Monday, November 25, 2013

Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion

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Model wearing a black tulle headdress by Suzanne Talbot and a brocade coat with a black fur collar 1925

Now that the spring racing carnival is over, I am left scratching my head for topics to post on. But as I did take the opportunity to go the current exhibition at the Victorian National Gallery last Wednesday I'll give you a short review of what was on offer .

I know I have written that I am not interested in fashion, but this is not strictly true, as in my younger days I loved old clothes, and even today I can appreciate beautiful fabrics and stylish costumes.

As Art Deco is my favourite style,  I just had to go along to the exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, which features the photography of Edward Steichen, photographer to the beautiful and famous in the 1920s and 30s. He was the official photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, and is renowned, not only for portraits, but also fashion photography.

As well as photographs there was a display of  garments from the period, and I am here to attest that they were all stunning, both in design and manufacture.

If you consider the  girls in their frocks and fascinators during the spring racing carnival, their clothes are dull and uninspiring compared to the stylish creations of the 1920s and 30s.  The gowns of the Jazz Age were designed to party in, the skirts cut in such a way that they flared, sparkled and swang when dancing. The fabrics were gorgeous: silk, velvet and spangles combined to create glamour and also provide comfort and freedom of movement.

Back in the 1960s you could still find 1920s and 30s dresses in op shops, but they’re scarce these days. I used to have a couple of beautifully cut crepe dresses and also a black dress with gold lace which could date back to the Jazz Age. The below picture is of me pretending to be a vampire or something at a Space Age Books party, wearing said costume.

space age

As for the photographs, there were 200 of them to look at. Steichen was very particular about the lighting of his subjects and he was a master at it. There was a short film of Steichen at work in his studio, photographing a dancer, which was interesting to watch. He used gelatine plates for his photos, and had a trained technician standing by to quickly insert and extract the plates in a primitive “burst” mode to capture the dancer’s movements.

I found the exhibition to be interesting and absorbing, and well worth going to see.

To finish this post here’s one of Edward Steichen’s iconic photographs – of Gloria Swanson.

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Gloria Swanson 1934

Monday, November 11, 2013

Boban & Buffering - Emirates Stakes Day Review & Highlights & Lowlights of the Spring Racing Season

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The ornate mounting yard gate – surrounded & entwined with roses

I’m really glad I went to the final meeting of Flemington’s racing carnival. Despite the day starting with a shower of rain, the weather improved as the day progressed and sunshine shone on the track and provided excellent lighting conditions for photographs.

Starting my afternoon at the races at around 1.45pm, I first visited the stalls area to see the horses in their stalls or walking in the ring.

Chris Waller’s contingent were all in adjacent stalls, so I snapped a few pictures of his star performers…

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Boban who has stamped himself a potential star of the turf, like the  two horses named on his stall walls – Viewed & Shocking.

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Kelinni with attractive strapper nicely posed  in the stalls area

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The handsome Sacred Falls

Moving along, I found the stall where Makybe Diva’s little sister La Armistad was stabled. She’s a big girl who bears somewhat of a likeness to her sister. Her strapper obliged me by posing with her.

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La Armistad in her stall

Back at the track, race 5, the Group 2 Momentum Energy Stakes was about to start. I placed a bet on the Gai Waterhouse trained Queenstown and got into position on the fence to see the runners emerge from the mounting yard.

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Miss Zenella

The race resulted in a win by outsider Girl Gone Rockin who overtook Queenstown to win by a nose with Keep De Rose running third.

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Girl Gone Rockin returns to scale after winning the Momentum Energy Stakes

The first of the Group 1 races, the VRC Sprint was up next and I watched the contestants parade in the mounting yard. Yes, the crowds were not as great as Derby Day, so it was easy to get a spot on the fence surrounding the mounting yard.

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Hong Kong star Lucky Nine

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Bel Sprinter

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Buffering scored his second Group 1 win, leading from start to finish. Lucky Nine, of whom much was expected, fizzled out and finished in 6th place. Newmarket winner Shamexpress came second with Moment of Change running third. A big cheer greeted the erstwhile Group 1 bridesmaid as he returned to scale.

