Monday, December 24, 2012

Emerging from the miasma

For the past two weeks the Cat Politics household has been under the grip of an Influenza epidemic, which certainly killed any incipient Christmas  spirit in its tracks. It was horrible while it lasted, but we’re now emerging – just in time for Christmas Day – from the miasma of misery that was a nasty dose of Flu. It had the works; cough, fever, aches, blurred vision, lack of appetite and zero inclination to do anything of an energetic nature. The only food that tasted any good was fruit salad, so I stoically made a big bowl of it and we survived on it until the taste buds returned.

Somehow the  time passed in a fever dream, and I’m back to feeling sort of normal.

On the cat scene, I was going to report that Monty one of the cats next door had disappeared, and so he had, being missing for over two weeks. Everyone feared the worst, but miraculously he was found and returned in good health.  Social Media has its uses after all.

Contemplating the past year as a whole, it has been pretty good, with one of the highlights being participating in the Black Caviar cheer squad, and the outstanding low light being the tragic demise of our beautiful Lizzie cat.  Light and shade is what makes life interesting after all.

So this Christmas Eve finds me optimistic for an equally interesting and eventful 2013.

As usual we’ll be travelling to the country to spend Christmas with my brother and his family.  It’s generally a pleasant enough day and I enjoy seeing the nieces and nephews this once a year, but I’m always heartily glad when it’s over.

So Merry Christmas to you all, and best wishes for a peaceful, healthy and pleasantly eventful New Year.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The New Republic of Cats

The cat politics since the arrival of new cats next door has resulted in nothing much at all - so far.

Milly and Monty, the bengal-burmese cross cats, have been exploring their new neighbourhood, which naturally encompasses our back and front yards, so they have encountered Willy once or twice without any great drama.  However, Willy is not at all sure how to handle the situation, spending more time lurking indoors during the last few days than he has ever done before.

He did venture out to the backyard yesterday afternoon and relaxed in a chair on the porch of the studio where I snapped the following photo.


He’s getting on for nine years of age, so has modified his behaviour and activities somewhat.  We took him to the Vet last week to get his eyes checked out, as they have developed brown spots on the cornea (you can see them in the photo above) and we feared that they indicated melanomas.  Not a good patient, he submitted with ill grace to being examined by the Vet, going so far as to scratch and bite,  growling angrily throughout.  Anyway, the Vet reckons the spots are age related and not cancerous, which is a relief. He’s not a vicious cat, but he has little tolerance for being handled by strangers and has a habit of nipping us playfully every so often, following the nip with a lick. Wilful by name, wilful by nature.

The cats next door are very pretty, a soft lilac grey with stripes on their legs, tail and face – rather like the markings on Abyssinian cats. I managed to get a photo of Milly yesterday, so you can see how pretty she and her brother are – they are identical, so you see one you see the other.


Summer has finally made an appearance in Melbourne, last Thursday being a particularly hot day. This will slow down cat activity, so we are hoping the cat political situation will remain in detente and not erupt into all out war.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wildlife in the “Burbs”


The above photo is of a blue tongued lizard, sunning itself in our front garden. There appears to be a family of them living under the house – mum, dad and babies. Willy the cat fortunately ignores them, the large ones anyway, but the local wattle birds persistently attack the lizards on sight. 

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Willy eyeing off a blue tongued lizard.

We also noticed the other day two delightful little spotted pardelotes stripping bark from the honeysuckle vine for nesting material.

pardelot 006

pardelot 010 Spotted Pardelotes

They are a rare sight in the suburban back garden, the bulk of the avian population being blackbirds, Indian mynahs, wattle birds and pigeons, with the occasional flock of rainbow lorikeets dropping by.

Lorikeet Chick

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Adult Lorikeet in plum tree

As you can see from the photo above, the plum tree is looking ragged and chewed. This is due to depredations of possums, both of the brush tailed and ring tailed varieties, who inhabit the garden at night. In the past, the two blood plum trees were laden with fruit during summer. For the past two years, as the possum population has grown, the trees have yielded less than a handful of plums.  The possums eat the blossoms and then get stuck into the new leaf growth, effectively eating themselves out of any future bounty. In other words, they are pests, but protected by law, so you can’t dispose of them.

The brush tail possums are amazingly bold and friendly. They saunter up to you and would even try climbing your leg, if you let them.

Willy the cat won’t tackle them, fortunately – he’d come off worse in a tussle with a brush tailed possum. He’s even running scared of the mynahs and wattle birds who are extraordinarily aggressive birds.

We have new next door neighbours, so Pinto the feisty kitten has gone to live in Castlemaine with her owners and no longer troubles our backyard . However, the new neighbours, who recently emigrated from the UK, have two cats who are due to come out of quarantine tomorrow. They are bengal/burmese cross cats, a male and a female,  so I’m really interested in seeing  them, but Willy is in for a shock.  Hopefully they’ll co-exist in harmony with the local felines.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Songbird – Emmylou Harris At the Palais

Emmylou Harris – live at The Palais Theatre 10/11/12

A full house greeted Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys at the Palais Theatre last night, and they performed a show to treasure and remember for years to come.

Emmylou and band were in spectacular form and generously gave of their talent and time for a solid two hours.

