Thursday, January 28, 2010

Autumn Racing Season 2010 – Week 1

The first Group One race of the 2010 Autumn racing season is the Lightning Stakes over 1000 metres being run at Flemington this coming Saturday.

It has an interesting field of top class sprinters comprising eight three year olds and five older horses.

It’s hard to pick a standout as most of the runners have good claims. Starspangledbanner won the Group One Caulfield Guineas last year and though he hasn’t raced since is the most likely to win this race. Headway who won the Group One Ascot Vale Stakes and Irish Lights the winner of the Group One Thousand Guineas are the standout fillies. The other filly Sister Madly is also in with a chance as she was second to classy Sydney filly More Joyous in the Flight Stakes last spring and that’s pretty good form. Besides, I like her name and would be delighted to see her win or place.

Also in the field is American visitor Cannonball who will be ridden by US jockey Patrick Valenzuela and may well pull a swiftie on the locals. Last start winner Burdekin Blues and class sprinter Nicconi can’t be overlooked either.

Last weekend’s races saw Black Caviar keep her unblemished record intact with a stunning win in the Australia Stakes. Her next race will be the William Reid Stakes on 13th February at Moonee Valley. On Tuesday, Denman did his champion sire proud with a gritty win in the Zedative Stakes. Carrara, honest galloper that he is, held on for second with Space Craft coming third. Alas the Handsome One found it all a bit too hard and finished seventh.

The stars of the spring are gradually resuming over the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing Typhoon Tracy return, possibly in the Group One C F Orr Stakes on 6th February, thrown in at the top end first up, a mouth watering prospect that may include Denman as one of the contenders.

I should comment about the break in at Flemington on Tuesday - those stupid yobs attempting to enter the site of the Big Day Out without paying - letting horses out of their stalls for fun or vengeance. I really hope they are brought to justice and made to pay dearly, not necessarily in monetary terms, for the distress they have caused to the innocent horses, some of whom reportedly were seriously hurt in the incident.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Country Folk Blues - Courtesy of Charlie Parr

A rare musical treat at lunchtime today was seeing Charlie Parr perform his brand of country blues at Basement Discs.

I originally saw him in April last year, during his first Australian tour. Since then he has released a new CD, “Roustabout”, and has returned to these shores to promote it. A popular artist, after this January tour, he will be back for the Music Festivals in March and April.

Alternating between banjo and his National Resonator guitar Charlie entertained the larger than usual audience with renditions of several old blues and folk songs, some of them sourced from the
Harry Smith Project Anthology.

He is a wonderful musician and his voice has an attractive old fashioned nasal quality that gives you with the impression that you have travelled way beyond the streets of Melbourne and are holed up somewhere in some Minnesota backwoods, if such a thing exists in Minnesota, which where Charlie resides.

All in all a highly enjoyable mini concert.

The below photo is one Charlie obligingly posed for whilst I was getting him to sign my copy of 'Roustabout'.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Autumn Racing Carnival 2010 – Prelude

Black Caviar
The first group race of the upcoming autumn racing carnival will be run at Moonee Valley this Friday night.

Australia Stakes field:LA ROCKET

The Group Two Australia Stakes (formerly the Carlyon Stakes) over 1200 metres, is of interest mainly due to the resumption of unbeaten filly Black Caviar, racing in open company for the first time, part of a very small field, against smart sprinters Royal Ida and Here De Angels. I am unfamiliar with the form of Ferocia and La Rocket, so can’t comment on their chances, though La Rocket has an interesting pedigree, being by Rock of Gibraltar from former champion mare La Bella Dama. Black Caviar should win this race; it’s all a question of by how much. I’d be very surprised if she didn’t win, as she is all class and has impressed all and sundry in recent trials.

The original nominations for this race also included Heart of Dreams (scratched), Lucky Secret (who won the race last year) and Denman. Denman will now start his autumn campaign in the listed Zedative Stakes at Caulfield on Tuesday (Australia Day), so I’m keen to see how he goes then, against smart colts like Carrara, The Handsome One and Spacecraft to name a few.

The VRC has caused confusion to regular followers of the races, by renaming the Carlyon Stakes the Australia Stakes. Last year the Australia Stakes was a group one event run in mid February at Moonee Valley. The race has had several name changes over the years, originally being the William Reid Stakes from 1925 to 1993, traditionally run the second Saturday of February. From 1994 to 1995 it was known as the ‘Australia Made Stakes’, then from 1996 onwards it was called the ‘Australia Stakes’ .

The reinstated ‘William Reid Stakes’ will be run at Moonee Valley on February 13. It retains its Group One status whereas the new ‘Australia Stakes’ has been relegated to a Group Two event. It is my intention to attend the William Reid Stakes meeting, where I hope to see Black Caviar in the flesh and perhaps more of my favourites.

Last Friday night, being curiously attracted to the name
Panipique, I had small bet on Race One, a maiden event for two year old fillies. Panipique won the race by a couple of lengths and paid a handsome $17.00. So, I’m all for following my hunches these days as it continues to be profitable.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vale Kate McGarrigle

Kate & Anna McGarrigle live at the National Theatre – Feb 2005

It was saddening to hear today of the death of Canadian singer songwriter Kate McGarrigle. She and her sister Anna created beautiful music singing their wonderful, sometimes quirky songs, with exquisite harmonies. She was the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, who are very talented musicians as well.

I discovered Kate & Anna’s music back in the 1970s with the release of their self titled record and have continued to follow their careers over the years. They made 10 records in all and provided harmony vocals on other artists’ discs, Emmylou Harris for one, Alison Krauss for another.

