Friday, December 31, 2010

Sayonara to the work place

“So its goodbye to the sunshine, goodbye to the dew,
Goodbye to the flowers, and goodbye to you.
I'm off to the subway. I must not be late.
I'm going to work in tall buildings.”

John Hartford - Tall Buildings

For me it’s hello to the sunshine - it’s a scorcher this New Year’s Eve in Melbourne - and hello to the flowers and goodbye to the Department, I’ll no longer work in tall buildings.

Yes, today was my last working day. I’m all set for a 10 month holiday using up recreation leave and long service leave credits, after which I will officially retire from the workforce.

God knows what I’ll do with myself, but I’m sure something will occur to me to occupy my time for however long I’ve got left. But firstly I’ll enjoy winding down , chilling out and forgetting the stresses of training a new person in my job over the past few months, and particularly the past week.

I’ve got plenty of new books to read, having scored a number of books for Christmas by way of gift vouchers, which of course I’ve redeemed.

Anyway, this New Year’s Eve will be a memorable one for me, even though I’m not planning on doing anything special.

Whoopee! No more work.

I also wish readers of this blog just as memorable an occasion and love , peace and happiness in 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Keith Richards Life – the hair raising and entertaining tale of a survivor

Keith Richards book

Over the past week or so I’ve been reading Keith Richards autobiography, Life, and what an amazing reading experience it has been.

I am not usually one to read celebrity bios, but I made an exception with this one as I’ve always been a great fan of the Rolling Stones, and even though my main fascination with the band centred on Mick Jagger, after reading Keith’s Life, I have become a Richards devotee. In fact after reading halfway through the book which took it up to 1972, I felt an urge to run out and buy the DVD Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones – a live recording of a concert they performed in that year. Instead of concentrating on the antics of Jagger I watched Richards this time.

Not a book for the fainthearted or the easily shocked, Life is grand tale of sex and drugs and rock and roll; indeed Keith Richards lived his life like we all imagine rock stars do.

What makes the book extraordinary as an autobiography, is the up front and personal style of the writing. You feel, reading it, that Keith Richards is talking to you directly. No expletives or details are spared, and you emerge from the book feeling you know the guy intimately. Quite an achievement!

The book traces Keith Richards life from his schooldays to the present and it’s a real page turner, engagingly vivid and interesting throughout. It describes the development of the Rolling Stones as one of the great rock ‘n roll bands, and for all you guitar aficionados, Keith explains his technique in great detail.

He never apologises or makes excuses for his excesses and extreme substance abuse. A real rebel, it turns out that his paternal grandfather was a socialist and civic rights leader. His maternal grandfather was a Jazz musician and was, along with his mother Doris, a major influence on his chosen path as a musician.

Keith Richards Life has gained many accolades in the press, the book being designated as "One of the greatest rock memoirs ever....” and I can only agree. Highly recommended!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Last In Store for the year – A sparkling set by Monique DiMattina

After a week of heat, humidity and also torrential rain – half the state of Victoria, not to mention New South Wales is flooded – the weather today in Melbourne is cool and mild,

However, a sunny mini performance by
Monique Dimattina at Basement Discs was a pleasant break from the intensity and busyness of the season.

Monique has recently returned from a lengthy stint in New York where she worked with the likes of Lou Reed , Norah Jones and Bjork. As well as being an excellent pianist, Monique is a talented singer and songwriter. Her musical heroines are Rickie Lee Jones, Blossom Dearie and Nina Simone to name a few.

It was obvious Monique was pleased to be back in Melbourne and she has celebrated the fact by recording a wonderful album of originals with a cover or two called Welcome Stranger. The first song she sang today was her tribute to Melbourne, Livingest Place - a bouncy jazzy little number followed by another Melbourne referenced song called Joan of Burwood.

She was accompanied today by
Andrew Swan who alternately played drums and guitar and Hannah Cameron who provided backing vocals.

Her music is defined as Jazz/Pop and she is certainly mistress of a range of musical styles.

2011 promises another abundance of top International and Local musical treats. No doubt, Basement Discs will be hosting a few of them in store.

Check out Monique on her website, where she is offering a free download of the Livingest Place.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Mary Gauthier at East Brunswick Club

Each time I have had the pleasure of witnessing Mary Gauthier live, she has been accompanied by a different musician. Back in 2007 wonderful guitarist Thomm Jutz provided superb backing and earlier this year she was accompanied by Ed Romanoff.

This time round young five string violin maestro
Tania Elizabeth, was her partner on stage, so once again the vibe was different.

I had been steeling myself all day for a night of standing at the East Brunswick Club, but surprise, surprise limited seating was provided this time, so we had a great possie up the front at a small table. One brave soul parked himself on the sticky carpet, drawing even Mary Gauthier to remark on the adhesive quality of flooring at the East Brunswick Club.

It was a great show, Mary singing a range of songs from her back catalogue, understandably interspersed with songs from The Foundling.

She began the night with her fabulous cover of the beautiful For Rose, a song written by Jonathan Pointer. She took a request for I Drink – naturally - and obliged me by performing one of my favourites from her album Filth and the Fire, Christmas in Paradise. In fact she sang a few songs from that album including Camelot Motel and Sugarcane.

Tania Elizabeth added another dimension to the show with her otherworldly, eerie violin accompaniment and spooky harmony vocals. She is a Melburnian by birth but now lives in Canada and is a former member of the Canadian band
The Duhks.

Set List

For Rose
Walk On The Water
I Drink
Christmas In Paradise
I Ain’t Leaving
Sweet Words
Camelot Motel
Mama Here Mama Gone
Blood Is Blood
The Orphan King

Hangman’s Reel – Tania Elizabeth solo
Mercy Now

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pieta Brown & Bo Ramsey at Basement Discs

It’s a wild and woolly day in Melbourne, hot and humid with gale force winds. That’s early summer for you,

It was worth braving the vicious wind to get down to
Basement Discs at lunchtime, for a very special mini concert by Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey, playing selections from Pieta’s latest CD One And All.
Pieta Brown, for those who don’t know, is the daughter of acclaimed American folk singer songwriter Greg Brown, but she has her own individual style, leaning more towards the rock end of the folk and country spectrum. She has a superb voice that has been termed haunting by the critics: it has an attractive tonal quality that is a pleasure to listen to, and her songs are instantly likeable.

Accompanied today by husband and guitar maestro Bo Ramsey providing very tasteful and quite ornate electric guitar licks, Pieta’s performance was sweet respite from the nasty weather outside.

Bo Ramsey is a star in his own right, being a long time associate of Pieta’s father Greg Brown as guitar player and producer, and he has also added his own distinctive guitar sound to Lucinda Williams albums - Car Wheels On a Gravel Road and Essence in particular.
Check out this You Tube video of Pieta and Bo performing her song West Monroe

Last week Basement Discs presented Darwin singer songwriter
Leah Flanagan. I did not have time to write a review, but be assured it was another quality performance.

