Sunday, January 25, 2015

Anticipating the Autumn Racing Carnival

Australia Stakes finish – Mourinho holds off It Is Written to win the feature race

For a change, Moonee Valley hosted the Group 2 Australia Stakes meeting on a Saturday afternoon instead of Friday night, so I thought I would sally along and take in some racing action and further test the Canon G16 at a low key race meeting.

Though by no means first class racing, it was nevertheless reasonably interesting though not profitable as far as wagering goes

I arrived just as Race 2 , a 1600 metre race for fillies and mares, was in progress and made it to the fence for the finish. It was won by Marli Magic from Arena Rock with Hot Ruby running third.

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Race 2 finish – Marli Magic (inside) wins from Arena Rock

Interestingly, Marli Magic’s full brother Hong Kong Captain won Race 6 later in the afternoon. They are both from Host by Limited Passage.

Race 3 was the Chandler Macleod Handicap, for three year olds run over 2040 metres. As I’d hardly heard of any of the runners, I opted to place a few dollars each way on Blue Jangles whose name appealed to me. He finished last. Despite the fact that Moonee Valley has added a rail just beyond the fence, which inhibits taking clear  photos, I managed to get a few good shots of some of the runners on their way to the barriers.

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Baja Moon – finished 5th

Zahspeed – finished 2nd

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Von Classic Hero – finished 6th

Also I was quite pleased with the Canon G16’s ability to take action shots such as the Race 3 finish. If you look at the enlarged image, the photo is sharp and clear.

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Race 3 finish – Norman Rules about to overtake tiring leader Zahspeed (not in the picture) to win on the line.

And so the afternoon progressed.

The most eye catching win of the afternoon was that of Hong Kong Captain in Race 6 the Antler Luggage Vobis Gold Star, run over 1500 metres. Hong Kong Captain was having only the third start of his career, and after travelling at the back of the field, showed impressive speed to overtake favourite, Profit Taker and win comfortably by half a length.

The Australia Stakes was the feature race of the meeting, and was of interest due to the return to racing of triple Group 1 winner Dissident who was disqualified for three months after bleeding in the Caulfield  Stakes last spring. He started as short priced favourite, despite the 1200 metre distance not being suitable for him.  He looked very well and I caught up with him in his stall to take a photo and later in the Parade Ring.

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Dissident in his stall

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Dissident in the Parade Ring prior to the race

The race distance was also unsuitable for the surprise winner Mourinho who is better known as a stayer. Dissident managed to run third.

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Mourinho on his way to the barriers before winning the Australia Stakes

There are only three weeks to go before the running of the first Group 1 race of the 2015 Autumn Season.  The C F Orr Stakes will be run at Caulfield on Valentine’s Day, but before that there will be a few interesting race meetings, tomorrow for instance. Unfortunately tomorrow’s meeting is at Sandown Park, not a racecourse I patronise and it’s miles away from where I live.

It is normally run at Caulfield, but as that racetrack has just been resurfaced there have been no races at the course since Caulfield Cup Day last year.

Two Blue Diamond Previews are to be run, always of interest in light of the actual Blue Diamond Stakes to be run in March. Also of interest is the Manfred Stakes for Guineas bound three year olds, which has generally attracted a classy field. I’ll watch them on my computer.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Farewell Super Cool–Rest In Peace

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Super Cool returning to scale after the 2014 Makybe Diva Stakes

The sad news of the death of one of my favourite race horses, Super Cool, came to my notice the other night. Apparently a leg infection led to his demise and that is all that has been reported.

If you have been reading my racing posts over the last three years, you’ll know that I had a real soft spot for Super Cool and that I tried to get photos of him every time I saw him race, and many of them featured his devoted strapper Jade, who demonstrated on several occasions the sweet temper of the horse by getting him to kiss her.

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So my thoughts go out to Jade who must be sadly missing her special friend.

Super Cool first came to my attention on Cox Plate Day 2012, when he was three years old.  That afternoon he was too speedy for hot favourite, the very talented It’s A Dundeel, and won the
Group 2 Mitchelton Wines Vase.

Super Cool, with Jade in attendance, parading before winning the Vase in 2012

Super Cool’s three year old season was his best where he ran second to his great rival Fiveandhalfstar in the 2012 Victoria Derby and went on to beat him in the 2013 Group 2 Autumn Classic and then again in the 2013 Australian Cup, becoming the first three year old to win the race since Saintly in 1996. The world appeared to be his oyster at that time, but he never won another race.

He returned in the Spring 2013, acquitting himself well running third to his classy stable mate Atlantic Jewel in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes and Caulfield Stakes. He also tackled the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes. Turnbull Stakes, Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup that spring, and though never scoring a place, was never that far from the leaders.

He had a long break, missing the 2014 Autumn season and returned last Spring, where unfortunately he was unable to regain the form of his three year old season.