Appropriately enough Emmylou started the show with the song My Songbird, emerging solo, to be joined by the band a few minutes into the song.  There was no doubt, even at that juncture, that we were in for a great show.

She followed that up with a song from her latest record Hard Bargain the stirring Six White Cadillacs, then performed a cover of Orphan Girl a wonderful, early Gillian Welch song which Emmylou Harris included on her 1995 album Wrecking Ball. She sang two another songs from that record later on, Bob Dylan’s Every Grain Of Sand and Julie Miller’s All My Tears.

In all, the band performed 25 songs non stop over two hours, with a mix of ballads and more upbeat country numbers – an exhilarating set list of unusual songs: unusual in the sense that they were not standard fare.

The band was first class as you’d expect and was composed of Ricky Simpkins on mandolin and violin, Will Kimbrough on guitar and mandolin, Chris Donohue on bass (both electric and upright), Phil Madiera on keyboards and accordion and Bryan Owings on drums. Emmylou played an acoustic Gibson guitar.

As I’m feeling bleary after the late night – the concert finished at 10.50pm and it took an hour to get home – I’ll keep this short.

Suffice to say, Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys were a quality act and it was a rare pleasure to see them live in concert. Worth every penny of the ticket price and then some.

I had a good seat in Row D of the Orchestra section, a bit to the side, but excellent for viewing the show. I chanced a few photos at the end  of the show and they’re not perfect, but sort of OK considering the circumstances and heads in the way.

 Set List:
( update: Thanks to Red Dirt Boy for completing the list )

1. My Songbird

2. Six White Cadillacs

3. Orphan Girl (Gillian Welch

4. Making Believe

5. Hello Stranger (The Carter Family)

6. Evangeline

7. Hickory Wind (Gram Parsons)

8. Green Pastures

9. Wheels

10. My Name Is Emmett Till

11. Get Up John

12. Red Dirt Girl

13. Two More Bottles

14. Luxury Liner 

15. Prayer In Open D

16. Darlin’ Kate

17. Every Grain Of Sand (Bob Dylan)

18. All My Tears (Julie Miller)

19. Bright Morning Stars

20. Ship On His Arm

21. The Pearl

22. Together Again

23. Born To Run


  1. Old Five And Dimers Like Me (Billy Joe Shaver)
  2. Pancho And Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)

Friday, November 09, 2012

Another Musical Interlude – Lisa Miller at Basement Discs


What a pleasure it was to see Lisa Miller performing live and close up again. Lisa was launching her new CD Meet The Misses at Basement Discs at lunchtime today, playing a mini concert to an appreciative crowd.

It was great to hear once more such great songs as Safe As Houses, Versions Of You, Hang My Head and Trade among others.

Lisa was accompanied today by ace guitarist Shane O’Mara with Ashley Davies on drums. Lisa played an acoustic guitar. But she hardly needs any accompaniment having one of the best voices in the country, or even the world. Aptly described as “blue eyed and broken hearted” it is the sort of voice that never cloys, is expressive and bitter sweet.

She can do slow burners and rockers, and demonstrated both styles today to great effect.

Meet The Misses is in fact a reprise of songs from her first two records, Quiet Girl With A Credit Card and As Far As Life Goes, to which two recordings she has lost the rights.  So if you have never heard either of those earlier albums, Meet The Misses is well worth acquiring for the great songs and THAT voice.

Speaking of great voices, I am really looking forward to seeing the silver tongued Emmylou Harris live in concert tomorrow night at The Palais in St Kilda.  I have seen her twice before, though not for a long time and she was totally wonderful both times. I’ve got good seats in Row D so hopefully I can snap a sly photo or two.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Who will win the 2012 Melbourne Cup?

As I gaze at the 2012 Melbourne Cup field and ponder the imponderables, I’m still at a loss as to who is the likely winner. Of the 24 horse field only 5 are locally bred, the rest are imports or International contestants here especially for the Cup, and thus hard to gauge.

But first here’s a snippet of Australian racing history – the field for the 1961 Melbourne Cup, scanned from my old scrapbook.

1961_melbourne cup field

Lord Fury won that year 1½ lengths from Grant Print with my old fave Dhaulagiri 4 lengths away third. Look at the prize money, compared to today’s $6 million, a mere £20,000, which I suppose was a fair amount of money in 1961.  The fledgling TAB was operating at this time, having been opened in Victoria in March of that year. I notice that bets accepted for the 1961 Melbourne Cup had to be lodged 10 minutes before the race. A much younger Bart Cummings had a runner in the 1961 Melbourne Cup – three year old colt, Sometime, who looks to have been a handy type. He won the 1963 Caulfield Cup as well as several other prestigious races.

That was then, when the field was predominately Australian and New Zealand horses…

This year it seems the International runners will again take out the Cup. But which one? If Dunaden had not been penalised for his win in the Caulfield Cup he would have been the top pick to take out the Cup a  second time.  Despite his weight he still has a good chance, I think, as does 2010 winner Americain. After all we know they can run the distance. I’ve also got a fancy for Kelinni who made it into the Cup field at the last minute by winning the Lexus Stakes on Saturday and carries a light weight as well as the added bonus of Glen Boss in the saddle. The Cumani runner Mount Athos cannot be overlooked either, despite not racing for two months, and Red Cadeaux who was pipped at the post by Dunaden last year, and meets him with a weight advantage this year, has to be a top contender.