Next week on Thursday I’m going to see
Mary Gauthier at the East Brunswick Club. Yes, she’s back in Australia for a few shows and will be playing at the Queenscliff Music Festival. The show at the East Brunswick Club is advertised a comprising two sets, so I assume we will get to hear a more extended song list than earlier this year where she concentrated on her new album The Foundling. Whatever, I’m looking forward to seeing her again, even if it is at the East Brunswick Club.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chilling out with Collard Greens & Gravy

It has been a few weeks since Basement Discs presented an in store performance, but it all resumed today with a sterling little show from local blues outfit Collard Greens & Gravy spruiking their new CD Juke Joint Boogie.
The group has been around the Melbourne scene for many years and are recognized as one of the best blues bands in Australia if not the world, so it was a pleasure to catch them live once more.

Ian Collard has a spectacular bluesy voice reminiscent of Tim Buckley and plays a mean harmonica. His cohorts in the band are James Bridges on guitar and Anthony Shortte on percussion.

Today they entertained the sizeable audience with several new tunes from the new album, including the title track,

Melbourne is hot and windy today, so collard blues was better than a blast of cool air to take the heat off the working day.

Check them out on their website, or
My Space and give them a listen. They’re great!

The Carnival is Over – a review of the 2010 Spring Racing Season

What a splendid racing season it was…the best in many years and pretty well interesting throughout the entire sixteen weeks it lasted.The Stars

So You Think
who missed the autumn season recovering from a throat operation, stormed into the spring with an unbeaten run of five races including winning a second Cox Plate. A magnificent looking animal he became the archetypal champion of the turf, his run of wins ending with the Melbourne Cup where he was by no means disgraced in his game third placing. He was a joy to behold in all his races, though he certainly stymied the chances of his opposition by winning several choice Group One competitions. Alas that’s the last we’ll see of him on Aussie racetracks, but it will be interesting to see how he performs on the world stage.

So You Think
A late starter in the spring season was the super sprinting mare Black Caviar who finished the season last weekend, remaining unbeaten in eight starts, by totally annihilating her opposition in the Patinack Farm Classic. Hay List, on whom much was expected in the race, failed to fire and finished second last. Black Caviar will return in autumn to contest rich sprints like the Lightning Stakes. Gratifyingly her trainer when asked about the possibility of her racing overseas retorted that she would stay in Australia and if the world wanted to challenge her they could come here. As an aside, her little brother Moshe (Bel Esprit – Helsinge) had his first start yesterday in Bendigo and won by six lengths, He might yet challenge his big sister in the future.

Black Caviar
Hay List, despite his uncharacteristic performance last weekend, can still be counted as one of the stars of the spring carnival with three wins in a row including the Group One Manikato Stakes. I will be looking forward keenly to his return in the autumn when we will undoubtedly witness another clash with Black Caviar.

Sydney stayer Maluckyday seemed to come out of the blue a few days prior to the Cup. One moment Melbourne race fans had not heard of him, the next moment he’d won the Lexus Stakes then run second in the Melbourne Cup. A very promising young stayer, he’s one to consider for next year’s Melbourne Cup and the staying handicaps in the autumn season.

More Joyous, though denied the glory of winning the Cox Plate, won four races in succession prior to that race, including two Group One contests in open company, so she’s still a star in my book. With So You Think out of the picture in the future, More Joyous and the others who had the misfortune to meet the champ, will no doubt be back competing for prizes in autumn.
Black Bookers
Several of my black book horses competed throughout the spring without mishap but with little luck. Favourites like Typhoon Tracy and Shoot Out were competitive but unfortunately unable to win, in Tracy’s case, though Shoot Out started the season with wins in the Bletchingly Stakes and the Liston Stakes. The tragedy of the spring was the death of Shoot Out’s regular jockey Stathi Katsidis a few days before the Cox Plate. We’ll never know if Stathi would have made a difference to Shoot Out’s chances in the Cox Plate, but probably not. Linton failed miserably in the Melbourne Cup, but is worth another chance I reckon when he matures. He after all ran second to Maluckyday in the Lexus.

Of the up and coming youngsters sure to be firing in the autumn season, Star Witness verified that his Blue Diamond win wasn’t a fluke, winning the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes and running a very creditable second to Black Caviar in the Patinack Farm Classic. The Victoria Derby winner Lion Tamer is also worth watching for in autumn and will be a force to contend with if the tracks are heavy.

This coming Saturday there is an interesting race card at Sandown Hillside where good old Zipping will be gunning for a fourth Sandown Classic and the Sandown Cup features a field containing some unlucky Melbourne Cup contestants trying over the 3200 metre distance again.

There’s a mini carnival in Western Australia in a week or two and summer brings the Magic Millions hopefuls into play prior to the autumn season, but I’ll spare you the details and write about something else for a change.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

2010 Racing Season – week 15 – Emirates Stakes Day

Americain winning the Melbourne Cup
Melbourne Cup Post Mortem and the last race of the carnival.
Every man and his dog knows by now that American bred, French trained, black stallion Americain won the Melbourne Cup. The other black stallion So You Think ran third, a very good effort for such a lightly raced young horse. The disappointing news is that So You Think has been sold to Coolmore and we’ll probably never see him race again in Australia, as he’ll be sent to Ireland to be trained by Aiden O’Brien to race in Europe before being retired to stud.

Bart Cummings, who was not consulted, is said to be really upset by this news, stating rightly that So You Think was good for the local racing industry, in that the horse had all the hallmarks of becoming a “champion of the people”, like the great horses of the past. He also said that So You Think was the best horse that he’d trained and had not yet realised his true potential.

It is a great pity that big money snatches away our champions from Australia. It happened with that other Darley owned beautiful black stallion, Denman, who reportedly never settled in England and was retired to stud without racing again. Haradasun and Starspangledbanner were also sold to Coolmore, and though racing and winning in the UK, never graced the Aussie turf again.

Anyway, there is some consolation this weekend when the highly anticipated clash between Hay List and Black Caviar is set to take place in the Group One Patinack Farm Classic, a sprint over 1200 metres. The field is small (7 runners) but select, and includes, besides the two main attractions, All Silent, who won this race in record time last year, super sprinting mares Ortensia and Melito, and Star Witness who was back in winning circles last week, taking out the Coolmore Stud Stakes. It’s really hard to pick between Black Caviar and Hay List – the ideal result would be a dead heat between the two.

The feature race, the Group One Emirates Stakes (1600 metres), looks rather ordinary after the classy fields over the past week or so, the best of the bunch being Black Piranha who has mixed with the best in the past, ditto Sniper’s Bullet, Trusting, Allez Wonder and Captain Sonador. It’s an odd sort of race, being tacked on to the season as a sort of consolation prize for runners who failed to make the Cup or Cox Plate fields. It often yields an unexpected result.

Today is Oaks Day – one for the ladies. I’ve used a free bet from my online betting service - an apologetic free bet, to back five runners, one of whom, Brazilian Pulse, was the winner. IAS handed out free bets to its subscribers as it stuffed up badly on Cup Day, being unable to cope with the extra traffic to the site.

Ironically it is the reason I managed to get the Cup trifecta twice. I wouldn’t have resorted to the local TAB had IAS been working normally as I’d had a brain wave, after doing the Age cryptic crossword. The answer to a clue in the crossword was “campanologist”, and mindful of the fact that a similar helpful clue found Efficient in the 2007 Melbourne Cup (the answer then was Iron Horse), I had to put a small each way bet on Campanologist in this year’s Cup. As IAS was not accessible by then, I went to the closest TAB outlet to do so. Whilst there, I decided to get a Melbourne Cup Mystery Trifecta ($3.00 gets you a boxed random selection of three runners). I’ve had them before and it usually turns out that you get one or two placegetters, but this year my Mystery Tri was spot on. So the “campanologist” omen, though unsuccessful in purist terms, was a lucky break through some crazy twist of fate.

