Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gems & Miracles – the first Group One of the Spring

Miracles of Life with jockey Lauren Stojakovic & stable cat Delilah – photo credit Mark Brake –

The first Group One race of the 2013 spring racing season heralds what promises to be a classic carnival. The Memsie Stakes has assembled a first class field, containing no less than 8 Group One winners of 14 runners. It would make a super Cox Plate line up in fact and many of those contesting it are Cox Plate bound.

Run over 1400 metres, the Memsie Stakes used to be a Group Two race, but has been elevated to Group One this year. In the past it has been won by champions on their way to greater glory, for instance, So You Think, Makybe Diva and Sunline, to name a few.

The top three runners this year are the unbeaten Atlantic Jewel, returning from a long injury forced spell, the multiple group one winning New Zealander It’s Dundeel and Australian Cup winner Super Cool. Also in the picture is 2012 Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon, runner up FiorenteAustralian Guineas winner Ferlax, New Zealand mare Silent Achiever and the consistent Happy Trails

It’s a tough call to pick the winner, but Atlantic Jewel ticks all the boxes if she is anywhere near her best.  My loyalties are torn, as I have a great deal of fondness for It’s A Dundeel and Super Cool along with Atlantic Jewel, so perhaps I’ll have a little something on all three, or maybe not wager on the race at all.

The race is scheduled as the last on the card. I hate this newfangled rearrangement of the feature races, which Moonee Valley instigated for the Cox Plate three years ago. It’s disappointing that Melbourne Racing Club has followed suit, as it means an extremely long day at the races, and a crush of racegoers heading home at the same time at the end of the day, no doubt the worse for wear for sunshine and booze.

I will be attending the meeting on Saturday and contemplated arriving later in the day, but the other must see race, starring Miracles of Life is scheduled as race four, so I’ll have to front before 1.30pm to check out the main contestants of the Group Three HDF McNeil Stakes. I’m really keen to see, not only the glamour filly, but Prince Harada. As his name suggests, he is the son of my former favourite racehorse Haradasun, and is by all accounts a classy colt, whom his trainer Tony Vasil  thinks is potentially the best horse he has trained. Tony Vasil trained both Haradasun and his half brother Elvstroem and he reckons Prince Harada is better than both of them. Prince Harada has had two starts, both on slow tracks, which he won in sizzling fashion.

Others of interest in the race are New Zealander Orion, Fast ‘N’ Rocking who was an unlucky second to Safeguard in the Vain Stakes recently and was also runner up to Miracles of Life in the Blue Diamond, and Za Moulin Rouge the only other filly in the race, who won her only start by 3.5 lengths, albeit in lesser company. However, if Miracles of Life recent trial is anything to go by, she should shoe it in and keep her unbeaten record intact. Go Miracles!

There’ll be time to fill during the wait for the feature race, but fortunately the rest of the race card is not without interest.

You’ve got the BMW Handicap (1400 metres) where Strawberry Boy is worth watching, the Group Three The Stakes (1100 metres) where 2012 Blue Diamond Stakes winner, Samaready will be making a welcome return after a long break, and the Listed  Slickpix Stakes (1700 metres) where a large field of Melbourne and Caulfield Cup bound stayers (many of them European imports) will be vying for a prize on their way to bigger and better races. German horse Pakal, who recently won at Caulfield by a 6 length margin, appears to be the top pick.

In Sydney the feature race on the cards at Rosehill is the Group Three  Run To The Rose (1200 metres) which has attracted a very classy field of three year olds that includes top colts Sidestep, Criterion, Zoustar, Va Pensiero. Ike’s Legacy and Eurozone. Any of the aforementioned could win.

Though it will be a long day spent mostly on my feet, I’m really looking forward to seeing my current favourite racehorses again, especially Miracles of Life, Atlantic Jewel, Super Cool and It’s A Dundeel.

Fortunately the weather is predicted to be lovely on Saturday – a warm and sunny 23ÂșC  day, so the track will classed dead to good.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Moonee Valley for a change…

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New Zealand colt  Cauthan  sashed after winning the Nissan McKenzie Stakes

As must be obvious, I enjoy my Saturday outings to the races. It affords me a bit of exercise in the outdoors as well as indulging my interest in the sport and gives me the opportunity to photograph the champs and potential champs.

Yesterday I attended the races at Moonee Valley, ostensibly to see boom New Zealand colt Cauthen and 2012 Thousand Guineas winner Commanding Jewel in action.

