Friday, March 27, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival 2009 – Week 9

It’s not a terribly exciting line up of racing events tomorrow. Most of my black bookers were out in force last weekend, so there’s little to grab my interest this weekend.

A sole Group One race, The Rosehill Guineas, over 2000 metres for three year old colts and geldings, is being run tomorrow. It’s the feature race in Sydney and has a good field of smart young lads. Metal Bender is the favourite having won the Randwick Guineas in fine fashion a few weeks ago. His main opposition comes from Caymans who ran third in the aforementioned race, and Rock Kingdom trained by Gai Waterhouse, who also placed in the Randwick Guineas. Also in the picture are Pre Eminence and Torique.

In Melbourne Coubertin who failed to place in Adelaide will be having his first Melbourne city start in the last race on the program. It’s over 2000 metres so he has a chance considering the field is not all that strong in terms of class.

On Sunday it will be interesting to see how Tuesday Joy and Niconero fare in Dubai. They are both running in the Dubai Duty Free. Both are at good odds, so might be worth a small flutter.

The Mellow Blues of Eric Bibb once again at Basement Discs.

Basement Discs today hosted Eric Bibb at an early lunchtime show in store. Eric is currently touring Australia in support of his latest CD Get Onboard.

Looking very dapper in grey pants, yellow silk shirt and white boater, he gave the large audience packed into the intimate environment of Basement Discs a taste of sweet and mellow blues, singing mostly songs off the new album, though he stated that he likes performing more to make a connection with people than to flog his merchandise.

He comes across as a warm and humorous person and after his short set was cheerily signing CDs with a beer standing handy.

It’s music festival time in Melbourne and elsewhere, with the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival the main attraction over Easter. It has a stellar line up this year, and I am very much looking forward to seeing
Lucinda Williams performing a side show live in Melbourne next Wednesday at Hamer Hall. I have excellent seats so hope to get some good photos.

Next week
Hot Club of Cowtown will be doing an in store at Basement Discs – another band well worth seeing – Texas Swing for a change.

Wending my way back to work after the in store, walking through the lovely Block Arcade, I came upon a Giant Bilby attended by a woman handing out chocolate egg bits. I turned down the chocolate in favour of snapping the Bilby who very obligingly posed for a shot. The Bilby is the Australian version of the Easter Bunny. In real life,
Bilbies are endangered, desert-dwelling marsupial omnivores – very appealing little animals.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Typhoon Tracy – new superstar of the turf?


Typhoon Tracy’s win yesterday in the Coolmore Classic at Rosehill certainly has added sparkle to the autumn racing carnival. It was a sensational win, considering that Typhoon Tracy, having her first run in Sydney, lost momentum at the corner, yet managed to recover and surge away from Culminate to win by a fair margin. Interestingly enough Culminate is trained by Stephen McKee a name synonymous with the career of Sunline. Only really exceptional horses can win like Tracy won yesterday. She now has five wins straight and remains unbeaten. To match Sunline, she’ll have to win eight in a row. She’s more than halfway there already.

Still, to save myself disappointment, I won’t hype her too much. Look at what happened last autumn, when Light Fantastic and Weekend Hussler caught the eye with outstanding performances, yet failed dismally in the spring.

There were other eye catching performers yesterday, in particular Real Saga and More Joyous in the Todman and Reisling Stakes respectively. Also All Silent’s win in the Canterbury Stakes was excellent as was Forensics effort running second.

Theseo proved what a tough horse he is by taking out the Ranvet Stakes. Even so Bart Cummings two runners, Viewed and Moatize, put in good runs, filling second and third in the same race.

Heart of Dreams proved his class by beating Whobegotyou in the Pharlap Stakes, though there were excuses for Whobe who was badly held up by a disturbance involving Emperor Bonaparte who appeared to break down and dropped out of the race.

So it was an excellent day’s racing as expected. I’m really looking forward to Typhoon Tracy’s next run and the Golden Slipper is shaping up to be a great race with such talented youngsters as More Joyous and Real Saga now being fully qualified.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival 2009 – Week 8

I haven’t had much time to look at the form, but my general impression is that tomorrow’s racing card should be a ripper. There are four Group One races tomorrow, two in Sydney and two in Adelaide, as well several interesting Group Two contests.

