Monday, March 28, 2016

Black Hearts, Easter Bunnies & Buffering

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Black Heart Bart – Caulfield 26/3/16

My Saturday afternoon plans were disrupted, so I arrived much later at Caulfield than I had anticipated. This was due to the unexpected visit from an old friend whom I had not seen for about 15 years. We go back a long way, to when we were both eight or nine at boarding school in Mansfield. We reconnected in 2001, and have mostly kept in touch with Christmas greetings every year.

I really could not, nor did I wish to, curtail her visit, so I got to Caulfield an hour later than planned, totally missing Petits Filous race, which she won fairly easily. She had already left the course when I arrived, so I failed to even get a photo of her.

However, I was compensated by seeing former West Australian Black Heart Bart winning Race 7, the Group 3 Victoria Handicap.

He’s pretty boy with an almost white heart marking on his forehead.

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Black Heart Bart in the mounting yard

Caulfield Racecourse was all abuzz with Easter cheer, and very noisy, what with a covers band, and some kind of children’s entertainment competing for attention with the usual racing broadcasts. Kids were everywhere and there was a fair crowd in attendance. There was also an easter egg hunt for the kids and for adults, which I was not in the least interested in contesting.

I only stayed for two races and also took the opportunity to watch the two Group 1 races in Sydney on the big screen.

As Jameka was scratched from the Vinery Stud Stakes, it was a wide open affair and was won by 30/1 shot Side Gaze, with NZ filly Valley Girl running second and Happy Hannah, who only got into the field because Jameka was scratched, running third.

Preferment won the BMW from stablemates Who Shot Thebarman and Grand Marshall, another Group 1 trifecta for the Chris Waller stable.

Anyway, back to Caulfield and race 6, which was the Catanach Jewellers Handicap, a race over 1800 metres.

The amusingly named Ungrateful Ellen started as favourite and beat Mildura Cup winner Gingerboy by a short margin. Himalaya Dream was third.

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Ungrateful Ellen in the pre parade ring

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Gingerboy in the pre parade ring

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Himalaya Dream on his way to the barriers

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Race 6 down the straight – Himalaya Dream leads with Gingerboy & Ungrateful Ellen about to overtake him

As previously mentioned, Black Heart Bart won race 7, the Victoria Handicap carrying top weight. He beat home Charmed Harmony who set the pace and Eclair Choice.

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Charmed Harmony in the mounting yard

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Eclair Choice in the mounting yard

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Black Heart Bart in the winners rug posing for photos

Before heading home, I checked out the stalls area to see if Last Typhoon (Typhoon Tracy’s only foal) had arrived. He was there, with a group of women admiring him. I assume one or other of them was his owner. They got the strapper to bring him out for a pat, which of course I took advantage of myself. He’s a friendly young horse, obviously sweet natured. He was then taken off for a walk, which where I snapped the following photo.

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Last Typhoon in the walking ring

He had no luck in his race and finished a distant 12th.

On Saturday night, tough old Australian sprinter Buffering won the Al Quoz Sprint from a top class field. He’s now 8 years old, but appears to be getting even better with age. He’s one of the last sprinters still around who raced against Black Caviar in her heyday.

And on Thursday night at Moonee Valley, Peter Moody ended his training career on a high note, when Flamberge won the Group 1 William Reid Stakes, by a nose from Holler, with Japonisme running third closely behind.

It will be strange not seeing Peter Moody at the track as he’s always been there every time I’ve attended. He’s a top bloke and deserves his place in racing history for the way he handled the great Black Caviar’s career.

Racing in Melbourne is pretty uninteresting from now on, so I doubt I’ll attend many races until the spring. I’ll miss my Saturday afternoons at the track, but no doubt will find other things to blog about.

For a start, I have two concerts to attend this week, the first Jason Isbell tomorrow night at the Melbourne Recital Centre, and the lovely Eilen Jewell will be playing at Thornbury Theatre on Wednesday.

I was going to see Frazey Ford at Caravan Music Club on Friday, but the person I was going with cannot attend, so I’m giving it a miss.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Welcome Back Little Rascals–Easter Racing

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Petits Filous at Flemington 15/9/15

Even though it’s Easter, there is plenty of racing action this weekend, at Moonee Valley Thursday night, and at Caulfield and Rosehill on Saturday.

