Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Handsome Brute – Racing at Moonee Valley

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Brutal returns to scale after winning the McKenzie Stakes

One of the star attractions for me at Moonee Valley last Saturday was to see the hyped colt Brutal run the second race of his career. He had won his first start at Caulfield back in July by 5 lengths, so there was a great deal of interest in seeing how he’d fare in his second, and whether he would live up to expectations.

Though he didn’t win the Listed McKenzie Stakes by as great a margin, it was a tougher competition and he prevailed, overtaking race leader Tavisan for a gritty hard fought win.

He’s a very pretty young fellow, quite an eye catcher in fact. I noticed him in the parade ring early in the afternoon and he had a distinct air, that stood him out from other horses circumambulating at the same time.

The McKenzie Stakes was run as Race 7 in late afternoon, but I reached Moonee Valley around 1.45pm, and just caught the end of Race 3, the MSC Signs Plate, which Michelle Payne won on Sweet Rockette, a filly she also trains, upstaging the race favourite Multaja. Quite an achievement!

Getting to Moonee Valley from Ivanhoe is pretty easy with a number of public transport options. I chose this time to catch the 510 Ivanhoe to Essendon bus, which links to a connecting tram near Pascoe Vale Road. This I caught  to Moonee Ponds Junction, the whole journey taking about 45 minutes all up.

Entering Moonee Valley racecourse I noticed this special display honouring Winx’s three Cox Plate victories.

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Winx tribute close to racecourse entrance

I didn’t manage to get any photos of Race 3, so sauntered around the stalls area to kill time until the next race. I was hoping to get photos of Brutal and Hey Doc, but neither were in their stalls at that time.

Returning later I snapped this photo of Brutal in his stall

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Brutal in his stall

A woman standing by asked the strapper if Brutal was a biter. The strapper admitted he was a biter, but having a large over bite didn’t cause too much damage.

Back trackside on the public lawn I watched Race 4, the Woodside Park Handicap, run  over 2500 metres.  Starting favourite Tiffany’s Lass led from start to finish and won by 1¼ lengths from Fontein Lad, with French import Zilbiyr running third.

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Tiffany’s Lass leads down the straight to the finish line

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Tiffany’s Lass returns to scale

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Fontein Lad returns to scale

As you can see from the above photos the afternoon was sunny for a change and good for taking photos. Though it remained sunny out the back in the stalls area, as the afternoon progressed the shadow of the grandstand gradually overlay the the track.

Race 5 was the Dr Sheahan Plate, a race for mares over 1200 metres.  The Chris Waller trained Our Malambo won, with Mamzelle Tess running second and Chiavari third.

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Our Malambo has a good lead down the straight

By the time Race 6 was run the shadows had lengthened over the track, which made photography somewhat tricky, so these photos of the finish are somewhat dark.

Trap For Fools, another who led from start to finish on the pace favoured track, won the I Print Handicap (race 6) from Our Venus Beach and Sikanderabad.

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Trap For Fools crosses the finish line 2½ lengths ahead of his nearest rival

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Trap For Fools returns to scale

Moonee Valley recently installed a new finishing post, doing away with the old display that required a couple of blokes to change the sponser names after each race…

Moonee Valley old finishing post

…to a new snazzy digital display.

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New winning post

Throughout the afternoon I’d mostly watched the races from the east side of the course, but by the time the feature Mckenzie Stakes was run, the track was shadowed up to and beyond the finishing post, so I moved back to the public lawn for the remainder of the afternoon.

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Brutal is about to overtake Tavisan as they gallop towards the finish line

I stayed for Race 8, the Carlyon Stakes a sprint over 1100 metres. Dual Group 1 winner Hey Doc was the favourite, but he only managed to finish 5th. The race was run at a blistering pace, close to the track record, and the globetrotting Faatinah won the bickies from race leader Sunday Escape with Mr Sneaky running third.

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Up the straight, Faatinah (blue silks) is about to overtake Sunday Escape with Mr Sneaky trailing behind

I called it quits after the Carlyon Stakes and headed for the bus terminal at Moonee Ponds Junction, just managing to catch the 504 Moonee Ponds to Clifton Hill bus.

It was pleasant being back at Moonee Valley it being one of my favourite race courses, and generally excellent for taking action photos.

I’ll finish this post with a final photo.

It’s not every day that you come across a unicycling juggler, so I couldn’t resist getting a photo of this friendly bloke, who was only too pleased to pose for it.

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Unicycling Juggler

Next Saturday the racing returns to Caulfield where the Group 1 Memsie Stakes is the feature race, with an interesting support card. Black Caviar’s second foal, a colt named Prince of Caviar, is nominated for the Group 3 HDF McNeil Stakes, so I hope he is part of the field at acceptance time, as I’ve yet to see him in the flesh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sunlight on a Wintry Day

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Showtime wins the PB Lawrence Stakes from Hartnell

As expected the weather was awful for an afternoon at the races being cold and occasionally wet. Otherwise it was a stimulating race meeting, the three feature races making attendance at the track worthwhile.

