Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ravens & Doves – Cat Politics Update

Raven in the Jacaranda Tree next door

Back when we lived in Northcote, the predominant sounds were the South Morang train screeching around the corner to the Rushall Station, and a hum of traffic from High Street, along with the usual barking of dogs, shrieks of lorikeets and buzz of lawn mowers.

Here in Ivanhoe, in the background there are coos and caws from the local pigeon and raven tribes, but apart from the weekend, when house and garden proud neighbours fire up their mowers and leaf blowers, it’s pretty quiet.

We have now been in the new house for two and a half months and have pretty well settled in, though I still have 19 boxes of books to unpack, having not got around to organising new shelving as yet.

As for the cats, they are both used to their new kingdom, though Talya took longer than Bingo to acclimatise.

The first night we spent here, I woke the next morning sandwiched between two cats under the covers. This was something Talya had never done before, and has repeated at various times when there is disruption in the form of workmen installing security doors, alarms etc.  And Bingo still irritates her intensely, though they have been observed (and photographed) snuggled together on Talya’s bed several times when the weather has been nippy.

Cats snuggled together

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Talya on the brick wall surrounding the decking outside the back door

Bingo didn’t seem stressed at all. As long as his human slaves were willing to feed him, he was happy. He loves food with a passion, but doesn’t beg for it during the day, a snack of some kind involving zucchini staves off the hunger pangs.

He is a few days shy of his first birthday and is almost full grown. A small cat, he’s perfectly formed and a stunner to look at.

But he’s bad to the bone when he’s bored or hungry. We still have to lock him away when we’re eating or cooking, or else he’ll try and steal what he can while our backs are turned. And he’s a terrible distraction if you’re on the computer, running across the keyboard and executing keyboard shortcuts you never knew existed.

Typical of Siamese cats, he’s very vocal with a range of different meows – squeaks, chirrups, trills and yowls. You can have a conversation with him, though heaven knows what he’s saying. It reminds me of a story by Spencer Holst called The Language of Cats, wherein a guy learns to speak cat language from his Siamese Cat, with disastrous consequences.

Bingo in the living room

Bingo on fence trying to figure out how to jump on the roof of the house

There don’t appear to be any neighbouring cats in the street, so the cats are spared the trauma of staking a claim on their territory from a prior claimant. I’ve only seen one other cat, a street away, a friendly British short hair who greets you as you pass by its place.

The neighbours on one side are bird lovers and feed the pigeons every evening. Other birds obviously get in on the act, the raven family for instance. There are four of them – two adults and their grown up chicks. I’d be more inclined to feed ravens than pigeons myself.

These particular neighbours also keep chooks, a source of fascination for young Bingo, who registered his first kill a couple of weeks ago. Not a chook, but unfortunately a fledgling lorikeet. Luckily the neighbours didn’t see this atrocity and we certainly didn’t tell them about it.

We are quite close to the Ivanhoe Shopping Village, but it took me some time to get used to the walk down there, it being much farther than I was accustomed to in Northcote. Your brain and body adjust after a time and it doesn’t seem as onerous these days as it was originally, though the words “it’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll”, still run through my head as I plod up and down the three long streets to Ivanhoe Village.

The Ivanhoe house is a comfortable dwelling with ample storage in every room, cupboards that go up to the ceiling being part of the decor.  There are also picture rails everywhere so that all the old framed pictures I’ve been hoarding for years can now be hung in view.

Pictures on the wall in the computer room – Ryan Adams concert poster from 2007,  John Crowley Little, Big print test and a Springer Spaniel drawing inherited from my deceased older brother.

I needed to get a few frames mended– one to replace the frame backing, the other to replace the glass that broke during the move, so I took them both to Ivanhoe Picture Framing,who fixed them both in a day for a reasonable price. The husband and wife team who run Ivanhoe Picture Framing are lovely people and certainly know their profession, as well as being interesting to talk to.

It made me want to take more stuff to be framed, so yesterday I went back and got some digital prints of three of my Winx Cox Plate photos (2015,2016 &2017). They were excellent prints and only cost a $1.00 each.  I’ll now get them framed with a Winx flag, to complement the Sunline signed photo I have hanging on the right hand side of the window, and take along a signed print of Black Caviar to be framed as well.

So my impressions of Ivanhoe Village are positive and I enjoy exploring the many shops and services it offers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Melbourne Spring Racing Finale–Emirates Stakes Day Review

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Emirates Stakes finish – Damian Lane celebrates Tosen Stardom’s win

For a change, the weather in Melbourne last Saturday was more Summer than capricious Spring, with blue skies and sunshine the whole day – hot in fact.

Arriving at Flemington around 1.45pm I headed directly to the stalls area to get some photos of the leading runners in the two Group 1 events.