The feature race at Moonee Valley is the Group 1 William Reid Stakes, where a good field of 12 sprinters will be vieing for the prize. Top chances are Lucky Hussler who won the race last year, Holler who took out the Australia Stakes earlier this year at Moonee Valley over the same distance, and Japonisme who ran third in the Lightning Stakes and won the Coolmore Classic last spring.  And you really can’t overlook recent Group 1 sprint winners Flamberge and The Quarterback, though they have no form at Moonee Valley.

I don’t intend to go to the Moonee Valley meeting, but I’m looking forward to heading out to Caulfield on Saturday for their Easter Cup meeting, ostensibly to see Petits Filous in race 4.

She has not graced a racetrack since running unsuccessfully in the Moir Stakes last spring, after previously winning her first four starts by impressive margins.

As race 4 , the Jack Elliott Handicap (1100 metres), is as the race title says, a handicap, she has been weighted according to her rating, at an  imposte of 60kg giving her rivals a big weight advantage. Her opposition however is fairly weak, so she will possibly win.

I’m also keen to get a look at the sole offspring of the late Typhoon Tracy, who is entered in the last race at Caulfield on Saturday. A colt by Street Cry named Last Typhoon, he has raced seven times for two wins on rural tracks. This is his first race in the big smoke, so who knows how he will fare.  His mum was a great favourite of mine, so I hope he can do her proud.

The Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes and The BMW are the feature races at Rosehill on Saturday, so I’ll hopefully get to watch them at Caulfield.

Jameka is the top pick in the Vinery Stud Stakes, a race for three year old staying fillies over 2000 metres. She appears to be a class above her rivals, though Risque and Stay With Me may give her a run for the money. Others with a chance are NZ fillies Capella and Valley Girl.

The BMW is run over 2400 metres, so a field of 10 tried and true stayers will be contesting it. Preferment looks to be the one to beat, but trying hard will be Mongolian Khan, at his favourite distance, Arab Dawn an attractive British import, Who Shot Thebarman, Rising Romance and three year old Montaigne.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill & Vale BLU

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Extreme Choice parades in the mounting yard after the Blue Diamond Stakes

There are no race meetings in Melbourne this coming Saturday, but the keen Victorian racing fan will be more than compensated watching the action from Rosehill on TV or computer.

The feature  is of course the world’s  richest two year old race, the Group 1 Golden Slipper.

It is run over 1200 metres and has a full field of 16 acceptors, comprised of nine colts and seven fillies. The top two contenders as far as I’m concerned are the Blue Diamond winner and runner up, Extreme Choice and Flying Artie.

It’s probably a better quality field than the Blue Diamond Stakes and others with the credentials to win are colts Kiss and Make Up, Defcon, Astern, Capitalist and fillies Scarlet Rain and Calliope.

As well as the Golden Slipper, there are four other Group 1 races, the George Ryder Stakes, Ranvet Stakes, Rosehill Guineas and Galaxy, all with quaility fields.

Winx will be gunning for her fifth Group 1 win in the George Ryder Stakes (1500 metres).  She faces old rival First Seal, New Zealand wonder horse Turn Me Loose, and her stablemates Press Statement and Kermadec.

The Ranvet Stakes is run over 2000 metres and has attracted a good field of nine runners. Criterion is the class horse. He has an excellent record over the distance and at the track, so is the one to beat. Mongolian Khan may give him a run for the money, as could Hauraki, Dibayani and The United States, backing up after running second last Saturday at Flemington.

The Rosehill Guineas, for three year olds, is also run over 2000 metres. Victoria Derby winner Tarzino and Randwick Guineas winner Le Romain are the main chances, though sole filly Jameka, who beat Tarzino on Cox Plate day last spring, with her light weight could spring a surprise. She proved with her Crown Oaks win that she handles soft going, which is the likely track rating for Rosehill on Saturday.

No quality raceday would be complete without a Group 1 sprint, and the Galaxy fits the bill.  A full field of fourteen runners have accepted.

I’ll be barracking for Fell Swoop who narrowly missed out on winning his first Group 1, beaten by Flamberge, in the Oakleigh Plate.  He has won over the distance (1100 metres) and at Rosehill on soft going previously, albeit against lesser opposition.

Flamberge shares top weight with Terravista, who is the one to beat, though his record on soft tracks is iffy. Gai Waterhouse trained filly, English, who ran second in the Golden Slipper last year, and won her only start so far this autumn, is also worth consideration.

Rest In Peace Better Loosen Up

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Better Loosen Up at Flemington – Australian Cup Day 2015

Living Legends announced this morning that Better Loosen Up had passed away the previous night after suffering a sudden heart problem. He was eased away in his paddock surrounded by his friends.

