Monday, February 27, 2012

A Hot Day of Racing at Caulfield

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Sepoy parading before the Oakleigh Plate

Gee, it was so hot on Saturday – a real sizzler -  that staying out for an extended length of time in the sun was impossible.

I also realised that taking photos in such conditions was less than perfect. The intense glare of the sun emphasised shadows, so most of my photographs of the day are darkish despite the bright background. There’s not much you can do to compensate, as all the professional photographers say that the best light occurs during the morning and late afternoon.

Arriving at the track shortly after the third race, my friend M and I went and had a look at the stalls.  They are in a shaded area, and those horses waiting for their races to come up were being walked around.

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Stalls area

Sepoy was recognisable as one of those promenading. He’s a beautiful looking colt, a bright chestnut with a white diamond on his forehead. Also a real good looker, was The Travelling Man, a splendid bay colt with a very pretty head and a So You Think untrimmed forelock. He was my pick for the Blue Diamond, but alas he ran 6th.

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The Travelling Man

Then it was time for the 4th race, the Angus Amanasco Stakes, a Group Two race for three year old fillies over 1400 metres.  Soft Sand was the favourite, but she lost out to Shopaholic who defeated Mosheen at her last outing and proved she wasn’t a one hit wonder.

The first Group One of the card was next – the Futurity Stakes where King Mufhasa started favourite and didn’t disappoint, winning narrowly from Pinker Pinker with Adamantium 1.8 lengths in third spot.

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Pinker Pinker on her way to the barriers

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King Mufhasa posing for the press corps after winning the Futurity Stakes

As it was so hot, we divided our time between hanging on the fence, taking photos at the Mounting Yard,  then retreating to the air conditioned comfort of the Norman Robinson Building.

Sepoy naturally was the favourite for the Oakleigh Plate and he had to lug the top weight of 58 kgs, which in the end defeated him. He lead most of the way, but the weight told on him during the final stages and he was overtaken by outsiders Woorim, Elite Falls and Facile Tigre who finished in that order. The trifecta must have paid a fortune! It’s a pity Sepoy could not have gone out a winner in his last run in Australia, but we can look forward to him competing in Dubai and England.

Favourites don’t often win the Blue Diamond Stakes, but for two years in a row, the favourite has proved the winner -  Sepoy won last year and this year smart filly Samaready took home the diamond. In fact it was a fillies trifecta, with No Looking Back running second and Armed for Action taking out third spot.

Samaready returning to scale, a triumphant Craig Newitt on her back

We stayed for the 8th race the Peter Young Stakes and watched the field in the mounting yard. I finally got a good photo of old Efficient, who because of his light colouring photographed OK...

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Efficient parading in the mounting yard

…no so Southern Speed with her dark colouring

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Southern Speed in the mounting yard

Imported stayers Lucas Cranach, Illo and Manighar ran first, second, third with Glass Harmonium (another import) in fourth spot. Southern Speed came fifth, but she can redeem herself I’m sure later in the season. 

In Sydney, Rain Affair took out his 9th win in succession in the Apollo Stakes. Shoot Out has shown that he has returned in great form, as he finished second. As the races get longer, he’ll hopefully be back in the winner’s circle again.

It was a pleasant day at the races, despite the extreme heat, but I think I will give attendance a miss for a while and watch the races in the comfort of my own home.

Besides, the music festival season is almost upon us, and the first of the concerts I have booked for, is next Saturday night with Ryan Adams solo. Only five more sleeps – can hardly wait.

Friday, February 24, 2012

No Caviar, Diamonds Instead – Blue Diamond Stakes Day

Farewell Sepoy – hope you win your last race in Australia

The Australian Labour Party, hence the Government, may be in disarray, with Gillard & Rudd going hammer and tongs over the leadership of the party, but the racing scene this weekend is looking pretty good and far more interesting for me, than the political situation.

Three Group One races are on the cards at Caulfield tomorrow, with the feature race being the Blue Diamond Stakes, Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s Golden Slipper Stakes; that is a race for two year olds for a healthy purse.

But first let us consider the Futurity Stakes (1400 metres). With Black Caviar out of the picture, the race is not a foregone conclusion on the part of one the contestants. There are a few likely chances, Cox Plate heroine Pinker Pinker for one, who is starting her autumn campaign tomorrow in this race. She has not previously won first up, but that doesn’t mean she can’t do it; she will have stiff competition from star New Zealander King Mufhasa who has a Group One win to his credit at Caulfield. Also in the picture is the classy Western Australian Playing God, who ran third to Black Caviar and Southern Speed in the Orr Stakes a fortnight ago. Three year old colt Adamantium may be out of his league, but may run a place with his light weight advantage and Glen Boss in the saddle.

