Thursday, April 26, 2012

Autumn Racing Grand Finale – Sydney Cup Day

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Black Caviar back this week in Adelaide gunning for her 20th successive win.

The razzle dazzle of first class racing continues this Saturday in the final race meeting for the Sydney Autumn racing carnival, and what a grand meeting it is with four splendid Group One races on the program.  The stars will be out in force – Atlantic Jewel in the All Aged Stakes, Manighar, Americain & More Joyous in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and Pierro in the Champagne Stakes. In Adelaide Black Caviar will be out to make history in the Group One Sporting Bet Classic to a sell out crowd, aiming for her 20th win in succession, a modern record.  Morphettville will also feature the Group One Schweppes Oaks – more on that later.

The first Group One of the day is the Champagne Stakes, a race over 1600 metres for two year olds. The unbeaten Pierro will be trying for the triple crown of Golden Slipper, Sires Produce and Champagne – a feat rarely achieved. Dance Hero was the last to do so in 1984.

Pierro should accomplish this on his ear, barring unforeseen circumstances.  His likeliest rivals appear to be the two fillies Flying Snitzel and Dear Demi, and colts Limes and Raceway.

The All Aged Stakes (1400 metres) will be a big test for outstanding filly Atlantic Jewel. It is her first race in open company and she faces stiff competition from the likes of  Rain Affair, King Mufhasa and Ofcourseican.  If she is as freakish as we all think she is, Atlantic Jewel should win easily. It’ll be certainly an interesting race.

The hardest of the races to assess is the Sydney Cup, which is run over the same distance as the Melbourne Cup – 3200 metres. It’s a wide open race as far as likely chances go, with quite a few in the field having form over the distance.  You’ve got Efficient as top weight. I’d love to see him win, but I doubt he can, though he hasn’t been all that far away in races over shorter distances. Drunken Sailor, an International stayer who is another who remained in Australia after the Cup last year, has good recent form, running second in the Adelaide Cup in early March and finishing third behind Manighar and Americain in the BMW. Stand To Gain won this race last year at big odds, but hasn’t won anything since. Older Than Time is a good chance; she ran second in the 2011 Sydney Cup and second also to Permit recently in the Chairman's Handicap. Permit is another import and is the favourite, having two recent wins to his credit.  Also throw in Niwot,  who is not without hope.

The final Group One of the day in Sydney is the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, run over 2000 metres. It has a really classy field with Manighar, Americain, More Joyous and New Zealand star Jimmy Choux in the field.  This is a test for More Joyous, backing up after her Doncaster win last week. I rather doubt she can beat Manighar or Americain, but she could easily run a place. The big question is, can Americain beat Manighar this time around. He has yet another jockey on board this time, after his disappointing second in the BMW, when ridden by Gerard Mosse. Top Aussie jockey Craig Williams has the ride this week, and that could make all the difference.  Mosse’s ride was criticised by the stewards and punters alike, after he rode Americain three wide over the 2400 metre trip. Manighar will be ridden by Damien Oliver, as his regular jockey Luke Nolen will be in Adelaide with the star mare. Also in the picture is Secret Admirer, too good to overlook, and Rekindled Interest who has been racing very well this autumn.

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Empress Rock after winning Fillies Classic at Moonee Valley 23 March 2012

Moving on to Adelaide, the Group One Schweppes Oaks is a race for three year old fillies over 2000 metres.  Empress Rock (pictured above) is trained by the master Bart Cummings and is current favourite. I witnessed her winning the Fillies Classic at Moonee Valley back in March, and she did it easily. However, at her first start at Morphettville she ran fifth to Crucial, Rahveel and Crimson Lady, though it must have been a close finish as Empress Rock was only 1.6 lengths from the winner. The three abovementioned are also contesting the Oaks, along with a further twelve competitors, so  it’s anybody’s guess who will actually win.

And finally the race everyone will be watching – Black Caviar starring in the Sporting Bet Classic, a sprint over 1200 metres. Black Caviar’s closest rival out of a total of ten runners, appears to be Lone Rock the only other Group One winner in the race – she won the Goodwood last year. Apparently Black Caviar’s  race will be televised live  on Channel 7, who will interrupt the football to bring it to the people on free to air TV.

