Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Apache Cat Two? Anzac Day Racing at Flemington

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St Leger finish – Cool Chap wins comfortably from Etymology and Bullish Stock

I’ve just bought another camera and it arrived last Friday, so I decided to give it whirl at the races to see how it performed.

It’s a Nikon D3300 with a 55 – 200 mm lens – the first Nikon camera I have owned or even used.  As far as Nikon DSLR cameras go, it is not a hugely expensive model nor too big and heavy to carry around. In fact it’s quite light and comfortable to use.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my other cameras, the Canon G16 and the little Panasonic G3, but I’ve always thought that Nikon photos taken at the races by my racing acquaintance George were superior to those I achieved with the aforementioned cameras.

My first attempt to purchase a Nikon on eBay resulted in the camera failing to arrive. I’d been scammed!  Fortunately, after raising a Buyer’s Protection Case with eBay, my money was refunded in full, so I tried another online outlet called eGlobal, who were amazingly efficient and delivered the camera in three days at a very reasonable price.

I’m still getting to grips with the camera settings, so I’m glad I took it to the races on Monday to ascertain what settings are needed in the circumstances.

On the whole I’m quite pleased with the photos I took, though there were quite a few not worth saving – too dark for some reason- which is puzzling for a bright sunny afternoon. The camera seems to have a mind of its own where exposure is concerned.

I arrived at Flemington early, in time for Race 1, as I was interested in seeing the bizarre looking filly Miss Vista, who has been dubbed Apache Cat two, due to her predominately white face.

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Miss Vista in the mounting yard after winning the Euroa VC’s Handicap

She also appears to have ability and shows some potential to be a star of the turf. She recently won her first race at Ballarat by over five lengths and was having her second start in the city, at Flemington no less.  She cruised to victory after leading throughout, to hold out Fleur Fatale by half a length with first starter Saraswati running third.

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Miss Vista returns to scale

Miss Vista will now go for a spell and return in the spring, her connections, commendably, not wishing to overtax her so early in her career.

The feature race of the afternoon was the VRC St Leger, for three year old stayers run over 2800 metres and was programmed as Race 5.

As trains returning to the city from Flemington didn’t run until 4.25pm I was obliged to stay at the track for six races. It was a lovely autumn afternoon – warm and sunny –  pleasant to spend in the open air, so I didn’t mind the wait.

Race 2 was the Anzac Day Stakes, a race for two year olds over 1400 metres.

It was won by the appropriately named Throssell (after Hugo Throssell VC, who had Race 4 named in his honour) from Pyx Chamber and Smart As You Think.

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Throssell returns to scale

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Pyx Chamber returns to scale

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Smart As You Think

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Anzac Day Stakes finish – Throssell leads

The next race, the William Newton VC Handicap was run over 1610 metres. Hijack Hussy was the favourite, but the result, as it was all afternoon, didn’t favour favourites, and the race was won by 10/1 shot Every Faith from Written and Loveitt.

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Race 3 finish down the straight

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Every Faith

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As previously mentioned, Race 4 was the Hugo Throssell VC Handicap, a race for three year olds over 1400 metres.

It resulted in another long odds winner, Un De Sceaux, who defeated  Sir Sagamore and Shockaholic by a short margin.

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Un De Sceaux posing for photos with owners

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Sir Sagamore

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The afternoon flitted by quite swiftly and I got plenty of exercise walking back and forth from the mounting yard to just past the winning post.

The roses were still in bloom, though not in such great profusion as they were on Australian Cup Day.

Flemington Roses

Soon enough it was time for the feature race, the VRC St Leger.

Etymology started as favourite, but he was outstayed by Cool Chap, who as his name suggests is a son of High Chaparral, noted sire of stayers. Bullish Stock ran third.

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Cool Chap returns to scale after winning the VRC St Leger

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Bullish Stock

Every jockey riding a horse carrying the number one saddlecloth wore special Anzac Day silks (khaki as seen on Etymology’s jockey above). None of them were winners.

Due to the train timetable I had to stay until after Race 6, which was the Anzac Cup, another staying race, run over 2530 metres.