The Oakleigh Plate, a sprint over 1100 metres is the second Group One on the program, and features top three year old Sepoy running his last race in Australia. It would be great if he could go out on a winning note, but he has lug a record weight for his age – 58kgs. Still, he is a big strong colt, and is all class – he has won 10 out of the 11 races he has contested, so has almost as good a record as Black Caviar considering his age. Bel Sprinter who shares the same sire (Bel Esprit) as Black Caviar, has plenty of ability and could easily give Sepoy some serious competition as could African Pulse who has won his last two races in style and has 6kg weight advantage over Sepoy. It’s nice to see Satin Shoes back on the track: she ran third to Sepoy in the Coolmore Classic in spring so may run a place again.

So on to the Blue Diamond Stakes. It’s a tough call this year with quite a number of chances. Last year Sepoy was the standout runner, but this year any number of the runners have won one or other of the preludes, previews and build up races. Samaready will start as deserved favourite after strongly winning her only two races by good margins, but Mama’s Choice, Armed For Action, General Rippa, The Travelling Man all have wins under their belts. Or there’s the very consistent filly Formidable and other runners up like Rusambo, not to mention No Looking Back, who won the two year old Magic Millions Classic only to be stripped of the win by a controversial upheld protest.  It’s anybody’s guess who the 2012 Blue Diamond Stakes winner will be – anything could happen and generally does.

Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed who has returned this autumn with one win and a second (to Black Caviar) is the only mare in the Group Two Peter Young Stakes (formerly known as the St George Stakes), a race over 1800 metres. She has stiff competition from the likes of Manighar, who won at Caulfield a fortnight ago, and other imported stayers like Glass Harmonium , Mourayan, Cannon Ball, Lucas Cranach, Illo etc.  Can this locally bred mare beat them again?  I’ll be hoping she can.

The weather in Melbourne is going to be very hot tomorrow, plus 38C, so the track will be dead to good.

In Sydney however, slow to heavy tracks appear to be the norm, and such is the case at Rosehill tomorrow. The feature race is the Group Two Apollo Stakes (1400 metres) and has a fine field of the usual suspects including Rangirandoo, Shoot Out, Rain Affair, Centennial Park, Sacred Choice, Danleigh etc. They all contested the Expressway Stakes two weeks ago, with Rain Affair being the outstanding winner.  Shoot Out acquitted himself well, running third behind Rain Affair and Centennial Park. That race was over 1200 metres, so the extra 200 metres in this race will be to his advantage, as Rain Affair has not run the distance previously. Anyway, it will be worth watching.

I hope to attend the Caulfield meeting tomorrow, braving the extreme heat in the hope of getting good photos of Sepoy, Southern Speed and Pinker Pinker and the winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes. I’ll kind of miss the Black Caviar Cheer Squad, which was great fun while it lasted, so I’ll be back to being a free agent. I have a free admittance ticket which I picked up at the Blue Diamond Stakes Draw on Tuesday, so that’s one less expense. Besides I’ve never been to the Blue Diamond Stakes before, so despite the heat I’m sure it will be a great day of racing and hopefully not too distressful for the equine contestants.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lightning Strike – Black Caviar wins again

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Black Caviar returns to scale after winning the Lightning Stakes

This is the first chance I have had to report on my day at the races last Saturday, other stuff like website updates occupying my time for the past few days.

Flemington was very easy to get to via two trains and the station is directly outside the racetrack. It’s the biggest racetrack in Melbourne, and the famous straight is certainly a very long one.  It was good to be back there after an hiatus of 40 or so years, and give it a look over in relatively uncrowded conditions. But I must admit, having over the past month attended all three of Melbourne’s race tracks, Caulfield is now my favourite.

Why? Well, at Flemington you can’t take photographs from the fence, of horses running down the straight because there is a rail impeding the view, whereas at both Caulfield and Moonee Valley the track fences are low enough to afford an excellent view.

So, at Flemington on Saturday, I could only get good photos of the horses from the chute leading into the mounting yard or of the mounting yard itself. Still it gives one a different viewpoint, so expect to see most of my photos in this post depicting winners returning to scale, or in the mounting yard.

