Friday, February 25, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival – week 3 – Blue Diamond Stakes

SEPOY-vince caligiuri
Sepoy – photo from The Age by Vince Caligiuri

A quick post on the three main events at Caulfield tomorrow, featuring the Melbourne equivalent of Sydney’s Golden Slipper Stakes.

The Blue Diamond like the Golden Slipper is a Group One race for two year olds over 1200 metres. Star Witness who is running in the Group One Oakleigh Plate tomorrow, won it last year.

Having watched all the previews and preludes over the last month, it is pretty clear that Sepoy is the top pick, though will no doubt start at short odds. Favourites don’t win this race very often, but Sepoy is in a class by himself and may prove the omens false. If not Sepoy, there’s Atomic who has the wraps on him after winning his first race very stylishly, also the filly Avenay who slaughtered her opposition last week in the Talindert Stakes. Other than the above, it’s anybody’s guess. It’s a race for two year olds after all and anything could happen.

Top Sydney mare More Joyous will be contesting the Group One Futurity Stakes (1400 metres). She is quite likely to win this as she proved last spring that she handles the course and the Melbourne way of going. It’s a pity Typhoon Tracy has been retired, otherwise we would have witnessed a rare event – the top two middle distance mares going head to head. Be that as it may, the other class mare Ortensia might give More Joyous a run for the money, but most likely Whobegotyou who hasn’t raced since his creditable third in the 2010 Cox Plate, is the other main contender along with New Zealand horse King Mufhasa.

The Group One Oakleigh Plate, is a sprint over 1100 metres and has attracted a classy field of eighteen runners. Catapulted who won his last start is the favourite, but the race is wide open with a number of the other runners being capable of winning. Star Witness, whose Guineas ambitions were abandoned after his less than impressive performance in the Manfred Stakes, will be set for sprint races from now on and could very well win this one. The in form Peter Moody stable has several top chances in Set For Fame, Avenue, Reward For Effort, Hinchinbrook and Panipique. Throw in Varenna Miss and Solar Charged and you have a very talented field with many chances.

We won’t witness anything as special as Black Caviar’s extraordinary Lightning Stakes win this week, but it’s a rich and interesting race card all the same.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 - Week 2 – Lightning Stakes

Black Caviar returns this Saturday

Another great day of racing coming up this Saturday, with most of the action happening at Flemington featuring the highly anticipated Lightning Stakes, a Group One Sprint over 1000 metres.

It looks to be a real humdinger with a talented field of ten runners, but all eyes will be on super sprinting mare Black Caviar, making her first appearance since spring 2010. In a recent trial, she stunned onlookers and caused her jockey Luke Nolan to remark that he needed a chap stick for the windburn.

Hay List who was not at his best the last time he raced against Black Caviar in the Patinack Classic, is her main opponent, and if fit and ready could challenge her to the line. Others in contention though hardly threatening are Golden Slipper winner Crystal Lily, Warm Love and Grand Duels. I can’t say I have ever heard of Leap Frog, so have no idea what he’s doing in this race, as looking at his form he appears to be out of his league.

Anyway, I think Black Caviar is a top chance to keep her unbeaten record intact.

Before the Lightning Stakes I’m interested in the C S Hayes Stakes, a Group Three race for Australian Guineas bound three year old colts and geldings over 1400 metres. Enjin Number Nine who caught my attention last time he raced in the Manfred Stakes – I watched a video of the race again yesterday and remain impressed – is entered in this. It’s a tougher field than that he faced in the Manfred with Caulfield Guineas winner Anacheeva being a real danger despite his lacklustre performance in the Zedative recently. Others to consider are Bullbars who ran second to Enjin Number Nine in the Manfred, Dusty Star, a winner last weekend, and Spirited Eagle who came second in the Zedative.

The eighth race on the program, the Gurners Lane Handicap (1700 metres) has the interesting young stayer Studley Park aiming to make it three wins in a row from as many starts.

The weather is likely to be damp in Melbourne on Saturday, as rain is forecast and it pelted down with a vengeance last night, but cleared this morning into a hot and humid day. The track will be rated dead at best.

Rosehill hosts the Group Two Apollo Stakes (1400 metres) and the field is excellent, what with Danleigh, Hot Danish, Love Conquers All, and Centennial Park being in the mix. Metal Bender resumes in this as does talented mare Melito. It looks a ripper race – hard to pick a winner, but it will most likely be one of the aforementioned. Centennial Park beat Love Conquers All and Hot Danish with Danleigh running fourth in the Expressway Stakes a fortnight ago.

Update Saturday night

Black Caviar
appears to be invincible, as witnessed by her demolishment of the Lightning Stakes field this afternoon. She raced away at the 600 metres and put several lengths on Hay List in a trice. Luke Nolan eased her down to a canter at the 100 metres as she cruised effortlessly to the line. "Extraordinary!" I exclaimed to myself, watching it and even the commentator Greg Miles was awestruck. She now has 9 wins from as many starts , two of them at Group One level. I can't see anything beating her. How exciting!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Typhoon Tracy retires from the Turf


The news came today that Typhoon Tracy is to be retired. Her owner and trainer agreed that it was best to retire her on a winning note and as current Horse of the Year.