The Sydney Autumn carnival is in full swing with the time honoured Group One Ranvet Stakes over 2000 metres, providing stayers like Viewed, Theseo, Moatize, Newport, and Vision and Power a chance to prove their credentials. Theseo is in top form only narrowly being defeated in the Australian Cup by Niconero a couple of weeks ago. Viewed is two races into his autumn schedule and has not been far away in the shorter races, running fourth on both occasions. Vision and Power was narrowly beaten by top mare Tuesday Joy at his last outing in the Chipping Norton, so is also in with a chance. Newport has been in the winning circle so could pull a surprise.

The Coolmore Classic is 1500 metre Group One race for fillies and mares, The great Sunline won it twice. Typhoon Tracy, who appears to me to have the potential to become another Sunline, will be facing her toughest test to date. She has again drawn a wide barrier. Her trainer joked that it was drawn to give the other mares in the race a chance. Typhoon Tracy overcame a wide draw last start and easily took the lead and won by three and a quarter lengths. Her main danger Hot Danish has been scratched I notice, though there will be plenty of other contenders such as the tough Gold Water, the honest Gallant Tess, last race winners Portillo, Neroli and the smart Absolutely Fabulous. Go Tracy Go – she looks the real deal to me.

Golden Slipper contenders get a chance to qualify tomorrow, the colts in the Todman Stakes, and the fillies in the Reisling Stakes. Reward for Effort, the winner of the Blue Diamond will be having his first run in Sydney and will be up against Real Saga who came third behind him in the Blue Diamond. The other main contenders in the Todman Stakes are Wanted and Purdey.

More Joyous who disgraced herself in the Silver Slipper by a bucking display shortly after leaving the gates, must win the Reisling Stakes to qualify for the Golden Slipper. Apparently her saddle slipped on that occasion. Darren Beadman will be riding her this time, giving her every chance to redeem herself. Her main dangers are Melito and Colour and the Bart Cummings trained Sunday Rose.

Other interesting races in Sydney tomorrow feature several of my black book horses. The Canterbury Stakes sees the return of Racing To Win and Forensics. Also in this race are All Silent, El Cambio and sole three year old, Northern Meteor, as well as Triple Honour, so it should be a terrific race. Whobegotyou who began his autumn campaign splendidly, though beaten into second place by Rockpecker, will be going for a win in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes. The ubiquitous Von Costa De Hero, who ran second in the Cadbury Guineas to Heart of Dreams is competing again in this race, as is Heart of Dreams.

Adelaide’s Morphettville track is the scene for two group one races tomorrow – the Schweppes Oaks for fillies and the Robert Sangster Stakes a sprint for fillies and mares over 1200 metres.

The Oaks has an interesting field which includes Gallica, Estee and Lamarr. The Robert Sangster has a large field of 20 horses and sees some of my favourite fillies running - the tough little Romneya, the beautifully named Damselfly, the very classy Champagne Harmony, and old fancy Sugar Babe. They will have to beat Absolut Glam who will start favourite.

The races will be on free to air television from 2.00pm so it will be another of those Saturdays where I can experience the thrill of the turf from my living room.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Evening with Old Crow Medicine Show

Old Crow Medicine Show – Forum Theatre – 13 March 2009

What a night!

The Old Crow Medicine Show were certainly something different – a lively hard rocking evening of great tunes and attitude.

It started off with a gentle set from Fireside Bellows – not so hard rocking – more on the mellow side. Then Tim Rogers took the stage. I must admit I quite maligned him in my last post, as he was actually quite good last night.

OCMS really blew the crowd away with their brand of Americana and roots music. All instrumentation was acoustic, and wow, could they play!

We had a good view from the front rank of booths sitting on top of the seats. My amazing little Panasonic camera managed to capture some good shots, considering we were so far back. I had a moment of panic early in the evening when the batteries gave out, and the spares wouldn’t work. Fortunately the camera runs on AA batteries, so I was able to nip out during an interval and buy a pack close by.

I’ve given up taking the Canon G10 to concerts as I seem to spend a lot of time fiddling with the controls, and really the Panasonic has served me very well at concerts for several years. However, once I master the G10 I’ll try it out again.

There was a good and friendly crowd at the Forum, and those on the floor were certainly getting into the vibe. At one stage, for a reason that escapes me, they waved their footwear around to a song.