I arrived at the track just in time to watch the first race, the Talindert Stakes where Black Caviar’s little half brother All Too Hard emulated his big sister by winning by a couple of lengths from At The Tap and Timely Truce.

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All Too Hard returning to scale after winning the Talindert Stakes

After that I went in search of the Cheer Squad area and found it easily. It was tucked up against the mounting yard, a prime position as usual.

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It was a hot and sunny day and the cheer squad area offered no shade, so I was glad that I had slathered myself with sun screen before setting out, so I didn’t end up sunburnt at all.

Race 2 was the Gurner’s Lane Handicap run over 2000 metres. It was won by long shot Cheviot Beach, with Prizum and Persian Star filling the minor placings.

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Cheviot Beach after winning the Gurner’s Lane Handicap

Under The Hat won the next race, from Chasse and Over Quota

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Under The Hat

The first Group race of the day was race 4 the Group 3 Vanity Stakes for 3 year old fillies. Mosheen was the obvious pick and started as short odds favourite. She’s a very pretty, dainty little thing…

Mosheen in the mounting yard

…but alas, was pipped at the post by Shopaholic.


Helmet was the hot favourite in the Group 3 C S Hayes Stakes, but was beaten into fifth place, the race being taken out by That’s The One.

Helmet in the mounting yard

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That’s The One

And then it was the build up to the Lightning Stakes. The course by this time was pretty crowded, but as Flemington is such a big course, it wasn’t squashy. The usual array of Black Caviar flags, signs and apparel were all over the place.

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Apache Cat and Silent Witness paraded before the rest of the field came out, Apache Cat being his usual ratbag self trying to graze on the turf, and throwing a wobbly later on. He is quite a character.

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Apache Cat parading

All the others were perfectly behaved.  Hay List was one of the first out, and as the race proved, is back to his best. He certainly challenged Black Caviar, sticking with her to the end and only being defeated by 1¾ lengths.

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Hay List in the mounting yard

The race was a bobby dazzler, run at a cracking pace and Black Caviar prevailed as mentioned before, bringing up her 19th win in succession and 9th Group One. She was only .03 of a second off the course record set by Special in 1988. As an aside, I remember Special very well. She was a very special mare, who ran and won races whilst she was with foal, I recall. That sort of thing wouldn’t happen these days.

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Black Caviar after winning the Lightning Stakes

Black Caviar has been nominated for the Group One Futurity Stakes next Saturday. Apparently she recovered remarkably well from her energetic Lightning run, so Peter Moody is considering running her three weeks in a row.  Whether this eventuates is yet to be decided. If so, the Cheer Squad will be back at Caulfield next weekend, where the feature race is the Group One Blue Diamond Stakes.

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Speaking of the Blue Diamond Stakes, I went along today to the Barrier Draw, which took place in the City Square. The Black Caviar Cheer Squad were invited to attend for some media event. Only a few turned up, and it fizzled.

However, it was quite an entertaining event notwithstanding, with a sausage sizzle, a photo booth where you could get a photo of yourself with a virtual Black Caviar, giveaways, like a Black Caviar poster, free admittance tickets to Caulfield next Saturday and a raffle for a diamond and sapphire necklace.

The Carlton & United Breweries wagon, drawn by four Clydesdales was there as well and was an impressive sight. The huge placid beasts are quite a contrast to the streamlined thoroughbred racehorses.

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Update Wednesday

Black Caviar
was not among the acceptances for the Futurity Stakes. Peter Moody has decided to send her for a break, in preparation for her eventual trip to Royal Ascot in June. She will probably have one more run in Australia prior to that, in Adelaide or Brisbane.

Melbourne has certainly been spoiled, having had the opportunity of seeing her run her last 6 races in this city, though many people have travelled from interstate to experience the thrill of being part of the Black Caviar phenomenon.

Despite her non appearance at Caulfield next Saturday, I still may attend as Sepoy will be having his last run in Australia in the Oakleigh Plate and I’d like to be there for that, and of course the Blue Diamond Stakes.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spellbinding – The Orbweavers at Basement Discs

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I haven’t seen or heard live music for ages, so it was a pleasure to travel to Basement Discs at lunchtime today to take in the sweet vibes and beautiful music of The Orbweavers.

The Orbweavers are principally Marita Dyson and Stuart Flanagan who formed the group in 2006, drawn together by a mutual love of nature, history and old things.