The first horse I came across was none other than old Living Legend Might and Power, having a day out at the races. A crowd of admirers surrounded him outside his  stall, feeding him carroty treats and giving him a pat.

He seemed to be enjoying himself enormously, and looked remarkably well for his age. He’s now 24 years old.

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Might and Power

Also present was the grey flash Chautauqua

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Chautauqua in his stall

and his great rival Terravista.

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New sprinters on the block, Everest winner Redzel, as well as Redkirk Warrior and Impending were also out and about

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Redkirk Warrior

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The handsome Impending

Considering the drama that occurred when the field for the feature Emirates Stakes was headiing out to the starting gates, with Gingernuts unfortunately suffering an injury in transit, I’m glad I got a nice photo of him in the stalls area early in the afternoon. He reportedly suffered a pastern fracture, which his jockey Michael Dee felt as it happened. He pulled Gingernuts up and dismounted instantly. The injury is not considered life threatening, but Gingernuts will be out of action for a very long time.

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The crowds were not half as bad as Derby Day, so it wasn’t all that tedious to walk to the access gate east of the winning post – the favourite spot for Rebecca & I to snap photos.

From there we watched race 5, the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a consolation prize for stayers who missed running in the Melbourne Cup.  It had a good field  that included 2016 Geelong Cup  & 2017 Bendigo Cup winner Qewy and Vengeur Masque who won the 2017 Geelong Cup and finished a close second to Cismontane in the Lexus Stakes.

After winning $100.00 on Vengeur Masque in the Geelong Cup, he’s now promoted to a personal favourite, so I was pleased that he proved his credentials as a fine stayer in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, leading from the start ot the finish. Grey Lion challenged in the straight, but Vengeur Masque stuck to his guns and prevailed by ¾ lengths. Wheal Leisure finished third.

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First time past the post in the QE Stakes – Vengeur Masque leads with Grey Lion tailing him

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QE Stakes finish – Vengeur Masque wins from Grey Lion

Qewy started as favourite but finished sixth. He has since been retired.

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Vengeur Masque returns to scale

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Grey Lion

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Qewy returns to scale

First Lady of Racing, Gai Waterhouse had a wonderful Melbourne Spring Carnival, training five Group winners, Pinot in the Group 1 Oaks being her top result. So it looks as if we shall have to take Gai’s runners seriously again.

Savapinkski enhanced Gai’s reputation by winning the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes, race 6 on the program on Saturday, leading all the way in 2000 metre race to win by almost three lengths from Payroll with Token of Love running third another length behind.

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Savapinski wins the Matriarch Stakes

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Savapinski on her way to the barriers

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Payroll returns to scale

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Token of Love on her way to the barriers

It was too hot to stay on the public lawn between races, and it got boring watching the Winning Post patrons on the opposite side of the track, to and froing from one side of the track to the other, so Bec and I headed for one of the scarce shaded areas behind us. I’d never been to the Boags Deck, so we decided to investigate. There were a couple of guys providing musical entertainment up there and a shaded area, so we lingered there until it was time for the first of the Group 1 events.

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As the horses paraded in the mounting yard prior to the running of the Darley Classic sprint, the official photographers clustered in front of us to get a good vantage point for horses running along the outside rail. Flemington sprints are problematical for photographers due to the tendency of the field to split into two sections, one lot on the inside rail and the rest on the grandstand side.

Along with the photographers on the rail, the security guards also plonked themselves in such a way as to block the view of the finish.

So it’s no wonder that my photos of the Darley Classic finish are pathetic, and don’t picture the winner Redzel, who raced along the outer rail. Terravista ran second and Impending was third. Chautauqua ended up running fourth.

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Darley Classic finish

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Redzel returns to scale

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Terravista returns to scale

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Impending returns to scale

It was getting on to 5.00 pm when the feature Group 1 Emirates Stakes was run. The pesky security guys were again blocking the view…

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So Si Bon in the background & security guy

But by shooting between the gaps I managed to get photos of the main contenders, including Gingernuts before his unfortunate break down.

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Gingernuts on his way to the barriers, shortly before his injury

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Gingernuts breaks down – Clerks of Course attend the stricken horse

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On course Vet bandages Gingernuts leg

It’s very fortunate that jockey Michael Dee realised that something was wrong, and that the injury happened before the race start and not during the race. Gingernuts was eventually led into a veterinary ambulance and taken off to horse hospital at Werribee.  The latest on his condition has him recovering well from surgery to have screws inserted in the fractured area.

This incident delayed the start of the Emirates Stakes by 10 minutes, but eventually they were off and running.

Gailo Chop lead the field for most of the race with Cliff’s Edge and Folkswood on the pace as well, but as the field turned for home it was anyone’s guess who the winner would be. Tosen Stardom was blocked for a run, but found a gap close to finish line and stormed to victory, winning by 1½ lengths from Happy Clapper, also swooping from the back of the field, with It’s Somewhat running third.