OCMS played for almost three hours and were delighted with the audience response, repeatedly expressing their appreciation of Melbourne and the Victorian countryside.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival 2009 – Week 7

Last week’s Super Saturday panned out as expected and was entertaining and interesting to watch on free to air television, which indeed was how I occupied myself last Saturday afternoon. It was heart warming to see Craig Newitt win the Cadbury Guineas on Heart of Dreams and exciting watching Gallica and Gold Water fight out the Kewney Stakes, in which Gallica triumphed. Niconero pulled the same trick as in the Futurity the week before, pipping Theseo at the post to win the Australian Cup.

I was immensely impressed with the run of Typhoon Tracy. There is a touch of Sunline about her - she likes to lead and has a sensational finishing sprint like the great Sunline in her day. Typhoon Tracy blew away the rest of the field of older mares and won easily, after starting from a wide barrier. Also impressive on Saturday was Rostova who won in fine fashion and dispelled any doubts about her ability after her disappointing run in the Blue Diamond where she was later reported to be have had breathing problems after swallowing her tongue.

Melbourne’s part of the autumn carnival wraps up tomorrow with the running of the Group 2 Blamey Stakes a race over 1600 metres. Former New Zealand stayer C’est La Guerre will be having a practice run but is not expected to win , so the focus will probably be on Time Matters and Rockpecker, though the form of Tasmanian galloper, Conquering looks too good to overlook. Also in the picture is Light Vision, Marching and Playwright, all well performed in the past.

From now on the racing focus will be on the Sydney racing carnival. The Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600 metres) for three year olds will be run tomorrow to kick start the carnival. I’m really interested to see if Mic Mac can make it five wins in a row. He’s a stable mate of Apache Cat and is trained by Greg Eurell who must be counting his lucky stars to have another such promising horse in his care.

However, Mic Mac will be facing his stiffest competition so far with talented colts like Caymans, Predatory Pricer and Youthful Jack having good claims. Also one mustn’t forget the Bart Cummings trained Roman Emperor, who could pull a surprise.

The very interesting Serenissima is also racing tomorrow. A daughter of Lonhro she is unbeaten over two starts and hasn’t raced since December.

I was encouraged last week to see that some of my tipping prowess has returned, but I probably will not be risking any money just yet.

Music Interlude

Tonight I’m off to see
Old Crow Medicine Show at the Forum. OCMS are a five piece outfit from Nashville. Reports say that they are a sensational live act, so it should be a good night – when isn’t it? OCMS play “their own brand of American roots music with a rock and roll attitude”, as reported on their website. They will have two support acts, the ghastly Tim Rogers to whom I took an instant dislike when he supported Gillian Welch and David Rawlings back in 2004 He will be juxtaposed with the sweet and mellow duo Fireside Bellows

This week I also picked up two new CDs, these being the new Buddy & Julie Miller album
“Written in Chalk” and the brand new Justin Townes Earle CD “Midnight at the Movies”.

I’ve only had a chance to listen to them once, but that was enough to convince me both CDs are winners. The Buddy & Julie recording has some very beautiful and achingly sad Julie Miller songs – exquisitely sung by Julie. As for the new JTE CD – it has so far struck me as being even better than his debut effort The Good Life.

Anyway I will report back tomorrow on my evening with the Old Crow Medicine Show, with photos hopefully.

Recent & Current Reading

As it has been a while since I last wrote about books, I thought I’d write about books I’ve recently read, which happen to be The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov and The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron. I read these books concurrently, the Asimov at home and Byron’s wonderful travel diaries while commuting to and from work.

I actually hadn’t read any of these books before, despite the fact they have been around for decades.

The Foundation Trilogy is quite an engaging read, somewhat old fashioned as you’d expect from Science Fiction novels of the 1950s and 60s, but full of interesting ideas. In fact, in some ways they remind me of Neal Stephenson’s latest novel Anathem, which is based on the similar premise that scientific and intellectual pursuits are the safeguards of civilisation.

Asimov’s Foundation series is set in the far future; there are faster than light space ships and mankind has spread across the galaxy. However, there is a curious, rather drab, 1950s feel to the society portrayed in the books. Considering that tobacco products are anathema these days, Asimov’s characters cheerfully puff away on cigars and cigarettes. The technology also seems rather primitive by today’s standards

The Foundation of the title is an enclave, or society of scientists which was formed after Hari Seldon, foremost practitioner of psychohistorical analysis. predicts a collapse of the Galactic Empire which would lead into 30,000 years of barbarianism. He estimates that in order to save knowledge and shorten the period of chaos to 1000 years, a solid knowledge base would need to be established in a remote part of the galaxy. To this purpose a colony of scientists and intellectuals is moved to the remote planet of Terminus, ostensibly to work on a Galactic encyclopaedia. A second Foundation is established at another end of the galaxy and remains undiscovered throughout the first 300 years of the history of the Foundation

The first volume Foundation details the establishment and history of the colony at Terminus, called The Foundation, and the various challenges and crises it has to face and solve in the increasing chaotic galactic empire.

