Friday, October 31, 2014

The Roses Will Be Blooming - Derby Day 2014

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Flemington Roses

The 2014 Spring Racing Carnival has only a little over a week to run, and then it will be all over for another year.

But to take it out in grand fashion, Flemington hosts four days of spectacular racing excitement, the first of these being Derby Day on Saturday.

Last year I attended Derby Day for the first time, and despite the crowds found it quite enjoyable, so I intend to brave it for a second time and get some value from my Flemington season’s ticket.

How can I resist, when such a fantastic racing card is programmed, with many of my black book horses scheduled to run. There are  four Group 1 races – Coolmore Stud Stakes, Mackinnon Stakes, Victoria Derby & Myer Classic – and all the other races are at either Group 2 or Group 3 level.

The first race is at 11.30am, but as it’s going to be a long day I don’t intend to arrive at the track until slightly later, in time for the first of the Group 1 races, the Coolmore Stud Stakes, scheduled at 1.30pm.

And what a great field it has! A race for three year olds over 1200 metres it has the cream of this year’s 3yo crop in the field, such as Rich Enuff, Scissor Kick, Rubick, Earthquake, Eloping, Brazen Beau and Kuro as the main contenders. Who to choose?  Rich Enuff will no doubt start as favourite, but I’d like to see Rubick or Earthquake take the prize. At least they’ll probably be at good odds for a change. Whatever, it looks a doozy of a race.

The Coolmore Stud Stakes is followed by the Group 3 Lexus Stakes  (2500 metres) and is for stayers hoping to gain entrance into the Melbourne Cup.  Top contenders are Geelong Cup winner Caravan Rolls On, Big Memory who won the Herbert Power StakesLord Van Percy and Marksmanship, aspiring Internationals, and well connected mares La Amistad (Makybe Diva’s half sister) and Let’s Make Adeal (Let’s Elope’s granddaughter).

Next up is the second of the Group 1 races, the Mackinnon Stakes, run over 2000 metres. It has a super field as well, with a number of the usual suspects aiming for more Group 1 glory – Happy Trails, Foreteller, Moriarty, Hawkspur, Brambles and Criterion – all seen recently running in either the Caulfield Cup or the Cox Plate. Also in the picture is Rising Romance who ran second to Admire Rakti in the Caulfield Cup and Sydney stayer, He’s Your Man, who won the Epsom Stakes at his last start.  Last year the race was won by International visitor Side Glance who is scratched due to lameness this year. However there are two mystery British horses – Farraaj and Amralah – who could steal it this year. I’ll be barracking for Rising Romance who deserves a win after running a close second at her last two starts.

The Victoria Derby has always been a real puzzle of a race, with any of the field likely to take out the prize. Gai Waterhouse has great confidence in her entry Hampton Court who is the favourite after he won the Spring Champion Stakes in emphatic fashion at his last start. However, favourites have a bad record in the Derby and it has mostly been won by an outsider or secondary favourites. So who else has a chance? For a start there’s Moonovermanhattan who won The Vase at Moonee Valley last Saturday, and Atmosphere who ran second  (whom I fancy a lot), Royal Standing who I just noticed is a half brother to Super Cool, and the other “cool” customer Magicool, who beat Atmosphere earlier in the season at Flemington in an 1800 metre race.

The final Group 1 race is the Myer Classic for fillies and mares, run over 1600 metres. Red Tracer beat her stable mate Catkins last year in this. Red Tracer is no longer on the scene having been retired to stud, but Catkins is still around and is part of the excellent field. Top pick is Sweet Idea who won the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes at her last start with Girl Guide running second and Catkins third. The favourite however is May’s Dream who is yet to win a race this spring, but is due for a win. Also in with a good chance is Star Fashion who has won her last two races and Forever Loved who has winning form at Flemington.

A sprint over 1200 metres, the Group 2 Stakes is the last race on program and is worth sticking around for, due to the presence of boom Sydney horse Deep Field in the field. He is unbeaten in four starts and broke a course record at one of his latest outings at Canterbury. Trying to ruin his party will be the rejuvenated Bel Sprinter who dead heated with Miracles of Life in the Caulfield Sprint earlier this month and Adamantium who loves the Flemington straight.