More thoughts on the Melbourne Cup; it is clear that the High Chaparral boys Shoot Out, Monaco Consul and Descarado didn’t stay the trip, in fact Descarado failed to finish, his jockey Nash Rawiller pulling him up before the end of the race sensing something was wrong with the horse. Fortunately there was nothing found amiss with him, so a big sigh of relief all round – it’s suspected he swallowed mud, being stuck on the rail for most of the trip and having it flung in his face by those in front of him. Zipping, bless him, ran fourth again and “out of the blue” newcomer Maluckyday, who scraped into the Cup at the last moment, did very well to come second.

All in all a memorable Melbourne Cup.

Monday, November 01, 2010

2010 Racing Season – The Melbourne Cup

sytSo You Think

The highlight of the Melbourne Spring racing season is set to be run tomorrow for the 150th time in its history. The hallowed turf of Flemington race course is home to the Melbourne Cup and I last attended the event way back in 1970, when Baghdad Note saluted.

Of course I won’t be attending this year, but will be watching it on television.

The field this year is first class – the best in many years, and includes the awesome black stallion So You Think who is raging favourite to take out the Cup after his effortless win in the Mackinnon Stakes on the weekend. He’s the obvious pick and I’m sure the hearts of all racing fans will be willing him to win Bart Cummings his 13th Melbourne Cup.

It is really pleasing to see so many talented young Australian and New Zealand bred stayers in the race this year. The High Chaparral boys – So You Think, Shoot Out, Descarado and Monaco Consul - are all in the field and I’m tempted to box them in a trifecta and/or first four. And let’s not forget top staying sire, Zabeel who is represented by Precedence, Zavite and Maluckyday who gained automatic inclusion in the Cup field by winning the Lexus Stakes on Saturday and looks a top chance.

Also worthy of consideration is last year’s winner Shocking, lightweight chance Linton, who made it to the field after several prequalified runners were withdrawn, well credentialed New Zealand stayer Harris Tweed or good old Zipping who may score a place.

There are only two mares in the race, Profound Beauty from Ireland and the Gai Waterhouse trained Once Were Wild who ran an excellent race in the Lexus Stakes, finishing third behind Maluckyday and Linton.

Of the other Internationals, French horse Americain who recently won the Geelong Cup looks the main danger to the locals, though you really can’t dismiss out of hand Japanese stayer Tokai Trick or British horse Holberg who has good European form.

It is to be hoped that the track will not be too adversely affected by the weather over the weekend. So far it hasn’t rained today, but it is chilly and overcast with occasional sunshine.

The big wet on Saturday certainly affected the outcome of several races on Derby day. Lion Tamer, a noted mud runner, won the Derby and Typhoon Tracy was beaten into second place in the Myer Classic by Sacred Choice who relished the soggy track.

Anyway shortly after three o’clock tomorrow afternoon we’ll know if So You Think has confirmed his champion status for all time.

If you’re unsure of who to back, check out this horse by horse analysis on which actually gives a sensible rundown on the chances of all 24 runners.

UPDATE - post Melbourne Cup
Result - 1. Americain 2. Maluckyday 3. So You Think

YAY! I got the trifecta twice! Once on my online betting account and on a mystery bet at the local TAB outlet, plus several win and place bets, so I've won something like $500.00 on the Cup. Best result ever!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shiver me timbers…reading Treasure Island

Long John Silver - illustration by Mervyn Peake

I’m really not sure whether I actually read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island when I was a child. Perhaps I didn’t as I got to know the story in audio form via an LP record we had in childhood. It had Robin Hood on one side and Treasure Island on the other and was narrated by Basil Rathbone. I can still vividly recall the words to the song “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest/yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” and the characters Captain Flint, Ben Gunn and Little Jimmy Hawkins, intoned in a spectral voice.

I have discovered, reading the book over the past week on my daily commute to and from work, that it is a ripper read.

I actually don’t possess a physical copy of the book, but it was the first book I downloaded to my Kindle, so I eventually got around to reading it after binging on Josephine Tey detective novels in ebook format.

As pirate novels go, it’s a classic. It is the one on which all pirate books and films were later modelled. It’s got the lot – bloodthirsty buccaneers, treasure maps, curses, ghosts and a one legged pirate with a parrot on his shoulder, ie Long John Silver.

Long John Silver is the most interesting character in the novel, a psychologically complex being, unusual for the time the book was written, in a children’s adventure story of the late 19th century. He’s a charmer, a villain, intelligent and cunning and really quite likeable despite his perfidy.

Treasure Island is written in a relaxed somewhat wry tone of voice, with wonderfully drawn characters – especially the wicked old pirates - with plenty of action and adventure.

It was in fact a revelation and has given me the inspiration to delve into The Alexander Classic Library, a relic from childhood which has been sitting on top of one of my bookcases, unopened for years.

alexander_classic_library (Small)
The Alexander Classic Library is a boxed set of faux leather bound, gold tipped, classic novels and consists of the following titles:

Poems of Tennyson by Alfred Tennyson
The Last Days of Pompeii by Lord Lytton
Tales from the Arabian Nights
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Quentin Durward by Sir Walter Scott
The Tower of London by Harrison Ainsworth
Masterman Ready by Captain Marryat
The Queen's Necklace by Alexandre Dumas
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
Martin Rattler by R. M. Ballantyne
Kidnapped by R.L. Stevenson
Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes
Dombey & Son by Charles Dickens
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Good Wives by Louisa M. Alcott

My set is missing Dombey & Son, which I remember loaning to someone back in the 1960s. It was never returned.

Surprisingly the collection doesn’t include Treasure Island, but it does have Kidnapped, which perhaps I’ll read next.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season – Week 14 – Derby Day

So You Think winning the 2010 Cox Plate - photo by Pat Scala "The Age"
There was a feeling last Saturday watching So You Think win the Cox Plate for the second time, that a grand moment in racing history was taking place before our eyes. It was indeed a sensational win on the part of So You Think and one could only feel sorry for the connections of the other horses in the field that they had the misfortune to meet a horse of such freakish ability. After all, the quality of the field was first class with the likes of More Joyous, Shoot Out, Whobegotyou and the evergreen Zipping participating. They would have fought out the finish in quite a different way had there been no So You Think stealing a march on the lot of them.

Shoot Out who ran fourth in the Cox Plate, powering home very well, will meet So You Think again this coming weekend in the MacKinnon Stakes and on the following Tuesday in the Melbourne Cup. Yeah, we know that So You Think has never won nor raced beyond 2040 metres, but other High Chaparrals, Monaco Consul & Shoot Out have won Derbies, and Descarado won the Caulfield Cup, so there is every possibility that So You Think can run the two miles of the Cup. If he wins it, there’s no denying that he’ll be a star of the turf of a calibre unseen for many years,

Black Caviar’s win in the Schweppes Stakes last weekend, her seventh in succession, was as spectacular as So You Think’s in the Cox Plate. Though it was only a small field she thrashed Hot Danish winning by 5½ lengths. Bring on Hay List! Based on her run last week, Black Caviar could very well beat him. We’ll hopefully witness a clash between these two in a week’s time when they’ll fight out the Patinack Farm Classic on Emirate Stakes day.