Big Memory who looked promising in his younger days, but hasn’t won a race for over two years, started as favourite, but was relegated to second by the humourously named Swacadelic, who came in at odds of 10/1. Don Doremo ran third.

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Swacadelic (purple & gold siks) beats Big Memory (khaki silks) in the Anzac Cup

The local racing scene is pretty uninteresting from now on and livens up at the end of July, when the build up to the Spring Racing Carnival starts.

However, Adelaide has a mini racing carnival over the next few weeks, then it’s the crazy Queensland winter racing carnival, which is always of some interest.

And this coming Sunday, Australian sprint stars,  Chautauqua and Buffering, will be gunning for Group 1 glory in Hong Kong in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Dulcet Tones of Liz Stringer & Suzannah Espie at Caravan Music Club

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Liz Stringer at Caravan Music Club – 15 April 2016

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a concert at the outer suburban  music oasis of Caravan Music Club once again.

This time it was to see local female singer songwriters Liz Stringer and Suzannah Espie.

I have seen both artists before when I used to patronise the Basement Discs, but not for several years, so I was looking forward to seeing them performing their wonderful songs.

The show started with a short set by Liz Stringer who showcased several of her songs solo, accompanying herself on guitar. She’s acknowledged as one of the best songwriters in Australia and at the tender age of 25 she performs with a maturity beyond her years.  She released her first record at the age of 15.

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Liz Stringer at Caravan Music Club – 15 April 2016

There was brief interval after Liz’s set, then she returned to the stage with Suzannah Espie where it was explained that each would sing a few of their own songs turn about, whilst providing backing vocals and accompaniment to each other.

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Suzannah Espie at Caravan Music Club – 15 April 2016

They sounded lovely together, Suzannah’s sweeter timbred voice blending with Liz’s contralto in luscious harmonies.

I can’t remember all the songs sung, and didn’t take notes, but the ones that stuck in my mind included Suzannah’s great songs Rosedale and Bluebird Boots, and Liz’s High Open Hills and Angela.

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Suzannah Espie at Caravan Music Club  - 15 April 2016

Suzannah also performed the title track of her latest album Mother’s Not Feeling Herself Today, an album of songs relating to her recent status as a mother and the change it wrought on her life. The song itself is sung as a honky tonker.

They finished the night with one of my all time favourite songs, a cover of The Dark End Of The Street, originally written by Dan Penn, but performed by many other artists over the years – Gram Parsons and Ry Cooder for example.

It was a splendid evening of musical entertainment.  Liz Stringer and Suzannah Espie are fine representatives of the Melbourne music scene, and both are superb singers and songwriters.

Check them out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you haven’t heard of them before.

I have no other musical treats on the horizon, but I dare say there will be more before too long.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Whistler’s Mother – Art For Art’s Sake

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Whistler’s Mother – National Gallery of Victoria

Yesterday I took advantage of Senior’s Card discount day and went to the Whistler’s Mother Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Whistler’s art, not necessarily his most famous work which was the focus of this exhibition, but his wonderful minimalist water colours, like the one below scanned from American Watercolours, a large art book in my personal library.

Grey and Silver: Pier, Southend, early 1880s

The exhibition is fairly small, though educational, with the painting of Whistler’s Mother being the feature work. Several other works of art are displayed as well,  Australian artists who were influenced by the painting, and several Japanese art works.  Japanese art was a major influence on the art world of the mid to late 19th Century, and Whistler’s Mother is a prime example of how aspects of Japanese art are incorporated in the paintings of the period.

Several sets of Whistler’s etchings were also on display – his  English,French and Venice sets in particular.

When you first walk into the exhibition there were three striking caricatures of Whistler. He was apparently a flamboyant and colourful character and a proponent of the Aesthetic Movement, who believed in the idea of art for art’s sake..

Monocle right eye, portrait of J. M. Whistler (detail) c. 1899 by Mortimer Menpes

Whistler caricature by Aubrey Beardsley

You pass through several rooms before you finally arrive at the famous portrait, spotlit in a room by itself.

