Friday, April 18, 2014

The Championships–Easter Saturday Racing

race 8 _silent achiever 2
Silent Achiever – can she make it four Group One wins in a row?

Easter can be boring, in fact I’ve always thought Good Friday has to be the most boring day of the year unless of course if you are religiously inclined.  The only bright note of Good Friday is the consumption of Hot Cross Buns, but these days you seem to be able to get them year round, so they’re not so special anymore.  I make a point of only eating them on Good Friday. As I’m not a chocoholic I don’t care much for Easter Sunday and don’t buy, or even expect to receive, Easter Eggs.

So thank the lord for first class horse racing in an otherwise tedious Easter break.

It’s all happening at Randwick in Sydney, it being the second weekend of  The Championships, a new fangled appellation for the final meetings of the Sydney Autumn Carnival. Four fantastic Group One races are on the program, including the newly richest 2000 metre race in the world, that being the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The first of the Group One races is the Queen of the Turf  Stakes, run over 1600 metres. Can Catkins finally win a well deserved Group One race? If the track is slow, as it is most likely to be, she has a very good chance of doing so. However, she faces a really tough field that includes her very classy stable mate Red Tracer, who though being quite disappointing so far this autumn in harder races, at her best would be winner. Others in contention are Streama, excellent on her day,and  three year old class fillies  Bonaria, Gypsy Diamond  and Solicit, who have a weight advantage.

Fillies come to the fore in the second of the Group One races, the Australian Oaks, run over 2400 metres. Top pick is Lucia Valentina who took out the Group One Vinery Stud Stakes at her last start.  Others with a chance are Rising Romance, Miss Mossman, Zanbagh and Forever Loved, who all ran in the Vinery and could turn the tables on the winner in this race, being as it is 400 metres longer.

The Sydney Cup is one of the few 3200 metre races on the Australian racing calendar. It’s not as big an event as the hallowed Melbourne Cup, but it does give tried and true stayers a chance to show off their stamina. It has drawn a a field of 17 acceptances, with several likely chances, chief of which is the Auckland Cup winner Who Shot TheBarman, Irish bred  The Offer who won lead up races, the Manion Stakes and the Chairman’s Handicap. I rather fancy Irish mare Voleuse de Coeurs, who has twice won over 3200 metres and hasn’t been too far away in her last two runs in Australia. Others with a look in are Opinion, Hippopus and Tremec who all ran places in their lead up races.

Now the richest middle distance race in the world, the Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes rewards the winner with a cool $2,400,000. An exceptional field has been assembled to contend for these riches, and include Ranvet Stakes/ BMW winner Silent Achiever, It’s A Dundeel, Carlton House aiming to win his owner the race named in her honour, the Doncaster winner and runner up Sacred Falls, and Royal Descent, Epsom/ Emirates winner Boban, and 2012 Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon. Alas Fiorente is not part of the field, as he sustained a tendon injury in the BMW and has been retired to stud. 

So who will win?

Surely It’s A Dundeel is due for a win! He has not been beaten by all that much in his three runs this autumn, and he is a class act, so with luck on his side he could show the brilliance that won him the 2013 ATC Derby. Silent Achiever is his greatest threat. She is absolutely flying this autumn and is currently, with four wins under her belt, on a winning streak, and aiming for a fifth.  Carlton House would have won the Ranvet Stakes had he not been pipped at the post by Silent Achiever. He certainly set the pace in that race and will take running down in the QE Stakes should the same tactics be employed.  And how can you ignore Boban? He’s too good to leave out, though he hasn’t won over 2000 metres, the mile (1600 metres) being his pet distance. Perhaps Chris Waller will win the trifecta again as he did last week in the Doncaster with almost half the field being from his stable, including Sacred Falls, Royal Descent and Hawkspur who all have a chance, especially on a heavy track.

The support card is excellent with two Group Two and one Group Three races being run as well, but I’m not going to preview them in this post.

Anyway, hopefully the track will not be as heavy as the last two meetings have been. The weather in Sydney has improved over the last few days, so the track may get a chance to dry out and even be rated as dead by the mid afternoon on Saturday. 

Whatever, I’ll be watching with keen interest. There’s bugger all else to do on Easter Saturday.

Update Saturday Night

It’s A Dundeel finally!

It’s A Dundeel won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes this afternoon, overtaking Carlton House in the straight ,who had led the race from the start at a good fast rate. Dundeel raced in third spot and was in a prime position to take command when they turned into the straight, and take command he did, very quickly overtaking the Queen’s horse, then holding off a late charge by Sacred Falls to win by almost a length.  Carlton House hung on for third, with the brave Silent Achiever running a close fourth.