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Buffering returns to scale after winning the VRC Sprint.

Boban added another paling to the picket fence representing his latest race results, accumulating five straight wins, and a rare Group 1 double. A horse has not won the Epsom Stakes/Emirates Stakes double for 27 years. West Australian bred Chanteclair was last to do so in 1986.

It would have been a terrible upset if 20/1 long shot Smokin’ Joey  had won as he looked like doing, but Boban who came from the back of the field lunged on the line for a popular win. Speediness ran third.

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Boban returns to scale after winning the Emirates Stakes

The final race I watched before going home was the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes where Precedence prevailed and was thus  compensated for missing a run in the Melbourne Cup. La Armistad ran a pretty good race in her first outing in the city and finished 8th. Sertorius ran second with Let’s Make Adeal scoring third.

I was able to get photos of the main contestants in the mounting yard.

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Precedence in the mounting yard

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Let’s Make Adeal – Let’s Elope’s granddaughter.

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La Armistad

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Precedence returning to scale after winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes

As mentioned before, the crowds on Emirates Day were not overwhelming and there were lots of children, this race day being traditionally for families. There was a children’s fashion show and every so often you would see some young thing sporting a Barbie Doll prize.

The roses were still in full bloom and as glorious as ever.

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Rose bowers line the walkway to the back of the stalls area and the Birdcage.

And so ends another spring racing season. It had it all, upsets and surprises and resulted in the retirement of some stars and the emergence of new pretenders to the title of champion of the turf.

This was the first year that I have attended just about all the Group 1 race meetings of the Melbourne spring racing season.  I only missed the Rupert Clark Stakes, Manikato Stakes, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup meetings. I must admit that I enjoyed all the race meets I went to. My only complaint was the programming of the feature races as the last on the card at Caulfield, which I found tiresome.  Let’s hope next year they revert to standard scheduling, as I found the Flemington program much more to my liking and convenience.

As for luck on the punt, my modest outlays were occasionally rewarded, which covered the unsuccessful bets. I generally returned from my day at the races with money in my pocket more often than not.

The Stars of the Spring

Atlantic Jewel added sparkle to every race day in which she participated. Returning from a long injury forced spell she won the first Group 1 of the season the Memsie Stakes, then went on win the Group 2 Stocks Stakes, finished a close second to It’s A Dundeel after a thrilling head to head race down the straight in the Underwood Stakes, then took out  the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes before succumbing once more to injury just before the Cox Plate and was subsequently retired with 10 wins from 11 starts on her CV.

Fiorente started his spring campaign in the Memsie Stakes where he ran 6th, then went on to win the Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at his next start. He finished  4th in the Turnbull Stakes, 3rd in the Cox Plate then rewarded his trainer Gai Waterhouse with her first Melbourne Cup. Surely one of the best looking horses of the spring, I look forward to his return in the autumn.

Zoustar began his spring racing in the Group 3 Run To The Rose finishing 4th. He then won his next three races, the Group 1 Golden Rose, the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes and finally the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes.  He’s a super star in embryo and his return in autumn is keenly anticipated.

Guelph was very lightly raced as well, competing four times, running second at her first start for spring in the Group 2 Furious Stakes, before winning her next three starts – the Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes, Group 1 Flight Stakes and Group 1 Thousand Guineas. She is surely the top three year old filly of the year, and also a potential super star.

Boban won all five of his starts this spring including the rare Group 1 double of the Epsom Stakes and Emirates Stakes.

Buffering should be included here, being the only other horse to win two Group 1 races this spring. Now that sprinting stars Black Caviar and Hay List have been retired, the field is open for an honest nag like old Buffering to win more brownie points in the future.

It’s A Dundeel deserves a mention as he is the only horse to have beaten Atlantic Jewel, and though he was very unlucky this spring, he still is to my mind a star of the turf and will be back in autumn to redeem his reputation.