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Whistler’s Mother painting

There weren’t all that many people taking in this particular exhibition, so there was no difficulty in getting up close to the picture.

After leaving the Whistler exhibition I cruised through several rooms of art, trying to find an exit. Thus I ambled through European Art, Porcelain and Decorative Arts before finding the down escalator.

I photographed the claw foot of an elaborate table in the European Art section, as I have a fondness for claw footed furniture and this was a particularly attractive foot.

clawed foot

And I was amused by of the following cartoon for Mental Energy by James Gillray. The character looks the opposite of mentally energised!

mental energy

All in all, it was a pleasant exhibition well worth attending.

Friday, April 08, 2016

RIP Boban & The Championships Week 2

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Boban parades after winning the Memsie Stakes – 29 August 2015

Five time Group 1 winner Boban died in a freak paddock accident on Sunday night, and thus passed a sterling middle distance runner. He was recently retired from racing after bleeding in the 2016 Futurity Stakes, so unfortunately he didn’t get much time to enjoy it.

His last win was at the end of August last year, when he took out the Group 1 Memsie Stakes at Caulfield. Previous to that he won the 2015 Group 1 Doomben 10,000,  2014 Chipping Norton Stakes and the 2013 Emirates Stakes and Epsom Stakes.

My condolences to his connections.

The so called Championships continue this Saturday at Randwick with four Group 1 races on the card.

Winx originally was set to target the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but commendably her connections have decided to give her a spell after her gruelling run in the Doncaster Mile. We can therefore look forward to seeing her again in the Spring as she’ll be aimed at winning the Cox Plate for a second time. It would be nice if she came to Melbourne early and contested one or two races before the Cox Plate.

With Winx out, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is fairly wide open with a number of horses capable of winning the 2000 metre race.

For Criterion, it his last race before retiring to stud, so no doubt his owners will be hoping he goes out on a high note. He’s got the credentials having won the race on a bog track last year.

Preferment has won his last two starts, the Group 1 Australian Cup and The BMW by narrow margins, so is sure to be in the finish here and could well win. He has the Chris Waller/ Hugh Bowman factor in his favour as well.

The imported Irish stayer The United States has finally settled and won his first Group 1 when taking out the Ranvet Stakes at his last start. He is the current favourite, so if he handles soft tracks (of which he has little experience) he is a top chance.

Of the others, Happy Clapper who ran second to Winx in the Doncaster Mile and would have won if she had not competed, has to be a goer if he can manage the short back up. And then there’s Hauraki who has run second to The United States and Winx at his last two starts.

If the track is heavy Lucia Valentina has to be a good chance at good odds.

The first of the Group 1 races scheduled is the Australasian Oaks  run over 2400 metres, in which Jameka is backing up after running second in the ATC Derby last week. Back against her own sex she is the top pick if she has recovered.  Her main rivals are Vinery Stud Stakes winner Single Gaze, runnerup Valley Girl and third placed Happy Hannah.

The Sydney Cup is run over the same distance as the Melbourne Cup (3200 metres) but has not the same status, despite the prize money being quite generous. It looks as if it could result in another Chris Waller Group 1 trifecta, with top chances Who Shot Thebarman, Grand Marshall and Libran belonging to his stable. 

Formerly called The Queen of Turf Stakes, the Coolmore Legacy Stakes is a Group 1 race for mares and fillies over 1600 metres. Suavito, who has drawn the carpark is the class mare in the race.  Fellow Melbourne mares Badawiya and Azkadellia and Sydney mares Zanbagh, Heavens Above, Vergara and Lady Le Fay are her main rivals.

Also of interest due to the presence of Petits Filous is the Group 2 Arrowfield 3yo Sprint. She has certainly been thrown in the deep end as her rivals are quite classy, with runners like Japonisme, Kinglike, Stellar Collision, Hellbent and Ghisoni in the field. 

As I write, the track condition at Randwick is reported to be a soft 6, which is defined as: moist but not a badly affected track, though after a few races that may change for the better or worse. 