There was scare earlier in the afternoon, when it was reported that It’s A Dundeel slipped in his stall and had fallen. After a veterinary check  he was passed fit to race. He only nicked his hindquarters in the incident reportedly, and he certainly put pay to any injury queries with his win in the QE Stakes.

The other Group One races results:

Queen of the Turf StakesDiamond Drille with Gypsy Diamond running second and Red Tracer running third. Catkins didn’t fire today, and finished a disappointing sixth.

Australian Oaks – New Zealand filly Rising Romance won from Zanbagh with hot favourite Lucia Valentina, storming home from the back of the field to finish in third spot.

Sydney CupThe Offer won Gai Waterhouse her second Group One race of the afternoon (the other was Diamond Drille) and the Chris Waller trained Opinion ran second. Sertorius was third.

Young jockeys Tommy Berry and James McDonald shared the Group One spoils each riding two of the four winners.

All up it was a great day of racing, and the track which was classified as Slow 7, in the early afternoon, ended up Dead 5 in the end.

Having followed It’s A Dundeel for a couple of years now, I’m really pleased that he has restored his reputation and shown his undoubted brilliance once more.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Farewell to an old friend–Rest In Peace Maureen


When casting my eye over the Tributes page in The Age today, I was shocked to discover a familiar name listed, and ascertained from the names of the attributers that it was indeed my old and dear friend Maureen.

I post haste rang the persons who had placed the tribute to find out what had happened. Maureen had died last Friday morning of lung cancer, after being diagnosed with the condition in February this year.

This is a real shock as I had no inkling that she was ill. In fact the last time I saw her in early January  she was bragging about how well she felt.  And even though she always appeared cadaverous –tall,  pale and thin – she mostly had enjoyed the best of health and was a vegetarian by choice. She would have turned 62 on the 20th May.

I have known Maureen for over 40 years, first meeting her when she moved into the Parkville mansion, Mt Ievers, where I was living in the late 1960s/early 1970s . When Mt Ievers was sold to developers Maureen and I shared a house in Carlton for several years, and also both worked at Space Age Books in the 1970s.  We remained good friends through all the decades since, though didn’t see each other much, until fairly recently where we went on several outings to galleries. I hadn’t seen her since our trip to Bendigo for the Modern Love Exhibition in January, so I now bitterly regret that I had not got in touch with her over the last few months.

Maureen was fiercely independent so it would not be like to her to ring and complain about her health. She had long been looking for a job, so I assumed that she had got one and was too busy to make contact.

As I have no photos of her, I have used an Erte image to illustrate this post, as Erte’s fashion illustrations will always remind me of Maureen. She always dressed very stylishly, in beautifully designed clothes, mostly black in colour. Being tall and thin, she had a rare elegance and with her upright carriage and striking looks you could always pick her out from the crowd.

Both her parents died when she was quite young, so when I met her she was an orphan, though she is survived by her elder brother and sister.

I have many fond memories of Maureen and many amusing stories of her idiosyncrasies.

When she was in her teens Maureen had been an artist’s model, and had been painted by notable artists. She had a story about one such painting which hung on the wall in an office at La Trobe University. She was attending an interview with a tutor perhaps, who remarked when he saw her that she looked familiar. Maureen realised that the painting behind him was one of her, which explained his sense of familiarity, but didn’t let him into the secret.

She was a caring person who worked for many years providing employment advice to disadvantaged youth. I don’t think she had a cynical bone in her body and approached the world in an open hearted, perhaps somewhat naive manner.

She never married nor had children, but she owned a little terrace house in Brunswick and had lived there many years by herself by choice. She was secretive about her personal life so I don’t know if she had any special friends or lovers.  As I said before she was very independent and never asked anything of other people, and was unquestionably honest and upright in her dealings.

Highly intelligent and pure living (cigarettes were her only vice) Maureen was a smart, beautiful, elegant and charmingly eccentric person – an unique and original individual who will be grievously missed by all who knew her.

Rest in peace Maureen. I’m sorry I never got the chance to say good bye, but you’ll always live in my memory as one of this old sinner’s dearest friends and I’ll be sad when I look at the unusual presents you’ve given me over the years, as they’ll represent a little piece of Maureen for me.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Did We Do Without Them? - Continued

new computer

It’s more the question of are they worth the trouble?

