Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Class Act – Australian Guineas & Winx Again

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Mystic Journey – Cox Plate Day 2018

It was hard to decide which racehorse photo I would use to illustrate this post, but I settled on one of Mystic Journey as she is the most intriguing runner in the Australian Guineas field.

In the past few years (from 2015) the Randwick Guineas has been run on the same day as the Australian Guineas, so fields for each race have been diluted with several top three year olds running in one or the other of them.

This year the scheduling of the two Guineas races has reverted to the old format and the Australian Guineas can shine once more as a quality Group 1 race. It has attracted a quite wonderful field of contestants that include Extra Brut (Victoria Derby winner), Amphitrite (Thousand Guineas winner)  and other recent impressive runners such as Hawkshot, The Inevitable, Mystic Journey, Verry Elleegant and Ringerdingding.

Mystic Journey was the early favourite for this race and I can understand why. With two very good wins under her belt already this season, she has marked herself as quite an exceptional filly. If she does win the Australian Guineas she will be regarded as a potential superstar of the turf.  It’s her greatest test to date and I’ll be quietly hoping that she passes with honours.

In Sydney Winx will be racing against five of her stablemates and trusty old Happy Clapper in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes.  It looks a shoe in for the mighty mare, and if she wins, she will achieve another milestone by winning 23 Group 1 races -  a world record.

The other Group 1 race on Saturday is the Surround Stakes, also at Randwick. For three year old fillies run over 1400 metres, it has a classy field that includes well performed fillies such as Oohood, Fiesta, Fundamentalist, Miss Fabulass and Nakeeta Jane to name some of the main chances.

After this weekend  there are only two more Saturdays of racing in the Melbourne autumn racing carnival – super Saturday on 9th March and the new fangled, and quite bizarre, All Star Mile on the 16th March.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Girl Power – Blue Diamond Stakes Day Review

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Just after the finish in the Blue Diamond Stakes – winner Lyre (blue silks)

So far there have been five Group 1 races in 2019 Autumn racing carnival, and remarkably four of the five have been won by the fairer sex.

Such was the case last Saturday where the girls triumphed in all three of the feature Group 1 events.

I arrived at Caulfield in time to watch Race 3, the Group 3 Mannerism Stakes, a race for mares over 1400 metres. It was won by Jamaican Rain from Naantali and Teleplay.

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Jamaican Rain returns to scale

Race 4 was the not very interesting Group 2 Angus Armanesco Stakes, for three year old fillies, also run over 1400 metres. Qafila scored the second win of her 13 starts career, winning by half a length from race favourite Angelic Ruler, with Zoubo a close third.

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Qafila on her way to the barriers

A small field contested the Group 3 Zedative Stakes with only five starters in contention. The Chris Waller trained Zousain was the hot favourite and was expected to shoe it in.  Everyone underestimated the so far unbeaten Terbium, an attractive grey-bay colt trained in South Australia, who romped in almost two lengths in front of Zousain. Yulong January finished third.

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Terbium returns to scale

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Zousain (red silks) & Yulong January return to scale

The next three races were the Group 1 events and the Futurity Stakes was the opener. Sydney mare Alizee started favourite and franked her form with a very impressive win. She raced wide for most of the race, her jockey, Hugh Bowman, opting to keep her unhindered in her run. She hit the front close to the finish line and won by half a length from Malaguerra with grand old trooper Hartnell running third another half length behind.

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Futurity Stakes just past the post

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Alizee returns to scale

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Malaguerra on his way to the barriers

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Hartnell returns to scale

It was not long to wait for the feature Blue Diamond Stakes and as the youngsters filed onto the track it was anyone’s guess who the winner would be with Loving Gaby and Athiri sharing favouritism at around 5/1.

I Am Immortal grabbed the lead shortly after the start  and led until the last 100 or so metres, where he was swamped by the swoopers Lyre, Lankan Star and Free of Debt and others.  Lyre won by half a length from Lankan Star with Free of Debt finishing third.

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Lyre returns to scale, her jockey Luke Currie celebrating with a thumbs up

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Lankan Star returns to scale

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Free of Debt on his way to the mounting yard

In the Oakleigh Plate, the final Group 1 race of the day, Nature Strip was short priced favourite, but was a major disappointment after leading throughout, fading in the straight to finish 10th.  The winner, local mare Booker came from the back of the back of the pack to win by almost a length from Encryption with Eduardo finishing third.

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Oakleigh Plate just past the post – Booker still leads

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Booker returns to scale

I called it a day after the Oakleigh Plate, heading for the station and home.

It had been another pleasant day at the races. It was fairly crowded on the course, but not where I hang out on the hill above the stalls area.

