Sunday, January 28, 2018

Hot and Sticky at Caulfield – Blue Diamond Previews Review

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Lady Horseowner returns to scale after winning the fillies Preview

Despite the temperature being in the low 30°s, the humidity factor made it feel close to 40° when standing out in the sun, so I didn’t stay all afternoon at Caulfield Racecourse yesterday.

I arrived in time for the first race in fact and stayed for the following three races, before calling it quits and heading home.

Race 1 was the Cape Grim Beef Plate, a handicap run over 2000 metres, so I decided to watch it from the public lawn and test the new lens from that position.

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Pretty Punk (red cap) & The Chairman (purple cap) burn down the straight

The winner Night’s Watch came wide from the back of the field  to narrowly beat The Chairman on the line. Pretty Punk  ended up in fourth place being overtaken by Golden Mane.

Taking photos in bright sunlight has its drawbacks, resulting in high contrast images, so overall the new lens handled it better than expected.

For the Blue Diamond Previews I moved to my normal spot above the stalls area. I’ve always found the lighting to be better in that position.

There were flattened Marquees lying all around, which is worrying in relation to upcoming feature race days.

Will the Hill be off limits?

In the pre parade ring the colts were were being perambulated around half the enclosure, avoiding a medical emergency in the centre, where reportedly a strapper had been kicked in the face by a horse before Race 1.

I hope the strapper is alright, as he/she was attended for well over an hour before being stretchered out of the ring.

Long Leaf kept his unbeaten run of wins intact with a gutsy victory in the colts Blue Diamond Preview, beating Ollivander with Run Naan, who was hampered by the erratic Robe De Fete. scrambling into third place.

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Just past the post – Long Leaf  is still ahead

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Long Leaf returns to scale

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Run Naan, Ollivander & Bold Type return to scale

In my last post I mentioned four fillies as chances to win the fillies Blue Diamond Preview, and I’m pleased to note that they finished as the first four, with Lady Horseowner defeating Crossing The Abbey, with Oohood and Downloads running third and fourth respectively.

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Just past the post – Lady Horseowner still leads

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Crossing the Abbey returns to scale

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Oohood returns to scale

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Downloads returns to scale

Whether Long Leaf or Lady Horseowner will go on to win the Blue Diamond Stakes remains to be seen. The last colt to win the Blue Diamond Preview/Blue Diamond double was Sepoy in 2011, and the last filly to complete it was Miracles of Life in 2013.

I stayed for race 4, the Blue Diamond Gala Dinner Plate, a race for three year old fillies run over 1100 metres.

It resulted in Holy Seal, who led throughout, defeating tote favourite Smart Coupe with Lady Magnus running third.

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Race 4 – just past the post

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Holy Seal returns to scale

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Smart Coupe returns to scale

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Lady Magnus returns to scale

As the new lens has a much wider focal range than my regular Nikon lens, it seemed to cope better with the bright light and the rail being out by six metres, so I’m glad I tried it out in situ so to speak.

They’re racing at Caulfield for the next two Saturdays, so I might go to the next meeting, depending on who is running and how hot it will be.

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Glimmer of Diamonds

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Limestone wins the 2017  fillies Blue Diamond Preview

The first Group 1 race of the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival, the Orr Stakes is only a fortnight away, scheduled for the 10th of February, closely followed by the Black Caviar Lightning and Blue Diamond Stakes Day.

The Blue Diamond Stakes is one of the jewels in the crown of autumn racing in Melbourne, so I always take an interest in the build up races featured over the next few weeks.

Tomorrow at Caulfield there are the Blue Diamond Previews (for 2 year olds) – one for colts and geldings, the other for fillies - so I’m looking forward to heading to the course to witness the action.

Earlier this week,  the weather for Saturday was predicted to be 39°C, so Racing Victoria has brought forward the race times, starting late morning and finishing mid afternoon.  Although the predicted temperature has been reduced to 33°C,  the prior arrangements still stand, so I’ll have to get to Caulfield early to see the Previews.

They are scheduled as race 2 and 3, to run at 11.30pm and 12.00 pm.

The colts Preview is first and has a small field of 7 runners, the top picks appear to be Run Naan and Long Leaf who both have two wins to their credit.

Most of the 10  strong fillies Blue Diamond Preview field are having their first start, so it’s anyone’s guess who the winner will be, though Lady Horseowner has a bit of form, beating the highly regarded Al Naifa at her only start.  Oohood and Crossing the Abbey also have a run or two under their belts. Downloads appeals as an ideal Aquarian bet. She’s cleverly named (Fastnet Rock / Dance Mix).

I doubt if I will stay for many races tomorrow, but it is a good opportunity to test the new lens I purchased recently for the Nikon D5300. I’ve been meaning to try it out at a racetrack over the past two weekends, but couldn’t be bothered making the journey to Flemington.

I’ve tested the lens at home on the cats and it passed with flying colours.

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Bingo snapped with the new lens – love the blur

Here’s another photo captured indoors of one of my most loved possessions, the wicker cat sewing basket, draped in a variety of necklaces.

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Cat sewing basket

Of course all racing fans are hanging out for Winx first start for autumn which will be the Group 2 Apollo Stakes on 17 February that she has won twice before.  I was contemplating going to Sydney for Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill, where Winx will most likely be contesting the George Ryder Stakes (won twice before as well), but remembered I have a concert to attend in Melbourne that particular Saturday.


It may well be the last chance to see her live in Australia, as there is a likelihood she’ll head to Royal Ascot if she maintains her winning ways this autumn.