She apparently has taken a long time to recover after her gritty win in last Saturday’s Orr Stakes and as Peter Moody says, she really has nothing left to prove, though it is disappointing that we won’t see her race against More Joyous in the Futurity.

Over the past three years Tracy has been one of my favourite racehorses and it was always a better race day if she was part of it, so I'll miss her.

She goes out with a fine record of 11 wins (6 at Group one level) and 5 placings from 20 starts and over $2 million in prize money.

I look forward to seeing her children racing in a couple of years or so.

For one last time – Go Tracy Go!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The first Group One of the 2011 Autumn Racing Season

More Joyous resumes this week

A fabulous day of racing is promised this Saturday with the first Group One race for the season , the CF Orr Stakes being the feature race at Caulfield with an accompanying plethora of Group two and three competitions in both Melbourne and Sydney.

The Orr Stakes (1400 metres) sees the resumption of familiar competitors from the spring season - Shocking, Zipping, Linton, Heart of Dreams, Spacecraft, Trusting and mares Typhoon Tracy, Ortensia and Faint Perfume. Typhoon Tracy won this race last year, and even though she didn’t win the Australia Stakes two weeks ago, she is a good chance to take out the Orr Stakes for the second time and most likely will start favourite. It’s a bigger and better field this year, but if she is back to her best she will win.

The two Blue Diamond Preludes (one for the boys and one for the girls) are also to be run this Saturday. Sepoy who convincingly won the Blue Diamond Preview is quite likely to win the colts Prelude as well. Grand Britannia who ran second on that occasion is his main opposition, along with Arctic Command and possibly Huegill from the Moody stable, having his first start.

In the fillies prelude One Last Dance looks the top pick again after her narrow win in the fillies Blue Diamond Preview at her last start, with second place runner Anevay being a major threat, but other well credentialed fillies like Glissade and Holdontoyahorses could steal the show, even so. And mindful of youngsters who win a debut race on a rural track by a good margin and often repeat that performance in the city, you can throw in Erbvebel as a chance.

The Caulfield track will most likely be rated dead, not like last week, where the races were abandoned due to flooding after heavy rain. It’s drizzling and gloomy as I write, but the rain is not expected to be severe.

In Sydney at Randwick racecourse, More Joyous resumes for the autumn in the Group Two Breeders Classic (1200 metres). Others in contention who might cause an upset are Sacred Choice who beat Typhoon Tracy last year in the Myer Classic, albeit on a bog track, Graceful Anna, who was soundly beaten at her last start, but is too good to dismiss out of hand, the well performed Jersey Lily and Sister Madly who has in the past given More Joyous a run for her money.

Also being run at Randwick, the Group Two Light Fingers Stakes (1200 metres) for three year old fillies witnesses the return of smart fillies More Strawberries, Parables, Obsequious though the top pick is probably Red Tracer who resumed a fortnight ago with a two length win in a listed race.

The colts and geldings will contest the Royal Sovereign Stakes, also a Group Two competition run over 1200 metres. It’s good to see Pressday resuming in this. He is the class horse in the race, but other well tried colts like Masquerader, Brightexpectations, Master Harry and Audacious Spirit could pull off a surprise.

Two of the races abandoned last Saturday were run on Wednesday at Sandown Hillside. The Chairman’s Stakes was taken out by Atomic, who certainly looked very promising at his first start, and the Manfred Stakes was won by Enjin Number Nine, by three and a half lengths, who looked even more promising. I’ve added him to my black book as one to watch for the Australian Guineas and beyond. He’s a son of champion Japanese stallion, Zenno Rob Roy who won the 2004 Japan Cup, not a sire you see mentioned in the Australia at all, though I’ll certainly be looking out for his progeny from now on.

Well it appears my predictions were correct...

Sepoy blitzed the field of the Blue Diamond Prelude for colts & geldings again and One Last Dance won the fillies Prelude.

Typhoon Tracy is back in winning circles after narrowly winning the Orr Stakes for a second time, becoming the first mare to do so. Heart of Dreams came second again (as last year) and More Joyous won the Breeders Classic easily. Graceful Anna ran second which was a very good effort, considering the quality of the winner.

Typhoon Tracy and More Joyous will be competing against each other for the first time in the Futurity Stakes in a fortnight – can’t wait.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Autumn Racing Season Build-up continues