Of the locals Ethiopia looks the one most likely. His run in the Cox Plate was excellent and he is a genuine stayer with the Zabeel factor in his blood lines. Lights of Heaven, Zabeelionaire and Maluckyday were all sired by Zabeel so aren’t without hope. Lights of Heaven is the only mare in the race, so is one for the girls to cheer on.

And of course there is the Bart Cummings factor. Has he got the winner up his sleeve? Take your pick between Precedence and Sanagas.

As usual picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup is virtually impossible. Just hope the stars are in your favour tomorrow and that fortune deigns to  smile on your wagers.

It’s supposed to rain on and off tomorrow, in fact it’s already drizzling in Melbourne today, so the track will probably be on the soft side of dead.

Update Tuesday afternoon

Melbourne Cup Result:
1. Green Moon
2. Fiorente
3. Jakkalberry

Well, I totally overlooked Green Moon in my calculations or dismissed him out of hand after his poor performance in the Cox Plate so it was a real surprise to see him win the Melbourne Cup. Don’t ask how I fared in my flutter on the Cup, none of my fancies came anywhere. Wishing for better luck next year.

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Musical Interlude – Suzannah Espie at Basement Discs

suzannah espie 021112
From l to r – Liz Stringer, Suzannah Espie, Chris Altmann – live at Basement Discs 2/11/12

I’m glad I made it into the city today to catch Suzannah Espie’s performance at Basement Discs. It was a beauty!

Suzannah was promoting her latest CD Sea of Light which was “recorded over three 40 degree days in February 2011, when Liz Stringer, Chris Altmann and a heavily pregnant Suzannah Espie sat around a couple of microphones in Jeff Lang’s shed and played and sang together.”

Liz Stringer and Chris Altmann – very fine artists in their own right - were on stage today with Suzannah and my goodness, they certainly sounded wonderful together. With  Sea of Light Suzannah has outreached herself and gone from strength to strength. The songs are exquisite and have a melancholy stateliness that is quite moving.  And the harmony vocals of Liz, Chris and Suzannah, in unison, are rare and lovely.

You can preview tracks from the album and buy it at Vitamin Records here or support a local record store and purchase it at Basement Discs – they accept mail orders from anywhere in the world.

Next Friday (9th November)  the wonderful Lisa Miller will be in store at Basement Discs showcasing songs from her new CD Meet The Misses, which is actually a reprise of songs from her two first CDs Quiet Girl With A Credit Card and As Far As Life Goes with such great songs as Versions of You, Rule#1 and Wipe The Floor… etc.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Flemington Super Saturday – Victoria Derby

ocean park
Ocean Park wins the Cox Plate

We’re infected with spring carnival fever here at Cat Politics, and are keenly looking forward to more great racing action at Flemington this weekend, though only in front of the TV as opposed to being present at the track.

The feature race is the Victoria Derby a race for three year olds over 2500 metres. The result of this race is often surprising and favourites rarely win. It’s A Dundeel will start as the favourite despite being beaten last week. His breeding indicates that he will run the distance, but he’ll have to be at his best to win. His main opposition comes from Hvasstan, Super Cool, Honorius and Fiveandhalfstar.

Before the Derby however there are several other races of interest. The first of these is the Group Two Wakeful Stakes, for fillies run over 2000 metres. Dear Demi has been most consistent, running a place in her last two starts against smarter fillies Norzita (Flight Stakes) and Commanding Jewel (1000 Guineas) so is due for a win.  Her main danger is Zydeco who ran third in the 1000 Guineas and will appreciate the extra distance having the  Zabeel factor in her favour. Others in with a chance are Transonic,  Tyanna and New Zealand filly Kate.

The first of the four Group One events is the Coolmore Stud Stakes, another race for three year olds over 1200 metres. It has attracted a quality field. My top pick is super filly Snitzerland, though the hyped Nechita will start as favourite. Fire Thunderbolt who fought Snitzerland to the post in the Blue Sapphire has be a top chance, as does Hidden Warrior who I witnessed winning at Moonee Valley last week. Lankan Rupee, Sizzling and Jolie Bay could also feature in the finish.

The Group One Mackinnon Stakes (2000 metres) is the last ditch chance for Melbourne Cup hopefuls to win a place in the field. Ocean Park is backing up in this after his sensational win in the Cox Plate, though he is not Melbourne Cup bound. No doubt he will start as favourite and rightly so.  Pitted against him are six other stayers, principally Alcopop who ran second to him (Ocean Park) in the Caulfield Stakes and also took out second place in the Caulfield Cup behind Dunaden. And don’t forget December Draw whose chances are enhanced when he runs at Flemington, his favourite track.  Zabeelionaire is also in with a chance and could run a place.

The final Group One race for the day is the Myer Classic (1600 metres) for mares. Now that Mosheen has been retired, having sustained an injury in the Tristarc Stakes, Streama can stake her claim to being the best mare racing at present.  She took out the Tristarc Stakes comfortably from Pear Tart and Red Tracer who are both contesting the Myer Classic as well, and will no doubt represent a serious challenge along with Secret Admirer and Oasis Bloom.