The feature race this Saturday is the Victoria Derby for three year olds run over 2500 metres. Always hard to predict, the Derby certainly sorts out the stayers from the middle distance runners. The current favourite is Rekindled Interest who won the AAMI Vase last Saturday. However, Retrieve who won the Norman Robinson the previous week is a genuine contender along with Digital Fortress, Praecido, Almindoro and Lion Tamer who have placed behind Retrieve and Rekindled Interest in recent contests. Still it wouldn’t be all that surprising if an outsider like Bart Cummings trained Cosmonaut or Kudalkulari stole the show.

Typhoon Tracy who did not compete in the Cox Plate will be taking on her own sex again in the Group One Myer Classic (1600 metres). She deserves a win after performing well in the lead up races to the Cox Plate. She won the Myer Classic last year and should do so again this time, despite a quality field that includes classy mares Hot Danish, Palacio De Cristal, Katie Lee, and very smart filly Yosei ,who has an enormous weight advantage and may well give Tracy a run for the money.

The Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes (aka the Ascot Vale Stakes), a sprint over 1200 metres for three year olds, is of interest due to the return of the very promising Pressday, who has not raced since winning the Group One T J Smith back in June this year. Blue Diamond winner, Star Witness, who by all reports is in fine form, is one of the challengers along with smart filly Solar Charged who was back in winning circles on 9th October where she won the Thoroughbred Club Stakes by 4½ lengths.

The Mackinnon Stakes (2000 metres) looks the pick of the card in terms of quality with class runners like Shocking, So You Think, Shoot Out, Metal Bender, Descarado and C’est La Guerre. It should be a wonderful race and another winning opportunity for So You Think.

Stayers hoping to beat the ballot for the Melbourne Cup and not entered in the Mackinnon have a chance in the Group Three Lexus Stakes (2500 metres). Linton, Mourayan, Herculian Prince, Maluckyday, Cedarberg and Alcopop are all vying for automatic entry into the big one. I’m hoping for a Linton victory as he reminds me of Efficient and represents a good lightweight chance in the Cup.

The weather on Saturday is predicted to be wet (yet again!). The condition of the track will naturally affect the outcome of many races especially if it is downgraded to slow or heavy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lurid Yellow Mist infiltrates a sunny Melbourne lunchtime.

As a complete contrast to last Friday, where it was cold windy and wet, Melbourne today put on a warm sunny face - sandals and t-shirts as opposed to boots and woolly coats.

Splendid weather in fact to wander the city streets all the way down to Basement Discs for
Dave Graney and The Lurid Yellow Mist , performing in store today.

It was an entertaining half hour or so, Dave Graney being his zany self and playing his eccentric music.

The in store was to support Dave Graney’s latest CD Supermodified which on paper appears to copy the current naming fashion for racehorses, eg Starspangledbanner, Absolutelyawesome etc etc.

Don’t know if Dave Graney would approve of having his album title compared to a racehorse, but that iswhat it reminds me of.

The Lurid Yellow Mist today comprised Clare Moore on drums, Stuart Perera on electric guitar and Stuart Thomas on electric bass, as well as Dave Graney on a 12 string guitar.

Supermodiified is a mix of old and new songs and is described on Dave Graney’s website as…

“…like a souped up hot rodded version of the original songs, with some extra tracks that got lost along the way. We put the songs up on the blocks and re-tuned them, re-sang them, re-strung them , put more drums and percussion and vocals and keys and remixed all of them. Inserted ,bussed , sent, returned, compressed , buzzed, eq’d and coloured all the reverbs and delays and remastered it at the end. It’s a new thing. “

The taste were given today of songs like The Brother Who Lived, Anchors Aweigh, All Our Friends Are Stars etc. was offbeat, eccentric and loud. The more you listened, the more you GOT it.

So all in all it was an interesting and amusing way to pass a lunch hour on a sunny day in Melbourne.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season – week 13 – The Cox Plate

Stathi Katsidis on Shoot Out
Vale Stathi - Rest in Peace

Goodness, the spring racing season seems to be progressing at the speed of light, as here we are now at one of the highlights of the carnival, the Cox Plate, the famous weight for age championship for middle distance runners.

It has always been an intriguing race, as the peculiarities of the Moonee Valley racecourse test both jockeys and horses to the best of their abilities. It has never been a foregone conclusion as to who will win this race, but this year it would be very surprising if any other horse than So You Think took the prize. As a three year old he won this race last year. In fact at the time he was two and is currently three, rising four in actual years, his birthday being 10th November.

Only nine other runners have accepted for the race this year, no doubt trainers thinking it pointless to run their precious thoroughbreds against the mighty So You Think. Typhoon Tracy who has been preparing for the Cox Plate all this spring, has been withdrawn from contention and will now contest the Myer Stakes at Flemington on Derby Day, a race she won last year. I must admit I was very doubtful of her chances of winning the Cox Plate, so will gladly cheer her on in the easier Myer Stakes.

More Joyous however is one of the acceptances for the Plate and with the 2 kg weight advantage might give So You Think a run for his money even though she has never run over the distance (2040 metres) or on the track. So too might Shoot Out, another High Chaparral boy, like So You Think. After the sudden, shocking and tragic death of his regular jockey Stathi Katsidis earlier this week, Shoot Out will now be ridden by Corey Brown. Stathi had every confidence in Shoot Out’s ability and expected him to win. I don’t dare speculate on the terrible irony if Shoot Out should beat So You Think, though the superstitious may surmise that Stathi’s ghost lent him wings.

Other contenders like the well credentialed New Zealand runner Wall Street and the indefatigable Zipping who has been placed in two Cox Plates (2008 & 2009) and recently won the Turnbull Stakes, are worthy of thought, though unlikely to beat So You Think. Whobegotyou, who was favourite for this race last year, is giving it another go, though there are those who doubt he can run the distance. He was thrashed by So You Think in the Yalumba Stakes. There’s also the Macau horse Luen Yat Forever who ran a good race behind More Joyous in the Toorak Handicap a couple of weeks ago.

The High Chaparral factor was in force last Saturday where two of his sons placed in the Caulfield Cup, Descarado winning, with Monaco Consul running third. These two ran second and third behind Shoot Out in the AJC Derby in the autumn. Descarado gave trainer Gai Waterhouse her first Caulfield Cup. Can More Joyous win her the Cox Plate?

Just as exciting as the Cox Plate next Saturday is the Group Two Schweppes Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. Alas, the highly anticipated clash between the super sprinter from the West, Hay List, and Black Caviar will not be staged this weekend, as Hay List, though nominated, was not among the acceptances due to displaying a high temperature over the last few days. Black Caviar is among the meagre five acceptances, but a decision on her participation will be delayed until Saturday morning. Even without Hay List it looks a fabulous race with super Sydney mares Hot Danish and Melito being part of the field.

Rain has been forecast for Friday evening and into Saturday; the track will probably be rated dead as the week has been fine and sunny - nothing like the heavy 10 rating last week at Caulfield.