Track conditions in Sydney this weekend should be good, as there has been little rain there this week. Down here in the south, Melbourne has been shivering and wet, with a cold snap dominating the weather most of this week, so the same applies to Adelaide who experience a similar weather pattern to us. The Morphettville track will most likely be dead to slow, and hopefully not heavy.

UPDATE – Viva Les Girls

What an absolutely wonderful day of racing it was, and so good to see the three star girls, Black Caviar, Atlantic Jewel and More Joyous win their races with such ease and style.  It was also great to see Pierro take out the two year old triple crown, by winning the Champagne Stakes. He looks the real deal and uncannily like his dad Lonhro, so it will be fascinating to see how he comes back in spring.

Niwot won the Sydney Cup narrowly beating dear old Efficient who ran a terrific race. Good to see the old boy back, still with life in his legs. 

It was a fitting and spectacular finale to the Autumn racing carnival.

The Group One action will continue for another month or so in Adelaide and Brisbane, and Black Caviar, having now won twenty from twenty, and ten Group Ones, may be back in the Goodwood at Morphettville in a fortnight.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Autumn Racing – The Doncaster Mile

SPORT Horse racing at Warwick Farm 10.3.12<br />race6<br />winner Shoot Out<br />ridden by Hugh Bowman<br />SHD   Pic JENNY EVANS
Shoot Out  is running in the Doncaster Mile this Saturday

Another great day of racing at Randwick is on this Saturday, if it’s not cancelled due to track conditions. Sydney has experienced very heavy rain most of this week – over 100mm, so if the race meeting goes ahead, the track will be most likely rated slow to heavy.

That’s nothing new for Sydney autumn racing, in fact the past two weekends of good tracks is out of the ordinary.

Anyway, there are three Group One races this weekend, the feature being the Doncaster Mile. A full field of twenty plus emergencies was accepted when fields were finalised on Wednesday, but already there have been three scratchings and More Joyous will not start if the track is heavy. So that leaves us with the mud runners and sundry other hopefuls. It’s a hard race to pick the winner, with so many factors to consider. I’m hoping Shoot Out, who has  slow track form, can add the Doncaster to his CV. He’s been kept fresh for this, is not badly weighted and has drawn a reasonable barrier midfield. He also loves the Randwick track His stablemate, Rangirandoo, represents his biggest threat, though class mares Secret Admirer, Hurtle Myrtle and Absolutely, have very good chances. Sacred Choice, a mare who thrived on bog tracks, won the race last year, though she has now been retired.  Sincero and the lightweight three year olds Fast Clip and Niagara could sneak a place or even cause an upset. And if More Joyous does run, Gai Waterhouse reckons she’ll win, though she tried and failed last year in similar conditions.

The Australian Oaks has a small field dominated by the classy Streama, who like the rest of the field has not run over the distance of 2400 metres. She was only narrowly beaten by super filly Mosheen last start, thus is the one to beat. New Zealand filly Full Of Spirit, who has won her last two outings, is a major threat and Aliyana Tilde who ran third in the Vinery Stud behind Mosheen and Streama could very well place again.

The third Group One of the day is The Galaxy, a sprint over 1100 metres.  It’s another race with no stand out performer and many chances. Nobby Snip has won his last three starts, so is a top consideration. Satin Shoes has been mixing it with the best, but her wet form is suspect, though Lady’s Angel loves a bog track and finished third behind Atlantic Jewell last start, so could easily win this one. There’s also Bel Sprinter, Winter King, Zaratone , Elite Falls and Title who all have claims to group one glory in this wide open race.

The good news this week is that Black Caviar will return to the races next Saturday 28th April in the Group One Robert Sangster Stakes  (now called Sportingbet Classic) in Adelaide, aiming for her 20th win in succession. She will also run in the Group One Goodwood two weeks later, before heading to Royal Ascot to take on the world.