In Sydney Winx was the star attraction and delighted her many fans with a stunning win in the Winx Stakes, demonstrating that she was back just as good as ever, surpassing her own and Black Caviar’s record winning streak and knotching up 19 Group 1 wins into the bargain. She made front page news on The Age on Sunday, and Australia Post has issued a stamp to honour the occasion.  The stamps are available online now on the Australia Post website, and will be on sale from 23 August in Post Offices.  There are a variety of celebratory stamp packs to choose from and I’ve already purchased a few to complement my collection of Black Caviar stamps.

I arrived at Caulfield Racecourse around 1.45 pm, so had time to stroll around the stalls before Race 4 was run. It was great to see so many of the good horses back at the track, particularly Hartnell, Sunlight, Grunt, Mighty Boss and Black Heart Bart, among others.

Race 4 was the Nitto Denko Handicap run over 1400 metres. It was won by the favourite Streets of Avalon, from Wayanka and Arkham Knight.

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Streets of Avalon returns to scale

New kid on the block Tony Nicconi was the favourite for the Vain Stakes, after he had won his first start by four lengths, and proved at this, his second start, that it wasn’t a fluke, winning the Vain Stakes narrowly from Long Leaf with Native Soldier running third not far behind.

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Tony Nicconi still leads just past the post.

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Tony Nicconi returns to scale

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Long Leaf returns to scale

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Native Soldier returns to scale

Back in the stalls area after the Vain Stakes we had the good fortune to run into Sunlight’s trainer, Tony McAvoy, and got him to sign our racebooks against her name. He was pretty positive that his star filly would win the Quezette after we mentioned that we didn’t want to jinx her after getting his signature.

But before the Quezette Stakes was run we took time out to watch the Winx Stakes on a screen nearby. Fortunately this area was sheltered as it had started to rain heavily as Winx romped home in the race named in her honour, winning by over two lengths from outsider Invictus Prince and stablemate D’Argento.  The mooted challenge from Kementari was short lived as Winx sailed past him in a trice, as they turned the corner into the straight, and he was lucky to finish fourth.

Sunlight was the starting favourite for the Quezette Stakes and prevailed, fighting out a challenge by Humma Humma to win by a nose.  Thrillster finished third. It was pleasing to see Sunlight back in the money after her game second to Nature Strip recently in Adelaide.

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Quezette Stakes just past the post – Sunlight still leads Humma Humma

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Sunlight returns to scale

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Humma Humma returns to scale

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Thrillster returns to scale

It was pretty dark and overcast while the Quezette Stakes was run, hence the darkish photos above, but amazingly it fined up for the feature P B Lawrence Stakes which was up next.

Here are some parade ring photos of some of the contenders…

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Black Heart Bart

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Jungle Edge

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Kings Will Dream

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Mighty Boss

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Boom Time

Three year old colt Grunt started as favourite, but finished 5th, though less than a length from the winner Showtime, who was second favourite after being highly spruiked by the Hawkes, his trainers. In a way I was relieved that my favourites didn’t win considering the P B Lawrence Stakes hoodoo on winners. It will be interesting to see how Showtime fares for the rest of the spring racing season.

Hartnell finished second, beaten half a length on the line and outsider Widgee Turf was third.

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Showtime on his way to barriers

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Hartnell returns to scale

I headed home after the Lawrence Stakes, heartily glad to climb into the comparative warmth of a train after being quite cold for most of the afternoon, despite dressing appropriately.

Next Saturday the racing is at Moonee Valley which has a few interesting races on the program. The weather is predicted to be fine and sunny for a change, so I’ll probably attend. I haven’t been to Moonee Valley since Cox Plate day last year.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Go Winx! - Spring Has Almost Sprung

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Winx – Golden Slipper Day 2018

The weather may not be anything to write home about, but with the World’s Best Racehorse, Winx, returning to the racetrack there is reason to celebrate.

Winx will be aiming to surpass her own and Black Caviar’s record of 25 consecutive wins at Randwick this coming Saturday in her eponymous Group 1 Winx Stakes.

She faces ten rivals, which is actually a decent field size considering her presence in the field, four of them being her stablemates and the rest from various other stables.

Besides Winx, the field has Group 1 winners such as Ace High, D’Argento, Kementari and Unforgotten, some of whom could be considered serious challengers to end her winning streak.  By all accounts Winx has returned just as good as ever, so is expected to continue on her winning ways, and racing fans sincerely hope she will. Go Winx!

Though I won’t be at Randwick to witness Winx’s return in person, I’ll certainly make sure to watch the Winx Stakes on a screen at Caulfield where a rather good race card is programmed, featuring the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes with the Group 3 Vain Stakes and Quezette Stakes as tasty entrees.