Foundation and Empire, the second volume, deals with a new unforeseen challenge in the ascendancy of The Mule, a mutant with extraordinary powers that can enslave whole planets and even causes the collapse of the first Foundation.

In Second Foundation the final volume, as the title suggests, the Second Foundation comes into its own as a force to be contended with. Unlike the first foundation, who were masters of technology, the members of this society are masters of mind control, so have a fair chance to defeat The Mule.

Overall, I’m pleased to have finally read this trilogy – the books have been sitting on my bookshelf for over 30 years, so I suppose it was about time I did.

Robert Byron’s Road To Oxiana is a completely different type of book to Foundation, being a travel journal. It is Byron’s description of his travels through Persia and Afghanistan during the early thirties - a journey it would be unwise to undertake these days.

I read the 1981 Picador edition with an introduction by Bruce Chatwin, to whom the book was a sort of bible.

Robert Byron was Oxford educated and interested in ruins, most particularly in Islamic architecture. His writing style is witty and lyrical. He charts his travels through Persia and Afghanistan as a diary and describes in vivid prose the sights, sounds, smells and the people he meets in his journey.

As I am ignorant of Persian and Afghan history I was very interested to read about the various conquerors of the area. Most fascinating was the extraordinary history of Gohar Shad, wife of Shah Rokh Khan the eldest son of Tamberlane. Gohar Shad was remarkable for her time, a patroness of the arts she commissioned the beautiful mosque at Meshed (pictured below) and many other architectural wonders of the ancient Middle Eastern world.

Very much a document of the time it was written, Byron’s diary still serves to be enlightening. I was amused by his referring to the Shah of Persia as Marjoribanks after he was told not to mention the name of the Shah in Persian society or write it in his diary.

At the moment I am reading The Bones of Time by Kathleen Ann Goonan. After recently rereading her nanotech novel Queen City Jazz and enjoying it very much, The Bones of Time is keeping me interested as well. It is set in a future Hawaii and also focuses on how nanotech might be used in the future, and the consequences of such usage. I intend to seek out Goonan’s other novels. I realised recently that she wrote several sequels to Queen City Jazz which I have not read, so second hand bookshops here I come.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival 2009 – Week 6 - Super Saturday

The Melbourne part of the autumn racing carnival reaches a peak tomorrow with the running of the Australian Cup over 2000 metres at Flemington. As Australian Cup fields go, it’s pretty uninspiring and to my jaundiced eye, it appears that Theseo has the race in the bag. However, one can never trust to the form being spot on, as witnessed last week, anything can happen to change the fortunes of the runners. Theseo’s main threats appear to be the redoubtable Niconero, last start winner Road To Rock, or one of the mares Zarita and Arapaho Miss. Pre Eminence really stuffed up last week, getting really fizzed up pre race and ruining his chances, but if he is back to his best he might run a place.

There are two other Group One races at Flemington and one in Sydney. In Melbourne a big field (23 runners) will contest the Newmarket Handicap, a sprint over 1200 metres. Northern Meteor returns in this race. He won the Coolmore Stud Stakes back in spring. Also in the mix is Burdekin Blues, going great guns, Scenic Blast, Swiss Ace, a surprise winner last start, Secret Flyer, Triple Honour, who cannot be overlooked, and Time Thief who is not without a hope after his very good run in the Australia Stakes when he ran third behind Apache Cat.

The Cadbury Guineas a 1600 metre race for three year olds also has a crack field of talented colts and geldings. Will Von Costa De Hero behave himself and fulfil his potential this time round? Fravashi is the deserving favourite, but there are other chances in Heart of Dreams, Niconero’s little brother Nicconi and the interesting Huxssen, unbeaten so far this autumn.

There are several other interesting races at Flemington for the follower of form. The Group 2 Kewney Stakes sees Gold Water and Gallica fighting it out again. But before that race I was interested to see that old favourite Sugar Babe has returned to racing. She will be up against the current in form filly Dameselfly in the MSS Security Stakes. And I am very much looking forward to seeing Typhoon Tracy racing in the Schweppervescence Trophy. back as well in the Sire’s Produce Stakes. She was disappointing in the Blue Diamond, but there are excuses for her performance, so if she is back to her best she should win.

