especially in Queensland. She was regarded by the majority of the population as a bit of joke, though they were startled when her One Nation Party won several seats in the Queensland Legislative Assembly. Sarah Palin and her policies in the recent American elections, reminded us here in Australia of our Pauline.

Pauline’s rise to glory was not long lasting and One Nation is no more, but she has started a new party called Pauline Hanson’s United Australia Party. I very much doubt that it will be in any way successful.

However she must be a good sport to pose for Emma, who although she does not agree with Pauline’s politics, thought she was charming in person.

Other news…

Naturally, I am very much looking forward to Leonard Cohen’s concert tonight. It is the last concert on the Australian leg of his tour. Reviews have been universally glowing. From my front row seat I should be able to get some excellent photos, and just possibly a video as long as security guys are not hanging around.

Will report back tomorrow with photos.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Iconic Name –New Interpretation – Skipping Girl Vinegar at Basement Discs

The first in –store performance for the year at Basement Discs featured young local band Skipping Girl Vinegar, a four piece outfit composed of Mark Lang on lead vocals & guitar, Chris Helm, drums & vocals, Sare Lang on bass guitar & vocals and Amanthi Lynch on keyboard & vocals.

The band name was inspired by the
Skipping Girl Vinegar Neon Sign, aka Little Audrey, long a feature of Victoria Street, Richmond, an inner Melbourne suburb.

Skipping Girl Vinegar, the band, has almost as much charm as the neon sign, and they play their brand of pop music with enormous verve and liveliness.

They were at Basement Discs promoting their debut full length CD, Sift The Noise. It is beautifully packaged with a bonus library bag.

They appeared to be keen on the concept of snail mail and encourage people to write to them, and they will write back. You can sign up for the postal revolution on their website. A novel idea, even if it is old fashioned.

Next week Suzannah Espie will be performing in store promoting her latest CD First & Last Hotel.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival 2009 – Week 2

Last week’s Lightning Stakes was a bit of a fizzer, with both Weekend Hussler and Apache Cat failing to gain a place. It was won by the smart Western Australian sprinter Scenic Blast.

The Hussler can be excused, as for much of the race he was blocked in by Seventh Rock, and failed to get into the clear in time to challenge the winner. He stormed home late into fourth place. Apache Cat was also hindered by Seventh Rock, but failed to make any ground. He will have a change of rider next time he races with Corey Brown being given the flick and top Victorian jockey Damien Oliver gaining the ride. We’ll see if that makes a difference.

The feature race this coming Saturday (weather permitting) is the Group One C F Orr Stakes at Caulfield over 1400 metres. There is a crack field of group one winners contending, including Light Fantastic, Maldivian, Theseo, El Segundo and Zarita. Another one to watch for in this race is the colt Von Costa De Hero who put in a slashing run to win third place in the Carlyon Stakes after playing up at the barrier and missing the start.

I am also very keen to watch the Fillies Blue Diamond Prelude to see if Rostova can continue her winning ways. She was very impressive last time.

No doubt Valerie at Foolish Pleasure will be watching the performance of Scenic Shot, who is a descendant of her blog namesake Foolish Pleasure as is Scenic Blast. We wish him good luck and expect him to be in the finish.

In Sydney, Mentality will be returning in the Group 2 Expressway Stakes. I’ve been following him for several years and he has been, in his day, a very good performer.

The temperature for Saturday in Melbourne is expected to be over 40°Celsius, so the races may be put off till Sunday after a cool change sweeps through on Saturday night.

UPDATE: They have been moved to Sunday.

And I was pleased to see that Haradasun & Elvestroem's little brother Coubertin won a race in Seymour today.

As a result of the extreme heat last week, our garden looks like it’s been through a nuclear war. The trees are shedding leaves, plants are singed and the grass is brown and sere. A good fall of rain would no doubt put them all back in good health.

We desperately need rain, but there appears to be little on the horizon – just more hot dry days, one after another.

Meanwhile Queensland is being flooded after an onslaught of cyclones.

All this variation in weather quite recalls an old poem,
My Country by Dorothea Mc Kellar that we all had to learn by heart in primary school which goes in part:

I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror- the wide brown land for me!
I remember how we had to recite it and how jewel was pronounced as “juwal”.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Canon G10 at the seaside

Yesterday we went to Ocean Grove to participate in the celebration of my brother's 60th birthday. It was a pleasant party - good food, tasty ale and convivial company.

B and I stayed the night, and this morning, before heading home, we drove the short distance to Point Lonsdale ostensibly to purchase some delicious, locally made Tomato Kasaundi, a spicy tomato relish. It was included in a hamper we received from my niece for Christmas. We've become addicted to it.

Anyway, while we were in Point Lonsdale, I thought it would be a waste to go home without taking in some of the sights and test the G10's ability to take seascapes.

Below are a few... click for larger images

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Point Lonsdale Sea Front

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Walking along the sea front to the lighthouse

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The jetty running from the lighthouse

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The lighthouse

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Low tide rock pools
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Interesting rock formation with view of the beach