The weather is expected to be somewhat damp tomorrow in Melbourne. Even though today is a hot 30°C, a change is forecast to pass through overnight. If it is wet, at least it might deter the party goers from spreading their blankets all over the public lawn, and maybe even discourage them from attending at all.  I live in hope.

Monday, October 27, 2014

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling–Cox Plate Review

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Adelaide on his way to the barriers prior to winning the Cox Plate

Though technically only three (his birth date is 19/2/11) Irish colt Adelaide blitzed the Cox Plate field with an astounding run from last position. Starting his move at the 800 metre mark, he raced down the extreme outside to overtake the leaders in the straight and win by a short margin from Fawkner and Silent Achiever, part of a wall of horses hitting the line together.

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Just after the corner into the straight – The Cleaner is slightly ahead of Fawkner Adelaide is on the extreme outside just about to pass Silent Achiever & Side Glance (on her inside).

Another wall of horses finish featured in the other Group 1 race over the weekend.

Lankan Rupee finally quashed his Moonee Valley hoodoo and returned to the winner’s circle with a bold front running win in the Manikato Stakes.  It was another exciting photo finish with little separating the first eight runners who crossed the line, strung out across the track.  Angelic Light grabbed second and outsider Famous Seamus was awarded third place.

I’ve been rather jumping the gun, describing the Cox Plate finish…

When I arrived at the track at about 2.30 pm it was just after Race 3 the Group 2 Drummond Golf Fillies Classic. It was won by Lumosty who outclassed the rest of the field winning by 2 lengths from Tahni Dancer and Berimbau.

As there was plenty of time before Race 4, and as is my usual habit, I wandered out to the stalls area to see who had already arrived. I came across The Cleaner in his stall, with a small crowd of people gathered around.

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A nice head shot of The Cleaner in his stall

Also nearby were the International contingent, including eventual Cox Plate winner Adelaide. He’s a beautiful looking animal.

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Adelaide in his stall

Next door to him was Au Revoir

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…and Guest of Honour

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It was great to see the 2008 Cox Plate winner Maldivian in attendance, primarily to lead out the Cox Plate field. I managed to get a lovely head shot of him in the stalls area.

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The field for Race 4 , the Group 3 Telstra Phonewords Stakes was filing out to the track as I left the stalls area, so I headed to the public lawn at the top end of the straight and easily found a position on the fence to watch the race. 

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Race 4 – the corner into the straight, Legends in the background with patrons crowded onto the balconies.

The race was won by the favourite Galaxy Pegasus with Law and Nicoscene filling the minor places. I didn’t have any money on the outcome, feeling disinclined to bet on the race.

Race 5 was the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, a Group 2 race for stayers over 2500 metres. Precedence was my selection as he’d won the race last year and also in 2010. It was a rough race where a big kerfuffle occurred on the corner as they turned into the straight for the second time. A gasp arose from those near where I was standing, as Chad Schofield was thrown from Albonetti after she had clipped heels with another horse. Winning jockey Michelle Payne was suspended for 20 meetings as a result of the incident.  Prince of Penzance was the winner, with Le Roi running second and Au Revoir third. Precedence was galloped on, which stymied his chances. Chad Schofield was well enough to ride his two other commitments of the meeting, and Albonetti was unhurt and galloped riderless to the post.

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Prince of Penzance on his way to the barriers.

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Down the straight in the Moonee Valley Cup – Au Revoir leads at this point with Le Roi in second place and Prince of Penzance about to overtake them.

It was relatively uncrowded at the top end of the public lawn and the surrounding people were a cheery friendly bunch.

A young spiv exclaimed that he’d never seen a horse close up. We made room for him on the fence and tipped him when the horses were about to thunder past. He was wearing an extraordinary watch; a steam punk monster which he said he bought in America. I took a photograph of it ...

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My first and only winner of the day was Hooked in the Crystal Mile. As we are now in the sign of Scorpio his name struck me as quite appropriate for the Astrological season, but he did have good form on his side as well.