I’ve noticed that the Cox Plate meeting lingers into twilight, the Cox Plate being scheduled for 5.35 pm. Just imagine if one attended the whole nine race program, which begins at 12.35pm – five hours of drunken antics by the party goers before the feature race is run! Glad I won’t be there.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Winter returns but Charles Jenkins brings a spot of sunshine to Basement Discs

In my preview of the Caulfield Cup below, I mentioned that the weather was expected to be nasty, cold and wet tomorrow. Well, it has already arrived, the weather in Melbourne today being all the above with torrential rain and wild winds causing a blooming of inside-out umbrellas on Melbourne streets. There is even a possibility that the races will be cancelled tomorrow, the track being rated too heavy to risk holding a meeting.

Despite the weather, I managed to make it downtown to see
Charles Jenkins perform an in store at Basement Discs, arriving only slightly damp.

It was worth the effort, Charles Jenkins delivering a heart warming mini concert, performing songs from his brand new CD Walk This Ocean, coincidently being released today.

From the taste we were given today, it’s a great album full of beautifully written songs that deal with love and loss and in the case of the song High Alone, desperation and heartbreak as narrated by a drug addict.

Charles was accompanied today by two members of his Zhivagos band, Davey Lane on guitar and Art Starr on electric bass.

As well High Alone (a magnificent sad song) Charles and band covered the title track, a lovely melodic tune, Swing Bridge, a tale of love and disillusion, and the dramatic Save! Save! Save! as well as one or two more.

Splendid stuff!

Check out Charles Jenkins and The Zhivagos on the link above.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season – week 12 – Caulfield Cup

Metal Bender
In Melbourne as I write the rain is bucketing down, and is forecast to continue on and off for the rest of the week with Saturday being particularly nasty weather wise, so the track will be rated on the soggy side.

Caulfield will be featuring the Group One Caulfield Cup, the first of the big three staying races of the Melbourne Spring racing carnival.

Run over 2400 metres, it has attracted a full field of 18 contestants with three emergencies. A number of international stayers, here for the Melbourne Cup , are entered in the Caulfield Cup, the Luca Cumani trained Manighar, Japanese horse Tokai Trick and Mr Medici from Hong Kong, which certainly makes it interesting. British runner All The Good won the race in 2008, so it is wise to be wary of internationally trained horses and not write them off altogether.

The Aussie and New Zealand bred contenders cannot be dismissed out of hand, with class stayers of the calibre of last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Shocking despite being top weight will be out to emulate Viewed and win the CC the year following an MC win.

I’m hoping Metal Bender can win. Though he has not run over 2400 metres, his form up to 2000 metres is excellent, and he is very talented. His dashing fourth in the Turnbull Stakes elevated him to equal favouritism with Shocking earlier in the week, but he might have reasonable odds by the weekend. Alcopop demonstrated that he was back on track with his second to So You Think last Saturday though has drawn barrier 22 which stymies his chances somewhat. High Chapparal sired four year olds, Monaco Consul and Descarado are true stayers who are in with a chance.

With the track likely to be on the soft side Bart Cummings’ mares Dariana and especially Faint Perfume with their lightweight, may score for the female sex and Jessicabeel, though not recently showing the ability that won her the 2010 Sydney Cup, could fire over the longer distance. Gai Waterhouse is hoping for her first Caulfield Cup with Herculian Prince who can certainly run the trip and is currently equal favourite.

In the end it’s all a matter of luck in the running, and strategy on the part of jockies. It is certainly a quality field, so I won’t be surprised if the unexpected happens especially considering the likely slow track rating.

The Caulfield Cup is the only Group One race on Saturday, though there are other Group Two and Three races I’m interested in watching. Altius - a colt I follow - will be practicing for the Derby in the Group Three Norman Robinson Stakes (2000 metres). He has drawn wide, but in his case this is an advantage as his trainer Tony Vasil has discovered that he hates being boxed in and needs room to move. The rest of the field with the likes of Retrieve, Mackadoo and Rekindled Interest won’t make it easy for him to win.

Also of interest is the Group Two Tristarc Stakes (1400 metres) which last year was won by Typhoon Tracy who beat Hot Danish easily. Hot Danish is attempting this race again. With Typhoon Tracy being set for the Cox Plate this year and not part of this race, Hot Danish should continue her winning ways.
And I should mention the results of the Thousand Guineas, where Yosei won her second Group One along with her young female jockey Michelle Payne. A heartwarming result.

In other racing news Weekend Hussler has been retired. His last run was in the Gilgai Stakes, on 3 October where he finished in tenth place, but back in 2007/2008 he was the great white hope of the Australian turf after winning six Group One races in succession and was named Horse of the Year for that season. I’m glad he has been retired as it was sad watching him racing the last few times, lacking his former spark, always fearing a tragic end to his career.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season - Midweek Group One – The Thousand Guineas

So You Think winning the Yalumba - photo credit - Nicole Garnston - News Limited

It was a superb day of racing at Caulfield last Saturday. I watched it on free to air television which finally has caught up with the spring racing carnival and is presenting it live from now on. Much better, despite the inane babble of the commentators, than trusting on getting a good video reception on the internet,

It seemed last Saturday to be one brilliant performance after another, firstly Linton winning the Herbert Power Stakes, which qualifies him for the Caulfield Cup, in which he will not run. He will be running in the Melbourne Cup, if he can get a run, and represents an excellent lightweight chance, like stable mate Efficient before him.

Black Caviar signalled that she was back with a vengeance, effortlessly blitzing the Schillaci Stakes field with a stunning win, making her tally six wins from six starts. I can hardly wait for her and Hay List to face off.

More Joyous despite carrying 58kg (a record weight for a mare in the race) and having a difficult time of it, being blocked and bumped through the race, prevailed in true champion fashion to storm to victory in the Toorak Handicap. No worries about her handling the Melbourne way of going (anticlockwise).

The race of the day however, was the Yalumba Stakes, where So You Think treated the rest of the field with contempt winning by several lengths and looking glorious in the process. Alcopop came second and Whobegotyou managed to puff into third spot.

The Caulfield Guineas, after all the above, could have been a bit of a let down, but wasn’t. Peter Moody’s Anacheeva brought home the bikkies with a decisive win over Winter King.

The fillies Thousand Guineas is to be run tomorrow at Caulfield and has attracted a classy field of fillies. Talented Sydney filly More Strawberries looks the one to beat, though one of the other fillies could deny her victory, Sistine Angel for instance, or Divorces, Yosei, Ringa Ringa Rosie not to mention Brazilian Pulse who has been running well of late.

The first of the big rich races, the Caulfield Cup, is to be run this Saturday. I will preview that later

Thursday, October 07, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season – Week 11 – Caulfield Guineas, Toorak Handicap & Yalumba Stakes

More Joyous - is she the new Sunline?

Let The Carnival Begin!
As we head towards the BIG three features – Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup - the racing picture is becoming clearer, though surprises can still obscure the overall imagined outcome, and other than thinking that So You Think is a dead cert to take out the Cox Plate, who I will back in the Cups is still being pondered. Take last weekend for instance where nine year old Zipping took out the Turnbull Stakes, beating Shocking and Shoot Out into second and third place respectively in an exciting race down the Flemington straight, with Metal Bender and Typhoon Tracy finishing close behind. Zipping’s stable mate C’est La Guerre won his first race since 2008, the Group Three Craven Plate in Sydney – another surprise outcome. Last year, one must remember, another Lloyd Williams horse, Efficient, won the Turnbull, so it appears his stable of horses are beginning to shine at the right time. Linton is one of Williams’ horses who will have to win this coming weekend to get a start in the Caulfield Cup.