They were in store today to promote their third album Loom, a collection of  “evocative dark-tinged folk songs travel through creeks, over quarries, under dangerous needlework, with greyhounds, past bell birds and bridges, on a rising tide out to sea”.

They sang several of them today, You Can Run (about their pet ex racing greyhound), Spotswood (a paean to Melbourne’s western suburbs), Confessions and others. Their music is sweet and dreamy with lush accompaniments on guitar, trumpet and fiddle, enhanced by seductive melancholic undertones.

Check them out on their My Space page and give them a listen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flash – Black Caviar To Star in the Lightning Stakes

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Black Caviar back again this weekend in the Lightning Stakes

Well I was going to break up the horse racing entries with other stuff, but here we are at week’s end, and I didn’t get an opportunity to go the Mad Square Exhibition at the National Gallery despite my best intentions. That will have to wait until next week.

Tomorrow however, Basement Discs are hosting their first in store performance for 2012 -  The Orbweavers, a young, well regarded Melbourne band who have been described as having “a delicate and subtle sound” and are inspired by the natural world - so I’ll attempt to review the mini show tomorrow afternoon.

In the meantime, there’s the autumn racing carnival to consider, with another Group One on the cards at Flemington this Saturday. It’s the Lightning Stakes a sprint down the famous straight over 1000 metres.  Peter Moody has decided that Black Caviar , rather than having a gallop in the morning, might as well do it in company in the afternoon; and incidentally set her up for her 19th win in as many starts.  Back after a long break, after suffering a life threatening leg infection, Hay List returns to do combat with the Queen for the fourth time. She beat him by 3.3 lengths in last year’s Lightning Stakes and is likely to do so again this time.

There are those that say, that coming back in distance makes Black Caviar vulnerable, but I don’t agree. She’s a once in a lifetime racehorse and those sorts of racehorses can do remarkable things.

Not that any other of seven horses in the Lightning Stakes field, are likely to threaten BC, there are some interesting runners, Foxwedge for instance, who was one of the outstanding three year olds in the spring, being competitive against the likes of Sepoy and Manawanui.

The rest of the card at Flemington looks better than normal. In the first race Black Caviar’s little half brother All Too Hard will be having his first start in the Talindert Stakes, so it will be interesting to see how he performs.

Super filly Mosheen, who won the Manfred Stakes in fine fashion last start will no doubt start favourite in the Group 3 Vanity Stakes, a race for three year old fillies over 1410 metres. Her main opponents – at a quick glance - seem to be Shopaholic, Great Dame and Notice Received.

Helmet makes a welcome return to the track in the Group 3 C S Hayes Stakes, for three year old colts and geldings, also run over 1410 metres. He is the top pick, but solid performers like Instinction Sabrage, Decircles and That’s The One may give him a run for the money.

Sydney racing at Warwick Farm on Saturday looks just as interesting. Gai Waterhouse has a couple of her Golden Slipper hopefuls running, Driefontein (the controversial winner of the 2yo Magic Millions Classic) in the Widden Classic and  Raceway in the Canonbury Stakes.

Manawanui makes a welcome return to the racetrack in the Group 2 Royal Sovereign Stakes (1200 metres) though he’s up against some smart young fellows, like the unbeaten Peter Moody trained Moment of Change, Hot Snitzel, King Saul, Rekindled Alliance, Doctor Doom (though this race may be a bit short for him) and Darci Be Good.

The Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes the three year old fillies equivalent of the Royal Sovereign Stakes has a super field that includes Karuta Queen, Streama, Hallowell Belle and Al’s Magic Miss among others.

So lots of excitement all round promised for this Saturday in both Melbourne and Sydney.

I’ll be going to Flemington to take part once again in the Black Caviar Cheer Squad. It is 40 or so years since I was last there, so I’m looking forward to exploring another of Melbourne’s racetracks. The Squad will be accommodated in a prime spot near the mounting yard next to the track, so more photo opportunities abound. Apache Cat and Silent Witness will also be on display, so I shall be sure to pay the old boys a visit.

The weather will most likely be fairly warm and humid, but it isn’t expected to rain.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Late Lord Byron by Doris Langley Moore

As a change from horse racing, with which I appear to be obsessed at the moment, I feel inclined to post a review of the book that has occupied my reading time for the past week.


My attention was drawn to Moore’s The Late Lord Byron, by a passing mention to it by Jessa Crispin at the Bookslut blog, in reference to an article on the destructive power of  literary heirs published in the Independent on January 6 2012.