Next Saturday, the races in Melbourne are at Flemington for the Australian Guineas. A fabulous field has been nominated for this event and I’m looking forward to seeing how super talented Tassie filly Mystic Journey fares in it.

In Sydney at Randwick, Winx will be running in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes. She’s won it the last three years running and will be aiming to make history by equalling Tie the Knot’s winning sequence of 1999 to 2002.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Blue Diamond Stakes Day 2019

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I Am Immortal – Blue Diamond Preview

Saturday’s racing at Caulfield features the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes as well as two other Group 1 races – Futurity Stakes and Oakleigh Plate.

I first attended the Blue Diamond Stakes back in 2012. I remember the day as being a hot 40° C and that the Blue Diamond winner was Samaready.

This Saturday the weather is forecast to be in the mid 20s and sunny, a perfect for a day at the races.

So who will win the Blue Diamond Stakes?

Having watched all the build up races, several stand out as likely chances; colt I Am Immortal, and fillies Catch Me, Brooklyn Hustle, Lyre and Loving Gaby who was the early race favourite. It being a race for two year olds anything could happen, so one of the other four colts or five fillies could steal the show.

The first of the Group 1 races scheduled to run is the Futurity Stakes, a race over 1400 metres, comprising the usual suspects such as Hartnell, Redkirk Warrior, Land of Plenty, Le Romain and Brave Smash. Early favourite is Sydney mare Alizee who started her Autumn with an impressive win in the Group 2 Expressway Stakes. She is also favourite for the All Star Mile, the new race on the block that will be run on the 16th March at Flemington.

Also in the Futurity picture is Orr Stakes winner Manuel and talented three year old Ringerdingding.

Speedster Nature Strip takes on a huge field in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate that include such talented sprinters as Viddora, Eduardo and Booker.  Nature Strip looks the logical pick and should win if he has recovered from his dazzling win in the Rubiton Stakes a fortnight ago.

I intend to get to the track around 1.30 pm. Fortunately trains will be running as normal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Timely win in the Black Caviar Lightning & Winx Big 30

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Approaching the finishing post in the Black Caviar Lightning

When I got on the bus to go to Clifton Hill railway station, a couple of fractious passengers were bristling with aggro over nothing much and looked as if they could get into fisticuffs. The driver threatened to throw them off the bus, so they settled down, thank goodness, and the rest of the journey passed without incident.

At Flemington all was peace, love, happiness and Woodstock Nation, a festive atmosphere typical of race meetings, where even children are catered for with various fun activities.

I arrived at the track at around 1.30pm and managed to get my step past the gates, as there was no security check point at the Railway entrance, though my friend George had to resort to subterfuge to get his ladder through security at the car park entrance.

The contestants for Race 3 were parading in the mounting yard, but after hiding my step behind the rose bushes near my favourite spot just past the finishing post, I headed to the stalls area to see who had arrived and gave that race a miss.

Living Legends Apache Cat and Silent Witness were the special equine guests for the meeting and were being pampered in their stalls.

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Apache Cat

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Silent Witness

I was particularly interested in seeing More Sundays, a son of the wonderful mare More Joyous sired by Fastnet Rock.

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More Sundays

More Sundays has only had three starts for one win, and so far has hardly lived up to his illustrious breeding.

Sunlight arrived whilst I was in the stalls area, so I grabbed a photo of her in her stall.

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As the next race was yet another Blue Diamond build up race, the Talindert Stakes, named for the property where famous steeplechaser Crisp was born, and owned by Sir Chester Manifold, I headed back to my spot on the access gate to photograph the race and pretty well stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.

Microphone, last seen running second to I Am Immortal in the Blue Diamond Preview, was the starting favourite for the Talindert, and he delivered in spades, winning by over two lengths from Talented and Charleise.

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Microphone then daylight winning the Talindert Stakes

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Microphone returns to scale

As you can see the light was perfect for taking photos. It was a warm sunny day but not exceptionally hot.

Race 5 was the Group 3 Vanity Stakes,  a race for three year old fillies over 1400 metres.

Fundamentalist was the favourite, but she was relegated to third by the former Darren Weir trained stablemates Amphitrite and Verry Elleegant. Amphitrite is now with the David Hayes stable and Verry Elleegant with Chris Waller.

The result struck me as a natural trifecta, not that I had any money on the race.

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Vanity finish – Amphitrite is outside Fundamentalist with Verry Elleegant behind

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Amphitrite on her way to the barriers

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Verry Elleegant returns to scale

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Fundamentalist on her way to the barriers

The handy thing about the step is that you can sit on it in between races, and this I did, mildly amused by the Sumo wrestling activity near the access gate. Yes, I was in the Kids Zone and the theme was Chinese New Year.

