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.