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Tosen Stardom on his way to the barriers

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Happy Clapper on his way to the barriers

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It’s Somewhat on his way to the barriers

And so ended the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival for this year.

Overall the racing action has been quite interesting this year as compared to last year, even though there were many long odds winners upsetting the favourites.

Highlights of the season:

Winx  - in every one of her starts this Spring she has been astounding and kept her winning sequence intact through thick and thin,  and has now at 22 straight wins and is drawing closer to Black Caviar’s record of 25. She also created history by matching Kingston Town’s Cox Plate Treble and I’m glad I was there to witness it.

Bonneval – looked to be a potential star of the spring in her first two runs in Melbourne, winning the Group 2  Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and  Group 1 Underwood Stakes, the first mare to win either of these races in many years. Unfortunately she fell under an injury cloud before the Caulfield Cup, which probably accounts for her poor performance in that race.

Ace High – a promising young stayer who took home two Group 1 trophys this season, the Spring Champion Stakes and Victoria Derby.

Rekindling – although I thought the Melbourne Cup field was boring, I was very pleased that Rekindling won the race. Technically only three years of age, he became the first 3yo to win the big race since Skipton in 1941.


Royal Symphony – a beautiful looking colt, Royal Symphony started his Spring campaign early in July winning his first four starts. Bad luck dogged him thereafter and he ran fourth in his other three starts in the Spring, the last being the Cox Plate, where he had a torrid run monstered by Happy Clapper all the way.

Russian Revolution – looked as if he would be a force to be reckoned with in his first race this spring where he impressively won the Group 2 McEwen Stakes at Moonee Valley, then failed to place in the Group 1 Moir Stakes, whereupon he was sent for spell.

Chautauqua – competed in four races this Spring, but failed to place in any of them. Is he a spent force?

I hardly had a bet this Spring,  and except for Caulfield Cup day where I had my money on Bonneval and Jon Snow, my other two wagers were very successful and my Sportsbet Account ended up with more funds than it started with.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Oaks & Emirates

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Aloisia – favourite for the Oaks

As we head into the last two days of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival at Flemington, it’s timely to preview the Oaks, run tomorrow over 2500 metres, and the Emirates Stakes meeting on Saturday.

Last year the Victorian Oaks was won by 100/1 shot Lasqueti Spirit, who surprised everyone with her tearaway victory, leading from the start to the finish. The year before Jameka zoomed down the straight on a heavy track to win by two lengths.

Prior to winning the Oaks, Jameka beat the boys in the Vase on Cox Plate Day, and current Oaks favourite Aloisia accomplished the same feat this year, and at her prior start won the Group 1 Thousand Guineas.

So Aloisia is understandably the one to beat.

Her main rival is the Gai Waterhouse trained Pinot who won the Ethereal Stakes at her last start and will likely set the pace and take some catching.

The winner of the Wakeful Stakes run on Derby Day often  goes on to win the Oaks, so you can’t really preclude this year’s winner, Luvaluva, from being a serious contender.

Emirate Stakes Day is generally a very pleasant race meeting and not half as crowded as Derby Day, and features two Group 1 events – Darley Classic and Emirates Stakes – as well as several interesting Group 2 and Group 3 races.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the grey flash, Chautauqua again. He was sensationally scratched at the barriers before the Manikato Stakes, so we’ll never know if he would have won it.  The underrated Hey Doc was the victor on that occasion, with In Her Time running second and Malaguerra third.

Chautauqua hasn’t raced in Melbourne since February this year, and will be competing in the Group 1 Darley Classic, a sprint over 1200 metres. He ran second in this race to Delectation in 2015 and hopefully will go one better this year.

A  classy field has been assembled for the Darley Classic and Chautauqua’s main rivals are Everest winner Redzel, Everest runner up Vega Magic and other Group 1 sprinters such as Redkirk Warrior, Malaguerra, Terravista and Manikato Stakes runner up In Her Time.

We’ll finally get to see New Zealand Derby and Rosehill Guineas winner, Gingernuts in Melbourne for the first time in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes. He’s had a delayed start to his spring campaign  due to various setbacks, so it will be interesting to see how he goes in the Emirates Stakes on Saturday.

Run over 2000 metres, the Emirates used to be the Mackinnon Stakes and run on Derby Day and the former Emirates Stakes was run over 1600 metres and is now called  something else and run on Derby Day.

This year’s edition has a good field of 15 contenders that include BMW winner Happy Clapper, Doncaster winner It’s Somewhat,  Folkswood, and the usual suspects Gailo Chop, Tosen Stardom etc. all vying to get a Group 1 race on their CVs.  But perhaps the older runners will be upstaged again by the three year old Cliff’s Edge with his weight advantage giving him a good chance.