It took me all last week to successfully set up my new computer, and I wonder if the stress and distraction was worth it.  The main problem was installing the printer, which being over five years of age required a Windows 7 driver. That was OK as it was easy to find on the Fuji Xerox site, but could I get the printer to install it properly? No.

After putting the printer problem in the too hard basket for most of the week, I somehow or other managed to successfully install the driver on Friday. Don’t ask me how I did it, but after detaching the printer from the computer, then reattaching it, Windows automatically found the printer driver and installed it and the printer worked.  What a relief!

In the meantime I installed my most useful software, MS Office, Dreamweaver, Cute FTP for example and even though the software in most cases is over ten years old they all work in Windows 7. Even some really ancient Windows 3.1 games work in the OS. 

The only problematic application was Dreamweaver 4, which worked, but had a major problem that could not be surmounted easily. I then remembered that I had a later version of Dreamweaver which I had purchased in 2004, so installed that and it worked fine. It is however a slightly more sophisticated program which had me on a swift learning curve  when I used it to  edit web pages today. I had grown so used to the layout of Dreamweaver 4, that I’d stuck with it through the years, so had hardly tried Dreamweaver MX 2004 as it looked different and required time to grow accustomed to the interface, so I basically stuck with the tried and true and familiar as I knew it in Dreamweaver 4. 

It’s amazing how fast you can learn when you have to. Having worked out Dreamweaver MX  today, I’ve decided that actually it isn’t that bad a program, and has some pleasing improvements that I’d  never noticed before, like retaining the formatting of Word documents copied into it and automatically inserting links.

So setting up the new computer has been unusually educational if frustrating at times.

Writing this post in the latest version of Windows Live Writer, I’m also learning something new. I don’t really think it’s as easy to use as the old 2009 Live Writer, but I’m trying to get used to it by writing this post.

As for Windows 7, it’s actually pretty similar to XP and certainly not as bossy as Vista, so I have no issues with it at all.

You will notice in the picture above that the racing form guide is sitting in front of the printer.  I was too distracted last week to preview the first of Randwick’s “Championship” meetings, which featured the Group One Sires, ATC Derby, T J Smith and the hallowed mile of the Doncaster Handicap.  They were run  on a bog track (Heavy 9) and the winners were a mix of class and specialist mudrunners.

The Sires was won by smart filly Peggy JeanCriterion added the Derby to his Rosehill Guineas victory, Lankan Rupee demonstrated just how brilliant he is with a stunning two length win in the T J Smith, and Sacred Falls won the Doncaster for the second year  in succession.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

What Did We Do Without Them?


I’m speaking of computers of course.

What inspired me to write this post is that having just purchased a new desktop computer, it occurred to me that 2014 is the 20th anniversary of my acquiring my first PC.  It looked a lot like the one in the image above and was a 486DX33 IBM clone. It was top of the range at the time having a 2 x speed CD drive, a 250mb hard disk, 4mb ram and cost me about $5000 all up with printer, monitor, keyboard and mouse included. It ran on Windows 3.11 and Dos 6.2.

By comparison, my new custom made box only cost me $800 and is probably 1000 times more powerful than the 486. I’ve yet to fire it up, steeling myself for the tedium of loading software and attaching peripherals, and also getting used to a new operating system, Windows 7 in this case.

Yes, I’ve been a die hard Windows XP user, and as the system will not be supported from 8 April 2014, I figured that rather than upgrading the OS of my current 5½ year old computer – who knows how much longer it’ll chug along - I’d start afresh with a new computer running a newer operating system that was not Windows 8.

I know desk top computers are going out of fashion and that laptops and tablets are more popular these days. However, even though I do have a laptop and a tablet, I greatly prefer to work and play from a big computer and with a square LED/LCD monitor to boot. They are  pretty hard to get these days too, with wide screens being the monitor of choice for younger folk.  My current computer, when I bought it, came with a wide screen, but I couldn’t stand it and got rid of it as soon as I could.

My theory is that newer is not necessarily better and the same goes for my ancient beloved software, so I hope it all works in Windows 7.

One interesting coincidence regarding the 20 year interim between my first computer and the latest one, is that one of the first PC games I played on the 486 was Under A Killing Moon, the first FMV Tex Murphy game.  Tesla Effect,  the long awaited new Tex Murphy FMV game, is set to be released in a few weeks, so I’ll get to play it on my new computer, which should handle the game easily.  I’ve been playing a beta sneak peek of Tesla Effect on my current computer and it works fine in XP.  In order to play Under A Killing Moon I had to buy more RAM, and settled on 16mb which cost me $600 back in 1994 – that’s $50.00 a megabyte!