There are three Group One events to be run at Caulfield this coming Saturday, the feature race being the Caulfield Guineas.

The Caulfield Guineas is a race over 1600 metres for three year colts and geldings. A field of 16 smart young lads will be contesting. Top picks are Toorak Toff, Anacheeva, Ilovethiscity, Masquerader and Hollowlea, though one of the less fancied runners could take it out; Cosmonaut for instance who I rather fancy simply because he is sired by Starcraft and is trained by Bart Cummings.

The Group One Yalumba Stakes (2000 metres) has a mere five runners, many potential contestants obviously being scared off by the presence of So You Think who I can’t imagine not winning. Whobegotyou, who won this race last year, and ran second to So You Think in the Memsie Stakes as well as recently winning his second Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, is one of the game contenders along with old timer Master O’Reilly and Melbourne Cup hopeful Alcopop.

The exciting Sydney mare More Joyous, on the Cox Plate trail, will be having her first start in Melbourne in the Group One Toorak Handicap (1600 metres). She contends with a much larger field (15 starters), Gai Waterhouse opting for the Toorak over the Yalumba as an easier race for her star. The other mares in the race appear to be her main opposition; Allez Wonder who won this race last year is one, and Response the winner of the Group One Dubai Racing Club Cup on 18 September is another. The in form Spacecraft and last start winner Drumbeats appear the best of the boys, though the mystery Macau horse, Luen Yat Forever, whose overseas form looks excellent, may be the surprise packet.

Black Caviar, unbeaten in all her starts and now a four year old mare, makes a welcome return to the racetrack in the Group Two Schillaci Stakes, a sprint over 1000 metres. Black Caviar has not raced since her scratching just before the William Reid Stakes back in February this year, after an injury forced a long layoff. She’s up against the very smart Mic Mac, Blue Diamond Stakes winner Star Witness, Winter King to name a few. She is lucky new sprinting super star Hay List is not in this race, though both she and Hay List will meet later in the spring – a mouth watering prospect for racing fans, reminiscent of clashes between Alinghi and Fastnet Rock in the past.

The Group Two Herbert Power Stakes (2400 metres) is the last chance for non qualified Caulfield Cup hopefuls to qualify for the big one. Among them are Linton and Moudre. The Bart Cummings trained Precedence is the major obstacle to both of them and the rest of the field. Linton ran third to Precedence in the JRA Cup in his last outing. The extra 320 metres may make all the difference to the result.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Paul Kelly plays Basement Discs

Basement Discs certainly scored a coup, securing Australian song writer and “National Treasure”, Paul Kelly to perform an in store today. Originally the in store was scheduled for Saturday 2nd October, but as with many other events in Melbourne being stymied by the unexpected result of the AFL Grand Final, it was changed to today.

A much larger than usual audience crammed the store to witness the free lunchtime performance by Paul Kelly, despite the late notice of the change of day and date, and even though I arrived earlier than usual all the good photo spots were taken, so I had to insinuate myself into a corner next to the stage. It was rather squashy but I managed to shoot a few good photos.

Paul Kelly has recently released a deluxe boxed set, comprising 8 CDs and 105 songs from his back catalogue called “The A-Z Recordings”. It is accompanied by Paul’s book of memoirs entitled “How To Make Gravy” whose “four sections mirror the four nights of the recent A-Z shows. Each chapter starts with a song lyric followed by a story. Some stories tell Kelly's personal and family history, some take you on a road trip with the band, some form an idiosyncratic history of popular music, others offer insights into the songwriter's art - from the point of inspiration to writing, honing, collaborating, performing, recording and reworking”

In today’s performance Paul interspersed songs with readings from the book. He'd read a chapter, then sing the song associated with the chapter, firstly Dumb Things, which was used in
Yahoo Serious film Young Einstein then his very moving Christmas song How To Make Gravy. He finished the mini show with If I Could Just Start Today Again.

He has an endearing and unaffected stage persona, and so it was today. It was a privilege to see the REAL Paul Kelly up close and personal in an intimate setting.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season – Week 10 – Turnbull Stakes Day & Randwick Super Saturday

Shoot Out (left) - photo from The Age
The remarkable and surprising draw in the AFL Grand Final last weekend has forced the VRC to run Turnbull Stakes day on Sunday instead of Saturday, which will of course be dominated by the Grand Final replay in Melbourne.

Sydney however will be featuring a spring Super Saturday at Randwick with four Group One races on the cards as well as several Group Two competitions. The feature race is the Epsom Handicap over 1600 metres.

But first let’s consider the Turnbull Stakes, a Group One race over 2000 metres. It has a very classy field despite So You Think and Whobegotyou not being nominated. Shoot Out, Typhoon Tracy, Metal Bender and Shocking are among the quality runners, so it should be a fascinating race. I’m looking forward to seeing if Shoot Out, over the longer distance at Flemington, can redeem his reputation. He’ll have to beat Shocking of course, who loves Flemington and can certainly run the distance. Typhoon Tracy will be racing over 2000 metres for the first time in her career. She failed last year over 1800 metres in the Underwood Stakes, but her trainer seems confident that this year is different. Metal Bender, in his first race in Melbourne, managed to run third in the Underwood, but may appreciate the famous Flemington straight. He’s too good to leave out of the main chances.

Dariana who ran second to So You Think in the Underwood Stakes is likely to be competitive, and can’t be dismissed out of hand. The field also has Sydney Cup winner Jessicabeel, Victorian Derby winner Monaco Consul and Descarado, another son of High Chaparral, who ran second to Shoot Out in the AJC Derby earlier this year and Faint Perfume who, though failing to exhibit her usual brilliance so far this spring, may fire over the longer distance. In a word, a super field for what should be a super race. It was won last year by Efficient, who alas has been discounted from running this spring by the niggling injury that scratched him from the Melbourne Cup last year and the year before.

Former champion Weekend Hussler, after a long, injury forced, break, returns to racing in the Group Two Gilgai Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. Current sprinting star Hay List is entered for this race as well and will be hard to beat again. Let’s hope the Hussler comes back in good form and remains injury free.

Considering the Turnbull field, the Randwick Group One races seem lacking in class, not that you can really discount Danleigh or Black Piranha in the Epsom Handicap, or Trusting who ran a very good second to More Joyous last Saturday in the George Main Stakes, but it seems weak by comparison.

The Flight Stakes a Group One race for three year old fillies over 1600 metres looks much more interesting. More Strawberries and Parables staged a great battle for the lead the last time they met in the Tea Rose Stakes, with More Strawberries prevailing on that occasion. They meet again in the Flight Stakes and one would expect the same outcome, with perhaps Parables turning the tables on More Strawberries this time. Throw in Yosei who beat a bunch of talented colts in the Group One Sires Produce Stakes earlier this year, and you have another classy contender, along with Sasa who may also figure in the finish.

The Metropolitan – a Group One race over 2400 metres has the Gai Waterhouse trained Herculian Prince out to redeem his shocking run last weekend in the Colin Stephen Quality which was won by old timer No Wine No Song who is also entered in this race. The field in all is rather dull and uninspiring so I will not even attempt to speculate on its likely outcome.