I’ll probably go along to the Oaks tomorrow, but plan to get there later in the afternoon as the feature race is not run until 5.00pm

And I’ll be at Flemington again next Saturday and will also take my time getting there aiming for 1.30 to 2.00 pm, so I’m in plenty of time to watch the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

It will be my last outing to the races for a while.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Ace High on Derby Day

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Ace High returning to scale after winning the Victoria Derby

I’m writing this review of Derby Day while waiting for the Melbourne Cup to run, and truth to tell it’s the first chance I’ve had to write it.

As anticipated I arrived at Flemington on Derby Day at around 1.15pm and caught up with my friend Rebecca in the stalls area. From there we waded through the teeming crowd to our favourite position on the access gate just past the finishing post to watch the running of the Group 2 Lexus Stakes.

The winner of this race, which is run over 2500 metres, gains automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup, and ten aspirants were in the running for the chance of a place in the big race.

The Gai Waterhouse trained Cismontane won the prize from Vengeur Masque after leading throughout. Longshot Pentathlon ran third.

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Cismontane wins the Lexus Stakes

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Cismontane returns to scale

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Vengeur Masque returns to scale

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Pentathlon returns to scale

Discovering that we would have no trouble regaining our prime spot, we ploughed through the throng once more back to the Stalls area, hoping to find Chris Waller in attendance. I’d brought my 2017 Cox Plate and 2017 Queen Elizabeth Stakes racebooks with me in the hope of getting them signed, and Rebecca likewise had a couple as well. Chris Waller was checking out his runners – a large contingent – in the back stalls, and obligingly signed our race books when we attracted his attention. He’s a very nice man I must say.

Whilst in the stalls area I got a few photos of key runners, for instance Ace High.

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Ace High in his stall

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Tangled – Chris Waller’s Derby runner

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Venguer Masque

After getting Chris Waller’s signature we made our way arduously back to our spot on the access gate and stayed there for the rest of the day and didn’t bother with mounting yard photos. You couldn’t get near them anyway.

Race 5 was the first of the Group 1 events, the Coolmore Stud Stakes where a super field of three year olds had accepted to run. Any one of them could have won, but the prize went to the unfancied Merchant Navy who stole the show from leader Invincible Star by creeping up on the inside and winning by a neck, with Formality running third.

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Merchant Navy wins the Coolmore Stud Stakes from Invincible Star & Formality

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Merchant Navy returns to scale

Up next was the Myer Classic where Global Glamour was the favourite. She led for most of the race but was overrun by Shoals, Eckstein and Dixie Blossoms and ended up finishing 9th.

Shoals became the second filly in a row to win from the mares, her lightweight (50kg) a distinct advantage as it was for I Am A Star last year.

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Shoals, Prompt Response, Dixie Blossoms & Eckstein cross the finish line

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Shoals returns to scale

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Eckstein on her way to the barriers

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Dixie Blossoms returns to scale

Ace High started as the favourite in the Victorian Derby and delivered an astonishing win. He was forced to race wide throughout most of the race, but charged to the front in the straight to win by two lengths from Sully and Astoria. He’s a son of High Chaparral who has sired quite a few Derby winners – Shoot Out, Dundeel and Monaco Consul to name three -  and a young stayer to watch for come Autumn.

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Victoria Derby finish Tye Angland celebrates Ace High’s win

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Sully returns to scale

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Astoria returns to scale

The final Group 1 of the afternoon was the Kennedy Mile and the Chris Waller mare Shillelagh won at big odds (12/1) from the eternal bridesmaid Tom Melbourne.  40/1 shot Wyndspelle ran third.

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Shillelagh (outside) & Tom Melbourne fight out the finish.

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Shillelagh returns to scale

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Tom Melbourne on his way to the barriers

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Wyndspelle on his way to the barriers

I headed to the station after the Kennedy Mile and reached home without any hassles, unlike patrons who left later who were stranded on a train between Kensington and Newmarket.

On the train I saw New Zealand trainer Murray Baker who was sitting behind me with I assume his wife. Nice to see he’s not living high on the hog and travels modestly.

I’ll probably go to Oaks Day on Thursday, then the Grand Final of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival on Saturday. Winx will not be starring in the Emirates Stakes, her connections deciding to give her a spell. Well done them.

Just watched the Melbourne Cup and am thrilled to bits that Rekindling won - one of my Astrological picks came in!  And another, Max Dynamite, ran third. Johannes Vermeer was second

I ended up having $5.00 each way bets on Almandin, Marmelo, Red Cardinal, Wall of  Fire and Rekindling and the latter’s payout covered my outlay and also yielded a profit.

Interestingly, Rekindling is also a son of High Chaparral