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

will020110 (Medium)

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