Update Saturday Night – The Italian Girls Star

It was another great day of racing at Randwick this afternoon, with some sensational results, with very few favourites saluting.

The only favourite to win a Group 1 was Azkadellia in the Queen of the Turf Stakes, beating long odds Heavens Above by a couple of lengths with Noble Protector running third.

The Oaks was won by the fiesty New Zealand filly Sofia Rosa with outsiders Ambience and Believe running second and third. Jameka who was too far back early in the race, was left flat footed in the straight and finished fourth.

The Lloyd Williams owned import Gallante won the Sydney Cup from Libran and Grand Marshall.

I was delighted to see Lucia Valentina take out the feature event, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes; not that I took my own advice and had any money on her.  The United States finished second and Happy Clapper ran third. Lucia Valentina raced at the tail end of the field and when making her move in the straight, almost fell, then was blocked for a run. When she had a clear run, she whooshed down the outside to score by over two lengths. A remarkable performance.

The two Italian girls are of course Sofia Rosa and Lucia Valentina who are both owned by the business man Lib Petagna, who certainly had a good day at Randwick.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

March Music–Jason Isbell & Eilen Jewell

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Jason Isbell at Melbourne Recital Centre – 29/3/16

Jason Isbell has been hailed as the saviour of country music by various music critics, though he denies it. His latest record, Something More Than Free won a Grammy for Best Americana Album, and he won Best American Roots Song for 24 Frames, one of the notable tracks on the album.

He is undoubtedly one of the best songwriters around, so it was with keen anticipation that I went to his concert at the acoustically excellent Elisabeth Murdoch Hall in the Melbourne Recital Centre at Southbank.

Everything claimed about the acoustics in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall is true. I’ve never heard such purity and clarity of sound in a venue before. It certainly beats venues like Northcote Social Club hands down, which was where I last saw Jason Isbell perform live.

Eilen Jewell and her band opened for Jason Isbell  and played an engaging half hour set that sweetened the audience beautifully for the rest of the night.

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Eilen Jewell at Melbourne Recital Centre – 29/3/16

Jason Isbell was accompanied by his excellent band The 400 Unit who comprise Sadler Vaden on guitar, Jimbo Hart on bass, Derry DeBorja on keyboards and Chad Gamble on drums.

A powerful performer, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit wowed the crowd with a stunning set of songs drawn from his repertoire, encompassing Something More Than Free, Southeastern and his back catalogue, including songs he wrote for the Drive By Truckers.

At the end of his show he was accorded a standing ovation, a courtesy Melbourne audiences seem more prone to doing these days.

Jason Isbell Setlist

  1. Stockholm
  2. Decoration Day
  3. Alabama Pines
  4. Something More Than Free
  5. Travelling Alone
  6. Never Gonna Change
  7. Cover Me Up
  8. Relatively Easy
  9. 24 Frames
  10. The Life You Chose
  11. Speed Trap Town
  12. Different Days
  13. If It Takes a Lifetime


  1. Elephant
  2. Codeine

The night after the Jason Isbell concert I went to see Eilen Jewell  doing a headline show at Thornbury Theatre on the 30th March. 

Eilen  Jewell is a real gem of an artist – witty, sparkling - and has a great voice – sultry and sweet. She also writes great songs; on the dark side of the spectrum generally, which belies her innocent looks.

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Eilen Jewell at Thornbury Theatre 30/3/16

She opened her set with two songs from her latest excellent album Sundown Over Ghost Town – Worried Mind and Hallelujah Band, then harked back to her 2009 record, Sea of Tears, with Rain Roll In.

Supported as usual by her fabulous band which features Jerry Miller on electric guitar, Johnny Sciascia on upright bass and Jason Beek (her husband) on drums and backing vocals – “singing and drumming” as Eilen puts it.

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Jerry Miller & Jason Beek – Thornbury Theatre 30/3/16

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Johnny Sciascia – Thornbury Theatre 30/3/16

Eilen and band gave generously of their time playing for over two hours, which encompassed 22 songs all up.

Since last touring Australia, Eilen Jewell has given birth to a baby daughter named Mavis. Her last song of the night is ostensibly about her, and appropriately titled Songbird. “Mavis” is an old fashioned name for a songbird.