UPDATE – Sunday

Well, Gai was right. More Joyous won the Doncaster Mile. Shoot Out ran a great race and was a close second, with outsider Yosei running third. Not a totally surprising result after all. In the end the track was a dead 5, after being rated a heavy 8 in the morning.

Streama was spectacular winning the Oaks, coming from an impossible position to overtake Aliyana Tilde and Thy who were fighting it down the straight, where they finished second and third respectively.

The only long shot Group One winner was Temple of Boom in the Galaxy, who pipped Nobby Snip at the post. Ladys Angel ran third.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cats Rule – report from a cat slave

A great deal of the time I feel like a slave to the cats. They have us under their paws, and their wish is our command. Willy in particular has this attitude. He comes and sits in front of the computer monitor and demands attention. Usually it’s food he’s after, but other times he just wants a warm knee to sit on. Friends are amused by his antics, especially when he somehow gets himself up on the grapevine and can’t be bothered climbing down himself and meows for assistance. Why should he climb down backwards (which cats hate to do), when he has a willing cat slave at his service who will go and fetch a ladder and lift him down.


The above photo is of Willy curled up on the woollen rug I recently purchased for Lizzie to tide her over the winter. Aussie cats rule you know!


Miss Lizzie is now feeling her age, and showing signs of arthritis in her hindquarters. It didn’t stop her from trying to pursue an arboreal rat in the fig tree last night, though she was careful not to get out of her depth, or height more accurately. She is also being menaced by the young female cat next door, who is astonishingly aggressive towards all the neighbourhood cats. Her owners keep her inside most of the time, well aware of her aggressive tendencies. Both they and us are fed up with breaking up fights between Lizzie and Piccolo, both of us rushing out of our front doors simultaneously when we hear the screech of a cat fight in progress.  We’ve come to an arrangement – they tell us when Piccolo’s abroad, and we keep Lizzie inside, which she doesn’t mind.

Before I leave the subject of cats, here’s a wonderful video of Henri – The Existential Cat, by Will Braden, currently doing the rounds of cat lovers inboxes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Rock & Soul – Liz Stringer at Basement Discs


I was pleased to be present at yet another quality performance today in store at Basement Discs, when local singer songwriter Liz Stringer delivered an affecting mini show promoting her brand new CD Warm in the Darkness.

Liz Stringer is one of the most talented music artists in Melbourne, and she ably demonstrated this today when she gave the appreciative lunchtime crowd a sampler from the new album. It’s quite different to what she has done before, being considerably more informed by rock and soul than her previous recordings, which were more  folky solo singer songwriter stuff. That’s not to say they are in any way inferior to her current CD, but she has certainly given her wonderful songs a more dynamic treatment this time round.

Liz is an excellent songwriter, her songs being articulate and emotionally moving, often melancholic, but with cutting lyrics that give sharp character portraits of the protagonists of her story songs.

I am very taken with her new CD and was instantly captivated by her new songs, particularly one called High Open Hills and also the title track.

Today she was accompanied by fellow singer songwriter Van Walker who played electric guitar and sang backing vocals.

Give Liz a listen on her My Space page and be converted.

Next Saturday 21st April is International Independent Record Store Day, and Basement Discs will be having a fabulous line up of artists playing in store and other sundry goodies. Details are here.

Just think where we’d be without the local record store and how sorely they’d be missed if they were no more.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Autumn Racing – Australian Derby Day

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All Too Hard – facing his toughest test to date in the Sires Produce Stakes this Saturday

What a splendid day of racing last Saturday turned out to be, with five exciting Group One races contested. The results in the main were not all that surprising – Mosheen defeated Streama as expected in the Vinery Stud Stakes, More Joyous was victorious in the Queen of the Turf, Manighar defeated Americain in the BMW, Pierro won the Slipper and good old Metal Bender snatched victory in the George Ryder Stakes. Metal Bender’s win was the only unexpected result – who would have thought that a horse could return from a long injury forced break and win a Group One on his second run back. Chris Waller must be a genius!