Cauthen is a newcomer to the racing scene. He has only raced three times. When he won his first race in New Zealand by 8.5 lengths, his connections were encouraged to bring him to Melbourne for a shot at the Caulfield Guineas. His debut Melbourne race was at Moonee Valley on 3rd August where he ran second behind Clevadude. Missing the start and being badly hampered in his run, it was obvious that in more favourable circumstances he would have won.

Yesterday he put any doubt as to his ability behind him, with a very convincing win in the Nissan McKenzie Stakes. Shamus Award ran second with the amusingly named Long John running third.

I admired Cauthen in the parade ring prior to the race, where he was edgy and skittish.

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Cauthen spooked in the parade ring.

Commanding Jewel was scheduled to run in the Carlyon Stakes, Race 3 on the card, so I made sure I arrived at Moonee Valley in time to see her parade. She’s a striking dark brown mare who is a half sister to the unbeaten, though injury prone, Atlantic Jewel.

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Commanding Jewel in the mounting yard

She was second favourite for the Carlyon Stakes, but failed to make any impression at all, finishing sixth, though probably the race was too short for her. It was won by Broken who I last saw in the winners stall at Flemington a few weeks ago.  Chosen To Fly and Golden Sunshine filled the minor placings

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Broken heading onto the track for the Carlyon Stakes

I only stayed for three races, the last being the Sheahan Plate, a race for mares.

Elite Elle was the favourite and she romped in easily, scoring by 2 lengths from Sensational Report with Twilighting in third spot.

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Elite Elle in the winners stall after the Sheahan Plate

The first Group One race of the spring will be run at Caulfield next weekend. I’m keenly awaiting the nominations for the Memsie Stakes and the HDF McNeil Stakes, before making a decision on attending.

There is a high probability that Atlantic Jewel , Super Cool and It’s A Dundeel will be kicking off their spring campaigns in the Memsie Stakes, and that Miracles of Life will be starting hers in the HDF McNeil Stakes, where she’ll be up against the classy unbeaten Prince Harada.

If that is the case I’ll certainly be putting in an appearance at the track.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shooting for the Moon – another fine day at the races

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Puissance de Lune posing with owners for the press corps after winning the P B Lawence Stakes

Though not a particularly profitable outing to the races, it was an interesting meeting enhanced by the remarkable win of Puissance de Lune in the feature race.

Fair weather for a change encouraged me to head off to Caulfield Racecourse for an afternoon of racing thrills.

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The field for the Winslow Constructors Handicap amass behind the barrier

I arrived at the course in time for the third race, the Winslow Constructors Handicap run over 2000 metres. Ignoring my own instincts not to bet, I placed a small wager on Phantom Brewer, who failed to run a place. The Moody/Nolen/Caulfield combo resulted in a long overdue win for Hanks, who romped home at 35/1, defeating favourite Bells of Troy with Anagold running third.

Hanks after winning the Winslow Constructors Handicap

Killing time before the next race I went and checked out the stalls, hoping for a glimpse of star attraction Puissance de Lune.  Sure enough he was there and I managed to get some nice photos of him in his stall.

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Puissance de Lune in his stall

He’s a very photogenic animal, with a compact powerful physique and a pretty face with gentle eyes. I took quite a few photos of him over the course of the afternoon.

The fourth race was the Group 3 Vain Stakes run over 1100 metres for three year old colts and geldings.  Safeguard nosed out the unlucky Fast N Rocking to win by the narrowest of margins, with Hill Spy filling third spot.

Safeguard returning to scale after winning the Vain Stakes

I had a small sentimental wager on Duran, but he raced very greenly and was never in the picture.

Hoping for better luck in the next race, the Quezette Stakes my fancy was Spirit of Heaven, but her stable mate Kiss A Rose took the prize with a run from last to first, stealing a victory over favourite Metastasio. Spirit of Heaven was badly held up in the straight, by a wall of horses and had no hope.

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Kiss A Rose parades before the running of the Quezette Stakes

Race 6 was the feature P B Lawrence Stakes, so I returned to the stalls area to check out the scene. I snapped Puissance de Lune in his stall  being saddled up by trainer Darren Weir and Mitch Freedman his strapper, who had just had their attention distracted by one of the sizable crowd surrounding PDL’s stall, so it looks as if the shot was posed.