The fourth (though not in the order of running) Group One at Randwick is the Spring Champion Stakes over 2000 metres for three year olds. Peter Snowden has a high opinion of his runner Retrieve in this and he certainly looks the top pick, followed by Erewhon and Praecido and Giresun.

Super Sydney mare Hot Danish showed she’d lost none of her dash when resuming two weeks ago, winning the Premiere Stakes by 2½ lengths. How can one go past her in the Group Two Lexus Shorts (1200 metres) this Saturday? Her main, though hardly threatening, competition appears to be Albert The Fat who won the BTC Cup in autumn, Demerit , Tickets, Shellscrape and fellow mare Montana Flyer.

Despite Grand Final fever continuing, though in a lower key fashion than last week, a good weekend of racing is in the offing.

Go Pies! Go Tracy! Go Shoot Out!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Strike a Light! Cat Politics has a Kindle

My brand new Kindle arrived today from Amazon and I’ve been exploring its capabilities.

It’s a pretty object and looks even more handsome in its leather cover.

This is what it looks like before you switch on the power…


The picture changes every time you turn the Kindle on and off.

This version of Kindle has free Global wireless, so I could instantly log onto the Amazon Kindle store and browse the Kindle books on offer.

I selected a childhood favourite, Treasure Island and it downloaded instantly.


You may wonder at me, a dedicated book worm, and devotee of the physical book, succumbing to an ebook reader, but I figured it was about time I got with the trend. I do not have a mobile phone nor an ipod, let alone an ipad, so as gadgetry goes the ebook struck me as my sort of thing. Think of the shelf space and forests it will save!

I have been exploring the Project Gutenberg site and have discovered a veritable treasure trove of old, out of print and hard to get novels. For instance, all Josephine Tey’s detective novels are available for free in ebook format on the Australian Project Gutenberg site. I can send the text files to my Amazon Kindle account and have them converted to Kindle format for free.

I look forward to exploring the world of ebooks and testing my Kindle further.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Footy Fever Relief – Mick Thomas & Michael Barclay at Basement Discs

mick_thomas 1
At lunchtime yesterday, Melbourne’s city streets were teeming with thousands of footy fans decked out in the colours, black and white and black, white and red, of the two teams who are fighting out the Grand Final as I write this piece. The traditional pre final parade was about to happen.

I managed to avoid most of the crowds by weaving down lane ways and streets off the main thoroughfares to Basement Discs, my objective being to see Mick Thomas and Michael Barclay performing an in store, and not watch the parade.

It was a wise choice. Mick Thomas is a consummate performer, witty, wry and musically delightful. He of course needs no introduction to Australian readers, but for those who read this blog beyond the Antipodeans’ shores, Mick Thomas was the front man of popular rock band Weddings Parties Anything in the 1980s and 90s and later with The Sure Thing.

He was touting his new CD entitled A Head Full of Road Kill recorded inadvertently in Germany. Inadvertently, as Mick explained, because they had no intention of recording a live album, until they ended up in a studio (they thought they’d been booked for a gig) and it all happened.

Ripper stuff! The duo performed several songs from the new album to the large enthusiastic audience.
Mick Thomas is one the great Australian song writers. His songs are pithy, witty and name check familiar suburbs of Melbourne and sites around Australia.

Michael Barclay is a long time associate of Mick Thomas and vocalist /drummer in Weddings Parties Anything. Yesterday he played the box he was sitting on, and provided very tasteful backing vocals.

Yet again another very enjoyable musical interlude in the working day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season – Week 9 – The Manikato Stakes

Hay List at Moonee Valley 11/9/10
As the AFL Grand Final is to be contested in Melbourne on Saturday, the Group One Manikato Stakes will be run on Friday night at Moonee Valley. It used to be run on the same day as the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, but in their infinite wisdom, the MVRC split the accustomed program into two meets, no doubt hoping to augment their coffers. I’ve never been to a night meeting, but I believe they are quite well attended and as much fun as a day meeting, but I prefer the sun shining on the jockey silks and the glossy coats of the equine contestants.

A small but select field will be contesting the Manikato Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. Highly regarded seasoned sprinter, All Silent returns in this, but he’ll have to be pretty much up to scratch to beat the brilliant Hay List who I recently saw in the McEwen Stakes at Moonee Valley, where he won convincingly.

Reward For Effort who came third on that occasion has a chance to redeem himself as the track is likely to be rated good with little rain falling this week, suiting a horse who prefers it on the dry side. Other good runners who may surprise with an upset are Love Conquers All and True Persuasion. Hay List looks the winner on paper, despite his trainer having doubts about his ability to perform at night.

The race card at Moonee Valley looks very good over all with the Group Two JRA Cup over Cox Plate distance (2040 metres) giving stayers an opportunity to show off their talent. It’s good to see that Linton is part of the field. He’s won at Moonee Valley before, in the autumn, when I saw him win the Alister Clarke Stakes. Other familiar names are Alcopop, one of the favourites for last year’s Melbourne Cup, Precedence, Belscenica and last week’s Naturalism Stakes winner Rainbow Styling.

The Group Three Champagne Stakes, a race over 1200 metres for three year old fillies has a very classy field with the likes of Military Rose, Chance Bye, Solar Charged and Shaaheq all scheduled to run. Pretty tough picking the winner as the above mentioned fillies are all evenly matched.

In Sydney on Saturday, Randwick hosts the Group One George Main Stakes. Two Gai Waterhouse runners will, for the first time, be going head for head. Old warhorse Theseo and super mare More Joyous both tackle the 1600 metre race. It’s a small field that also includes Danleigh and Black Piranha. Can More Joyous, who blitzed the Theo Marks field winning by 3½ lengths, beat her stable mate Theseo? It will certainly be interesting watching her try.

Last week, So You Think was spectacular in the Underwood Stakes. Is he the new superstar we’ve all been waiting for? A magnificent looking horse, he seems to be invincible this spring. His stable mate Dariana was also impressive with her fighting second in the race, narrowly beating Metal Bender, who got a bit lost in the reverse going of the Caulfield circuit.

As for the AFL Grand Final on Saturday which will transfix most Melburnians to their TV sets, I’m hoping Collingwood can defeat St Kilda and win their first final for twenty years. Though I don’t as a rule follow football, it can’t be totally ignored in Melbourne, being embedded into the culture of this city. If people ask who my favourite AFL team is I always say the Magpies (Collingwood); contrarily the most loved and the most hated team in the league.

I still remember the last time Collingwood won in 1990. We were flying out to the Solomon Islands the morning after the game, and the airport was full of hung overed fans stumbling through the metal detector, still dazed after the celebration.

Update - Saturday evening

WOW! The AFL Grand Final ended up in a draw, so the footy season is not over yet. The Final will be recontested next week.

As for the racing, the two winners of the Group One events this weekend won easily.

Hay List slaughtered the Manikato Stakes field in sensational fashion. What a brilliant sprinter he is!

More Joyous won the George Main Stakes by several lengths. She will eventually be contesting the Cox Plate. Look out, So You Think!
The spring racing carnival is shaping up to be one the best in years.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Que Paso at the Basement Discs

Indeed, you may well ask “what happened” (in Spanish) at Basement Discs today. Chris Altmann and band Que Paso rocked the socks off a select audience in a lively lunchtime in store.