The sumo wrestling involved kids donning cumbersome sumo suits and facing off against each other. The kid who managed to topple its opponent and hold them down for the count of five, was the victor.

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Sumo wrestling – droll amusement

Race 6 was the not terribly interesting Hong Kong Jockey’s Club Trophy, an open race over 1600 metres.

Heptagon was the pre race favourite, but he ended out of a place in fourth. The race was won by 10/1 shot Thunder Cloud from Antah and Mr Money Bags.

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Thunder Cloud & Antah cross the line together with Mr Money Bags behind them

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Thunder Cloud on his way to the barriers

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Antah on his way to the barriers

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Mr Money Bags returns to scale

By the time race 6 was run and won, there was a quarter of an hour until Winx’s first race of the season was set to run, so stowing my step behind the rose bushes, I headed closer to the big screen to watch the Apollo Stakes.

Randwick appeared to be packed with Winx fans, and a familar cheer greeted her as she moved onto the track. The race was like many that we have seen before with Winx running mid field, one off the inside rail. Of course she cruised to the front shortly after the field turned into the straight and went on to win her 30th consecutive race effortlessly and in doing so broke the course record. Happy Clapper ran second and Winx’s stablemate Egg Tart filled third place.

Watching the race on the Flemington public lawn with several other interested observers we cheered her to the post as if we were at Randwick in person.

Back in Spring I witnessed Tasmanian filly Mystic Journey win two races in impressive fashion and the C S Hayes Stakes resulted in a win by a fellow Tasmanian, The Inevitable, at big odds.

What do they put in the water?

Only a little fellow like his sire Dundeel, The Inevitable fought out the finish with New Zealand bred Age of Chivalry with O’tauto running third two lengths in arrears.

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The Inevitable and Age of Chivalry cross the finish line together

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The Inevitable returns to scale

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Age of Chivalry on his way to the barriers

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O’tauto on his way to the barriers

The Inevitable’s next race is the Group 1 Australian Guineas on 2 March, where he will be up against the classy Mystic Journey, who has had two starts for two wins in her own State so far this autumn.

The feature Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning was up next and fortunately the runners raced in a bunch down the centre of the track. Sunlight briefly hit the front at 300 mark but was overtaken by In Her Time and Osborne Bulls. She hung on to run third, less than a length from the first two home.

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In Her Time returns to scale

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Osborne Bulls returns to scale

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Sunlight returns to scale with Written By

I headed for the station after the Black Caviar Lightning and made it home, one and a half hours later.

This coming Saturday features three Group 1 races at Caulfield including the Blue Diamond Stakes. Always a good day’s racing I’m looking forward to attending.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Let the Sunshine In – Black Caviar Lightning Preview

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Sunlight – Caulfield Guineas Day October 2018

I am looking forward to returning to Flemington this Saturday. I haven’t been there since Mackinnon Stakes day last Spring, but Group 1 racing has returned to the big track and features the Black Caviar Lightning, one of the great sprints of the Autumn racing carnival.

It has been won by a constellation top sprinters, most notably Black Caviar, after whom the race is now named,  who won it three years running  - 2011 to 2013.  Last year it was won by Redkirk Warrior, who is not in the field this year.

Speaking of the field, it appears to be disappointingly lacking in Group 1 sprinting stars, but should be fascinating none the less with several talented youngsters taking on the older horses. There’s even a two year old in the field, that being Jedastar, who has only started two times for a win and a second, but will have a big weight advantage, carrying a mere 44kgs.

I will be barracking for golden girl Sunlight, who is kicking off her autumn campaign in this race.  She won down the Flemington straight at her last race for the Spring, beating the boys in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes.

Two of the colts she beat, Written By and Lean Mean Machine, are again her rivals in the Lightning. Of the older horses, the most threatening appear to be Osborne Bulls,  Battle Hero and In Her Time.

There’s a pretty good support card with a couple of interesting Group 3 races for Guineas bound three year olds – the Vanity Stakes for the girls and the C S Hayes Stakes for the boys.

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Winx – Cox Plate 2018

All race fans are looking forward to seeing the Queen of the Turf return to the track at Randwick on Saturday afternoon in the Group 2, Apollo Stakes, run an hour before the Black Caviar Lightning.

Since her historic win in the Cox Plate, Winx has been honoured by being named the the equal Best Racehorse of the Year with USA horse Cracksman  She also won the Secretariat Vox Populi award in the USA for most popular horse in 2018.

In the Apollo Stakes, Winx faces seven rivals, five of them her stablemates with the doughty Happy Clapper back for another bout with the star mare. Winx will hopefully win her 30th race in succession. By all accounts she has returned as good as ever. Go Winx!