Having always had a fascination for Lord Byron, this  piqued my interest, and I ordered a copy of The Late Lord Byron from Book Depository.

It was first published in 1961, but had been out of print for many years until it was picked up by independent publisher, Melville House for inclusion in their Neversink Library in 2011.

Doris Langley Moore is chiefly known for two accomplishments. She was a noted fashion historian and founded The Costume Museum in Bath in 1963 . She designed Katherine Hepburn’s wardrobe for The African Queen.

She was also a respected Byron scholar.

The Late Lord Byron is acknowledged as one of the best biographies on the famous poet and presents as a gripping literary detective investigation.  As the title indicates, it concentrates on what happened after Byron’s death. 

Drawing on previously unpublished letters, journals and news items as well as the plethora of Byron literature that was published after his Lordship’s death, Doris Langley Moore develops a picture of the period, and the people, both friends and enemies of Byron who contribute to his notoriety or fame as the case may be. The scholarship is formidable, with Moore backing up her commentary with many quotations and footnotes.

Despite the formidable scholarship, The Late Lord Byron is a delight to read, no doubt due to the tone – somewhat tart and ironic – that Moore adopts in laying out her case.  Her sharp observations and logical approach make her argument very convincing. 

One is appalled by the hypocrisy and mendacity of  such Byron contemporaries as Leigh Hunt who was one of many who published a biography or memoir of the poet with scant regard for truth, and upon little acquaintance with the subject.

It certainly seems unfortunate that Byron attracted so many unpleasant and dishonest persons to himself, who after his death went on vilify him in prose for profit or self promotion.

His friends, chiefly John Hobhouse (a close friend from his student days)  Augusta Leigh (his sister)  Thomas Moore (to whom he entrusted his Memoirs) and Teresa Guicccioli (his mistress in Italy) are seen to protest, but are hardly heard. 

Langley Moore’s theory is that having summarily burned Byron’s memoirs shortly after his death, Hobhouse who was Byron’s literary executor, ever after regretted the act and couldn’t bear to release any of the material he had in his possession, which might show his friend in a better light.  

What emerges from this study of Byron, is a picture of a man very much misunderstood by the period in which he lived. His virtues outweighed his faults – he was a charming, kind, considerate person and generous with money and was well known as a witty and entertaining conversationalist. He loved animals and laughter. So, he had a temper and was over emotional, but you get the feeling that he certainly had to tolerate many fools.  Overall he sounds like a guy you’d like to meet.

Next, still being in the mood for some Lord Byron, I might reread John Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel - The Evening Land, a fictional account of the discovery of an unknown novel by the said Lord which includes the novel itself.

And just because I cannot resist a mention of horse racing, I noted a remark by Langley Moore regarding Ada Lovelace, Byron’s daughter, that she “contrived a system for betting on horses that would have been infallible had it not been for the  interference of horses and jockeys”.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cheer Squadding Again – Black Caviar clocks up her 18th win in succession

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Black Caviar cantering to the barrier stalls prior to winning the Orr Stakes

It is certainly good to get out of one’s comfort zone and try something different, like attending a race meeting at a track that you’ve never been to previously. Such was the case on Saturday where I went to Caulfield Race Track to participate in the Black Caviar Cheer Squad, and I came away at the end of the day impressed with the course, and of course awed by the ease with which Black Caviar won her first trip over 1400 metres.

Caulfield Race Course is very easy to get to via public transport – it took me about 40 minutes and two trains, practically from door to door, arriving at around 11.30am to check in to the Cheer Squad. As the squad was not amassing until 12.00, I decided to go exploring the course and came upon the stalls area, where I spied Apache Cat, easily recognisable by his distinctive markings.

Apache Cat in his stall

He was playing up something shocking, restlessly pawing the floor of his stall, earning a scolding from the strapper who was attending to him and Silent Witness in the next stall.

Silent Witness

Silent Witness was better behaved though he was a tad piqued when Apache Cat was getting attention. Two very spoiled boys I suspect. They were on display later in the day in the Fountain lawn area, where I managed to get better photos of them.  An admiring crowd were gathered around them most of the afternoon and both were receiving lots of attention.

Apache Cat in his Living Legends rug – what a handsome boy!

Silent Witness – handsome as well

The Cheer Squad was accommodated in a prime area of the course –  trackside,  next to the mounting yard. In fact it was the spot I would choose, if solo, to watch the races.