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Trainer Darren Weir with Puissance de Lune & strapper Mitch Freedman

Back in the mounting yard the contestants were parading…

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Second Effort (no. 1) and Launay (no. 2)

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Puissance de Lune with Glen Boss in the saddle

The race was run a rattling pace with the lead being shared by Under The Sun and Ajeeb. Puissance de Lune dropped out to last and loped along several lengths behind the rest of the field. I was not worried as I knew he had a remarkable turn of foot. The young folks behind me were a tad concerned, one of them ringing his “lucky” bell, but as the horses flashed past it was noted that Puissance de Lune was making ground, and ridden hands and heels by Boss, sailed past Ajeeb, who was in the lead at that stage, and won easily by a length or so.

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PB Lawrence finish down the straight – Puissance de Lune is about to overtake Ajeeb

Did we witness something outstanding? It’s early days yet, but Puissance de Lune looks to be extra special, a worthy replacement to fill the gap left by Black Caviar, All Too Hard, More Joyous and Pierro who have all retired. He certainly attracted a bigger crowd than expected at Caulfield and the fans gathered around his stall, though not to Black Caviar levels, were in respectable numbers.

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Puissance de Lune parading after winning the P B Lawrence Stakes

Yesterday, Caulfield racecourse as part of its Back to Caulfield race day, recognised the 90th Anniversary of Legacy, so there were soldiers and machines of war on display, including a tank.

The army


But of course my focus was on the horses. Thanks to Puissance de Lune the day didn’t end with a total loss, as by the time the P B Lawrence Stakes was run, even though he was the favourite, his odds had risen to $3.60 with the Bookies, so I was able to recoup my losses on the previous races by placing a bet on him. You could say I was ‘over the moon’ when he won.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Moon Power – Racing at Caulfield

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Puissance de Lune

This coming Saturday, Caulfield racecourse will feature the Group Two P B Lawrence Stakes, as well as a couple of Group Three events.

The main attraction of the meeting will be the appearance of current Melbourne Cup favourite Puissance de Lune who will be kicking off his spring campaign in the feature event. He will be competing against nine rivals, primary among them Bletchingly Stakes winner Second Effort. Others with pretentions are the Gai Waterhouse trained Under The Sun, High Esteem trained by Peter Moody, Under The Eiffel and Launay.  Though Puissance de Lune has never raced  over 1400 metres, his best efforts being 2000 metres to 2600 metres, he has more class than all the rest put together and should put on a grand show with his nifty turn of foot.

Three year old Guineas hopefuls will be contesting the Group Three Vain Stakes (colts & geldings) and Quezette Stakes (fillies) before the main race, and should provide interesting viewing.  Run over 1100 metres, these races will provide a clearer picture of who has the class to take out the Group One prizes.

In the Vain Stakes the main contenders are the Peter Snowden trained Safeguard and the Peter Moody trained Il Cavallo, along with recent winner Clevadude. I’m interested in seeing how Duran, having his first start, performs. He is a very well bred colt sired by Tale of the Cat from Circles of Gold, who is the dam of class racehorses Elvstroem and Haradasun.  Can Duran emulate his older half brothers and win on debut?

The Quezette Stakes is harder to pick with quite a few smart fillies in with a chance.  Snowden and Moody trained fillies look the top picks – Montsegur & Metastasio vs Kiss A Rose & Spirit of Heaven. Spirit of Heaven is a three quarter sister to the recently retired Lights Of Heaven, so is potentially a stayer, but she won her only start over 1000 metres back in June.

Melbourne’s weather has been capricious over the past week, one day cold and windy, the next mild and sunny. Rain is expected overnight, but hopefully will clear by the afternoon. However, with wild winds blowing today, the track shouldn’t be all that much affected and will most probably be on the good to dead side.

There’s only two weeks to wait until the first Group One of the spring season and I’ve been following the progress of the  potential stars – Super Cool, It’s A Dundeel, Atlantic Jewel and Miracles of Life in particular, and I’m pleased to report that they are all coming along well. Most likely they’ll be starting their spring campaigns on 31 August.

Here’s the photo finish of Miracles of Life winning a trial earlier this week – not bad eh.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Politics: Cat & Otherwise

Watching the antics of the leaders of the major Australian political parties, in their attempts to woo voters in the upcoming Federal Election, I keep thinking how much more amusing and entertaining is the observation of cat politics.

Willy & Talya – up close but not personal on the bed

If politicians acted more like cats, I might be more inclined to vote for them.  I loathe both Abbott and Rudd and intend to write on my ballot paper “none of the above” as my protest against the ousting of Julia Gillard.

You won’t find either Rudd or Abbott playing with a toy mouse, and performing acrobatics, by swinging with her paws around the dining table, leaping in balletic pirouettes to pounce, as Talya does. Grey men in grey suits, Rudd and Abbott both fail to inspire me with any confidence in their ability to run the country. They certainly aren’t cute and entertaining, but they could try and be more interesting.