As well as the abovementioned races there is also the Lexus Stakes, like the Mackinnon Stakes a chance for unqualified horses like Geelong Cup winner Gatewood to get automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup.  As the last two Melbourne Cup winners Dunaden and Americain also won the Geelong Cup before winning the big one, Gatewood would become a serious Cup contender should he make it to the field, so he has to win the Lexus to be part of it.

Saturday’s Flemington races are the start of a week of racing action, with the Melbourne Cup run on Tuesday, the Oaks on Thursday and the Emirates Stakes on Saturday week.

Update – Saturday night

What a shocking day it was for favourites! The major Group One races all resulted in upset wins by outsiders, one at least being a 50/1 shot.

The Coolmore Stud Stakes was won by Nechita (5/1), with Jolie Bay (8/1) running second and  50/1 long shot, Shamexpress, running third.

Good old Alcopop scored his first Group One win in the Mackinnon Stakes beating Glass Harmonium who ran second. Ocean Park managed to  run third.

The Derby was won by Fiveandahalfstar (21/1) followed by Super Cool (5.9/1) and Rawnaq a 90/1 shot.

And the Myer Classic was taken out by Appearance (50/1) with Soft Sand and Secret Admirer running second and third respectively.

The Melbourne Cup is the next Group One race on the agenda. I’ll post my thoughts on that in the next day or so.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Day At The Races – Cox Plate 2012

cox plate_finish
Cox Plate finish – All Too Hard leads with Ocean Park coming hard on his outside.

Yesterday dawned into a bright morning that became overcast with heavy grey clouds in the west threatening rain. But the rain held off, and even though the afternoon was cool and cloudy it stayed fine throughout.

I arrived at Moonee Valley racecourse just before the fourth race, the Telstra Phonewords Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. Wending my way through the bookies area, I placed a bet on Hidden Warrior and found my way to the public lawn at the top of the straight to a vacant spot on the fence to watch the race. To my delight, Hidden Warrior won from Haussmann and Chosen Moment.

Race 4 finish from the top of the straight. Hidden Warrior leads by several lengths.

After collecting my winnings – Hidden Warrior paid very well -  I decided to go and watch the Race 5 contenders parade, being particularly interested in It’s A Dundeel. He’s a stunning looking colt by High Chaparral and has a certain presence about him.

It’s A Dundeel (No 1) with Viking Star (No 2) and Super Cool (No 4) on their way to the barriers.

Unfortunately It’s A Dundeel didn’t win - his first defeat in his short career. He raced at the tail of the field for most of the race, and the winner Super Cool was too flash for him in the finish. Viking Star ran third.

Race 5 finish from the top of the straight – Super Cool leads, with If I Could on his outside, It’s A Dundeel is in the middle and Viking Star in fourth spot.

The next race on the cards was the Drake International Moonee Valley Cup run over 2500 metres.  Killing time before the race I checked out the contestants.
Ironstein who ran third

Vatuvei the eventual winner

The Peter Moody/Luke Nolen combination resulted in a win for Vatuvei with Reuben Percival running second and Ironstein third.

Whilst in the parade area I  checked out the stalls and came across Shoot Out and Rangirandoo in adjacent stalls.

shoot out_stall
Shoot Out


Rangirangdoo was being kitted out for the next race on the card, the Crystal Mile. I put a small wager each way on him and Solzhenitsyn and they ran second and third respectively behind Silent Achiever.

Solzhenitsyn on his way to the barriers

race7_silent achiver
Silent Achiever on her way to the barriers

By this time it was about 4.35pm and the excitement was building towards the feature race. Having been on my feet all afternoon, I thought I deserved a quiet sit down, so I went to the parade ground for a rest and waited for the Cox Plate horses to parade.

Pierro was out first long before any of the other runners made it the ring. He appears to be a very well behaved and calm young fellow, as if he’d done it all many times before.


, another of Gai Waterhouse’s runners, was all fired up and toey.


More Joyous, who was very unlucky in the Cox Plate, having to race wide the whole trip, was the third of Gai Waterhouse’s entrants in the Plate.

more joyous1
More Joyous

The winner Ocean Park

ocean park4 
Ocean Park

All Too Hard was only beaten by a neck in the Cox Plate – so near yet so far, but an excellent run on his part.

all too hard2
All Too Hard

I had my money on Green Moon, but he was very disappointing in his run, finishing 7th.

green moon
Green Moon

Shoot Out had to be reshod before he took his place in the parade ring, and was the last horse to emerge. He ran 5th in the Cox Plate.

shoot out
Shoot Out

Southern Speed ran 6th and I finally managed to get a reasonable photo of her.

southern speed
Southern Speed

Unlike last year the weather stayed fine and the sun even emerged for the running of the Cox Plate.

Where I was positioned, on the fence near the top of the straight, the Cox Plate barrier is placed for the start of the race. Thus I was able to snap a photo of the start, and the first rush down the straight.

cox plate_staright_1st 
Horses jostle for position in the first run down the straight – More Joyous leads in this shot, Ocean Park (red cap, purple silks) is just behind with the main bunch and Linton (grey horse) after blowing the start, is being well held. Southern Speed is on his inside and Shoot Out (red and gold stripes) is on the inside of Southern Speed.