It was a great pleasure to watch Eilen and her band in the civilised and comfortable surrounds of the grand Thornbury Theatre,  after  previously seeing her perform two concerts on the sticky carpets at Brunswick Music Club and the Corner Hotel.

Eilen Jewell Set List

  1. Worried Mind
  2. Hallelujah Band
  3. Rain Roll In
  4. Where They Never Say Your Name
  5. Heartache Boulevard
  6. High Shelf Booze
  7. Here with Me
  8. Bang, Bang, Bang
  9. Rio Grande
  10. Santa Fe
  11. Rich Man’s World
  12. Dusty Boxcar Walls
  13. Needle and Thread
  14. Mess Around
  15. Drop Down Daddy
  16. Fist City
  17. Warning Signs
  18. Sea of Tears
  19. I Remember You
  20. Queen of the Minor Key
  21. If You Catch Me Stealing


  1. Songbird

Friday, April 01, 2016

Doncaster–Derby Day at Randwick

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Tarzino at Flemington – Australian Guineas Day 5/3/2016

Black type racing is over in Melbourne until spring, so it is cheering that the Sydney Championships can keep the interest alive for a few weeks yet.

And what a beauty of a race meeting it is this coming Saturday at Randwick with four Group 1 races on the cards,  involving several exciting stars of the turf.

The first of these is super star Winx, who will be endeavouring to add the prestigious Doncaster Mile to her list of Group 1 wins.

Winx reminds a lot people of the great New Zealand mare Sunline who won the Doncaster twice, and ran second in a third attempt, as well as winning two Cox Plates among many other Group 1 races, but Winx still has a long way to go before she equals Sunline’s record.

As she is only four, she has plenty of time if she stays sound. She is indubitably the most exciting racehorse in Australia at present, having won her last eight races, five of them at Group 1 kevel.

Naturally she will start as hot favourite for the Doncaster, and though it is hard to see her get beaten, other runners with a chance are Kermadec, runner up to Winx in the George Ryder Stakes and Doncaster Handicap winner last year, old rival First Seal, wearing blinkers for the first time, Turn Me Loose, who blew his chances last start overracing, and  Azkadellia who always runs an honest race.

As previously mentioned the race card boasts three other Group 1 races, the first being the Inglis Sires for two year olds over 1400 metres. There are no super stars in the field so it’s pretty wide open. Prime chances are Seaburge, Yankee Rose, Teleperion, Detective, Attention  and Zamzam.

The TJ Smith Stakes is a time honoured sprint and has attracted a classy field of contestants that include Chautauqua (last year’s winner) Exosphere, Terravista, Delectation, Flamberge and Fell Swoop.

Tarzino, the most promising young stayer in the country, is the top pick for the Australian Derby.  His main opposition comes from the classy Jameka, taking on the boys again, and Tally who is on a four run winning streak.

Despite Sydney having heavy rain earlier the week, the track at Randwick shouldn’t be too soggy, unlike last year, where the meeting was cancelled until the the next day due to the inclemency of the weather.

Update Sunday – The Wow Factor Again!

As anticipated, it was a fantastic day of racing at Randwick yesterday.

All the winners of the Group 1 events produced dominant performances.

Yankee Rose won the Inglis Sires by 2.5 lengths from Telperion with longshot Faraway Town running third.

Tarzino was on his wrong leg in the Australian Derby and failed to run a place. The race was won by an outsider, the New Zealand trained Tavago romping in by over three lengths. Jameka ran her usual honest race and finished second ahead of Tally in third place.

The grey speedster Chautauqua, as is his style, produced a heartstopping last to first finish in the TJ Smith Stakes, winning the race for the second time in succession.  Fell Swoop ran the race of his life and finished second ahead of the filly English.

And, wonder horse Winx, who looked in non winning position in the straight with 300 metres to go,  having raced at the tail of field for most of the race, broke through a wall of horses to score a two length victory over Happy Clapper and Azkadellia in the Doncaster Mile.