Others worth a mention are Red Tracer who proved she was not a one Group 1 wonder, when she beat her stable mate Catkins in the Myer Classic, Polanski, the rags to riches story of the spring, who won the VRC Derby, Shamus Award who scored his first win ever in the Cox Plate and Fawkner, who proudly flew the Australian bred flag when he won the Caulfield Cup.

Disappointments of the Spring

As is usually the case there are horses that you regard as particular favourites whose performance during the autumn season would lead you believe that they would make their mark in the spring season, but fail to win, through bad luck or bad management or injury.

Miracles of Life never found the form that won her the Blue Diamond Stakes in the autumn. An exceptionally pretty filly whose return to the turf was keenly anticipated, she failed to win any of the three races she contested this spring, though she ran second to Thump in the Champagne Stakes. Her inexperienced jockey may have spoiled her chances in some races, but she appeared not to have the speedy turn of foot we saw in autumn, and indeed she was discovered to have bled internally in her last start, which accounts for her lack of zip in that race.

Super Cool is a horse of whom I am very fond, so I was disappointed in his performance this spring, but looking back he didn’t totally disgrace himself. He finished third behind Atlantic Jewel in the Memsie Stakes and the Caulfield Stakes, and ran fifth in the Cox Plate.  Some horses perform better in different seasons, so maybe when he returns to the scene in autumn he will have more luck. By then his great rival of the autumn Fiveandahalfstar will have returned from the injury enforced break that ruled him out of the spring.

Puissance de Lune, when he started his spring campaign in the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes was hot favourite for the Melbourne Cup. It turned out that the aforementioned race was the only race he won all spring, though he did finish a close second in both the Makybe Diva Stakes and Turnbull Stakes. After his abysmal run in the Cox Plate it was discovered he was lame which excuses him somewhat for that failure.  By all accounts he will return in the autumn and perhaps will win an elusive Group One race.

Even though the spring racing season is over in Melbourne, there are three more Group 1 races to be contested in Perth before the dead season begins. The summer/autumn racing season will be on us again in a few months. In the meantime I’ll have to think of other ways to spend my Saturday afternoons, and other topics to blog about.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Oaks Day & the Carnival Finale

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Kirramosa in the winner’s rug after the Crown Oaks

Oaks Day at Flemington is touted as being one for the girls, and certainly attracted quite a number of the fair sex, dressed in their finery and extravagant headgear, but it seemed to me there were as many blokes present as women.

I must have been the roughest dressed lady at the track – a sparrow among the peacocks - as I have no interest in fashion and wouldn’t be seen dead in a fascinator.  So I went in my usual jeans and t-shirt and sensible shoes. I’m not there for the fashion, I’m only there for the horses.

This was the first time I have attended the Oaks meeting, and I must admit I enjoyed it. Perhaps backing a winner in my first of  two bets on the day gave it that extra sparkle. Anyway, it wasn’t as crowded as it was on Derby Day so it was easier to move around and it certainly was colourful. The ladies below – tatts and all -  sitting on the public lawn, are a veritable rainbow.

colourful ladies

I got to Flemington just before Race 3 and watched from my usual spot on the fence by the path to the mounting yard. It was the Heritage Stakes, a 1200 metre race for three year old fillies. It was won by 10/1 shot Melrose Place, with the equally long odds Sense of Hite and Fare Well running the minor places.

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Melrose Place returns to scale after winning the Heritage Stakes

I was really interested in the next race, the Group 3 G H Mumm Stakes, because Dystopia, a Sydney mare I have been following for years, was making a rare appearance in Melbourne.  She’s part of the Chris Waller stable, and gave Chris Waller his third win of the day with her victory in the Mumm Stakes.  His other winners were Marmelo in the first race, and Multilateral in the second.  Myself, I was delighted that Dystopia won as I’d bet on her at fairly good odds. Shamal Wind ran second with She Can Skate taking third place.

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Dystopia returns to scale after winning the Mumm Stakes

The final race in the Subzero Challenge was the next on the cards, and old Subzero led the large field of grey horses out to the mounting yard. This was the race where the winner’s strapper got king hit by a stable hand (I have since read it was a domestic matter). I did not witness the incident, but I did photograph the winning horse Black Cash returning to scale.