In the end Ocean Park overtook All Too Hard to win on the line with Pierro running third several lengths behind.  And another Cox Plate had been run and won.

I had an enjoyable day at the races, and managed to avoid most of the crowds, having last year figured out that the top of the straight is the place to be. I had no trouble placing bets in the Bookies Ring or finding a spot on the fence to watch the races. I didn’t win heaps, but I didn’t lose much either, keeping my bets modest. I ended up with one win, two seconds and two thirds.

Many young females were huddling under blankets and coats, their flimsy racing costumes unsuitable for the cool weather. I didn’t notice any really outrageous costumes where I was, most people in the area being sensibly garbed.

Actually the crowd didn’t appear to be as large as last year, when Black Caviar was the added attraction. However, the running of the Manikato Stakes on the Friday night before the Cox Plate may have made a difference to the numbers. Speaking of the Manikato Stakes it was great to see the very classy Sea Siren win it in style – about the only Group One victory for the girls this spring racing season.

crowd scene
Crowd Scene

I didn’t stay for the final race and managed to catch the second last bus home.

It’s a great day, Cox Plate day and I hope to repeat the experience for many years to come.  Francesca Cumani explains it in detail here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Thrills In The Offing– 2012 Cox Plate
Green Moon – A top pick for the Cox Plate.

Another superb day of racing is coming up this Saturday with Moonee Valley featuring the famous (and my favourite of the BIG three) WFA championship of the spring  - the Cox Plate.  The Cox Plate has attracted a quality field with a mix of tried and true WFA performers and young upstarts. More about that later.

Moonee Valley Racing Club have decided this year to run the Manikato Stakes the night before the Cox Plate. I remember that some years back it was the first Group One race of the Spring racing carnival in mid September, but these days racing clubs change races around at will to fit some vision they have for their club.  I don’t intend to go to Manikato Stakes night, preferring daytime racing. The daytime Cox Plate meeting has a better race card with several fascinating Group Two and Three races occurring before the big event.

The Manikato Stakes however does look to be an interesting race, with Sydney mare Sea Siren making her first appearance this spring. She won the BTC Cup/Doomben 10,000 double in the autumn, defeating Buffering in the latter by a short margin. These two will clash again in the Manikato StakesBuffering is in excellent form, winning his last two starts, .and has the edge, as he’s raced and won at Moonee Valley recently, whereas Sea Siren has not raced in Melbourne ever, yet with her weight advantage Sea Siren may give Buffering a damn good run for the money. Also in with a chance are Bel Sprinter another with winning Moonee Valley form, the always competitive Satin Shoes, Hallowell Belle and Ready to Rip who ran second to Buffering in the Moir Stakes recently.

So on to Cox Plate day…

The first of the Group races is Race 4, the Group 3 Telstra Phoneworks Stakes, a race over  1200 metres for three year olds. Chosen Moment and Hidden Warrior look the top picks, the former having the benefit of Craig Williams in the saddle. It appears to be an evenly talented field with a number of chances – last start winner Cavalry Rose for one, Stars In The Sky also, and South Australian Essay Raider for another.

Things heat up in Race 5, the Group 2 Mitchelton Wines Vase, run over the Cox Plate distance of 2040 metres and also for three year olds. Unbeaten New Zealand star It’s A Dundeel is the top pick and pretty well a dead cert winner (touch wood). He’s having a practice run before tackling the Victoria Derby the following Saturday. Viking Star, If I Could and Super Cool appear to be the next best dressed and could run a place.

The Group 2 Drake International Cup (formerly the Moonee Valley Cup) is run over 2500 metres and is for stayers still trying to qualify for the Melbourne Cup. I must admit I find the field for this race a tad uninspiring. You’ve got the unpredictable Precedence again, Moudre who finished 14th in the Caulfield Cup last week, Reuben Percival. also ho hum, Ibicenco an International runner from the Luca Cumani stable, and probably the pick of the litter along with Midas Touch who has a bit of form in recent races though nothing spectacular.

Race 6 the Crystal Vase is a completely different and more classy Group 2 race run over 1600 metres. Though only 7 runners have accepted it looks to be a very interesting race. Toorak Handicap winner Solzhenitsyn is the one to beat. Good old Rangirangdoo is top weight, but on his day he is very competitive, like his recent second to his stable mate, Shoot Out, in the George Main Stakes and moreover he won this race in 2009.  The consistent Ambidexter cannot be overlooked and Tokugawa has won at Moonee Valley in the recent past.

The Cox Plate will be run slightly earlier this year, so I can relax and not rush for the bus directly after the race as I had to do last year. The change from running the race at 5.35pm to 5.15pm has something to do with the Television coverage. The interval between races will be reduced to 35 minutes as opposed to the usual 40 minutes. Suits me fine as killing time between races can be a bit boring if you’re solo and not partying.

