Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Tao of Cheer Squadding – Black Caviar Wins Again

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View of Moonee Valley racetrack from Legends.

I was not sure what to expect when I ventured to Moonee Valley Racetrack last night (or evening to be more exact) to participate in the Official Black Caviar Cheer Squad.

The weather was perfect for a night at the races, warm with a slight sea breeze.

Catching the Westgarth to Moonee Valley bus, I alighted at the track and walked up the hill, and around the corner a bit, to  Moonee Valley Legends, a drinking and gambling establishment that is situated alongside the track, to check in to the Cheer Squad. My attitude was to play it by ear, go with the flow and appreciate the unusualness of the situation.

What ensued was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve spent at the races and volunteering for the Cheer Squad was the definitely correct decision as it turned out. Moonee Valley racing club had seriously underestimated crowd attendance; it had grown to Cox Plate numbers by the fourth race. Apparently there were huge queues for everything, including racecourse entry, so the MVRC ended up opening the gates and admitting the patrons for free. There were quite a few peeved customers who had already paid for admission.

Back at Legends, all was cheery and bright, as the squad checked in.

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Registration team, appropriately attired

After check in we each received a tee-shirt, a race book, and a couple of drink vouchers and were told to wait around for further instruction. 

So while racetrack patrons were queuing for drinks, bets etc., we in the Cheer Squad were happily imbibing the complimentary “crownies” (Crown Lager beer) or bubbly or whatever else was offered.

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Cheer Squad members relaxing at Legends wearing the tee-shirts.

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This young lady came wearing her own Black Caviar costume

I struck up a friendship with a couple of other loners (like me) so a big hello to Brett and Debbie if you read this. We sort stuck together for the rest of the cheer squadding action.

As we had to turn up at Legends at 5.00pm, it was a hour or so before the squad had to do their thing. Shortly after the second race, we all assembled at the gate that leads onto the racecourse and were given masks and flags.

I was expecting rehearsals of chants or something like that, but not so.

The march down the hallowed straight into the setting sun, was somewhat shambolic, and nobody chanted much, probably because there were so many cheers to choose from. The most popular, and easiest to remember, was “Caviar, Caviar, Caviar, Oie Oie Oie”.

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The Black Caviar Cheer Squad proceeds down the straight.

By that time of course we were all warmed up and rowdy, no doubt due to the complimentary crownies etc, so it wasn’t a total shemozzle.

At the end of this, shortly before the third race, we were settled in the grandstand in reserved seats. This was a newish experience for me as I normally hang out on the public lawn, but I must admit the view was great for watching the races.

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View from the grandstand – race three finish.

After that we were free agents for half an hour or so. I decided to go and check out the parade ground. I noticed that the general public were being admitted to Black Caviar’s stall area. She was allocated in Stall 54 according to the race book, so there I went, and actually managed to acquire a good position on the fence.

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Black Caviar’s specially marked stall.

We had to wait awhile until the great lady arrived, meanwhile watching Peter Moody saddle up Doubtful Jack, his other runner in Race Four – the Australia Stakes.

Peter Moody setting out Black Caviar’s racing gear.

Soon enough the great mare arrived to be accoutred for the race. By this time a fair crowd was assembled to try and capture her on camera.

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Black Caviar is led to her stall

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Black Caviar after being saddled -  all fired up

She was pretty toey in the stall, but settled once she reached the parade ground.

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Black Caviar in the parade ground.

I was late getting back to the grandstand and the cheer squad, but didn’t want to relinquish my spot by Black Caviar’s stall. However, I wasn’t too late for the pre race cheers, which were more enthusiastic than the earlier cheering effort up the straight.

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Cheer Squad leaders

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Enthusiastic members of the Cheer Squad

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Black Caviar going to the barriers pre race -  view from grandstand

And then there was the race. Of course she won; her seventeenth in succession. The margin between her and Zedi Knight, who ran second, was 4¼ lengths and was only.11 seconds off Miss Andretti’s course record. Watching her run, she doesn’t seem to be going that fast, she kind of floats – it’s so effortless.

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Black Caviar in her new special blanket

Naturally the crowd went wild; after all most of them were there because of Black Caviar, as the rest of the card was pretty uninteresting.  In fact I didn’t have a bet at all.

It was great night’s entertainment and I am very glad I took part in the Black Caviar Cheer Squad. It was intimated that those who were selected for the squad may get to do it all again at Caulfield in a fortnight when Black Caviar contests the C F Orr Stakes. If that is the case, I’ll have no hesitation in being part of the squad again. Thanks very much to Racing Victoria and Black Caviar Inc for the opportunity to be part of the Black Caviar farewell tour.

I didn’t hang around after Black Caviar’s race, so headed for the taxi rank. On the way I decided to visit Manikato’s memorial. I was unaware that he was buried at Moonee Valley, until Debbie, who  I befriended in the squad told me about it. Manikato was one of the great sprinters in Australian racing history and a legend of the turf.  He won the William Reid Stakes five times and of course now has a Group One race named in his honour.

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On my way out of the racecourse, I came across these  ‘absolutely fabulous’ ladies who kindly struck a pose for the following photograph.