I had the great pleasure of seeing them perform live in February 2005 at the National Theatre in St Kilda. It was also my first taste of Rufus and Martha. I still remember the impression the first song of that evening created – it was absolutely gorgeous, harmonies of unearthly beauty that sent shivers down the spine.

Kate died on 18 January 2010 surrounded by her family and music. What a lovely way to go!

The photo above was taken by a friend at the National Theatre concert.

If you’re not familiar with the McGarrigle Sisters, check out this You Tube of them singing their famous song “Heart Like A Wheel”

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Memphis Minnie of Rockabilly – Rosie Flores Charms Basement Discs

Rosie Flores, introducing the song Me And My Chauffeur Blues, explained that she was put on to Memphis Minnie by Lucinda Williams who remarked at the time that Rosie could be called the "Memphis Minnie of Rockabilly".

Playing an acoustic fender guitar, Rosie Flores entertained the crowd at
Basement Discs at lunchtime today with a delightful short set that encompassed songs from her latest CD Girl of the Century and several from her back catalogue. She is a spectacular guitarist and an engaging performer, rocking it up with lively rockabilly rhythms.

It was a rare chance to see Rosie Flores as she is in the country by default and will only be doing a few shows, mostly house concerts. It has been 12 years since she was last in Melbourne; I saw her play the late lamented Continental Club in 1998.

As well as the Memphis Minnie song mentioned above, she played Get Rhythm, Jon Langford song Halfway Home, Bring It On, the slow burning Box Cars, fun piece Hot Dog and This Cat’s In the Doghouse.

Unfortunately my photos didn’t turn out that good, the one above being the best and it doesn’t show her really cool cowboy boots.

Graceful Anna – Can she win the Millions?

Graceful Anna, potential star filly, aiming for her fifth win in succession, is facing her toughest race to date in the Magic Millions 3YO Trophy (1400 metres), to be run on the Gold Coast next Saturday. She’s part of a field of 16 smart young things, both male and female. On Boxing Day she beat the boys in the Group 3 Vo Rogue Stakes (1350 metres) on a slow track.

Looking at her form, it appears she can perform on any surface, so whatever the weather in Queensland on Saturday she has an excellent chance, despite drawing Barrier 10. At last I can say, in tribute to the Australian comedian
Austen Tayshus’ song, Australiana, Go Anna!

Her main rivals appear to be Love Conquers All and Shoot Out, Choistar, Latin News and fillies Deer Valley and Tallow.

In the Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200 metres) the favourite Ambers Waltz has drawn badly, (Barrier 17) which skews her chances, but there are other fillies that I’m sure have claims - Military Rose, Triple Crown and Red Belly Black to name a few. Of the colts and geldings, the Gai Waterhouse trained, Brightexpectations and local colt, Spirit of Boom seem the most likely.

Sydney horse, O’Lonhro, is top weight in the Magic Millions Cup (1400 metres) and is returning from a three month break to compete against a pretty ordinary field. He showed heaps of ability in the spring defeating several classy horses including Roman Emperor and Miss Marielle in Group 2 events. He has the added advantage of having top jockey Darren Beadman in the saddle.

It must be remembered, however, that this is Queensland racing and it has a tendency to be unpredictable and yield surprise results.

Magic Millions owners, Gerry Hervey and John Singleton, have failed in their bid to have the 2YO Classic prize money lifted by $5 million. It sounded rather ridiculous to have an unlisted race for two year olds become the richest in the world, especially as it is limited to horses purchased at the magic millions sales.

Update 9/1/10
Yay! Graceful Anna won! Tallow came second with Love Conquers All running third

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Greetings from the Coalface

Today finds me at work on the second day of hopefully my last year in the workforce.

Just before Christmas we were compelled to move, once again, one floor up to make room for new employees engaged in Nation Building. At least my section only had to move floors, as the desks we are now occupying used to belong to employees forced to move to another building altogether.

After sitting at my former desk for three years or so, it takes a bit of getting used to. One has to remember to press the correct floor button in the lift, and get accustomed to the layout of the new floor, which admittedly is pretty much the same as the old one, but with slight variations. We still have small partitioned workspaces, though I must admit this new desk space has room for a bookcase on which to pile stuff. It’s an improvement, in fact.

Anyway, I tell myself that it’s only for a year and then I can depart forever into blissful retirement, so these minor glitches hardly bother me. Truth to tell I’m sick of work and bored with what I do there and I have a problem seeing eye to eye with my boss.

Toil on I must and simulate professional dedication, even if I long for freedom.

Fortunately there is the first in store of the year at Basement Discs this Thursday lunchtime to look forward to. It promises to be a good one – when are they not? US rockabilly artist
Rosie Flores is the performer this week. I saw her many years ago at the Continental. She’s only doing a few small shows this time as she is not officially touring. A fan is bringing her from New Zealand where she has been on a writing holiday.

So Melburnians, if you’re not doing anything at 12.45pm on Thursday take this rare opportunity to see Rosie Flores live.

Also not to be missed,
Charlie Parr, ace guitarist and highly engaging country blues artist, will be performing at Basement Discs later this month.

I was pleased to discover today that Mary Gauthier is scheduled for two concerts in Melbourne. One is at the East Brunswick Club on 26th March, the same date as Lyle Lovett’s concert, so I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get a chance to see her. Now I find out she’ll be doing a show at the Brunswick Town Hall as part of the Brunswick Music Festival program.