The excitement continues this coming Saturday at Randwick, with three Group One races on the cards – the T J Smith, Sires Produce Stakes and the Australian Derby being the feature races.

The T J Smith Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres has been won in the past by the great sprinters of the time – Apache Cat, Takeover Target and of course Black Caviar last year. There’s no Black Caviar in the field this year, nor Hay List who has been sidelined by yet another injury and may not race again. Only six acceptors were received so it’s a small field. Rain Affair seems to have the race at his mercy, but William Reid Stakes winner Foxwedge may give him a run for the money, as might classy filly Hallowell Belle, formerly in Peter Moody’s stable, but now with Gai Waterhouse.

The Sires Produce Stakes is a 1400 metres race for two year olds and has unbeaten colts Pierro and All Too Hard racing against each other for the first time. Pierro of course won the Golden Slipper Stakes last week  and is backing up in this. All Too Hard, who has big sister Black Caviar to live up to, is facing his toughest race to date.  As he has won all three of his starts with consummate ease, one would like to imagine that he’ll account for Pierro just as easily.  Raceway, who finished fifth in the Golden Slipper looks the next best dressed. Yesterday’s buyer of Black Caviar’s half sister, who outlaid 2.6 million dollars for her, will no doubt be watching this race with bated breath.

The feature Group One is the Australian Derby, a race over 2400 metres for three year olds and has 12 colts (and geldings) against lone filly Silent Achiever. She beat the boys in the New Zealand Derby, so could well do a Shamrocker (who won the Derby last year) in the Australian version.  Silent Achiever ran a close third in the Rosehill Guineas behind Laser Hawk and Ocean Park, and will have to compete against them again. Also in the picture are Strike The Stars, Polish Knight, Rekindled Alliance, Ethiopia and Victoria Derby winner Sangster who has been less than inspiring so far this autumn.

Also of interest on Saturday is the Group Two Sapphire Stakes (1200 metres) for fillies and mares, mostly due to the return of top filly Atlantic Jewel from an injury forced break. She remains unbeaten, her last race being the Wakeful Stakes back in September last year. An indication of her talent can be demonstrated against the recent exploits of Mosheen. Atlantic Jewel beat Mosheen by 3 lengths in the 2011 Thousand Guineas. It will therefore be very interesting to see how she performs in the Sapphire Stakes. She’s up against smart mares like Mid Summer Music, Parables, Graceful Anna, Celts and Dystopia.

As the races are on Free to Air TV again this week, my Saturday afternoon is sorted nicely.

UPDATE: Sunday

What a surprising day of racing it was yesterday with several longshots taking out the feature races. Master Of Design took out the T J Smith. You certainly wouldn’t have picked him on form. Rain Affair ran second with Hallowell Belle a close third. Foxwedge ended up at the tail of the field, apparently suffering from a respiratory problem which was not identified pre race.

The match race between All Too Hard and Pierro ended with a victory for the latter, All Too Hard bungling the start and having to play catch up, thus ruining his chance of a win.  Pierro has now won five from five.

The Derby was won by Ethiopia who scored his first career win from four starts.  Will the Derby curse stymie his chances for further wins in the future? Polish Prince and Laser Hawk took  out the minor placings.

The run of the day was Atlantic Jewel emphatically declaring she was back with a stunning win in the Sapphire Stakes and remaining unbeaten from six starts. Who knows how good she really is. We’ll find out in spring I suppose, as she’s only scheduled to have one more start this autumn.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Autumn Racing – Golden Slipper 2012

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RIP Pinker Pinker – died on Wednesday after an adverse reaction to medication

On Wednesday when I started writing this post, I was going to place a photo of Samaready at the top, but when I learned the shocking news of Pinker Pinker’s death, I changed it to honour the Cox Plate heroine. Pinker Pinker was scheduled to run in the Group One Queen of the Turf Stakes this coming Saturday at Rosehill, and her presence in the race would have lent additional quality to the field that includes More Joyous, Hurtle Myrtle, King’s Rose and Coolmore Classic winner Ofcourseican. 