I was looking forward to seeing him at the track this autumn, but alas he will not be present. I’ll miss seeing him as he was a great horse to photograph, always obligingly looking my way when I took a snap.

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So rest in peace Super Cool and enjoy running free in horse heaven.

Watch Super Cool’s greatest victory in the 2013 Australian Cup

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Hello 2015 – Cats & Books

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I meant to write a post before the New Year, but somehow time slipped away and I didn’t get around to it.

2014 was a pretty good year for me, only marred by the deaths of two friends, who are still mourned and will live on in my memories. I hope 2015 will not be as stressful in that way, and that my friends, family and pets continue to survive in good health and spirits.

Willy, pictured above, will turn 11 in January and this month will also mark the second year that Talya, the Russian Princess, has been part of the Cat Politics domicile.

The happy cat herbal medicine appears to be working and apart from a fracas yesterday morning the cats seem cool and calm in the main.

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The fracas occurred when both cats were sprawled on the bed in close proximity and Willy misinterpreted Talya’s body language as a threat. She was actually sneezing or coughing, but he thought she was hissing at him so he advanced on her personal space and the inevitable happened with much sound and fury on Talya’s part.  She sprang off the bed with Willy in hot pursuit and hid under it, shrieking. I persuaded Willy to back off and eventually, as breakfast was in the offing, Talya emerged as if nothing had happened and the cats milled around my ankles as I dished out their food, all aggro forgotten.

Monty the cat next door has been hanging around in our back garden quite a bit, but both he and Willy appear reluctant to come to blows. If they’re facing off on the fence, Willy allows me to lift him down without any fuss and wanders inside without a backward glance. When I got up the other morning I discovered Monty lounging on the back door step. The resident cats were outside as well, looking on, but not game enough to dislodge him. When he saw me he slunk off, which gave Talya and Willy their chance to pester me for breakfast.

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Monty lounging on the decking outside the back door

On other matters, this time last year I was anticipating new novels from two of my favourite writers, those being David Mitchell and William Gibson, and I’m pleased to say that neither novel  was a disappointment. In fact The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell ) and The Peripheral (William Gibson) are among the best books I read this year, both being wonderfully written and interesting throughout.

Another book that glows in my brain is Tigerman by Nick Harkaway, a book about fathers and sons with the most unusual super hero in literature. This was the last book I read in 2014, and it is up there with the best. Nick Harkaway is the son of John Le CarrĂ© and has written three novels so far – The Gone Away World, Angelmaker & Tigerman-  all of which I have read and enjoyed. He’s a writer I’ll certainly be following in the future.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, which won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non Fiction and the 2014 Costa Prize for Biography, is a standout. It’s a beautifully written memoir wherein Helen Macdonald, in the wake of her beloved father’s death, describes in glittering prose how she tried to cope with her grief by acquiring and training a goshawk.  As well as detailing her life with Mabel her goshawk, she muses on the sad lonely life of T. H. White who also wrote a book on training a goshawk in the 1950s, but is famous for his series of Arthurian novels collected under the title of The Once And Future King.

I’m still waiting for the 25th Anniversary Edition of John Crowley’s Little, Big, despite being hopeful at the beginning of last year it would be published in 2014.  Dare I hope to see it in 2015? It is after all 10 years since I subscribed to it, but surely will be worth the wait.

Speaking of collectable books, I was able to get a signed first edition of William Gibson’s The Peripheral, being alerted on Twitter by a Gibson fan that Barnes &  Noble had them available for pre-order. I was delighted to finally have a long desired, signed edition of one of his books.

And I lashed out on a slip cased, limited, numbered and signed edition of The Bone Clocks, which arrived on Christmas Eve - a nice present to myself.

There are several books I’m looking forward to in 2015. The final book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, will possibly be released this year and Kate Atkinson is mooted to have new novel as well, about one the characters in Life After Life.

And I’ll have to clear another largish space on my bookshelf for Neal Stephenson’s new novel titled Seveneves, another 1000+ page novel due in May 2015. I like collecting his books in hardcover editions, even though they take up a lot of space, but they look wonderful on the shelf and are highly collectable, Stephenson being a nerdish cult hero.

Current hard cover collection of Neal Stephenson novels

No doubt there will be more good reads in the offing, and who knows there may be a new author out there who will blow me away.

With 2015 being barely begun, who knows what is in store in the next 12 months. I’ll no doubt be spending some of it at the racetrack. The Magic Millions 2 and 3 year old (outrageously rich) Classic races are scheduled on the Gold Coast this Saturday. I haven’t a clue as to who the likely winners will be, but they’re always interesting to watch.

The first Group 1 of the 2015 Autumn racing carnival is only a little over a month away, so there’s lots to look forward to on the racing scene.

With that, I wish readers of this blog (if there are any) good fortune, good health and happiness in 2015.