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Hooked on his way to the gates.

He won by 1¾ lengths from Bull Point and Desert Jeuney.

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Up the straight in the Crystal Mile, Hooked leads by several lengths

There was still 1½ hours to go before the main event, and I will admit time was starting to drag, so I decided to grab a beer and sit for a while and study the form for the 7th race, the Dilmah Exceptional Teas Vase (it used to be called the Aimee Vase). It’s a Group 2 for three year olds run over the same distance as the Cox Plate (2040 metres).

My selection was Atmosphere so I backed him for a win only. He ran second to Moonovermanhattan who I admit I didn’t fancy as I’ve seen him race several times before where he was unsuccessful.

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The top of the straight in the Vase – Moonovermanhattan leads with Zululand behind him on the inside, Atmosphere (in pink silks & red cap) is running third.

There are those who say the Cox Plate should be run at Flemington, but to my my mind it wouldn’t be the same race. What makes it so special is that it is run on the tight circuit of Moonee Valley, where the atmosphere is electric with anticipation as in an ancient Roman theatre. You have to be there to experience the palpable excitement of the crowd as the race start draws near.

There was plenty of time in hand after the Vase so I returned to the stalls area and came across The Cleaner again, being kitted out for the race. His trainer Mick Burles obligingly posed with his mate “Bill” before leading him out of his stall, so I could get this photo.

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The Cleaner aka Bill with trainer Mick Burles

After that I lingered near the parade ring to see the Cox Plate contestants walk around before going to the mounting yard.

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Happy Trails

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Royal Descent

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Side Glance

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The Cleaner

Not all the horses had emerged during the time I was near the parade ring, but I didn’t wait for them, as the time for the Cox Plate was drawing near, so I made my way back to the fence at the top of the public lawn, and photographed some of the others as they made their way to the starting gates.

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Sacred Falls

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I’ve described how the Cox Plate finished earlier in this post, but I have not mentioned the start.

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Cox Plate start

The Cleaner had the outside barrier (14) and had to work hard to get to the lead which he eventually did,  just after passing the winning post for the first time. This may have been his downfall, but that’s his style of racing. The fairy tale ending was not to be, but The Cleaner led the field at a good clip until half way up straight, where he was overtaken first by Fawkner, then half of the rest the field, but he didn’t give up even then, striving hard to finish 9th, three and half lengths from the winner. With a better barrier, he would undoubtedly have finished closer. Anyway he made the race an honest competition of pace and stamina and set it up for Adelaide.

Adelaide is certainly something special, to come from Ireland after  racing in America in August, to win the Cox Plate in such a remarkable fashion. I suppose one should feel privileged to have witnessed the event. Fawkner and Silent Achiever did the locals proud, narrow runners up to an exceptional talent.

A young woman standing close to me was over the moon with his win, as she’d backed him; no doubt because of his name and the associations it had for her.  As good a way to pick a winner as any.

I had a win bet on Fawkner, so no collect for me, so I headed for the bus stop and home, after another great day at the races in splendid sunshine, a cool breeze keeping it pleasant and balmy.

Next weekend is super Saturday at Flemington with four Group 1 races on the program, the feature being the Victoria Derby. It’s going to be a busy week following that, with the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, the Rolling Stones on Wednesday night, the Crown Oaks on Thursday and the Emirates Stakes meeting on Saturday. I’m undecided if I’ll go to all the races; it depends on how I feel after the Stones concert. I may give the Oaks a miss, but will definitely attend the Emirates, where the Darley Classic Sprint looks like an must see  race with Lankan Rupee up against new emerging sprint sensation Chautauqua.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Cox Plate– Who Will Make History?

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The Cleaner – Moonee Valley – 6 September 2014

Will the fairy tale come true? I am of course speaking of the game Tasmanian horse who goes by the droll name of The Cleaner. His greatest day will soon be upon him as he tackles the hardest race of his career, the Cox Plate, on Saturday afternoon.