Playing songs from Chris’s new album Que Paso, Chris and his cast of thousands (it seemed) band delivered a foot tapping set of feel good rock n roll, with a touch of country rock thrown in for good measure.

With three electric guitars, a saxophone, and drums, you’d be right to assume that it was not exactly a quiet set, but a very enervating performance of classic rock songs, all written by and sung by Chris Altmann. He’s a talented guy!

The band at Basement Discs today comprised Chris Altmann on drums and leading vocals (yes, a singing drummer), Mike Hager (once an employee of Basement Discs), Paul Thomas and Cal Walker all on guitar, Sam Boon on saxophone with Suzannah Espie providing backing vocals.

Melbourne is truly the music capital of Australia – good bands such as Que Paso seem to be forming all the time. I like the mix and match nature of the Melbourne music scene, musicians and singers seem to be in demand across several musical outfits.

Check out Chris and Que Paso at his
My Space Page

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 Spring Racing Season - week 8 – Underwood Stakes Day

So You Think
The feature race this coming Saturday is the Group One Underwood Stakes, run at Caulfield over 1800 metres. Once again a top field has accepted and includes potential star of the spring So You Think, Sydney’s star performer Metal Bender as well as Makybe Diva Stakes winner Shocking, and Heart of Dreams who has returned this spring in very good form and was the Underwood winner last year. What a race it will be!

So You Think looks the one to beat, though Metal Bender is sure to be very competitive. His former trainer Jack Denham declared Metal Bender to be as good as Might & Power, so that’s something to consider. Shocking has already been declared by some pundits the 2010 Melbourne Cup winner, so cannot be taken lightly in this race. Flemington is his favourite track, but who knows Caulfield may suit him just as well at the longer distance.

As well as the Underwood, the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes is also on the program and has attracted another class field. The super Peter Moody runner Doubtful Jack will most likely start favourite, but he has stiff competition with the likes of Rightfully Yours (full brother to Heart of Dreams). The South Australian Derby winner Kidnapped begins his spring campaign in this race and classy Sydney filly Sister Madly will be having her first run in Melbourne. She has good form against More Joyous who stunned everyone with her win in the Theo Marks last Saturday. The beautifully bred La Rocket beat a handy field of middle distance runners in the autumn, though it is unlikely that he’ll succeed in doing that again here.

The Group 3 Caulfield Guineas Preludes, one for colts and geldings, and one for fillies are of interest as well. Toorak Toff looks the one to beat in the colts’ race, with Anacheeva, Skilled and Kudakulari being the other likely goers. The fillies’ race is a more open affair with smart fillies like Yosei, Willow Creek, Panipique, Ringa Ringa Rosie, Divorces and Pinker Pinker all in with a chance.

I’ve been following a colt called Altius who is running in the first race at Caulfield this Saturday. He’s a half brother to Elvstroem and Haradasun, being out of Circles of Gold by Redoute’s Choice, and has shown he has inherited some of the family ability by winning his first two races on rural race tracks and running second to the smart Hollowlea at his last start at Flemington.

Speaking of famous racehorse families, Sunline’s last foal, a filly by Hussonet called Sunsett, is due to debut on a racetrack shortly, after a promising trial.

Rosehill this weekend features the Tea Rose Stakes a Group Two race for three year old fillies over 1500 metres. It has a super field of Sydney’s top fillies – More Strawberries, Parables, Amber’s Waltz, Gybe to name the prime candidates. Another interesting runner is Fibrillation, a grey filly by Diatribe who, earlier this month, won her debut race in heavy going by 6½ lengths.

Also this weekend at Rosehill, Sydney’s favourite mare Hot Danish makes her first appearance for the spring in the Group Two Premier Stakes. It’s a small field, so she should easily win this one.

So yet another excellent day’s racing to look forward to this weekend. What a super spring racing season it has been so far! It’s nice to know that it will get even better as the big rich races come round and competition gets stiffer.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Day at the Races Spring 2010

The weather couldn’t have been better than it was yesterday, a perfect mild sunny day – not too hot, not too cold, and despite thinking I had underdressed for the day, I was comfortable all afternoon. The threatened showers didn’t eventuate, though the public lawn was soggy, especially near the outside bar - the racing equivalent of a sticky carpet I suppose.

But that’s all beside the point. I arrived at Moonee Valley in time to place a bet on the third race, the Curran Chemicals Stakes, a 1200 metre race for three year old fillies. I figured the favourite Dutchy’s Lass was the one to go for. Unfortunately she over raced, leading the field at a blistering pace, but by the turn was noticeably tiring and dropped out. The race was won by Sussuro having only the second race of her career, and possibly one to watch for in the future.

Very few favourites won as was borne out in the fourth race. I had my money on Miss Octopussy and Avionics (pictured below).


The race, the Sphinx Hotel Handicap, for mares, also over 1200 metres, was won by 26/1 shot Venus World.

race4_venus world

The fifth race, the Pulse Pharmacy Handicap, true to the afternoon’s form was won by outsider Pertubo (15/1)
Was I on him? No.

It started getting more interesting as the quality races drew closer, and the Group 3 McEwen Stakes was next on the agenda.

I ventured out to the parade yard to photograph some of the contestants.


race6_reward for effort2
Reward for Effort

Hay List

Hay List was the outstanding winner, totally blitzing the rest of the field with Catapulted running second and Reward for Effort, third.

Race seven the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes was the feature race, the one we’d all been waiting for. I decided to try and get some snaps of the runners most especially Shoot Out and Typhoon Tracy.

race7_shoot out4
Shoot Out - a magnificent bright bay horse – very pretty.

race7_typhoon tracy2
Typhoon Tracy – I was expecting her to be dainty, but she is quite a hefty girl - bigger than I thought she’d be.

A stunning good looker – Rundle

Whobegotyou – the winner!

An hour before the Dato Tan was due to run, it was announced that Typhoon Tracy would not be running on the pace (i.e. taking the lead) contrary to everyone’s expectations. Hissing Sid ended up taking the lead and Tracy raced mid field. Shoot Out was positioned on the inside in about fourth place, a mistake as it turns out as he was blocked in when it mattered. Tracy and Whobe emerged from the pack at the turn, but Whobegotyou was too good, beating Typhoon Tracy by a couple of lengths, with Shoot Out running third. Pretty much the result expected, with the top three horses filling the places.

My luck certainly wasn’t in yesterday – I didn’t pick any winners, and ended up with three thirds and a second. So much for following the form – it was anybody’s guess in most cases who the winner would be.

I stayed for the Stock Stakes, and had my money on the class runner Faint Perfume, who came ninth. Avienus, a 12/1 outsider was the winner.

So it was a disappointing day, betting wise, but otherwise a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment in the sun, soaking up some much needed Vitamin D after the grey wet days we’ve been having lately.

There was a bigger crowd than I expected, but it was not overwhelming, mostly drunk young men in party mode, who seemed to feel a need to dress up in silly costumes. Take this bloke, dressed as the Tooth Fairy.


He was having a great time with his mates, posing for photographs with police crowd control officers at one stage.

I caught the bus home, and enjoyed a conversation about racing with an old bloke I met on the bus stop all the way home.