Cheer Squad area next to the mounting yard

Also it was great for taking photos and really testing the capacities of my fairly new Panasonic Lumix GF3, which is a micro 4/3 mirror less camera with interchangeable lenses in a compact body.  Much as I love my Canon G10, I’ve always found the shutter action to be sluggish, not ideal when photographing moving subjects. The Lumix is super fast and takes very sharp good quality photos. Anyway, it passed with flying colours on Saturday, what with the weather not being as bad as predicted by the weather bureau –I got sunburned rather than wet.

Back to the racing…

There was not much of a turn out for the Cheer Squad, but that was OK with the rest of us – more room to move. I was pleased to see Debbie (who I met at Moonee Valley) had made it with her son in tow. So hi Debbie, if you read this and I hope you saw your photo in The Age. Tommy Little, a celebrated young stand up comic, was on hand to lead the squad. He’s a genial young fellow, very friendly and engaging.

So there we were in the Cheer Squad area for the the first race the BMW Melbourne Handicap a race over 1800 metres. Spirit Song started favourite and won with Our Spirits Bay running second.

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Our Spirits Bay

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Spirit Song

Race 2 was the first of the Blue Diamond Preludes, this one for colts and geldings. Outsider General Rippa was the winner with favourite Rusambo running second with Ferment filling third spot.

The fillies Prelude was next up and was won by favourite Samaready with Formidable (who appears to be destined for bridesmaid status, having run second in her last two runs) filling second place and Sweetener coming third. Samaready is now the new favourite for the Blue Diamond, but the picture as far as that race is concerned, is far from clear, what with different horses winning each of the build up races. There’s no Sepoy this year. He won the all of them last year, as well as the Golden Slipper.

Middle distance and staying horses featured in Race 5 the Group Three Carlyon Stakes (1600 metres).  I totally overlooked Manighar who won at good odds. He came over for the Melbourne Cup last year as part of the Luca Cumani team, but stayed on and is now trained by Peter Moody.


Everyone seemed to fancy Ranger the Western Australian stayer, some even going so far as to compare him with Northerly, and indeed I admit I put my money on him as well. He came 5th.

Manighar leads down the straight in the Carlyon Stakes, Shadowfax in hot pursuit

In Race 5 the Group  Two Autumn Stakes (1400 metres), I fancied Proliferate and Specter, so had a small wager each way on both. The favourite Pied A Terre won and Proliferate ran second, so I got my money back.

By the end of Race 5, the crowd had grown to  almost 30,000 strong and the place was packed, but not uncomfortably so. Black Caviar’s colours were everywhere, with banners proclaiming all sorts of extravagant things – Blink and You’ll Miss her, Made in Victoria, Tomorrow the World etc. etc.

In the Cheer Squad we were gearing up for the big cheering moment prior to Race 6, the Group One C F Orr Stakes. Channel 9 was there filming it all, so if you watched the racing coverage on free to air last Saturday you would have seen the squad in action.

We had on our I ♥ B C  tee-shirts and were equipped with hand wavers and masks. A miscellaneous group, the Black Caviar Cheer Squad, range from baby boomers to babies. By that time everyone was in high spirits, no doubt in part due to the complimentary drink vouchers which were being handed out generously most of the afternoon.

Cheer Squad in action.

So on to THE RACE

It‘s a rare experience seeing Black Caviar in action. Heart in mouth, you watch her from race start, and there she is sitting pretty in fourth position behind Danzylum, Midas Touch and stable mate Doubtful Jack. At the turn into the straight, she’s moving forward and your heart quickens in expectation. As they enter the straight, Luke gives the reins a shake, and she takes off , galloping effortlessly to the finishing post for a 3½ length win from Southern Speed and Playing God. The crowd goes wild, cheering the champion home.  And indeed, looking at my photo of the finish it shows Black Caviar and daylight.

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Black Caviar and Luke Nolan saluting the crowd after her win

After that it was pretty much anti climax, but I hung around for Race 7,  the Rubiton Stakes to see Karuta Queen, despite a patch of rain which chanced to fall as the horses were proceeding to the starting gates. 