And, how could I forget, Whobegotyou, the hyped colt of spring is making his debut autumn racing appearance in the last race at Flemington.

At Randwick the Group One Chipping Norton will be run, Tuesday Joy is the favourite, but the race also has Melbourne Cup winner Viewed, AJC Derby winner Nom De Jeu, Mentality and giant killer, Gallant Tess running. Tuesday Joy came second in this race last year, beaten by Casino Queen.

All Silent, winner of the Emirates Stakes in the spring, starts his autumn campaign in the Liverpool City Cup. His target this autumn is the hallowed Doncaster Handicap. The gutsy filly Romneya will be taking on the mares in Sydney this weekend in the Group 2 Surround Stakes.

Despite the fact that some of the sparkle has gone out of the autumn carnival with Samantha Miss out with an injury and Weekend Hussler being spelled, it looks like a good day of racing tomorrow. The excitement continues on Monday where I will be interested in the performances of Augusta Proud and Coubertin who are racing in Adelaide. I won’t be placing any bets as my tipping form has been shocking so far this year. I therefore won’t put a jinx on any of my black book horses, by laying money on them.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Kane, Welch, Kaplin – A night of superb music at the Corner

Kevin Welch at the Corner Hotel - 4 March 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Kane Welch Kaplin show at the Corner Hotel in Richmond.

The three gentlemen are of course Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplin, who along with Kieran’s son Lucas provided a superb night of musical delights to a good crowd of dedicated fans.

B and I arrived early in order to get one or three of the limited seats and managed to score seating middle front row. We saved a seat for a neighbour who we recently discovered is a fan of the trio and shares our taste in music.

Fats Kaplin at the Corner Hotel - 4 March 2009

Kieran Kane & Kevin Welch have been coming regularly to our shores for ten years. I first witnessed them perform at the now defunct Continental back in 1999 on their first tour. Last night must be the seventh time I’ve attended one of their shows, and it seems to me that they only get better. The addition of Fats Kaplin to the line up has enhanced the act enormously. Fats is a master musician playing violin, mandolin and guitar and one cannot fail to mention Lucas Kane’s tasteful drumming which also enhances the sound.

They are all striking looking individuals and possess a quality of musicianship that is stunning to watch and hear. Kevin and Kieran provide most of the vocals, though last night it was predominately Kevin doing the singing. They share song writing credits and are no mean slouches at writing killer songs.

Kieran Kane at the Corner - 4 March 2009
Kevin, after hearing of the bushfires that devastated the state in early February, was inspired to write a song about Marysville, one of the towns destroyed by the fires. This song has been recorded for a St Vincent de Paul bushfire relief CD After The Fire. It is available for download on Kevin’s website.
And this afternoon… the fabulous Eliza Gilkyson
Basement Discs at lunchtime today featured Texan songwriter Eliza Gilkyson fresh, or more likely jet lagged, off the plane. However, despite admitting that she’d had no sleep for the past 24 hours, she was the consummate trouper, performing a charming short set to a small but enthusiastic audience.

She is the daughter of iconic singer songwriter Terry Gilkyson and writes truly wonderful songs herself.

This is her first tour of Australia and those of us attending the in store today were the fortunate first to see her perform on these shores. I’m mightily tempted to go and see her at one of her other shows in town.

You can check out some of her songs on her my space page.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Autumn Racing Carnival – Week 5

Racing is never dull.

Witness yesterday, where not one, but two odds on favourites totally ruined their chances in the race they were contesting by putting on a bucking display shortly after jumping from the gates. Essaouira at Caulfield was the first. She started hot favourite in the second race, then More Joyous did the same thing at Rosehill. It is unbelievable that such behavior occurred twice in the same day.

Then just before the Futurity Stakes – the feature Group 1 race at Caulfield – was scheduled to start, Craig Newitt the rider of Light Fantastic, was informed of his father's death in a car accident. The race was delayed by half an hour as Craig made up his mind to take the ride, eventually mounting up with commendable self control. He decided to ride in honour of his father, and everyone on course, as well as those of us watching from home, wished him the best of luck and hoped that he could pull off the win. Alas, he was denied that at the very last minute by Niconero pipping Light Fantastic at the post.

Such is racing…

Next weekend is the Australia Cup – always an interesting race.