Let us now consider the Cox Plate

A full field of 14 runners will compete in this powerhouse competition. It looks an excellent field this year with outstanding Group One performers like More Joyous, Green Moon, Shoot Out, Ocean Park, Sincero, Rekindled Interest and Southern Speed all in the mix. Then you’ve got the top three year olds of the year, Pierro, All Too Hard and Proisir in with a lightweight chance.  I am torn between Green Moon and Ocean Park as my top fancies, and I would love it if old favourite Shoot Out scored an upset win. He ran in this race in 2010, finishing 4th behind So You Think. Gai Waterhouse is having a disappointing Melbourne spring carnival, with none of her top racehorses scoring a win so far, so I dare say she is hoping one of her three runners can win this prestigious race.

If Pierro hadn’t been beaten in the Caulfield Guineas, I would understand why he is the favourite for this race. At the moment I find it really puzzling. He has never run past 1600 metres and he has not raced in open company before. However, his grandsire Octagonal, who also failed to win the Caulfield Guineas won the Cox Plate in 1995 at the age of three. I was there that day and remember the race vividly. Also, Pierro’s sire, Lonhro, ran in the race in 2002 and 2003, running 6th and 3rd respectively. Remember Helmet last year? He was one of the favourites for the 2011 Cox Plate after winning the Caulfield Guineas and though he ran a game race, he did not feature in the finish. And he didn’t win or place in a race ever again.

The other three year olds All Too Hard and Proisir could be given just as much chance as Pierro, with All Too Hard being the better of the two, no matter what Gai Waterhouse thinks.

The weather on Saturday is expected to be around 17°C with a few showers clearing. The track should be rated good to dead and excellent for racing. I expect the crowd to be large, but as Black Caviar is not part of the action this year, maybe not as crowded as last year.

Whatever the weather and the crowd, I’m really looking forward to seeing my favourite racehorses in action and maybe getting some good photos of Shoot Out in particular.

UPDATE: Saturday night

cox plate_start
2012 Cox Plate Start

What a fab day at the races! Full of interesting events  and not too crowded, at least where I was standing at the top of the straight. New Zealand star Ocean Park won the Cox Plate overtaking All Too Hard just before the line, with Pierro running third. It’s the first time a New Zealand horse has won the Plate since Sunline in 2001.

The other New Zealand star It’s A Dundeel, a striking and attractive colt, was beaten for the first time in his career by Super Cool.

I’ll write a fuller account of my day at the races soon, with more photos.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The First of the Big Ones – Caulfield Cup 2012

Southern Speed winning the 2011 Caulfield Cup

Looking at the field for the 2012 Caulfield Cup, one wonders if it too is going the way of the last few years’ Melbourne Cups, with the bulk of the field being made up of International runners. Last year Adelaide mare  Southern Speed stole the show, but she has been scratched from this year’s race after drawing a bad barrier and is being saved for the Cox Plate.

A full field has accepted for the race, with the favoured International runners, Glencadam Gold, Dunaden and Americain drawing the extreme outside barriers. Local hopes December Draw, Alcopop,  and  mares Lights of Heaven and Secret Admirer fared better drawing middle gates. Whether the barriers will make any difference to the running of the race is yet to be seen.  A very hard race to pick the winner, I’m hoping one of the girls is successful, though Glencadam Gold & Dunaden will take some beating. Others to consider are the widely travelled Jakkalberry, Voila Ici if he doesn’t repeat his bad behaviour as exhibited before the Turnbull Stakes, and Zabeelionaire, a lightweight chance with the Zabeel factor.

Another race of interest on Saturday is the Group Three Norman Robinson Stakes for three year olds run over 2000 metres. Kabayan, who finally scored a black type win in the Stan Fox Stakes in late September, will start favourite. He is the class horse in the field, but will have to contend with the unbeaten Phillipi  and the well performed Hvasstan, and other staying bred contenders.

Mosheen, Streama, Pear Tart and Red Tracer face off in the Group Two Tristarc Stakes, a race over 1400 metres for mares. Mosheen re-established her credentials winning her last start, and has an edge over the other ladies, though Streama cannot be dismissed lightly, and it would be great to see Pear Tart in the picture at the finish. A trifecta perhaps?

The weather tomorrow is expected to be mild and sunny and the track most probably will be rated dead to good.

I’ll be watching it all on television, saving my presence for next week’s Cox Plate meeting.

And finally it was good to see Atlantic Jewel’s little sister, Commanding Jewel, winning the Thousand Guineas on Wednesday, a race Atlantic Jewel won the previous year.  A rare sibling coincidence in racing.

UPDATE: Saturday evening

A great win by Dunaden in the Caulfield Cup and great to see the locally bred Alcopop and Lights of Heaven running the minor places.  I had a small each way bet on Dunaden in the Cup, after tossing around several options in my head, and he came up trumps courtesy of a superb ride by Craig Williams.

I’m now regretting yet again, that I did not follow my own advice in the Tristarc Stakes, boxing Mosheen, Streama, Pear Tart & Red Tracer for a trifecta. Streama won, with Pear Tart running second and Red Tracer coming third. Mosheen, weakened after challenging Streama and finished out of the placings.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Day At The Races – Caulfield Guineas Day

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More Joyous being exercised in the walking ring an hour before her race, the Toorak Handicap.

The weather in Melbourne recently has been pretty awful, so it was pleasant to wake up yesterday morning to sunshine. And sunny in the main it was,  clouds, and a bit of drizzle, moving in later in the afternoon, thus perfect for a day at the races.