Alas, buses replace trains on the Hurstbridge line tomorrow, so it will take extra time to get to Flemington and I’ll have to set out earlier than I normally would. I intend to take my step with me this time. Hopefully I will have no trouble getting it through security.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The First Group 1 of Autumn – Orr Stakes Review

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Manuel – Orr Stakes winner returning to the stalls after the  presentation

In startling contrast to the last race meeting at Caulfield, last Saturday was cool and overcast as opposed to searingly hot and sunny, which was a welcome respite and made it much more pleasant to spend an afternoon at the races.

I arrived at Caulfield fairly early in the afternoon in time to watch the third race on the program. This was the Group 3 Bellmaine Stakes, a race for mares over 1200 metres. The favourite was Princess of Queens and she didn’t disappoint, winning by a narrow margin from Fuhryk and I Am A Star.

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Bellmaine Stakes just past the post 

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Princess of Queens strolls back to scale

In Race 4, the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes, there was great interest in seeing how Nature Strip would fare in the 1100 metre race. He was one of the former Darren Weir horses racing on Saturday. He is now with Chris Waller, whom I’m sure would have been pleased with the speedster’s performance in the Rubiton Stakes. Nature Strip blitzed the field, leading from start to finish and winning by 3½ lengths from Jungle Edge, with Thermal Current running third a further 2 lengths behind.

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Nature Strip corners like a greyhound just past the post

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Nature Strip returns to scale

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Jungle Edge returns to scale

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Thermal Current returns to scale

The colts and geldings Blue Diamond Prelude was the first  to run and was up next.  Blue Diamond Preview winner I Am Immortal started as favourite and prevailed, again leading from go to whoa to narrowly defeat Shotmaker and Hawker Hurricane.  He is the first colt to accomplish the Preview/Prelude double since Sepoy in 2011. Whether he can go on to emulate Sepoy and take out the Blue Diamond Stakes is yet to be seen.

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I Am Immortal still ahead after the post

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I Am Immortal returns to scale

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I Am Immortal – head shot returning to the stalls after the presentation

In the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude, it was expected that previously impressive fillies Catch Me and Brooklyn Hustle would be prominent and fight out the finish, but neither featured and ended up out of the places.

Godolphin filly Lyre won the bickies at big odds from Vinicunca (also at big odds) and Athiri.

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Just past the post in the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude – the first three home- Lyre (blue silks, white cap) Vinicunca (inside) & Athiri (blue silks, blue cap)

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Lyre returns to the stalls after the presentation still in her winners rug

As far as the actual Blue Diamond Stakes goes the picture is somewhat unclear after the fillies Prelude. The great white hope for a filly to win is now Loving Gaby – a big strong girl who could well take the prize.

Regarding Brooklyn Hustle, the early favourite for the Blue Diamond, she could still be in the picture. She’s a lovely looking filly, quite the head turner, being a bright chestnut with blonde mane and tail, rather reminiscent of Miracles of Life, the 2013 Blue Diamond Stakes winner. I managed to get a lovely photo of her as she was being walked in the stalls area.

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Brooklyn Hustle

There was only one more race to run before the feature Group 1 event, and that was the Group 2 Autumn Stakes, a race for three year olds over 1400 metres.  Hawkshot, a handsome son of 2013 Melbourne Cup winner, Fiorente, ran a similar race to former stablemate Nature Strip, leading from the start to win by 3½ lengths from Dealmaker with Ringerdingding running third,

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Hawkshot in the pre-parade ring

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Hawkshot returns to scale

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Dealmaker on his way to the barriers

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Ringerdingding on his way to the barriers

Another who ran and won setting the pace was the long odds surprise winner of the feature Group 1 Orr StakesManuel trained by Tony McEvoy. Kementari was the hot favourite for the race, but as seems to always be the case, he was relegated to second place, dead heating with Land of Plenty.

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Orr Stakes just past the post – Manuel still has a good lead.

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Manuel on his way to the barriers

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Kementari on his way to the barriers

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Land of Plenty on his way to the barriers

Much as I would have liked to, I didn’t stay for the Group 3 Carlyon Stakes as it was getting late. It was won by Avilius, who is now favourite for the Australian Cup.

It remained overcast most of the afternoon,  challenging for properly exposed photos, but it only rained briefly shortly before the Orr Stakes. I had dressed for wet weather, and expected to be overly warm. A brisk breeze kept it cool, so I was never uncomfortable.

The absence of Darren Weir was noticeable, but his former horses performed very well for their new stables.

Next weekend the Melbourne racing moves to Flemington which features the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning, wherein super filly Sunlight will hopefully shine. In Sydney at Randwick, the mighty Winx will be kicking off her final campaign in the Group 2  Apollo Stakes – a must watch race.  Go Winx!