He ticks many boxes as the potential winner of Australia’s greatest middle distance weight for age racing event. He loves the Valley, he can run the distance, he can sustain a fast speed, lead the field and still have some energy left over at the finish. And he’s a tough customer.

I am an unabashed fan of The Cleaner along with many others. I love the way he is a front runner and am charmed by his back story and humble beginnings.

However, he faces stiff opposition from top class Group 1 winners like Fawkner, Sacred Falls and Criterion, not to mention a trio of three year old colts with an 8½ kilo weight advantage.  There are also a couple of International hopefuls in Adelaide, Side Glance and Guest of Honour.

It looks to be a really fascinating race, as is generally the case. I just hope a three year old doesn’t win it this year. I would however be delighted if Fawker won as he’s another I greatly fancy and reckon has a good chance. He would become the first grey horse to win the race in 38 years. Champion filly Surround was the last grey to win in 1976 and before her, the Goondiwindi grey Gunsynd in 1972.

On Friday night the first meeting of Moonee Valley’s mini spring carnival the Manikato Stakes is the feature race.  The usual suspects are running – Buffering, Lankan Rupee and Rebel Dane, along with smart Sydney horse Terravista, New Zealand mare Bounding,  consistent local mare Platelet and Lankan Rupee conqueror (in the McEwen StakesAngelic Light. I really hope Lankan Rupee will show his true colours this time around and win with the style we grew accustomed to in the autumn.

I will be attending the Cox Plate meeting on Saturday, but will give the Manikato Stakes a miss – don’t want to wear myself out the night before the big day.

The track should be excellent for racing,  as today in Melbourne it was a hot 30°C + and little rain has been forecast. Tomorrow hopefully it will be a bit cooler than today – and more pleasant to be outside.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ryan Bingham & Vale Gough Whitlam

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Ryan Bingham live at Northcote Social Club – 21 October 2014

On the evening of the day of the death of the greatest (in my lifetime)Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, my mind was occupied by memories of his time in Office, as I trammed it up to Northcote Social Club for my evening’s entertainment.

As I have not followed the career of Ryan Bingham and only possess his first album Mescalito, I profess to being somewhat ignorant of the rest of his releases, other than the song he wrote for the movie Crazy Heart - The Weary Kind - for which he won an Academy Award, so it was with an open mind I attended his show and not strictly as a fan.

There were more than enough fans to cover for my lack of that status; in fact the audience was a good crowd, enthusiastic and friendly. Don’t expect a detailed review, let alone a set list,  as more than half the songs he sang were new to me and I didn’t catch their titles.

In person Ryan Bingham is pleasing to look at and he has a natural charm that won over the already indulgent audience even more.

He was accompanied by his band, and I must say they were excellent. It was more rock than country, flavoured with Ryan Bingham’s unique take on Americana. He has a grainy husky old man’s voice that sounds remarkable issuing from such a young person.

I don’t know how long the show lasted as I left at around 10.4o, not because I was bored, but due to feeling faint in the oppressive heat of the band room and feeling the effects of standing on concrete for a couple of hours.

Songs I remember from the show are La Malaguena (a Mexican mariachi song, purportedly the first song Bingham ever learned to play), Dollar A Day (from Mescalito) Tell My Mother I Miss Her So and Hallelujah.

Back to the death of Gough Whitlam at the ripe old age of 98, I still vividly remember his days in Office and even after all these years feel angry at his Dismissal. It will be a long time before Australia has a leader as witty, intelligent and sound thinking as Gough Whitlam. Perhaps persons of his calibre are not being made any more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Live Wire Lindi Rocks The Toff

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Lindi Ortega live at Toff In Town 19 October 2014

The musical tastes of Lindi Ortega defy description and cannot be classified into one cosy genre; she can rock, she can croon, she can sing country, she can sing blues, gospel, you name it. And she has one of those effortlessly beautiful voices that tug on the heartstrings as soon as she opens her mouth.

For those of us who didn’t make it to Love Police’s Out On The Weekend music festival, it is fortunate that several of the star International acts were performing side shows.

Such was the case with Lindi Ortega.