He was 30 years old, a good age for a horse, and had spent his retirement lovingly attended at Living Legends, being a particular favourite of CEO and Chief Vet, Dr Andrew Clarke.  Better Loosen Up was affectionately known as Blu and was a legend of the turf in the early 1990s winning the 1990 Cox Plate, Mackinnon Stakes and Japan Cup, and the 1991 Australian Cup.

I’m pleased I had the chance to see him couple of times; at Flemington on Australian Cup day in 2015 and at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate Day, where he led the field out.

Update Sunday – The Results

I watched the racing action at Rosehill on TV this week, though it felt unfamiliar after spending the last few months of Saturdays at the track.

At least, watching the races on television you get to see them in more detail.

Anyway, there were a few surprises and the cream rose to the top in other cases.

The United States, backing up from running in the Blamey Stakes the week before won his first Group 1 race in the Ranvet Stakes. Hauraki ran second and Criterion finished third.

Winx proved that she is a star and the best horse in Australia by comfortably winning the George Ryder Stakes from her stablemates Kermadec and Press Statement. Turn Me Loose took off like a rocket and led for most of the race, but was a spent force at the finish, overracing proving his downfall.

The Rosehill Guineas was Tarzino’s for the taking, which he did with style. Montaigne ran second and the brave Jameka hung on for third.

Magic Millions Two Year Old Classic winner, Capitalist proved he wasn’t a one hit wonder, winning the Golden Slipper from Yankee Rose and Flying Artie. Extreme Choice missed the start and had a torrid time trying to catch up, and was unlucky all round.

And the Galaxy was taken out by the long shot Griante with outsiders Shiraz and Dothraki filling the minor places. The trifecta must have paid a fortune.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Last Roses of Summer - The End of the Carnival

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Resplendent roses hedge the straight in front of the finish line

In the four years since I have been attending the races at Flemington in autumn, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the famous roses in such profuse bloom. They looked magnificent, but unfortunately obscured the view of the mounting yard, and as mentioned previously, the horses in their stalls.

For this last day of Flemington’s mini racing carnival, I arrived early in the afternoon, obliged in fact by the train service from the city which cut out at 1.00pm.

As I stepped off the train and made my way to the public lawn, Race 1, the Group 3 Thoroughbred Breeders Plate, had just been run and won. I was pleased to hear that the winner was Augusta Proud’s daughter Thyme for Roses, who made her mother proud with an easy win after two unsuccessful starts this season.

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Thyme for Roses poses for photos in the mounting yard

She came in at good odds of 10/1 beating Emphatically and Soviet Secret.

It was therefore a long afternoon, but the weather was reasonably kind, overcast though muggy and the crowds weren’t large.

There was some sort of food and wine festival going on in the upper lawn area. Curiously, the Kids’ Zone was in the same spot, no doubt so mums and dads could sample the wares and keep an eye on their off spring at the same time.

Anyway, it made that part of the lawn almost impassable, so when traversing from the winning post to the stalls, it was easier (and faster) to go around the back way via the Bookie’s Ring.

Thence I went after taking the above photo of Thyme for Roses to see who had arrived.

Apache Cat was the Living Legends special guest, but though I caught  glimpses of him, I somehow failed all afternoon to get a photo of him.  Not to worry, I have plenty of photos of him I’ve taken at other times.

I didn’t take all that many photos of the horsey stars in their stalls, the overabundant roses being somewhat off putting after a while, though my photographer friend George as usual was far more dedicated than me at getting shots of all the runners in the two feature races.

Here’s the few I managed to get good photos of…

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Black Heart Bart

chautauqua 3

japonisme 1

preferment 2

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Returning trackside to the rose hedge free gate just past the winning post, where you can get a diagonal view of the winning post, race 2, the Group 2 Sire’s Produce Stakes, was about to start. It’s a race for two year olds over 1400 metres.

It was won by Seaburge from Detective and Revolving Door.

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Seaburge (inside) wins the Sires Produce Stakes

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Seaburge returns to scale

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Detective returns to scale

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Revolving Door returns to scale

Somehow or other I killed time between the races either hanging out in the stalls area or mooching around on the public lawn, so there’s not much to report activity wise.

Race 3 was a sprint, the Listed Goodwood Racecourse Trophy over 1100 metres for three year olds.

The favourite was Brockhoff, but he finished out of the placings. A filly, Super Cash won the prize, beating longshots Sooboog and Stellar Collision by half a length.