Pinker Pinker, in her short career, had 18 starts for 6 wins and 5 places, many at Group level, and of course she won the Cox Plate last year. It’s very sad to read of her death; she was one of the best mares racing currently in Australia, so will be greatly missed . My condolences to her connections who must be devastated by her sudden death.

Back to the Rosehill meeting…

There are a total of five Group One races this coming Saturday, the feature race being the Golden Slipper Stakes, the richest race for two year olds in the world, run over 1200 metres.  This year’s field has 16 acceptances, with equal number fillies and colts (or geldings). Samaready is the short priced favourite as she has yet to be beaten, and judging by the way she won the Blue Diamond on a stinking hot day, she’s a tough filly. The Rosehill track this Saturday will most likely be good to firm, for a change, so the running will be true without heavy track considerations.  Top colts  Pierro, Raceway, Ashokan and Epaulette, and fillies, Driefontein, No Looking Back and Jade Marauder represent the biggest threat to the favourite.  Fillies ran the trifecta in the Blue Diamond Stakes, and could well do so again.

Before the Golden Slipper is run, there are three super Group One races on the cards, the first being Race 3, the Vinery Stud Stakes for three year old fillies, run over 2000 metres. How exciting it will be to witness top fillies Mosheen and Streama going head to head.

The BMW for stayers run over 2400 metres, has a small but select field of top stayers, Manighar and Americain most notably. In the Australia Cup, Manighar took home the bikkies, relegating Americain to third place behind Southern Speed. Americain may very well turn the tables in the BMW, having French Jockey Gerard Mosse back in the saddle. There was some criticism of Steven Arnold’s ride on Americain in the Australia Cup, so having Mosse back on board augers well for his chances. Southern Speed and Scarlett Lady are the two representatives of the female gender in the race, I doubt if they can beat the two imports, but could easily run a place. 

The Group One Queen of the Turf Stakes (1500 metres) for fillies and mares has the aforementioned classy mares More Joyous, King’s Rose etc. More Joyous showed she was back to her best with a win in the Canterbury Stakes a fortnight ago, so she is obviously the one to beat. However, King’s Rose has a very good chance and is a very talented galloper and you can’t discount Ofcourseican, judging by her Coolmore run.  Hurtle Myrtle (wonderful name) beat More Joyous in the Myer Classic in the spring, and could surprise us all again. It’s also good to see former star filly Lights Of Heaven back racing. After an excellent three year old autumn season, wherein she won the South Australian Oaks, beating Absolutely and Southern Speed, she failed in the spring against open company, and was sent for a long break. It’ll be interesting to see how she goes in this race.

The final Group One of the day is the George Ryder Stakes, a standard WFA race over 1500 metres. It has a super field with many chances. New Zealand champion King Mufhasa is back in this, and is one of the top chances.  Ignore him at your peril. Rangirandoo, was only beaten a half head by Manighar in the Ranvet Stakes, so will be most likely in the finish again. And it’s really good to see Metal Bender back on track and not hopeless; he ran third to More Joyous in the Canterbury Stakes, so is showing signs of his former brilliance.  Then there’s Woorim, Albert The Fat, Sincero, Monton who all have the talent to win, Niagara (who won last Saturday and will probably start favourite) and the other New Zealander, He’s Remarkable who is very classy may cause an upset. Sole mare Secret Admirer is class itself ; she was only beaten a head in the Coolmore Classic so may figure in the finish. It looks a very interesting race indeed.

Last week Laser Hawk won the Rosehill Guineas, and the only Aussie horse to win in Dubai was the speed queen Ortensia, the rest – Sepoy, Helmet & So You Think failed to run a place. And All Too Hard had an easy win in the Pago Pago Stakes. He was nominated for the Golden Slipper, but his connections have opted to run him next week in the Group One Sires Produce Stakes, so as not to overtax him.  A wise move, in my opinion.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Steve Earle at the Corner Hotel – Tattooed Ladies and All

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Steve Earle live at the Corner Hotel – 30 March 2012

Last Friday I attended the final of the autumn concerts I had pre-booked, and it rounded off splendidly the quartet of outstanding shows I was fortunate to witness this March.