How times and technology have changed over the twenty years since I took up computing!

Returning to the title of this post, what did we do when there were no computers or internet?

It’s hard to recall, but I probably watched more television, read more books, occupied my free time in other unfathomable ways. 

I remember when we first got computers at work in the early 1990s we went along to Computer Shows and lusted after such devices as digital cameras, cd burners, scanners, colour inkjet printers etc. Colleagues used to return from these shows and show off their booty – free giveaways from the exhibitors like CD roms, copy paper samples and the odd game.  I’ve still got a packet of paper samples from the Canon stand for which I’ve never found a use.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Who Will The Slipper Fit?

race 4_finish 1
Earthquake on her way to winning the Reisling Stakes

I missed previewing the races at Rosehill last week, but to catch up, the three Group One races on the cards were won by outsiders – Gordon Lord Byron $21.00 (George Ryder Stakes), Tiger Tees $13.00 (The Galaxy) and Criterion $13.00 (Rosehill Guineas). The heavy track put pay to favourites chances, and it’s likely that results this coming weekend will be similar as the Rosehill track this Saturday will be slow at best.

Three more Group One races are scheduled at Rosehill this Saturday and the feature race is the Golden Slipper Stakes, always an interesting race to watch, it being the richest two year old event in the world.

Also on the card are the Group One BMW for stayers, run over 2400 metres, and the Vinery Stud Stakes a 2000 metres race for three year old fillies. Several interesting Group Two events add to the excitement.

But first I’ll muse on the Golden Slipper, where unbeaten filly Earthquake will be aiming to win the rare Blue Diamond/Golden Slipper double, last won by Sepoy in 2011.  She has drawn barrier 13, considered unlucky by some, as no contender has ever won the Slipper from it. She has also never raced on heavy going, but Overreach who, like Earthquake, was sired by Exceed and Excel, won it last year on a slow track. Earthquake’s greatest rivals appear to be fellow fillies Mossfun, Oakleigh Girl and Bring Me The Maid. Of the colts and geldings, Unencumbered, Ghibellines and Valentia are viable chances. I regard Earthquake as a potentially exceptional filly so I hope she proves me correct.

The BMW appears to be a rerun of the Ranvet Stakes only over an extra 400 metres, with pretty much the same contestants in the field – It’s A Dundeel, Fiorente, Foreteller, Silent Achiever, with the addition of Australian Cup runners Voleuese de Coeurs and Let’s Make Adeal, and several other stayers. Carlton House is not in the field, so perhaps we’ll finally get a good competition down the straight between It’s A Dundeel, Fiorente and Silent Achiever. Who will win? Can It’s A Dundeel finally show how good he really is or can Fiorente redeem his disappointing showing in the Ranvet.

The third Group One is the Vinery Stud Stakes (formerly known as the Storm Queen Stakes) and a full field of fillies has accepted the 2000 metre race.  Top picks are Solicit, Marianne, who finally won a race at her last start after running second four times consecutively, Zanbach who finished second to Kirramossa in the Crown Oaks, and New Zealand fillies, Rising Romance who ran second in the New Zealand Derby and NZ Oaks winner Miss Mossman. The Vinery Stud Stakes is the main lead up race to the AJC Oaks, so it’s worth watching with that race in mind.

Catkins also returns this Saturday in the Group 2 Emancipation Stakes. It’s a much easier race than the Coolmore Classic where she finished third. She looks the class act in the Emancipation field. and  also has great wet track form. Her main challengers are Sharnee Rose, Floria and Diamond Drille.

Though I probably will not be attending any more race meetings until early Spring, I will naturally follow the remainder of the Sydney autumn carnival with keen interest.

Update Saturday evening

The results today were nowhere near as shocking as they were last week, with the trifectas of the BMW and Golden Slipper being logically the top three contestants in the race.

A very clever ride by James McDonald on Mossfun denied Earthquake her fifth win, when he slipped through on the inside and stole the Slipper. Earthquake was by no means disgraced, but the heavy going may have slowed her usual acceleration. Bring Me The Maid ran third. Fillies took  the first seven positions, Ghibellines in 8th place being the closest of the colts to finish.

Silent Achiever starred again in the BMW, beating It’s A Dundeel who couldn’t quite catch her at the line. Fiorente ran third.

In the Vinery Stud Stakes, outsider Lucia Valentina beat Solicit with the long odds Forever Loved running third.

And the reliable Catkins easily took out the Emancipation Stakes defeating Sharnee Rose again, with Angel of Mercy filling third spot.