As is often the case with sprints down the spacious Flemington straight, the field split into two sections, a group racing on the inside of the track, the rest racing down the grandstand side, which rather stymies one’s shots when shooting the finish.

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Super Cash returns to scale after winning the Goodwood Racecourse Trophy

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Sooboog returns to scale

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Stellar Collision returns to scale

The next race was the Group 2 Blamey Stakes, a race over 1600 metres.

Stratum Star started as favourite, and managed to run third behind He Or She and The United States.

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He or She (yellow blinkers) wins the Blamey Stakes from The United States (inside) and Stratum Star (red blinkers)

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He or She returns to scale after winning the Blamey Stakes

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The United States on his way to the barriers

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Stratum Star on his way to the barriers

After the Blamey Stakes, there was only one more race before the first of the two features, the Newmarket Handicap, was scheduled to run.

Race 5 was another Group 2 race, the Kewney Stakes for three year old fillies run over 1400 metres.

As had been the pattern all afternoon, the favourite, in this case Catch A Fire, failed to win or even run a place. 

Badawiya, fresh from a spell, romped in two lengths ahead of the fast finishing Don’t Doubt Mama, with Egypt running into third place.

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Badawiya wins the Kewney Stakes

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Badawiya returns to scale

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Don’t Doubt Mama returns to scale

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Egypt on her way to the barriers

As the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap was the next race to jump, I ambled up to the mounting yard fence to see the parade. The haze at the bottom of some of the following photos is caused by rose petals and leaves casting a shadow on the lens.

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Black Heart Bart

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Charmed Harmony

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Churchill Dancer

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Keen Array

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Secret Agent

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The Quarterback

Before the race even started, while the horses were making their way to the starting gates at the top of the straight, Counterattack threw his jockey Glen Boss and tore up the straight riderless, eventually being caught. Though horse and jockey were both unhurt, Counterattack was scratched on the spot.

The race itself was run at lightning speed and the field split into two sections, or rather eight of the runners headed to the grandstand side, and Charmed Harmony ran all by himself on the inside.

It resulted in a boilover, when 20/1 shot The Quarterback won narrowly from Black Heart Bart and Chautauqua. Chautauqua tried hard, but carrying the top weight proved his downfall. First and second had a 4 to 6 kg advantage. He was beaten less than a length and hardly disgraced.

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Newmarket Handicap finish on the outer rail

Surprisingly, Craig Newitt pulled The Quarterback up shortly after passing the finish line and turned him round to bring him back to scale.

Normally the winning horse returns last, being delayed by the traditional jockey interview post race with Sam Hyland up around the bend. It was amusing to see Sam galloping his pony in hot pursuit of The Quarterback.

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The Quarterback returning to the mounting yard

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Chautauqua returns to scale

The Australian Cup was a messily run race, with no horse wanting to set the pace. Last year The Cleaner kept up an honest pace, but this year, with the scratching of Mourinho, there was no natural leader.  Awesome Rock eventually took the lead with Preferment and Rising Romance close behind him on the pace.

Basically the first three on the pace finished in that order, Awesome Rock defeating Preferment by a nostril with Rising Romance a length back in third place.

Awesome Rock came in at big odds (26/1), but was denied first place by an upheld protest of second against first, alleging interference in the last 300 metres of the race. So Preferment ended up the winner in the end.

The race favourite was Bow Creek, but he missed the start and failed to make up enough ground, finishing eighth.

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Preferment on his way to the barriers

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Awesome Rock returns to scale

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Rising Romance returns to scale

Having been at Flemington all afternoon, I headed for the station after the Australian Cup and thence home.

The Coolmore Classic in Sydney ended with a boilover win by the unfancied Peeping. Azkadellia ran second and Solicit third. It certainly wasn’t a day for favourites anywhere.

So ended the main part of Melbourne’s Autumn Racing Carnival.

Overall it was interesting all the way through and the highlights for me were Chautauqua in the Lightning Stakes, Extreme Choice in the Blue Diamond StakesTurn Me Loose in the Futurity Stakes and Suavito in the Orr Stakes

Sydney’s autumn racing carnival kicks off in earnest next Saturday with Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill. Five Group 1 races are on the card, and stars such as Winx, Turn Me Loose, Fell Swoop, Extreme Choice, First Seal, Mongolian Khan, Criterion, Press Statement and Terravista are nominated to compete in one or another of the Group 1 races programmed.

The are no races in Melbourne next Saturday, just the Alister Clarke Stakes meeting at Moonee Valley on Friday night.