The show at the Corner Hotel was a sell out, so it was lucky we got there early enough to be among the first in line for a good position up against the stage. There are several advantages to being up the front – you don’t have people standing in front of you; it is great for taking  photos, and there is more space (surprisingly) and breathing room as you are not totally surrounded or hemmed in by the crowd.  Conditions got very hot and steamy as the crowd grew, and at least one person back in the press fainted, causing a brief hiatus in Steve’s performance. 

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Lachlan Bryan opening for Steve Earle – Corner Hotel

Local Alt Country artist Lachlan Bryan, lead singer and songwriter of  The Wildes, opened the show with a short set, singing a number of songs from his debut solo album Shadow of the Gun, as well as Wildes  tune Ballad of a Young Married Man. He was a quality opening act, his song writing being first class with such interesting songs as I’d Rather Sing In Churches (I’m tired of being in bars), Almost Like Saying Goodbye, murder ballad Lily of the Field and Whistle And Waltz where he was joined by  Zoe (didn’t catch her surname) on the harmony vocals which on his record are sung by Kasey Chambers. 

steve_earle 009

Steve Earle started his set with a few songs from his latest CD I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, Waiting For The Sky, following that with Gulf of Mexico, a tribute to his grandfather which Steve introduced as a sort of sea shanty.

Moving chronologically in reverse, to his 2007 album Washington Square Serenade he sang City of Immigrants and Tennessee Blues, then it was back to his 1986 debut album Guitar Town for My Old Friend The Blues and Some Day.

It was an interesting set list, Steve performing quite a few songs that I have not seen him do before, or not for a very long time -  Now She’s Gone from 1996 album I Feel Alright, and Dixieland from bluegrass record The Mountain. I was particularly delighted that he performed Fort Worth Blues, as part of a tribute to Townes Van Zandt, who was of course the young Steve Earle’s mentor back in the 1970s.  Steve admitted he took some poetic licence with the lyrics for Fort Worth Blues where he wrote “Paris, never was my kind of town”, confessing that the opposite was the case.

He accompanied himself on guitar, mandolin and an instrument he called a bouzouki -  not an instrument to mention while going through customs, Steve advised.

At a Steve Earle concert, the Steve Earle fan is almost as interesting as the artist. They’re a mixed bunch, predominately male and friendly, but one young person of the female gender caught the eye up front.

The tattooed lady positioned centre front seemed to think she was at a  rock concert or something, swaying and dancing to the music and draping her torso over the stage, much to annoyance of the persons standing next to her. Where I was standing, a number of  desperate girls fought their way through the mob to barge into the front stage area. One admitted to me when Steve started popular favourite Goodbye, that she loved the song and it would make her cry. It did.

And another  young woman stumbled to the front, sweating profusely and looking near to collapse. It was very hot and oppressive as I’ve said before, and she did look close to fainting, so I imagine being squashed in the crowd would have been very unpleasant.  Concerned neighbouring members of the audience offered her support, one even tendering a paper fan, and she eventually recovered her composure and quitted the area.

Steve played for over two hours and sang, as far as I can estimate, twenty-two songs in all. I wrote down the songs as they were played, but alas my notes are illegible in some instances, hence the incomplete song list.

It was a great concert and a rare treat to see Steve Earle again in solo mode.

Steve Earle Set List

  1. Written On The Sky
  2. Gulf of Mexico
  3. City of Immigrants
  4. Tennessee Blues
  5. My Old Friend The Blues
  6. Some Day
  7. Tom Ames’ Prayer
  8. God Is God
  9. Every Part Of Me
  10. South Nashville Blues
  11. Townes Van Zandt song (unidentified)
  12. Fort Worth Blues
  13. Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
  14. Taney Town
  15. ? (political song – unidentified)
  16. Now She’s Gone
  17. Goodbye
  18. Dixieland
  19. Galway Girl
  20. Jerusalem
  21. Copperhead Road


  1. Christmas in Washington