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Karuta Queen on her way to the barriers

Unfortunately Karuta Queen drew Barrier 2, while notorious barrier rogue Here De Angels had Barrier 1.  He played up as usual and was withdrawn from the race before it started. The little Queen was no doubt unsettled by his antics and missed the start by 3 lengths. As she is usually a front runner, playing catch up is not her style. But she did make up ground and managed to run fourth, which was a commendable effort. When Black Caviar drew a barrier next to Here De Angels in the Schweppes Stakes on Cox Plate day, Peter Moody, fearing for the safety of the champion, forced the the issue, and an empty barrier was left between the two.  A pity this was not done on Saturday as I’m sure Karuta Queen would have at least run a place if not won the race.

I called it a day after Race 7 and headed for the train station, very happy with my day at Caulfield Race Course. I must say, it is a lovely course, roomy with a pleasant vibe, and considerably better organised than Moonee Valley. I’ll certainly go back again, considering it’s so easy to get to and only 20 minutes more than I would usually travel to Moonee Valley.

Peter Moody is considering running Black Caviar in the Group One Lightning Stakes next weekend at Flemington.  Whether the Cheer Squad will be in action for that is uncertain, as we will not know if Black Caviar is running until mid week at the earliest. However, she is scheduled to run in the Group One Futurity Stakes the Saturday after at Caulfield, so hopefully I’ll be cheer squadding at that race meeting.

Before closing this post I really must commend and thank Racing Victoria for so splendidly catering to the Black Caviar Cheer Squad. It  was so well organised and amiably executed and I had a great time yet again.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

More Caviar Please – the autumn racing season takes off

Black Caviar back this Saturday for the C.F. Orr Stakes

Yes, I’m excited about the racing scene again after the lull since the spring carnival finished.

Black Caviar delivered a fine sweetener a fortnight ago, effortlessly winning her 17th start in the Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley.

The chocolate (or dark brown) topping will be her first start over 1400 metres this weekend in the Group One C F Orr Stakes at Caulfield. There are eight acceptances which include 2007 Melbourne Cup winner Efficient and 2011 Caulfield Cup heroine Southern Speed. Also in the picture is 2011 Kingston Town Classic winner Playing God. Then you’ve got a collection of stayers and middle distance runners in Midas Touch, Precedence and Illo. Black Caviar however should easily win this, despite the added 200 metres in distance.

For once I am attending a meeting at Caulfield. I’ve never been there before, so am looking forward to the experience.  It’s all because of the Black Caviar Cheer Squad, which  has drawn me out of my comfort zone.  I heartily welcome it and am excited to be participating in the squad again. Besides there are perks to being in the squad –a  priority viewing area next to the mounting yard, along with the usual free drinks, race book and tee-shirt etc. This is excellent as the MRC (Melbourne Racing Club) is offering free entry to Caulfield race track so it’s likely to be very crowded.

As an added bonus, the race card at Caulfield on Saturday is far more interesting than what was on offer at Moonee Valley.

You’ve got the two Blue Diamond Preludes, where I can assess the runners as potential Blue Diamo9nd Stakes contenders, both the boys and girls. Karuta Queen, who missed racing last weekend due the Warwick Farm meeting being cancelled because of the rain,  has come to Melbourne to contest the Group Three Rubiton Stakes over 1100 metres.  The sole female in the race, and a three year old filly at that, her light weight gives Karuta Queen an excellent chance of winning. Her major opposition appears to be First Command and Zedi Knight (who finished second behind Black Caviar in the Australia Stakes). Fellow three year olds Decircles and Hot Spin may also be in the finish, but I’ll be barracking for the little Queen.

There’s also the Carlyon Cup (1600 metres) where interesting runners like Green Moon who ran second in the Caulfield Cup, and Western Australian stayer Ranger are in the field.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Living Legends Silent Witness and Apache Cat who are visiting the course on Saturday.  Silent Witness was an Australian bred champion sprinter in Hong Kong who, like Black Caviar, won his first 17 starts. He will be leading the Orr Stakes field onto the track.

Apache Cat is an old favourite of mine and had a huge following in his day, and was a classy sprinter as well – he won the Australia Stakes twice as Black Caviar has also done. It’ll be great to see him again at the track, whatever he is doing there. Having a day out I suppose.

Sydney also has an interesting race meeting at Rosehill, in particular the Group Two Expressway Stakes over 1200 metres. It has attracted a terrific field that includes another old fave of mine,  Shoot Out, having his first start for new trainer Chris Waller.  Other Waller runners are good old Rangirangdoo, and Danleigh, However, all eyes will be on Rain Affair who has won 8 of his 9 starts and is in excellent form. Also part of the field is 2011 Doncaster winner Sacred Choice.