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Black Cash returning to scale after winning the Subzero Challenge

Race 6 was the feature race of the day. The Crown Oaks is a race for staying fillies run over 2500 metres.  Dear Demi won it last year and previous winners have also been the top fillies of their time – Miss Finland, Samantha Miss and  Mosheen for example.  This year the favourite was Wakeful Stakes winner Kirramosa. I must admit I had not heard of her before as she has done most her racing in Sydney.

I decided to reinvest my winnings on Dystopia in a boxed first 4 of Kirramosa, May’s Dream, Solicit and ZanbachMay’s Dream let me down and surprisingly finished out of the first four. Curses! I should have boxed them for a trifecta instead, as Kirramosa prevailed, narrowly winning from Zanbach and Solicit.

Kirramosa on her way to the track

The rest of the race card wasn’t all that interesting, so I headed home after the Oaks, pretty happy with my afternoon at the track.

I will return to Flemington tomorrow for the finale of the Melbourne Spring racing carnival. Emirate Stakes Day features two Group 1 events, and several interesting Group 2 & 3 races.

The first of the Group 1 races is the VRC Sprint Classic. It was known for years as the Patinack Farm Classic, but as Patinack  is no longer the sponsor,  the name has been changed. It’s run over 1200 metres and has been won by champion sprinters, most notably by Black Caviar in 2010 and 2011.

This year’s edition has a crack field that includes Hong Kong star Lucky Nine, Buffering, Epaulette, Sessions and Rebel Dane. Buffering finally won his first Group 1 in the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley in late October, narrowly beating Lucky Nine with Sessions running third. Lucky Nine didn’t really handle the tight corners at Moonee Valley, so will appreciate the long straight at Flemington and will most probably turn the tables on Buffering this time.  Buffering has had two previous attempts at winning this race and finished 8th last year, and 2nd in 2011 behind Black Caviar. He may have a hope of beating Lucky Nine if the track degrades to slow. Currently that is unlikely as there has been not enough rain in Melbourne today to really affect the ground.

The other Group 1 race is the Emirates Stakes, which is run over 1600 metres. It has resulted in some long shots winning in past years. The underrated Happy Trails won it last year, and Albert The Fat the year before and famously the 100/1 shot Tears I Cry in 2007.

The Chris Waller trained Boban will start as favourite, and rightfully so, looking at the picket fence of wins next to his name on the form guide. Also in with a chance is his stablemate and Doncaster winner Sacred Falls, and Toorak Handicap winner Solzhenitsyn, and last start winners Smokin Joey, Toydini, Spurtonic and Mouro. Old favourite Linton also has a chance if he can repeat his Stradbroke Handicap performance. And for Country Music fans, there is a New Zealand horse called Nashville who appears to have excellent form in his home country. Overall it looks to be a doozy of a race.

Of interest is the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a Group 3 race over 2600 metres. Puissance de Lune won it in spectacular fashion last year, which catapulted him into early Melbourne Cup favouritism.  This race is a sort of consolation prize for stayers who didn’t make it into the Melbourne Cup. So you’ve got Precedence, who just missed out, despite winning the Moonee Valley Cup and Kelinni who ran 4th in the 2012 Cup, as well as Shoreham, Sertorius and Forgotten Voice.

The most interesting runner however, is Makybe Diva’s little three quarter sister La Amistad, who will be trying to emulate her famous sister who won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2002 before going on to win the 2003, 2004 and 2005 Melbourne Cups. La Amistad has been very lightly raced, and now four years old has only run five times on country tracks, for two wins, a second and third.

So the grand finale of Melbourne’s spring racing carnival should see it out in fine fashion, race wise I mean. I’ve been getting good value out of my Flemington season’s ticket, which fortunately covers me for the 2014 summer/autumn racing season. I’m rather regretting now that I didn’t go to the Melbourne Cup, but perhaps I’ll make it next year.

