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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gods, Graves, and Scholars

Archaeology is a popular topic these days judging by the number of televised series dedicated to it. There is Time Team, presented by Tony Robinson (of Baldrick in Black Adder fame), where a team of archaeologists dig up bits of the United Kingdom to verify historical facts about the location. And there other shows that tackle historical sites such Little Big Horn and the battlefields of World War I.

However, that is not the reason I am currently reading Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C W Ceram. In fact, I recently rediscovered it gathering dust on a bookshelf and recalled that when I had first read it back in 1974 I had enjoyed it immensely.

Subtitled, the Story of Archaeology, Gods, Graves, and Scholars is just that and more. It reads like a boys own adventure story or an episode from Indiana Jones, and is quite fascinating. It covers all the famous discoveries from the 18th Century to 20th Century – starting with the influential Winckelmann who developed a system for identifying and interpreting ancient art, around the time of Pompeii’s excavation, it moves onto the fantastic story of Schliemann’s discovery of Troy by taking Homer literally, then onto the unearthing of Cretan culture by Arthur Evans. The archaeology of Egypt naturally consumes several chapters starting with the extraordinary Vivant Denon in the train of Napoleon’s army, Champollion who unlocked the Rosetta Stone. After following the exploits of Belzoni, Lepsius, Mariette, Petrie, the Egyptian section culminates in Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen,

The history of archaeology appears to feature larger than life characters, men of unusual genius who have inspiring insights as well as extraordinarily lucky hunches. Ceram‘s approach to the subject is infectiously enthusiastic and he provides plenty of background detail on the major sites and their discovery. In chapter 14, I was thrilled to come upon the origin of Cairo Martyr’s source of mummies in the Edward Whittemore novel, Jerusalem Poker, and maybe even the inspiration for Cairo Martyr himself.

Though Gods, Graves, and Scholars could be regarded as a popular history of archaeology, the amount of scholarly attention to detail, and the graceful old fashioned style in which it is written, raises it above the common run of such books. It was first published in 1953 and revised in 1972. C W Ceram was the pseudonym of Kurt W Marek, a journalist and drama critic. He went on to write more books on archaeology including The Secret of the Hittites.

As I write this review. I am about two thirds through the book, presently delighting in ancient Babylon. In a couple of chapters I will have reached Book 4, The Book of Temples, - The Empires of the Aztecs, the Mayas and the Toltecs.

If you have an interest in archaeology, or even if you don’t, I heartily recommend this engrossing and exciting piece of non-fiction.

Canon Photo 5 Competition 2009

Canon Australia again has its photo competition running. I found it quite fun last year, fooling around with the contents of the box, though of course I didn’t win any prizes. However it was a educational experience, so I feel more equipped to take better photographs this year, though I doubt if I will win anything.

I received my box in the mail yesterday and it contained a range of interesting objects…

· A packet of hundreds & thousands

· A sachet of pink paint powder

· A pair of cardboard spectacles

· Three lens covers with variously sized star cut-outs.

The competition is different this year - each of the objects is to be used in a particular brief utilising an appropriate technique to achieve a special effect.

  1. Close Up - hundreds & thousands
  2. Splat Action - paint or other opaque liquid in motion
  3. Bokeh Experiment - lens covers
  4. Portraiture - spectacles
  5. Practically Black- open low light shot.

I think I will have to put in more effort this year to set up the shots.

At present I am bereft of ideas, but must admit I am dying to try out the bokeh brief.

If I do manage to take any decent photos I’ll post them here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Day At The Races – Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes

Whobegotyou after winning the Dato Chin Nam Stakes

I’m glad I decided to go to the races yesterday. It turned out to be a very enjoyable and quite profitable day. I went solo this time, though I did run into a friend when I was there. Arriving just before the fifth race, I watched a total of four races and placed bets on three of them. Much to my surprise my luck was in, as all my bets were successful – 2 wins, a trifecta, a second & a third place.

My first successful bet was on Nicconi in the Group 3 McEwan Stakes, a sprint over 1000 metres.

Nicconi after winning the McEwan Stakes

The next race on the program was the feature Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (formerly the Feehan Stakes), so I decided to go and look at the horses in the mounting yard and take some photos...

El Segundo – his handler said that he loved having his photo taken

Whobegotyou – wearing blinkers for the first time – an obviously successful tactic.

Jolie’s Shinju – Singapore mare having her first start in Australia

Mic Mac – upon whom I pinned my hopes.

The race itself was worth the price of admission – an exciting battle of champions with Whobegotyou winning in style. Mic Mac was a length away second and Jolie’s Shinju, after taking the lead for most of the race, held on for third. I had each way bets on Mic Mac & Jolie’s Shinju, but also thought to take out a boxed trifecta which included Whobegotyou, as well as the other two.

The final race I witnessed was the Group 2 WH Stock Stakes for mares run over 1600 metres. I had my money on Zarita and she managed to win by a nose over Cat’s Whisker. The only photo I managed to get of her is below.

Zarita after winning the Stock Stakes

I waited to collect my winnings on Zarita then called it a day.

Yesterday, Melbourne put on the first warm day of Spring, so even though it was still windy, it was perfect weather for a day at the races.

The course was not overcrowded – it was easy to place a bet and get a beer or two and there was the usual party atmosphere. Even though I rarely go to Moonee Valley, there are people who always seem to be there when I go. There is a young woman who packs a serious camera with whom I have a nodding acquaintance, and a rather dreary old man who speaks to you as if you’ve never been to the races before.