Yes, I’m bored with the election campaign and dread the outcome, which looks very much like a victory for the Coalition with – gasp of horror – the Mad Monk becoming the next Prime Minister.

To cheer myself up from the horrible prospect here are some more cat photos.

A recent Talya portrait – the Russian Princess

Willy arboreal on the grape vine waiting for cat slave assistance to get down

As for the state of cat politics, as you can see from the first photo, the two resident cats are tolerating each other quite well.  Willy was in a fight recently with another cat, possibly Monty next door, and was badly bitten on the leg and could hardly walk. He was not a happy cat for a few days, but a course of antibiotics has him back in action. The fur is still growing back on his tail after he cut it on something several months ago. He looked quite comical when he was alarmed and puffed up, his tail resembling that of a clipped poodle.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Sunny Day at Flemington

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The iconic finishing post at Flemington Racecourse

Ah Melbourne, city of contrasts, horrible one day, pleasant the next...

This was the case when the weather on Friday was appalling - cold, wet and windy - and on Saturday, was calm, sunny and mild. It was perfect in fact for attending the races to soak up some Vitamin D with the racing action.

I arrived at the course in time to watch the running of the third race, which was won by Bonne Nuit.

My only winning bet was on Pocket Rockets in the fourth race.  He paid $9.00 for the win and financed my outlay for the afternoon.

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Pocket Rockets returning to scale

I had my money on Under The Hat in the next race, but he finished last. The race was won by Clang and Bang.

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Clang & Bang heading to the track from the mounting yard

100/1 shot Tuscan Fire won race 6, my selection Magnifique Soleil running fourth. 

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Tuscan Fire returning to scale

My luck was again out in the feature race, the Aurie’s Star Handicap with my roughie bet Keep Cool finishing at the tail of the field.

However it was good to get a look at Luckygray, a handsome fellow.

Luckygray in the mounting yard.

Another outsider, Broken, whom I totally overlooked, was the winner, with Temple of Boom running second, followed by Cavallo Nero in third place.


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Temple of Boom

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Cavallo Nero

It certainly wasn’t a day for favourites – none of them won – but I was delighted to be back at a racecourse and appreciated the opportunity to test the new camera lens in the setting.  It worked pretty well in all, so I’ll take it along with me to Caulfield next Saturday, where the race card promises to be more interesting. I am looking forward to seeing potential star, Puissance de Lune, who will be contesting the Group Two  P B Lawrence Stakes (formerly the Liston Stakes).

One more photo before I close this post – a statue of master trainer Bart Cummings.

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Bart Cummings statue

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Promise of Spring


Though the current weather in Melbourne is anything but springlike, I am feeling a faint buzz of excitement as the build up to the spring racing carnival gathers pace.

Not much of any note has happened as yet, but the highly anticipated return of some of the autumn racing stars is mooted, so my thoughts turn to the thrill of the turf.

I am well prepared having purchased general admission seasons passes to both Moonee Valley and Flemington, so I expect I shall be attending the races more frequently than ever before. Perhaps this year I’ll go to the Derby and Melbourne Cup, as my Flemington seasons ticket covers those meetings.

Flemington this coming Saturday features the Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap (1400 metres), so I might rock along and avail myself of the seasons ticket. I also want to see how the new lens for my Panasonic micro four thirds camera performs at the races, before the serious racing begins.

The race card is not all that interesting, the Aurie’s Star Handicap being the pick of the litter with a few interesting contestants, such as former Perth star, Luckygray who is now based in Melbourne with a different trainer. He is weighted accordingly at the top and is the class horse in the race, though is yet to post a win in Melbourne. Temple of Boom won this race two years ago, but hasn’t come anywhere near winning for over a year.  Australian Guineas winner Ferlax starts his spring campaign in this and may surprise as he did when winning the aforementioned race. I rather like Keep Cool as a rough chance, but in form and fit Riziz who will probably start as favourite, could take the prize as could last start winner Falcent.

At Randwick on Saturday the classiest race of the day is the Group 3 Missile Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres. It has attracted a small, but choice field. Hay List, after a long layoff with injury, returns to the track in this.  It’s more a case of watch and see, to gauge if he is back in business for real, rather than speculate on the likelihood of him winning the race.  Rain Affair has not won for some time, but gets an opportunity to score with a heavy track enhancing his chances. Of the rest of the field Mic Mac, who recently won his first race in a long while, and Mrs Onassis who stole the Oakleigh Plate back in February represent the next best dressed and could run a place.