She is odds on to equal Black Caviar’s 25 consecutive wins this autumn whether or not she takes on the world.

Go Winx!

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Winx Cox Plate montage hanging on my wall

Oh, almost forgot… Happy Australia Day.

Friday, January 12, 2018

What Remains of Edith Finch & Before The Storm


Whiling away the time until the autumn racing carnival I have been playing a few new computer games.  I only mention on my blog the games that strike me as refreshingly original, and such a one is What Remains of Edith Finch by Indie Game developer Giant Sparrow.

Classified as a walking simulator, a genre I rarely play, it has the distinction of being much more than the usual run of the mill walking sims, with a startling approach to revealing the plot as the game progresses.

What Remains of Edith Finch tells the story of the seemingly cursed Finch family and Edith is the sole remaining survivior who returns to the family home seeking answers to the mystery of the family curse.

It sounds like a horror story, but it’s not.

The rendering of  the house is astoundingly detailed. Every room is crammed with objects and the player can zoom in and read book titles, newspaper articles, look at pictures and objects etc, which hint towards the particular interests of the family member.

What makes this game unique is the way each of the 12 deaths are presented.

With most of the rooms in the house locked, Edith must find another way to gain access to them, armed with key given her by her late mother. In each room she finds clues to the personalities of her forebears and siblings,  and has access to their last day of life through diaries, letters, poems, photos, and even a comic book. Each one she opens launches a mini game, all of them diverse and completely different from each other,  unfolding like a series of short stories.

I can understand why What Remains of Edith Finch was deemed by the gaming community one of the top games for 2017.

Like chalk and cheese, prior to playing Edith Finch, I spent, not exactly an enjoyable, but certainly an interesting week, playing the prequel to Life Is Strange, titled Before The Storm.

before the storm

Life is Strange is one of the best games I’ve played over the years, so naturally I had to get Before The Storm.  Released in  three episodes, the game is set three years before the events in the original Life Is Strange and concentrates on Chloe Price and her relationship with Rachel Amber, who is the subject of Chloe and Max’s investigation in the original game.

It was fun playing as Chloe Price, a rebellious teenager, though I tended in my choices to make her a nicer person and tried to keep her out of trouble. Despite my efforts Chloe was a magnet for trouble, which led to some tense moments in the game with the frightening sociopath Damon Merrick.

The game also harks forwards to Life Is Strange, providing background information on several of the main characters and explains some of the ambiguities in the original game.

Though What Remains of Edith Finch and BeforeThe Storm were totally different to each other, it was fun and occasionally mind blowing playing them.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Welcome 2018

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B Kliban – Tree Party Hangover

World War III failed to eventuate in 2017, for which we can be thankful, but the odds of it happening in 2018 are much shorter, with Trump and Kim Jong Un causing Global anxiety with their belligerant exchanges of views.

Hopefully, sanity will prevail with 2018 featuring more good news than bad news. With any luck Trump will be impeached, Kim Jong Un will be overthrown, and peace will prevail.

2017 was an eventful year for the Cat Politics domicile, particulary the big move to another suburb and the raising of a new feline companion to fill the gap left by Willy’s death on Boxing Day 2016.

The feline in question is sitting on my knee as I write this post and is being good for change.

Cats – Talya in the cat bed with Bingo outside

Talya appears to have recovered from her stomach ailment, as she has not inappropriately voided her bowels inside for several weeks.  She has however abandoned her blanket on the chair and readopted the cat bed. I must say that the cat bed purchased in 2015 has been a great success as cats seem to love this particular model.

We had Christmas lunch at my brother’s place and I got to meet my new great niece Florence for the first time.

A baby photo! Florence in elf hat

She’s another Leo born into the family. That makes five of us in all.  My youngest nephew became a father this year in November with the birth of baby Tex.  I haven’t seen the nephew for several years as he lives and works in Queensland.

One of the joys of New Year’s Day is putting up a new calendar. I buy a calendar every year and have a huge collection (though I culled it before we moved) of calendars dating back to the 1970s.

This year I purchased the Mimi Vang Olsen cat calendar, which has 12 delightful portraits of cats.

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We had a quiet New Year’s Eve as usual and went to bed early, though were awoken briefly by the bang of fireworks nearby around midnight. 

I’ve started the New Year with a head cold, awaking with it yesterday morning. Who knows how I caught it, but it’s not that bad so far and my nose seems to have stopped dribbling.

There are a few things I’m looking forward to in 2018 - a Jason Isbell concert in late March, and seeing New York writer and wit, Fran Lebowizt, earlier the same month at the Athenaeum Theatre. I have an ancient copy of her first book, Metropolitan Life, which I enjoyed reading at the time, though it’s a bit dated now.

There are not many books I’m eagerly awaiting in 2018, other than the new Kate Atkinson novel Transcription, and William Gibson is purported to have the follow up to The Peripheral, called Agency out this year as well. No doubt there will be other books that will catch my fancy as the year progresses.

And - I didn’t think I would be writing this again - the 25th Anniversary Edition of John Crowley’s Little, Big, now awaited for 12 years, will hopefully be published this year. It was supposed to come out last year, and must be close to being sent to the printers, according to the latest news on the Little, Big website.  God, I hope it arrives before I die!

Anyway on this first day of a brand new year I’m mostly optimistic that we will all survive to live a few more.

PS The phone and Internet are now working after a technician came and fixed the wiring in the street just after Christmas.