I reached Caulfield Racecourse just before the second race, the Blue Sapphire Stakes, where top filly Snitzerland was taking on the boys. She prevailed, beating Fire Thunderbolt by a ½ neck, with Lankan Rupee a ½ head third. Sizzling ran fourth, which made me wonder in retrospect why I didn’t take my own advice (in my preview) and box the first four and win a goodly sum.  However I didn’t even have a bet on this race.

Race two finish – Snitzerland in the centre overtaking Lankan Rupee on her inside with Fire Thunderbolt  running down the outside.

Race Three was the Thoroughbred Club Stakes for three year old fillies. I decided to back Hoss Amor, who started favourite but failed to run a place. Cavalry Rose won, beating Saturn Rock by a head, with Mareeza running into third place 1½ lengths away.

Race three finish – Cavalry Rose leads

A big crowd attended the meeting yesterday, but despite that I found it easy to find a spot on the fence to watch the action. It was a friendly and cheerful crowd – good vibes all round. I failed to take photos of outrageous costumes – and there were a few – but the ones that took the prize were two young men dressed as a cowboy and indian. The indian was tied to a tree, and I noticed the cowboy being interviewed and videotaped as I wandered past.

Race four, the Schillaci Stakes was the first of the Group races of the afternoon. Buffering was hot favourite and he won comfortably from Golden Archer with Stirling Grove running third.

Buffering heading to the barriers prior to the race

The excitement was building for the first of the Group One races the Caulfield Stakes, so after putting my money Ocean Park, I found a good spot on the fence to watch the race.  Ocean Park was one of the few favourites to win on the day, narrowly beating Alcopop by ¼ length with Sincero a nose away third.

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Ocean Park returning to scale after winning the Caulfield Stakes

More Joyous started favourite and top weight in the Group One Toorak Handicap. She tried hard, but the weight she carried got the better of her, as lightweight chances Solzhenitsyn and Spirit Song surged past her and left her in their wake. Solzhenitsyn, a $10,000 bargain buy from Queensland, won narrowly from Spirit Song with Yosei running into third place. More Joyous finished fourth.

Solzhenitsyn in the mounting yard prior to the race

It is now old news that star colt Pierro was beaten by the underrated All Too Hard in the Caulfield Guineas.  After showing no signs of his earlier brilliance in his last three starts, and getting a reputation for missing the start of his races, All Too Hard who is Black Caviar’s younger half brother, surprised everyone yesterday with his gutsy win. The jury is still out on Pierro’s performance and Nash Rawiller’s ride, but it is disappointing that his reputation is now tarnished. We all love a star and he was the great white hope of  Australian racing. Still champs get beaten, and many of the greats of the turf have been beaten in the Caulfield GuineasSo You Think, Denman to name a few.

Back to the race…

I found a good spot next to the mounting yard to watch the parade and snap a few photos.


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All Too Hard


I did not see the finish of the race as I decided to stay near the mounting yard and my view was blocked by owners and strappers of the participants, so at first I thought Pierro had prevailed, but the news that Pierro had been beaten was soon clear.

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All Too Hard sashed after winning the Caulfield Guineas

I stayed for the next race the Herbert Power Stakes which was won by French horse Shahwardi from Excluded and Exceptionally, then called it quits and caught the train home.

It was long day, enjoyable but not profitable. I only had four bets which resulted in one win and one place. The weather was lovely most of the afternoon and I even got slightly sunburnt, but we watched the Herbert Power Stakes in a light shower of rain.

The Caulfield Cup will be run next weekend, but I will not be attending that meeting. Yesterday the crowd was bearable, but I imagine it will be much more squashy next week. I intend to go to the Cox Plate the week later – it has a much more interesting race card.

PS: Click photos for larger view.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Music For A Change – Chris Wilson at Basement Discs

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It has been a while since I last wrote about the Basement Discs in store  performances, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been attending them religiously. As usual, they have all  been wonderful mini shows. Memorable ones include Jordie Lane & Clare Reynolds performing songs from the Grievous Angel show,  Tim Rogers, who surprised me with his off beat self deprecatory wit and a splendid version of Spanish Boots, Mia Dyson and Liz Stringer who performed an exquisite in store a fortnight ago, and Charles Jenkins last week, showcasing his wonderful new CD Love Your Crooked Neighbour With Your Crooked Heart.

At lunchtime today Chris Wilson gave the in-store crowd at taste of his self funded, newly released CD, Flying Fish. Always entertaining to watch and hear live, Chris is a dynamic performer with his rich distinctive voice and his deftness on his chosen instruments – harmonica and guitar, today. He sang about five songs, some old, some new including a terrific song about an alien wanting to go home.

Next Thursday the wonderful Tinpan Orange will be playing songs from their brand new record Over The Sun.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Excitement Builds! Caulfield Guineas Day

Pierro – hot favourite for the Caulfield Guineas

I love this time of year – springtime in Melbourne, at the height of the Spring racing season – days of wine and roses and first class racing. Just don’t mention the weather.

We’ve had the build up, the preludes and the champions resuming; now it’s time to get serious.