I must admit that prior to last week, she had not crossed my radar, so after being offered tickets to see her live at the Toff, I set about familiarising myself with her work by listening to her two latest albums – Cigarettes & Truckstops and Tin Star and also watching her quirky self made videos on You Tube.  I was hooked in no time!

The Toff In Town is a cosy venue in the city on the second floor of Curtin House, and once you get past the noisy Choo Choo Bar and enter the band room, the atmosphere changes from raucous modern pap to roots, with a pleasant compilation of Americana songs being played through the sound desk. I was pleased to hear Ryan Adams’ Ashes & Fire album was part of the selection.

The show opened with  two short sets from the support acts, firstly Tracy McNeil, who I have had the pleasure of seeing live several times.

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Tracy McNeil live at Toff In Town 19 October 2014

Tracy is originally from Canada so she expressed her delight at opening for a fellow countrywoman Lindi Ortega and performed seven songs, mostly drawn from her latest album Nobody Ever Leaves, including City Lights, Swinging, Last Place I Looked and older songs like Queen of the Night.

Rob Snarski, long time member of The Blackeyed Susans band, was next to step onto the stage and performed a passionate half hour set with songs from his debut solo album Wounded Bird.

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Rob Snarski live  at Toff In Town 19 October 2014

He is a riveting performer with a powerful affecting voice, and dramatic guitar accompaniments. The song that really grabbed me was his band favourite It Starts With Snow, but the Ennio Morricone inspired The Black Caress and Christmas song Christmas Card From A  Drunken Sailor were also memorable.

It was about 9.30pm when the star act Lindi Ortega took the stage. For this tour she was accompanied by ace guitarist Champagne James Robertson and he started the show with the opening chords to Waitin’ On My Luck To Change before Lindi bounced onto the stage to rapturous applause to sing the song.

A real change of mood and vibe, the next song was Lindi’s scintillating cover of the Aretha Franklin classic  I Ain’t Never Loved A Man, Lindi roaming the stage with mike in hand.

She picked up her guitar for the next number, remarking that its name was Frankie after Frankenstein, and expatiated on her love for the macabre. She launched into the spaghetti western flavoured rocker Hard As This, the opening track on her latest record Tin Star.

She expanded on the macabre and creepy side of her tastes, presenting what she called a necrophiliac love song, the exquisite Lived And Died Alone where the chorus goes:

When the sun has set, I will go dig up the dead
Lift their bodies from their graves
And I lay them on my bed
I will fill their hollow hearts with all my broken parts
And all the love that they have never known
To all those who have lived and died alone

This song is undeniably macabre but the tenderness with which Lindi Ortega sings this song negates all the creepiness and makes it sad and beautiful.

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Her penchant for the darker side of life extends to how she dresses for her shows. She wore a dress printed with skulls and an old fashioned net draped over her forehead, her dark curls tumbled around her shoulders. And of course she wore her signature little red boots.

Continuing the supernatural theme the next song was Wicked Witch, but that was followed by the gospel sounding Faded Gloryville and a cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

You certainly couldn’t accuse Lindi Ortega of playing the same type of music over and over again. There were dulcet folksy ballads, country heartbreakers, spaghetti western  stompers, in fact a whole plethora of different types of music make up Lindi’s repertoire, so it’s no wonder she has been nicknamed “Indie Lindi” – she marches to the beat of her own drum.

She is of Irish Mexican descent and was born in Toronto Canada, but now lives in Nashville - a real “gypsy child” as one of her songs expresses.

Hers is a lively, dramatic and highly enjoyable act, and she was admirably supported by the amazing guitar playing of Champagne James Robertson, who can draw the most remarkable sounds from his Fender electric guitar and had no trouble handling any of the diverse musical moods of Lindi Ortega’s songs.

Lindi Ortega Set List

  1. Waitin’ On My Luck To Change
  2. I Ain’t Never Loved A Man (Aretha Franklin cover)
  3. Hard As This
  4. Lived And Died Alone
  5. Wicked Witch
  6. Faded Gloryville
  7. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams cover)
  8. All My Friends
  9. Gypsy Child
  10. Heaven Has No Vacancy
  11. Half Moon
  12. The Day You Die


  1. Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
  2. Cigarettes And Truckstops

Check her self made videos on her website and be beguiled.