I came home richer than I left, perfectly satisfied with my day at the races.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week Seven

Jolie's Shinju
I haven’t had much time to study the form this week, so will only mention one race, the Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600 metres) which is scheduled to run at Moonee Valley tomorrow. It has always been a fascinating race, and is regarded as a mini Cox Plate. Last year it was won by Guillotine, the year before El Segundo and Haradasun fought out the finish with El Segundo winning by a whisker.

This year is likely to be just as exciting. It has an excellent field that includes Mic Mac having his first run over a mile, Whobegotyou, the seemingly eternal bridesmaid, gunning for his first win in over a year, El Segundo on his favourite course, and the highly regarded Singapore mare Jolie’s Shinju, on the Cox Plate trail, having her first start in Australia. Should be a great race and I’m tempted to go to the course. After all, tomorrow’s meeting, even though the Manikato Stakes has been moved to another date, is generally the Saturday when I make my annual pilgrimage to the races. A warm day is forecast, so it would be an excellent opportunity to take photos of several star racehorses in a relatively uncrowded environment.

Last week my super stable did very well. Typhoon Tracy, though pipped at the post by Vigor, showed grit and determination in fighting it out and will surely win a race soon.

Black Caviar, despite stumbling at the start, proved she could beat the boys, though it may have been to her detriment as she is reported to have pulled a tendon in her chest, so may be out for the rest of the spring.

In Sydney Lonhro’s status as a sire of potential champions was raised by the win of O’Lonhro in the Chelmsford Stakes, and that of Serenissima in a listed race for three year old fillies.

Excessively breezy lunchtime warmed by the talented duo - Fire By The Sea

A truly awful wind is raging through Victoria today, and Melbourne has not been spared by any means. It practically knocks you over crossing a street against it.

Reluctant as I was to venture out in the wind (it’s hell on contact lenses!), I made it down to
Basement Discs to see young Melbourne duo, Fire By The Sea, showcase several songs from their debut full length CD, Falling To Fly. They were certainly worth the effort.

Fire By The Sea is Keda (vocals) and Andy (guitar), who, according to their website, have been friends since childhood. Today they had a full band supporting them, inclusive of an electric guitarist, an electric bass and a drummer. They generated a gratifying BIG sound.

Keda (pictured above) has one of those interesting voices. I kept racking my brains for who it reminded me of, then realised, after re-reading the Basement Discs ad, that she does sound a lot like one of the Waifs female vocalists. A very good voice in fact, if unusual.

Their music is sort of rock/pop though they did do a reggae song too.

All in all an enjoyable half hour of music, though there weren’t that many people present for the occasion.

You can check out their
website for more information and watch a video here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week Six

The Liston Stakes Finish - L to R - Whobegotyou, Predatory Price, Typhoon Tracy

Well, last week I was correct about the winners of the Memsie Stakes (Mic Mac) and the Golden Rose (Denman) Both of these young horses won very well, Mic Mac leading the Memsie field from start to finish, having enough in reserve to beat Whobegotyou by1½ lengths, and Denman, the spitting image of his sire Lonhro, storming home in the Golden Rose and finishing strongly, beating Trusting into second place with outsider Stryker coming third. Phelan Ready was not in contention at all and finished near the tail end of the field.

More Joyous was disappointing in the Sheraco Stakes, only managing to run into third place behind Madame Pedrille with 40/1 outsider Seeking Attention running second.

This coming Saturday looks a beauty as far as star performers are concerned with several of my super stable scheduled to run at Flemington.

The Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200 metres) has unbeaten filly Black Caviar pitted against the boys for the first time in her short racing career. Not only that, she is up against Manhattan Rain, reckoned by Gai Waterhouse to be the best three year old in the country. Others sure to be in contention are Wanted, Rarefied, Delago Bolt and fillies Corsaire and Rostova.
Typhoon Tracy returns this week with just as tough an assignment in the Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600 metres) as she faced in the Liston Stakes three weeks ago. Predatory Pricer, the victor on that occasion is the major danger and sure to start favourite. Heart of Dreams, another representative of my stable, is also entered for this race and will be competitive if he gets a good run. Cups contenders Master O’Reilly, C’est La Guerre, Mac’Reilly, among others, are starting their Spring campaigns in this race. I’m of course hoping Tracy can turn the tables on Predatory Pricer this time round, but am far from confident as to her chances.

The other Group 2 race the Let’s Elope Stakes (1400 metres) for mares has some interesting runners in Romneya, Cat’s Whisker, Estee and Dane Julia, any of whom could win.

I’m also interested in Irish imported mare Unsung Heroine in the last race of the day over 1700 metres. She is reputedly a class act and has been rated as such. Speed Gifted, another classy import (GB) seems to be her main opposition along with local stayers Cat’s Fun and Young Centaur.

Oh, and Randwick has some good races too, but I can’t be bothered writing about them here, but will follow them on Saturday.

My super stable is slowly accruing prize money, so at least I can substitute Metal Bender who has sustained an injury and will be out for the spring. I have yet to select a substitute, having decided to wait the results of Saturday’s racing. This kind of thing is the usual attrition concomitant with the super stable competition. Last year it was Sebring who was injured early in the spring. He never raced again and is now at stud. My top hope for the Cups, Rebel Raider also appears to be out for the spring with an injury. Very disappointing, as he was a definite chance and I was anticipating him taking out the Cup with Claire Lindop onboard, who would have become the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. Still, she may get another ride, but perhaps not as classy a ride as Rebel Raider.