The race card at Caulfield this coming Saturday boasts three Group One contests, worth the price of entry alone, plus several intriguing Group Two and Listed competitions.

The first race of interest is the Blue Sapphire Stakes, race two on the card. For three year olds and run over 1200 metres, it stars super filly Snitzerland  taking on the boys by herself. She  ran second to Pierro in the Golden Slipper back in autumn and resumed in August, accruing three straight wins since.

She is pitted against some very smart colts, Queenslander Sizzling among them. He won the Group One  T J Smith  back in June.  Then you’ve got South Australian gelding Fire Thunderbolt and local colt Lankan Rupee who have both won their only two starts by good margins.  All up it looks a great race.

Race four is the Group Two Schillaci Stakes, a sprint over 1000 metres. Black Caviar won this race last year and the year before that. With her out of the picture this year, the super consistent Buffering appears to have the race at his mercy, but the Moody/Nolen/Caulfield combo factor might favour Golden Archer.  There’s also the very much in form Sydney horse Pampelonne and Adelaide runner Stirling Grove who are also worth consideration.

The first of the Group One races is the Caulfield Stakes (2000 metres)  and would have promised a fascinating competition between Manighar and impressive New Zealander Ocean Park, but Manighar has now been withdrawn from the Spring carnival after a setback caused by some sort of arthritic condition. Ocean Park won the Underwood very convincingly from Voila Ici and December Draw and on that score appears to be the one to beat. Sincero is the next best in the race, though he has failed to win beyond 1600 metres.  Sabrage and Vatuvei have a chance if the track is on the slow side as does old Alcopop.

More Joyous is the star attraction in the Group One Toorak Handicap, and rightly so. She is the best performed horse in Australia behind Black Caviar, having now won 21 races from 28 starts, eight of which were at Group One level. She won the Toorak Handicap in 2010 carrying 58 kg (a record for a mare), but this year is obliged to tote 60 kg. She has had three runs so far this season and won them all, though arguably they were considerably easier races than this. Her closest rival is King Mufhasa who won the race last year, has a slight weight advantage over the mare and appears to be in good form, with a last start win in New Zealand . Others in contention are the lightweights Solzhenitsyn, Spirit Song and Tokukawa along with old Glass Harmonium and fellow mares Steps In Time and Yosei. I’d love More Joyous to win, but she is vulnerable with that weight.  Still, underestimate her at your peril.

If ever there was a certainty, outside Black Caviar in a race, it has to be Pierro in the Caulfield Guineas, a race for three year old colts and geldings over 1600 metres. This son of Lonhro has the potential to be as special as the aforementioned champion mare. He’s already got 8 wins under his belt, three of them at Group One level and is yet to be beaten.  Also in the field, but unlikely to beat Pierro, is Golden Rose winner Epaulette, the best of the rest. All Too Hard has been most disappointing this spring so far, but even when he was in top form he couldn’t beat Pierro in the Sires Produce Stakes back in autumn.  Fighting for a place will most likely be Ashokan, Awesome Bro and Let Go Lenni, otherwise it looks to be a one horse race.

One for the stayers, is the Group Two Herbert Power Stakes run over 2400 metres. It has a fascinating field of acceptors the majority of them being overseas contenders, the classiest of that lot being Gatewood (UK) and Shawardi (France). Local hopes rest on staying mare Exceptionally,  Excluded and the unpredictable Precedence.  Other top chances are Bianmick who won the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley at his last start and Reuben Percival who ran third in the Metropolitan last Saturday. Not an easy race to pick the winner, but worth watching for future reference Cups wise.

As it’s cold and wet in Melbourne as I write this post, it is unclear what  condition the track will be in on Saturday. Let’s hope the rain clears tomorrow, and that Saturday is warm and sunny.

UPDATE : Saturday night

What a day! Three favourites saluted and Gai’s stars bombed. More tomorrow with photos.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Caulfield Guineas Barrier Draw

On this nice sunny day in Melbourne, I felt inclined to venture out and do something different for a change, so I decided I’d go and watch the Barrier Draw for the Caulfield Guineas at Federation Square in the city.

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Shows barrel with horse names to be drawn and little stone plinths with barrier number on the base.

It was moderately amusing and interesting to witness the draw. The Caulfield Guineas had only eight acceptors, and hot favourite is the unbeaten colt Pierro, who drew barrier 7, represented by his lucky owner G. Kolivos.

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Pierro’s owner choosing Pierro’s barrier.

The final draw looks like this:

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This afternoon’s outing was just a teaser for the main event on Saturday. I plan to attend and have pre-purchased a ticket (it was cheaper to buy online than pay at the gate) so I’m pretty well obliged to go. Not that I would miss the race meeting in a fit, as it looks to have a ripper of a race card and I am so looking forward to seeing Pierro & More Joyous in the flesh - not to mention Manighar and Ocean Park and a number of the international Cup contenders.

I’ll try and write a preview before week’s end and of course describe my day at the races, after the  event (with pics).

And speaking of Australian Horse racing, check out this wonderful post on a small grey mare called Alice Hawthorne who took the colonial Australian horse racing scene by storm in the 1850s. It’s a great Australian story and told in an interesting way.  Thanks Ms O’Dyne for alerting me to it.