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A colourful way to end a splendid evening.

Unfortunately,  being up in the grandstand is not ideal for taking photos of the action, so even though I did get shots of Black Caviar winning the Australia Stakes, they are noisy and not worth showing. If I’d been on the fence no doubt I could have done better as the light was good, twilight not occurring until about 9.00pm.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Autumn Racing Carnival – looking sweet

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Black Caviar returns this Friday

There’s only a few weeks until the official autumn racing season begins with the running of the first Group One, the C F Orr Stakes on 11th February, but the sweetener will be the appearance of champion mare Black Caviar gunning for her 17th win in succession in the Group Two Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley this Friday night.  She will also compete in the Orr Stakes for the first time over 1400 metres and will be racing against middle distance specialists like Cox Plate heroine Pinker Pinker.

The Australia Stakes is run over her pet distance of 1200 metres, so it is fascinating to contemplate her running a further 200 metres. Personally I think that she’ll have no trouble winning at 1400, judging by the ease with which she wins over the shorter distances and the many lengths she puts on her opposition.

I will be attending the race meeting at Moonee Valley on Friday night, but I’m still tossing up whether I will participate in the Black Caviar Cheer Squad. In a moment of folly I volunteered for it and have subsequently been accepted.

On the one hand I like being a free agent at the races, despite the lone wolfishness of this. Then again, it sounds like tremendous fun to be part of the Cheer Squad; and something amusing to blog about as well.

So what the hell, I’ll participate. No doubt the other members of the squad will be like minded folk and passionate Black Caviar fans as I am.

The rest of the race card looks uninspiring, so I might as well be sociable. And taking good photos at night meetings, as I discovered last time I attended, is pretty nigh impossible. However, I’ll still take my camera on the off chance of snapping something amusing or spectacular and hopefully a big brown mare with black spotted salmon silks.

The weather is expected to be warm and dry so the track will be dead to good.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Happy Birthday Ms Lizzie


Above is Lizzie the cat’s  portrait for her 16th birthday today.  She finally sat still and let me take it. For a 16 year old cat she’s doing pretty well for her age. Her appetite is keen and she still has plenty of flesh on her bones, unlike some other cats her age I have encountered who are skin and bone. However, she has slowed down considerably and spends most of her days lying on the warm bricks in the front garden, unless it’s too hot, in which case she sprawls out in one of her favourite spots inside.

The trouble with her lying in the front garden is that the young female cat from next door has developed a habit of coming over the fence to menace Lizzie, who is in no way threatening to her. It’s a bit of a problem as young Piccolo has attitude with a capital A, and we regularly have to run out, when we hear the yowling, and chase her away. She (Piccolo) has Willy running scared as well; he won’t go near her.

The following photo is of Willy and Lizzie facing off after a tiff. Lizzie certainly won’t let Willy get away with anything, like jumping on her, and will fiercely fend him off.

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I’ve never had a cat that has lived as long as Lizzie has, so it’s a new study in feline behaviour, as elderly cats do develop senile idiosyncrasies, like wandering around yowling for no reason, and run and hide during thunder storms.

Anyway, here’s hoping the sweet old girl has many more years in her and remains healthy and happy.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year 2012


Another year gone in a flash and the another in its infancy. Who knows what 2012 will bring, but I hope it will be a peaceful one for those who visit this BlogSpot and for the world in general.

New Year’s Day in Melbourne was a hot 35°C and the above plant, colloquially called a Red Hot Poker, is the ideal personification of the heat of summer. They’re blooming in profusion in the front yard at present so I snapped a photo. The one above almost looks like a rooster.

Today also marks the anniversary of my quitting work, so here’s to the joys of retirement. I’ve had a year to get used to it, and I’m finding it wonderfully restful, with no  Protestant Work Ethic anxiety waking me in the middle of the night.  You couldn’t pay me to go back.

I’ve found that retirement suits me. I’m never bored and you can fritter away the hours either productively or idly as the mood suits.

Reading of course occupies some of my time, and I found that I read a great many more books than I would have previously. The Kindle is a boon to the bookworm; it’s so easy to download books and it is gratifying that many new novels are available in ebook format from the publication date, or shortly thereafter. In the past, if I was not interested in purchasing the hard cover edition, I would patiently wait for the paperback edition. I didn’t purchase a single mass market paperback this year, but read many new novels.

There’s much to look forward to in 2012. I’ve booked for two concerts in March, and no doubt once all the side shows from the music festivals are announced, I’ll probably book more. The most keenly anticipated concert is the Ryan Adams solo show at the Regent Theatre on March 3rd. I’ve got second row seats for that. Steve Earle solo at the Corner Hotel on 30 March is the other show I’ve booked and I’m still tossing up whether to go to his son’s show at a new venue (close to home) The Regal Ballroom sometime in April.

On January 27 Black Caviar will be starting her autumn campaign in the Group 2 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley. I intend to go to the track for that. It’s a good way to kick off the Autumn racing season. Let’s hope my luck improves as I haven’t backed a winner since Cox Plate day.

I spent a quiet New Year’s Eve, and was sound asleep by midnight, so missed all the fireworks and hoopla.