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!