Tonight I’m off to see another Out On The Weekend side show – Ryan Bingham at Northcote Social Club.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Caulfield Cup–The Usual Conundrum

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Lucia Valentina – Flemington 4 October 2014

After looking at the race card for this Saturday’s Caulfield Cup meeting, I’m rather regretting that I did not purchase an early bird ticket for the event. Rather than having an uninteresting line up of support races, I’ve noticed that quite a few old favourites, that I have not seen in action this Spring, are racing at Caulfield on Saturday.

For instance, Manawanui, who has not been seen in Melbourne for a year is entered in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes. He ran in this race last year but finished unplaced.  Since then he has had only one run, in the Group 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap on 20 September this year, which he won.

Also racing on Saturday is Catkins in the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes, and Miracles of Life in the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint.

So it looks almost as good a support card as that on Caulfield Guineas Day. But the thought of having to wait once again for the feature race late in the day dampens my desire to be there. I’ll watch them all on TV for a change.

The main focus of this post is the Group 1 Caulfield Cup. Again, it is a difficult race to analyse with so many factors to collate. A full field will contest the race and it is comprised of a mix of Internationals – Admire Rakti and Bande from Japan, Dandino (has been scratched) and Seismos from England – seasoned imports and locals (including those from New Zealand)

Lucia Valentina is the deserved favourite after her stunning win in the Turnbull Stakes.  There are those who say she is a risk at 2400 metres, after she ran third in the ATC Oaks behind Rising Romance and Zanbagh, but she is bred to run the distance and has the Zabeel factor with her sire being Savabeel, a son of the great Zabeel. The only other runner with the Zabeel factor is Brambles. Last year’s winner Fawkner had it through his sire Reset.

The other locally bred runner who I fancy  is Who Shot Thebarman who is in great form having won his last two races by over two lengths. The only query is that both those wins were on the wide open spaces of Flemington, and he hasn’t actually ever run at Caulfield. He is one of four Chris Waller trained horses entered in the race. The others are Hawkspur, Junoob and Moriarty, the latter two being last start winners in Sydney. Chris Waller has never won the Caulfield Cup, so no doubt will be hoping one of his stable can take it out. He seems to have a great strike rate in Group 1 races, so it’s quite possible he’ll succeed.

Of the Internationals, it wise to be wary of the Japanese runners, after they ran the quinella in the 2006  Melbourne Cup.  With Bande scratched, that leaves Admire Rakti as the sole Japanese representative, and he could easily steal the show as he’s highly regarded in International racing circles.

It would be my ideal finish if Lucia Valentina and the other four year old New Zealand mare Rising Romance could run the quinella.

Truth to tell, anything could win with the field being evenly matched. With known front runner Bande scratched, who knows who will take on that role now. Lloyd Williams’ two Moons (Green Moon & Sea Moon) will race closer to the speed it has been reported. As was seen at Caulfield last Saturday, those on the speed were the most successful.

Update: Saturday Night

Victory for Japan!  Japanese stayer Admire Rakti won the Caulfield Cup, so it appears they are back big time.

The New Zealand mares Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina came second and third –so near yet so far from my ideal finish.

Thanks to a bet on Rising Romance I basically came out evens on the day, no loss no gain.

I watched all the action on TV and even if I thought it would be better being there on the scene, considering the crowds, I was glad I decided not to attend.

Of my watched favourites, it was great to see little Miracles of Life come back a winner, even if she had to share the victory with Bel Sprinter in a dead heat. Catkins ran third in her race, and Manawanui finished fourth in his.

Next week is the Cox Plate, my favourite of the big three races – can’t wait!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Déjà Vu or Back to Form–Caulfield Guineas Day Review

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Shooting To Win does a circuit of the mounting yard after winning the Caulfield Guineas

As I expected, it was a very long afternoon at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday, but as the racing was first class and full of interest it passed quite quickly.

