Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Gloomy Day with a Sparkle of Diamonds

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Written By returns to scale after winning the Blue Diamond

When I set out for Caulfield on Saturday the weather was warm and humid, but with a cool change sweeping in during the journey, a brisk chill greeted me as I stepped into the course. It was also raining slightly, and did so on and off throughout the afternoon, though fortunately didn’t bucket down.

So I was underdressed, but resigned myself to enduring the chill for the remainder of the afternoon.

It was challenging light for taking photos the heavy cloud cover barely lifting at any time, so I’m grateful that the nifty plugin filter Perfect Exposure did its job of enhancing the light in the photos that came out too dark.

I spent most of the afternoon out the back in the stalls area, which I had pretty much to myself and was pleased to discover that the Young Members were not accommodated on the hill as I had feared.

Loitering through the stalls area, I didn’t bother watching Race 3, but caught Race 4, the Group 2 Angus Armanasco Stakes, for three year old fillies run over 1400 metres.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of the winner Summer Sham but she romped in to win by half a length from Palazzo Vecchio  with Miss Wahoo running third.

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Summer Sham wins the Angus Amanasco Stakes

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Summer Sham on her way to the barriers

Race 5 was the Group 3 Mannerism Stakes for mares also run over 1400 metres. Silent Sedition, who won the Mannerism last year, started as second favourite and didn’t disappoint, leading from start to finish to win by over two lengths.  Samovare finished second and Montoya’s Secret ran third.

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Silent Sedition is still well ahead after the turn

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Silent Sedition returns to scale

The first of the Group 1 races was up next, the Futurity Stakes.  It resulted in a Darren Weir trained Japanese bred quinella with  Brave Smash beating stablemate Tosen Stardom, with three year old  Showtime running third.

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Just past the post in the Futurity Stakes

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Brave Smash returns to scale

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Tosen Stardom returns to scale

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Showtime returns to scale

Having witnessed most of the build up races, I still had no idea of who the winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes would be, but I’m pleased that four of the nine horses I mentioned in my preview post finished in the first four, with Written By proving the star of the show, winning the Blue Diamond Stakes by a good two and half lengths from Enhibaar and Oohood. Prairie Fire finished fourth.

I watched the pre-parade before the field headed to the mounting yard. 

Here are the main contenders…

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Written By

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Prairie Fire

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Ennis Hill

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Kinky Boom

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Lady Horseowner

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Plague Stone

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Long Leaf

Written By was the starting favourite and gave his rider, the young Jordan Childs, his first Group 1 win. Jordan is the son of Greg Childs, famous for his association with Champion New Zealand mare Sunline.

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Blue Diamond Stakes just past the post – Written By still leads

In the final Group 1 of the day I was interested in getting some photographs of Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign, having not seen her in the flesh before. A fair crowd of interested racegoers were gathered around her stall most of the latter part of the afternoon, but my best photos were of her parading in the ring before the Oakleigh Plate. Despite the fact that it had started to rain, my photos actually turned out alright, though are slightly noisy and misty due to the fine rain falling at the time.

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She Will Reign

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She Will Reign head shot

The other runner I was keen to see was Russian Revolution who is rarely spotted on a racecourse. He paraded last and spent some time in the pre-parade ring when the others had all departed for the mounting yard.

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Russian Revolution in the pre-parade ring

The Oakleigh Plate was the final Group 1 race of the day. A field of 18 runners dashed down the straight with Russian Revolution winning by a neck from race leader Snitty Kitty with Hellbent a close up third.

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Oakleigh Plate finish – Russian Revolution & Snitty Kitty side by side on the fence

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Russian Revolution returns to scale

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Snitty Kitty in the pre-parade ring

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Hellbent returns to scale

She Will Reign was never in the picture, racing at the tail of the field with no hope of catching the leaders.

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She Will Reign returns to scale with Sword of Light

After the Oakleigh Plate I headed home and welcomed the chance to get warm on the train, after enduring  overly cool air for three hours.

There are only two Saturday Group 1 race meetings in Melbourne to go, before we bid farewell to another Autumn carnival. Both meetings are at Flemington.

Next Saturday features the Australian Guineas in Melbourne, and in Sydney at Randwick Winx will be starting her autumn season in the Chipping Norton Stakes and gunning for her 23rd consecutive win. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Multifaceted Blue Diamond

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Long Leaf – current favourite for the Blue Diamond Stakes

The Blue Diamond Stakes is the feature race next Saturday at Caufield and it has to be one of the most open competitions for years, with no real standout colts or fillies. Even Long Leaf, the current favourite is $7.00 on the tote and several others share second favouritism, priced between $8.00 and $10.00.

As usual a full field of sixteen will be competing for the prize and most of the them have (on form) the ability to win the 1200 metre dash. 

Of the colts, Long Leaf, Written By, Prairie Fire and Plague Stone have all been prominent in the build up races, as have fillies Enbihaar, Kinky Boom, Lady Horseowner, Ennis Hill and Oohood.

As Saturday afternoon is forecast to be showery,  this could favour those runners who appreciate a bit of give in the ground.

Whatever the outcome, it looks a doozy of a race.

There are two other Group 1 events at Caulfield on Saturday – Futurity Stakes and Oakleigh Plate, which have both attracted excellent fields, the Oakleigh Plate in particular.