Monday, November 04, 2013

A Great Conundrum – The Melbourne Cup

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Fiorente – Can he win Gai Waterhouse her first Melbourne Cup?

Trying to find the winner of the Melbourne Cup these days is an impossible task.  I have not come anywhere near in the past few years, so am pretty pessimistic about my ability to do so this year. However, I’ll give it a go and name my fancies.

Of the field of 24 runners, only 5 of them are locally bred. Of course I would love for one of them to win the race and three of them have the Zabeel factor that has produced Melbourne Cup winners for many years. The most likely of the five locals is Caulfield Cup winner FawknerFawkner is by Reset who was sired by the great Zabeel, so he has the breeding to run the trip. I also think his name is somewhat of an omen in that it evokes Guy Fawkes for me, and tomorrow, Cup Day, is the 5th November, known in the old days as Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Day.

Another local with the Zabeel factor is tough mare Dear Demi. Her sire Dehere is generally regarded as a producer of sprinters, but her dam Shirley is by Zabeel. Dear Demi has been in great form this spring and is a good lightweight chance if she can run the distance.

Ethiopia is the other runner with the Zabeel factor, but he is given little chance as his form has been uninspiring for over a year. He hasn’t won anything since taking out the ATC Australian Derby in 2012.

The other two locals are my favourite Super Cool, who has been somewhat disappointing this spring and failed Caulfield Cup favourite Hawkspur.

Lloyd Williams has entered six of his horses in the Cup. Including Fawkner, there is also Sea Moon, last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon, Masked Marvel, Seville and Mourayan. With the concentration of numbers, and considering his record in the race, you’d think one or other of his contenders would be in the finish. Green Moon won with 54.5kg on his back last year, but this year carries 3 extra kilograms. There is some doubt as to whether Sea Moon can run 3200 metres, as he only just won over 2400 metres in the Herbert Power Stakes at his last start. Mourayan can certainly run the distance, having won the Sydney Cup earlier this year, but he is getting on in years and has tried and failed in the Melbourne Cup before. As for Masked Marvel, the jury is still out as to his class, despite his winning the St Leger Stakes in 2011. I love his name though. Lastly, Seville won the Metropolitan in early October and has been nominated by the Williams clan as their top pick.

If you were going to bet on a horse due to his looks, you couldn’t go past Fiorente. He ran second in the Melbourne Cup last year, and is probably the top pick on form to take out the race this year, having been very competitive this spring, winning the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and running third in the Cox Plate. I’ll certainly have a little something on him tomorrow.

Of the International entries, it’s hard to gauge their form against Australian conditions, but Brown Panther is highly regarded as is Dandino who ran second in the 2013 Caulfield Cup.  The two mares Verema and Voleuse de Coeurs will no doubt be attractive betting propositions for the girls and with a weight advantage could well feature, or even win. It has been quite a while since a mare took out the Cup; Makybe Diva was the last mare to win in 2005, famously her third consecutive Melbourne Cup.

To sum up:
Who I’d like to win: Fawkner, Super Cool, Dear Demi or Voleuse de Coeurs

Who I think will win
: It’s between Fiorente and Fawkner

Who will win: ?

Astrologically, the moon in Sagittarius at the time of the running of the Melbourne Cup, might provide a clue. The sign Sagittarius is associated with horses, so one of the “Moons” may prevail. It would be an uncanny coincidence if this were the case.

Finally a snippet from the past – 50 years ago – the 1963 Melbourne Cup field. Notice that the Cup was run on the 5th November that year as well.

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Gatum Gatum won from Ilumquh and Grand Print

How they finished…

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With that, I wish readers of this blog the best of luck in  picking the winner of the 2013 Melbourne Cup.

Update: Tuesday Afternoon

Melbourne Cup Result

1. Fiorente – Yay!
2. Red Cadeaux – second again!
3. Mount Athos – not really surprising

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Smelling the Roses – Derby Day Review

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Hugh Bowman expresses his delight  as Polanski returns to scale after winning the 2013 Victoria Derby

If you have never visited Flemington Racecourse, you would not have experienced the overwhelming wonder of the roses, luxuriantly in bloom over the period of the Spring racing carnival. The mounting yard is surrounded by a hedge of roses, as is the fence all the way down the straight, and the mounting yard gates have yellow climbing roses entwining the ornate wrought iron gate posts on each side.