I got to Caulfield rather earlier than I anticipated and was able to watch the first race from the hill above the parade ring. It was a race for two year olds having their first start and is appropriately called the Debutant Stakes.

Here’s a photo of the finish just past the winning post, with Of The Brave winning by a comfortable margin. He’s by Starspangledbanner out of Runaway Jesse and is a half brother to the talented filly, Eloping.

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Race 1 finish – Of The Brave wins the Debutant Stakes

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Of The Brave returns to scale

Whilst I was in the neighbourhood of the stalls, I naturally checked out the horses who had already arrived. These included several of the International stayers here for the Cups.

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German horse Protectionist in his stall

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English horse Renew in his stall

Also already present was 2014 Blue Diamond winner Earthquake

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Earthquake in her stall

…and 2013 Golden Slipper winner Overreach.

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Overreach in her stall

As race 2, the Thoroughbred Club Stakes was the next race on the agenda, I made my way to the public lawn to see if I could squeeze in on the fence. Festive race goers had spread their blankets all over the place, and seemed more interested in eating and drinking than watching the races, so it was easy to get a spot on the fence.

As Earthquake started at really short odds, and would have been my pick had I decided to back her, I didn’t bother with a bet, and watched the fillies file out onto the track.

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Earthquake – back in the winners circle

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Tawteen – ran second

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More Radiant – third

Earthquake proved that she was not a spent force. Racing on the speed just outside race leader Tawteen, she managed to overhaul  her in the straight to win by a length with More Radiant running third.

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Earthquake and Tawteen fight out the finish in the Group 3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes

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Earthquake in winners rug

With that race done and dusted I ambled back to the stalls area for some tranquil horse watching, which is much more to my taste than watching the raucous partying patrons

Various contenders for the Group 1 races to come were parading, most notably the eventual Caulfield Stakes winner, Fawkner.

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Fawkner in the walking ring

Commanding Jewel was also being walked…

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Commanding Jewel in the walking ring

…and Rubick was waiting patiently in his stall…

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Rubick in his stall

Race 3 was the Weekend Hussler Stakes, so I decided to watch it from the hill.

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Race 3 finish just past the post – Hosting the winner is on the far left  in the striped red & white silks.

Hosting was one of the few back markers to win on the day, as most of the winners raced on the pace.  Taddei Tondo ran second with Tango’s Daughter third.

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Hosting returns to scale after winning the Weekend Hussler Stakes

Hosting’s win was the second of three consecutive wins for jockey Kerrin McEvoy (he was also Earthquake’s jockey).

Kerrin rode Rubick to victory in the next race, the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes.

For that race I made my way back to the public lawn, pausing in the Bookies area to place my first bet of the day on Rubick, who was at reasonably good odds of $4.50 to win.

Overreach started as the favourite, but was outsprinted by Rubick who led through most of the race, and won by a length from Platelet who rocketed into second place, relegating Overreach to third spot.

I took some photos of the contestants as they passed by on their way to the barriers.

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Schillaci Stakes finish – Rubick leads with Overreach outside Platelet.

I was delighted with Rubick’s win, as it’s always encouraging to have one’s first bet a winner.  His win, and Earthquake’s before that, reminded me of the first time I saw these two youngsters on Orr Stakes day in February winning their respective Blue Diamond preludes – kind of Deja Vu.

The Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes was the next race on the program and I was interested to see how the Internationals would perform in their first try on Australian racetracks.

They are a handsome bunch, beautifully turned out, with manes plaited as was the case with Lord Van Percy.

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Lord Van Percy

The winner of the race was imported French horse Big Memory who held off a determined Signoff and fast finishing Let’s Make Adeal to win by a half a length. It almost looked like Let’s Make Adeal was going to win, but she ran out of time at the finish. It was however her best run for ages. I had my money (for a win) on Sangster and Protectionist, but they finished out of the places, Protectionist finishing a close fourth.