The P B Lawrence Stakes was formerly known as the Liston Stakes and is run over 1400 metres.  There is however a curse on winners of the race;  very few P B Lawrence Stakes winners go on to win other races in the Spring. Last year’s winner Hartnell failed to win another race in Spring 2017,  though won the Group 1 Memsie Stakes in autumn this year. Hartnell is again competing this year against a classy field that includes Caulfield Cup favourite Kings Will Dream, last year’s Caulfield Cup winner Boom Time,  2017 and 2018  Australian Cup winners Humidor and Harlem, trusty old Black Heart Bart, and young guns Grunt and Mighty Boss.

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Kings Will Dream – Flemington 17/2/18

Fortunately the races that I am most keen to watch are scheduled mid afternoon, so I can take my time getting to Caulfield, and won’t stress about buses replacing trains on the Hurstbridge line, which generally adds a extra 15 to 20 minutes travel time to the city.

So I aim to arrive around 1.30 to 2.00 pm in plenty of time to see the Vain Stakes, a Group 3 race for three year old colts and geldings over 1100 metres. Top picks are Long Leaf,  Ollivander, The August, Hard Rock, Tony Nicconi and Native Soldier.

The fillies equivalent race, the Quezette Stakes has the classy Sunlight having her first start in Melbourne. She faces a full field of 15 rivals that include well performed fillies like Thrillster, Lady Horseowner, Ennis Hill and Pippie.

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Sunlight – Golden Slipper Day 2018

Melbourne weather is forecast to be pretty awful on Saturday, cold and wet, similar to what was predicted for last weekend, so I’ll take my chances, suitably clothed, and hope it is not as bad as expected.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Aurie’s Star Voodoo

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Voodoo Lad overtakes Home Of The Brave to win the Aurie’s Star Handicap

Last Saturday dawned cold and rainy, and certainly didn’t look at all promising for attending the race meeting at Flemington. I almost didn’t go, but as the weather cleared late morning I decided I needed an outing, so headed off in time to catch the final train to Flemington at Southern Cross Station.

Reaching the course just after Race 3, I headed  for the stalls area to see if I could get a photo of Home Of The Brave, having his first start in Australia in the feature race, where he was the starting favourite.

The first equine stars I came across were the Living Legends representatives for the day, Apache Cat and Rogan Josh.

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Apache Cat

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Rogan Josh

Moving on I came across I Am A Star, who was  kicking off her Spring campaign in the Aurie’s Star…

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I Am A Star

….and eventually found Home Of The Brave.

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Home Of The Brave

The weather at Flemington during the afternoon was alternately sunny and overcast, and fortunately didn’t rain other than a light passing shower, but it wasn’t all that cold.

Returning trackside I paused to snap a photo of the new Members Stand, which during the Autumn racing season was a building site. It’s now almost finished.

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New Members Stand

The wide open spaces of Flemington were sparsely populated so I had no trouble taking photos from my favourite spot just past the finishing post. Other than the changing light conditions the other challenge was getting rail free photos with the inside rail being out by 7 metres.

I stayed for four races, the first of these being Race 4, the Rhonda Sexton Handicap, a race over 1400 metres for mares. The oddly named Spanner Head was the winner, with Violent Snow and Chiavari running second and third.

Race 5 was a sprint over 1200 metres and Choisborder turned out to be the first of four consecutive Darren Weir trained winners of the afternoon.

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Choisborder hits the front in Race 5

Race favourite Gold Mag ran second and longshot (60/1) The Card Players was third.

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Choisborder returns to scale

The Darren Allsop Handicap, a race over 2000 metres was up next.  It was of interest owing to the presence of various imported stayers, notably Sir Edwin Landseer having his first start in Australia.

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Sir Edwin Landseer on his way to the barriers

The race was won by The Statesman from Fontein Lad and I Boogi.

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A dark photo of the finish shows The Statesman taking the lead from I Boogi (pink silks)

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The Statesman returns to scale

As the feature race next to jump I decided to get some mounting yard photos of the contenders. The Aurie’s Star Handicap is a Group 3 race run over 1200 metres. A pretty good field made it interesting.

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Home Of The Brave – second

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Voodoo Lad – the winner

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Brave Song – third

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I Am A Star – fourth

Home Of The Brave led the field for most of the race, but he was overtaken close to the finish line by Voodoo Lad who swooped from the back the field to win by ¾ length, with Brave Song finishing third 2¼ lengths behind.

I called it quits after the Aurie’s Star and headed for the station. A thunder storm was threatening as I left, but I managed to get home without getting wet.

Last Saturday’s race meeting was quite enjoyable and it was pleasant to be back at Flemington, but next week offers a much more interesting race card at Caulfield where a number of horsey stars will be resuming in the feature P B Lawence Stakes.

And in Sydney at Randwick, the mighty Winx will be the star attraction, kicking off her Spring in the race named in her honour – the first Group 1 race of the season.