The Futurity Stakes  run over 1400 metres is the first of the Group 1 events to run and the field of  11 contestants is similar to the Orr Stakes; in fact eight of the runners contested the Orr Stakes. Black Heart Bart won the Futurity Stakes last year, but he is out of action for autumn.  2018 Orr Stakes winner, Hartnell  is not in the field, though will be running later in the afternoon in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes. Fresh starters include Humidor and Sovereign Nation.  Top chances are Tosen Stardom, Brave Smash and the three year olds Mighty Boss and Showtime.

A huge field of 18 runners has accepted for the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate, a sprint run over 1100 metres.  The sensational field includes 2017 Golden Slipper/Moir Stakes winner She Will Reign, 2017 Blue Diamond winner Catchy, Sheidel, last year’s Oakleigh Plate winner,  and  Group 1 winner Russian Revolution who is three wins from three first up.

As the Group 1 races are scheduled as races 6,7 and 8, I can take my time getting to Caulfield and shan’t mind the delays in public transport caused by railway track updates.

Rosehill in Sydney has three interesting Group 2 races  - the Silver Slipper Stakes  for Golden Slipper bound two year olds, which stars Magic Millions winner Sunlight, the Millie Fox Stakes for mares with Chris Waller stars Egg Tart and Foxplay kicking off their autumn campaigns, and the Hobartville Stakes for Guineas and Derby bound three year olds run over 1400 metres, which has a terrific field that includes Trapeze Artist, Ace High, Pierata  and Kementari.

Anyway I’m looking forward to seeing the action at Caulfield even though I suspect that my favourite spot on the hill above the stalls will be reserved for Young Members.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Seeing Red– Black Caviar Lightning Review

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Regan Bayliss celebrates Redkirk Warrior’s Lightning win as he returns to scale

It was another classic Group 1 finish in the Black Caviar Lightning with Redzel, who looked the winner, being overtaken at the finish line by Redkirk Warrior, who flashed down the outside to win by a nose. It was a perfectly timed run by jockey Regan Bayliss who had reason to celebrate after several recent misjudged rides had dented his reputation. Missrock finished third 1.3 lengths behind.

I reached Flemington at around 1.30 pm,  and headed directly to the stalls area to see the Living Legends who were out in force to mark The Great Horse Raceday.  As I already have heaps of photos of the old legends,  I didn’t bother to get snaps, other than one of Maluckyday who I had not seen before.

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Maluckyday – 2nd in the 2010 Melbourne Cup

Dillydallying in the stalls area I missed  Race 3, but returned trackside to watch Race 4, the Goodwood Racecourse Handicap (1600 metres) where the romantically named Kings Will Dream, an Irish import with the Darren Weir Stable,  won easily from Notio and Downhearted.

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Kings Will Dream wins the Goodwood Racecourse Handicap

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Kings Will Dream returns to scale

Flemington was in festive mode though not crowded, with families out in force. The roses were not yet in full bloom, no doubt perfectly timed to display their full glory on Australian Cup Day.

Flemington roses

Race 5 was the Royal Ascot Handicap, a sprint over 1200 metres and the Darren Weir trained Ken’s Dream won the race comfortably from Lucky Liberty and Prima.

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Ken’s Dream (outside) wins the Royal Ascot Handicap

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Ken’s Dream returns to scale

At Randwick, Winx was scheduled to have a trial under race conditions against her stablemates and the race was played on the big screen. Winx looked as good as ever, winning the trial easily in her customary style.

Meanwhile at Flemington, while waiting for Race 6, I idly watched a group of guys form various pyramid poses for photos.  They looked absurd, but obviously put some thought into their configurations. Naturally, a girl was enlisted to take photos.

High spirited race patrons

With the Group 3 Vanity Stakes up next, I took up a position on the mounting yard fence to get photos of the fillies parade.

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Bring Me Roses

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Then I returned to my favourite spot at the access gate to photograph the race.

Aloisia started as favourite, but she was nowhere in the finish, the race being won by Rimraam from Bring Me Roses and Shokora.

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Rimraam wins the Vanity Stakes

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Rimraam returns to scale

The C S Hayes Stakes was next to jump and the last race before the feature event.

It was a wide open race that any of the 18 strong field could have won, the oddly named Grunt eventually winning quite impressively from Cliff’s Edge and Muraaqeb.

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Grunt wins the CS Hayes Stakes

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Grunt returns to scale

For the Black Caviar Lightning I decided not to bother taking photos from my usual spot, due to Flemington sprint fields generally splitting into two sections – one on the inner rail, the other on the Grandstand side, which makes it hard to get photos of the finish.

So I hung around near the clock tower after watching the mounting yard parade.

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Redzel  on his way to the track from the mounting yard

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Hey Doc in the mounting yard

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Redkirk Warrior in the mounting yard

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Terravista in the mounting yard

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Missrock on her way to the track from the mounting yard

Wouldn’t you know it, the field raced in a bunch down the centre of the track, so I made the wrong call for photographs. The light would have been much better at my usual spot, rather than waiting for the  runners to return to scale with the sun in an unfavourable position for photos – too dark as it turned out, though I must admit the photo of Redkirk Warrior returning to scale above isn’t all that bad.

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Redzel returns to scale

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Redkirk Warrior in the winners rug

I headed home after the Lightning Stakes, the two trains transporting me thence coinciding nicely at Southern Cross Station.

Next week we return to Caulfield for Blue Diamond Stakes Day, which features three Group 1 events. Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign will be contesting one of them, so something to look forward to, though it could be tricky and tiresome getting to Caulfield with buses replacing trains between Ivanhoe and Clifton Hill.