Before I close this post I must mention an unforgettable “Melbourne” moment I witnessed today.

As I was waiting for  a tram outside the old GPO in the Bourke St Mall, there was a fire in a rubbish bin, no doubt due to some careless smoker chucking their butt into it. So there it was smoking away with a strong smell of burning paper. One young bloke emptied the rest of his drink into the conflagration in an attempt to arrest the fire. It was in vain, as the bin continued to emit smoke. It needed a bucket of water, that’s all. However, all of a sudden a fire truck came  down Bourke St, lights flashing, siren blaring. It pulled up next to the burning bin, firemen jumping out and detaching a hose then assiduously extinguishing the fire.

Overkill, perhaps.

It was an entertaining sight, as many other other people concurred – they were taking photos and chatting with the fire crew, who obviously thought it was a big joke. I would have taken a photo myself if I had my camera with me.

I believe the fire brigade was on the scene due to recently attending a fire further up in Bourke Street, so were probably on their way back to base. 

Friday, February 03, 2012

Autumn Racing – A warming of the cockles

race3_karuta queen 2_cropped
Karuta Queen returns tomorrow at Warwick Farm

Up to now, other than the triumphant resumption of Black Caviar last week, there has not been much to write about on the Australian racing scene.

Sure, there was the drama surrounding the upheld protest of second against first in the Magic Millions Two Year Old Classic, where Driefontein eventually was declared the winner over her stable mate No Looking Back , and there was also the running of Blue Diamond Previews a few weeks back where the more fancied runners were outgunned by long shots The Travelling Man (colts) and Malasun (fillies).  There is no Sepoy this year so far, though I am prepared to be surprised.

Anyway, tomorrow at both Caulfield and Warwick Farm there are a few races worth watching, simply because a few stars of the spring carnival are making an appearance, most notably the very pretty and speedy filly Karuta Queen, who recently won a trial by 17½ lengths.

Karuta Queen will be contesting a sprint over 1000 metres, race 3 on the cards at Warwick Farm. It has been raining heavily  all week in Sydney, so if the racing does go ahead, the track will be heavy going.  This shouldn’t bother the little queen as she handles all surfaces. Unanimously would have been her biggest competition, but he will instead race at Caulfield, so that leaves grey mare Social Rank as her major opposition.

At Caulfield, all eyes will be on VRC Oaks winner Mosheen in the Listed Australasia Stakes. It is run over 1200 metres, which may seem a little short for a staying filly, but Mosheen has won over shorter distances in the past. She is the class act in the race, but Rifleman , who has won his last two starts, may give her a run for the money, as might Secret Hills, who ran second to Helmet in the Guineas Prelude in the spring. American Dream also has a chance.

The weather in Melbourne has been fine all week and no rainfall is expected, hence the track will be dead to good.

I’m interested to see how hyped colt Jimando performs in the Listed Emirates Airline Stakes (1100 metres). Will he live up to the hype? Apparently he’s a  big, strong, young fellow, and the hype is based around his one and only start back in October which he won it by 3¼ lengths and the high regard his trainer has for him. His main opposition appears to come from the filly Formidable and other colts If I Could and Timely Truce.

The first Group One of the Autumn racing season is only a week away. From then on, many of the horses who caught the eye in Spring will be beginning their autumn campaigns. Caulfield Cup  heroine, Southern Speed, began with a bang, unexpectedly winning the John Dillon Stakes on Australia Day. She is scheduled to compete against Black Caviar in the Orr Stakes next weekend, representing quality opposition for the unbeaten mare in her first start over 1400 metres. Sure to be a fascinating race.

Others due to resume shortly are super duper three year old Manawanui, old favourite Shoot Out ,who returns after a long break and with a different trainer (Chris Waller).  Super sprinter Hay List is also due to resume soon having recovered from a life threatening leg infection. Champion three year old Sepoy will have only one more run in Australia before heading to Dubai and eventually Ascot. He’ll be sorely missed, as will Helmet, who is also destined to finish his career overseas but will race a few more times in Australia before that occurs.

I’m also looking forward to Pinker Pinker’s return which is likely to be in the Futurity Stakes on February 18th, which is also on Black Caviar’s schedule.

Music News

Also warming the cockles of my heart is the news that the delightful Eilen Jewell will be touring again this year. She has been invited to perform at the East Coast Blues Festival, but will also be doing sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney. Not to be missed!