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Herbert Power Stakes finish – Big Memory leads with Signoff (green cap) and Let’s Make Adeal (pink & green stripes) just behind

As the races during Spring are now 35 minutes apart it was not long to wait for the first of the Group 1 races on the program. The quality packed field of the Caulfield Stakes came out onto the track as I regained my position on the fence, after placing a bet on Fawkner who was at good odds of $5.50.

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Criterion who finished second

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Dissident who bled and won’t be seen again this spring finished unplaced

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Foreteller finished 8th

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Side Glance – race leader who finished third

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Fawkner – the winner

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Sacred Falls – finished fourth

It was a beautifully judged ride by Nick Hall on Fawkner to take out the Caulfield Stakes. Fawkner raced up on the pace in third spot on the fence for most of the race and peeled out in the straight to take the lead from Side Glance. Criterion raced from mid field to steal second place, and Sacred Falls came from last to finish fourth.

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Caulfield Stakes finish down the straight – Fawkner overtakes Side Glance on his inside, with Criterion (yellow silks) making headway.

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Fawkner in the winners rug posing for the press.

Fawkner’s next assignment is the Cox Plate. He won the Caulfield Cup last year, but will not compete in it this year. He is the new favourite for the Cox Plate, since the previous favourite, Dissident, had an unfortunate bleeding attack during the Caulfield Stakes that has ruled him out of the rest of the spring carnival. 

This post is turning into a marathon effort, but by the time the second of the Group 1 events, the Toorak Handicap, I had been at the course for almost four hours, with another hour to go before heading home.

The Toorak Handicap was won by Trust In A Gust, his third win in succession, with Speediness running second and rank outsider Desert Jeuney filling third spot. I had a small win bet on both Commanding Jewel (at great odds of $11.00) and Arabian Gold. Neither managed to place.

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Toorak Handicap down the straight – Trust In A Gust hits the front.

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Trust In Gust parades after winning the Toorak Handicap

I will admit that by the end of the Toorak Handicap, I was feeling a tad wearied and wondering if I had the stamina to last till the Caulfield Guineas.

The crowds had thinned by the time the Thousand Guineas got underway.  My bet for this was Afleet Esprit who had won her last three races over shorter distances. Perhaps the 1600 metres was beyond her, for she finished second last. The Group 1 glory went to Amicus who beat Traveston Girl with Sabatini running third. The favourite Lumosty finished eighth after being slow to start and racing at the back end of the field for the majority of the race.  The three place getters raced on the speed, typical of the pattern of racing on the day.

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Thousand Guineas finish – Amicus leads with Traveston Girl on her inside and Sabatini on her outside with Bring Me The Maid behind her.

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Amicus parading after the Thousand Guineas in the winners rug

Fortunately it was a pleasant afternoon weatherwise, warm and slightly overcast, so excellent for photographs.

And finally, after a long day at the track, the feature race time was nigh.

Here are some of the main contenders on their way to the starting gates. Rich Enuff went the other way round, so I failed to get a photograph of him.

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Shooting To Win

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It was a race in the end between the top Melbourne colt and the top Sydney colt, with Rich Enuff and Shooting to Win fighting out the finish down the straight several lengths in front of the rest.

Shooting To Win prevailed and won by a neck to Rich Enuff who was far from disgraced. It was shades of Redoute’s Choice and Testa Rossa way back in 1999 who fought out a similar battle down the straight with Redoute’s Choice being the victor by a similar margin.

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Caulfield Guineas down the straight - Rich Enuff & Shooting To Win fight out the finish.

Outsider Wandjina ran third.

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Shooting to Win is led back to scale after his victory in the Caulfield Guineas

As  I didn’t have a bet on the race, my fancy being Rich Enuff who started short priced favourite, I didn’t linger much longer at the racetrack and headed for the station and home, with almost as much money as I started out with, my two winning bets covering the losses with a bit extra to buy a drink and a race book.

Next Saturday is the Caulfield Cup, but I am not attending it, saving myself for the Cox Plate the following weekend and the Flemington carnival thereafter.

I am however going to a few concerts next week – Lindi Ortega at the Toff In Town on Sunday evening and Ryan Bingham at Northcote Social Club on Tuesday night, both of which shows I’m keenly looking forward to.