Star Witness winning the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes in November 2010
It’s only a week until the first Group One race of the autumn carnival, the C F Orr Stakes, but this weekend has some fascinating competitions in store, even though they are not group races.
As I write the rain is bucketing down in torrents, so the Caulfield track tomorrow will be most likely rated on the heavy side.
Alas for the chances of Star Witness in the listed Manfred Stakes (1200metres) having his first start for the autumn. I have an idea he doesn’t handle the wet all that well, but as he is the class runner, and has already won two Group One races , you can’t really dismiss him out of hand. Mr Chard, who has won on heavy going at Caulfield, looks to be his main challenger, along with Dusty Star and Enjin Number Nine and perhaps the rather curiously named Sayahailmary, the only filly in the race.
There is a bit hype about another Starcraft colt in the Chairman’s Stakes (1100metres) for two year olds, the wonderfully named Cape Canaveral (Starcraft/First Date). It appears that there are a host of attractively named youngsters in this race who could easily win. The filly Hollyweird , with a few wins already under her belt will probably start favourite . Then there’s Atomic, Hell’s Kitchen, Metonymy and Vatican (God’s Own/ Our Sistine).
The 2010 Golden Slipper winner Crystal Lily resumes for autumn in the WJ Adams Stakes (1000 metres), thrown in at the deep end against older well performed horses like Eagle Falls, Reward For Effort, Playwright, Winter King and Faster Son. However speedster, and fellow 3 year old filly Solar Charged, could be Crystal Lily’s main challenger.
In Sydney the grand mare Hot Danish returns to the race track in the Group Two Expressway Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. The field is small, but select, with the likes of Danleigh, Love Conquers All and Vision and Power, vying for a win. But Hot Danish, though getting on in years, has an almost perfect record of first up wins and will most likely prevail again.
UPDATE: SaturdayCaulfield races have been abandoned due to the rain, which I can testify bucketed down all night into this morning.

Hallelujah! Little John at Basement Discs

little_john 005
Basement Discs first in store for 2011 set a high standard for the rest of the year, with a spine tingling set of passionate and powerful music by Little John. It’s music to break your heart and melt your brain, to loosely quote from Pat’s intro.

Little John seemingly have come out of nowhere and as I’ve mentioned before, their debut CD Put Your Hands On Me is instantly riveting and thrilling.

Today, though only three of the five piece band were present, it is obvious that as a live band they really are something special as well.

There’s something almost devotional in the powerful three part harmonies, drummer Bill Deeble,thumping a Neverfail water dispensing bottle, has a high wild wail, John Dickson lead singer and guitarist has an interesting tenor voice, and Greg Field’s, (violin & mandolin) deeper vocals, blend together perfectly and resonate with such eerie emotive power that it sends shivers up your spine and brings tears to your eyes.

Check out the band’s My Space and give them a listen.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Femme Fatales & Luminous Cities

Now that the schoolkids have returned to the classroom, a person can now venture out with less likelihood of striking hordes of ankle biters inhabiting public places.

Yesterday, to test this theory, I decided to catch a bit of culture at the National Gallery of Victoria, most particularly to view the Gustave Moreau exhibition.

With this objective in mind, I made my way to city and to the gallery taking a few photos on the way.

The Gallery wall advertising the exhibition

Fountain outside the Gallery

Giant cartoon rabbit (Cosmo) inside the entrance lobby.

From the ridiculous to the sublime …

Femme Fatales and Sirens
The Moreau exhibition comprised something like 100 or so paintings and drawings, tracing Moreau’s work through his life, but concentrated on the dark and seductive feminine aspect of his paintings. From the Sphinx and Europa, through Bathsheba, Salome, Messalina , Helen of Troy, Sirens and Unicorns, the paintings glowed from the walls alluringly.

Jupiter & Europa

There was a whole section dedicated to Salome and included the famous Apparition. If you looked closely at the painting there was remarkable intricate detail in the background. Moreau worked over his paintings with other media, indian ink, gold leaf, gouache, and pastels.
The same detail was present in the clothing of the women in The Unicorns painting.

By no means an extensive exhibition, it was still wonderful to see the paintings that were on show by that seductive artist Gustave Moreau, a precursor of the Symbolists.

Luminous Cities
Also currently at the National Gallery is a photography exhibition called Luminous Cities, subtitled photographs of the built environment, covering several cities including early Melbourne . Several famous photos of New York were part of the exhibition.

Alfred Steiglitz – The City of Ambition (1910)

The Flatiron - Edward Steichen (1905)

The Maypole - Edward Steichen (1932)

Berenice Abbott – New York at Night (1932)

The above and many more were very inspirational to this amateur photographer.

Before I departed the gallery, I ambled into the Sculpture garden to see what was there and as it was outside I could take photos.

When you get outside you are confronted by Melbourne sculptor, Bruce Armstrong’s hulking, rough hewn crocodiles.


Move further in, past the water feature, and there’s Rodin’s Balzac


A little to the right is Henry Moore’s Seated Figure

And further in a bizarre bronze piece by Willem de Kooning entitled Standing Figure
sculpture dekooning

There is also a piece of art in the (recycled) water feature.

Finding my way back inside via a cafe, there was marble statue of Aphrodite dated 2nd century AD

Before leaving I suddenly remembered the Leonard French stained glass ceiling and decided to look for it. I found it easily and snapped a portion of it. In days past, when the present gallery first opened in 1968 we used to go and lie on the floor and gaze up at it.


Unbeknownst to me the National Gallery celebrated its 150th birthday yesterday. It opened in its current location on St Kilda Road in 1968, but I used to visit the old gallery in Latrobe St when I first came to Melbourne as a student. It was next door to the old Museum, which I also visited regularly, especially to see Pharlap.

Next week I might venture to the Ian Potter Gallery, an extension of the St Kilda Road gallery in Federation Square to view the Stormy Weather exhibition and whatever else is open for viewing.