Rose hedge where I was standing when watching the races

As expected the crowds were overwhelming as well, but despite that I managed to find a good position on the fence next to the pathway where the horses leave the mounting yard for the track, so was able to photograph the horses as they went out to the track and returned.

I planned to arrive at the track in plenty of time to see Race 4, the first of the Group 1 events, and arrived early enough to witness Race 3, the Group 3 Lexus Stakes, a distance race over 2500 metres.  It was won by Irish invader Ruscello who gained  entry into the Melbourne Cup with the win. Granddaughter of 1991 Melbourne Cup winner Let’s ElopeLet’s Make Adeal ran second with Araldo filling third place.

Ruscello after winning the Lexus Stakes

By contrast to the public lawn and the rest of the course, the stalls area was sparsely populated as is usually the case, so thence I went to catch the parade of contenders for the Coolmore Stud Stakes. Zoustar, the hot favourite was being saddled up…

Zoustar in his stall being prepared for the race

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Divine Calling in the Parade Ring

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Fast N Rocking in the Parade Ring

Returning trackside I found a position on the fence beside the mounting yard path and was able to photograph the runners as they made their way to the track.

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Lion of Belfort

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Missy Longstocking

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Not Listenin’tome

Zoustar was sensational and won by a length from Not Listenin’tome with Lion of Belfort running third.

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Zoustar returns to scale after winning the Coolmore Stud Stakes

The next race on the card was the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes and Jet Away was the favourite. I decided to have a bet on this race, my first for the afternoon, and went and queued at the nearest bookie to have a wager on Dear Demi, whose odds were quite good.

Back on the fence, the runners eventually moved out onto the track…

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Dear Demi

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Cox Plate International invitee Side Glance, who ran sixth in that race, made the trip worth while by winning the Mackinnon Stakes, from Dear Demi and Moriarty. He’s a very good looking horse I must admit.

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Side Glance returns to scale after winning the Mackinnon Stakes

The feature race was next on the program, so I made sure of my position well before the field left the mounting yard.

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Polanski, a horse that only cost $4000, won the race easily. A feel good story if ever there was one. My pick Complacent ran second and 30/1 long shot Thunder Fantasy took out third spot.

The final Group 1 race of the day was the Myer Classic for fillies and mares. I was keen to see how Catkins would go in it against her classier stable mate Red Tracer. Catkins led practically from start to finish and was only beaten by Red Tracer on the line – by a nose. Fire Up Fifi ran third.

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Nash Rawiller celebrates his win on Red Tracer in the Myer Classic

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Catkins returns to scale – certainly not disgraced.

I didn’t bother staying for the last two races, so after collecting my winnings on Catkins I headed for the station.

So that was my Derby Day. My trepidations about the huge crowd were largely correct, but despite that it was fairly easy to move through the masses and also escape them in the stalls area. The queue to get a drink was long and the wait was tedious, but as I had one beer all afternoon I only had to endure it once.

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Crowd scene

And I was pleased that my previous explorations of Flemington racecourse had equipped me to find the best spots for taking photos under the circumstances. I was surprised the spot I found on the fence was unoccupied before each race.  This was probably due to the area directly in front of it being taken up by broadcasting equipment and camera persons, which obscured the view of the big screen. I didn’t mind as I could see enough to gauge the pattern of the race. The below photo is of the press corps. The lady with long blonde/red hair and huge camera is Bronwen Healy, who takes wonderful photos of racehorses that make mine look amateurish which I freely admit they are.


The next race meeting is the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. I have decided not to attend it, but will probably go to the Oaks on Thursday and Emirate Stakes day next Saturday.

I’ve rushed this entry, as I wanted to get it posted tonight. Tomorrow I’ll post my thoughts on the Melbourne Cup.