Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sydney & Winx Invincible 32

Winx in full flight after winning the George Ryder Stakes
It has taken some time to settle down and write an account of my venture to Sydney for the Golden Slipper meeting at Rosehill, but various distractions, not mention the cold I managed to bring back from Sydney, have made me disinclined to post.

I’m also discouraged by having to use the clunky Blogger editor for composing posts since Open Live Writer, the nifty software I’ve been using to create blog posts, has not been updated to cope with Google’s new photo application. I can post text from Open Live Writer but not images. I’ve been using Open Live Writer and its predecessor Windows Live Writer since 2006 and it has simply been the best WYSIWYG blog editor around.

Anyway on to Sydney…

There were no transport issues this time, planes leaving pretty much on time, and trains easy to catch from Central Station and running limited express to Rosehill Racecourse and back again.

As I’d arrived on Friday evening I was up early and after breakfasting, I headed out to Rosehill and got there before the first race, so I had time to look around Rosehill in more detail. Looking at the Rosehill racecourse map, I was curious about a building called the Grand Pavilion situated next to the Members Stand beyond the winning post that appeared to have a grassed area in front of it.

So heading off that way I came across the Golden Slipper Trophy

Golden Slipper Trophy
…and Todman’s statue in a little courtyard, with a wreath of flowers around his neck.

Todman Statue
Though there appeared to be a corporate event in the lower part of the Grand Pavilion, there was access to the lawn at the top end of the straight.  The only people present were track workers who didn’t object to me occupying the space and nobody showed any inclination to turf me out.

It wasn’t a bad spot for taking photographs, as for every race all the horses passed by on their way to the starting gates, and returned to scale the same way after the race. The light was excellent.

The early part of the day was hot, humid and sunny, though it grew overcast later in the day, affording some relief from the sun. The track was a heavy 8 even so.

I tested photography conditions in the first race of the day, the Birthday Card Stakes, a race for fillies and mares over 1200 metres. New Zealand filly Avantage, beat Resin and Star Reflection.

Avantage returns to scale
In between races I sought the shade close the Grand Pavilion ground floor entrance, where there were a few chairs to sit on. I liberated one of the chairs to stand on for the next race, to overcome issues with rails intruding on shots.

Melbourne filly Krone was victorious in race 2, the Darby Munro Stakes. She defeated Wild Planet and race favourite, Classique Legend.

Krone returns to scale

Wild Planet returns to scale

Classique Legend returns to scale
After race 2, I wandered back to the main section of the course to get a bottle of water and also check out the stalls area. Though Winx had not yet arrived at the course there was a large crowd of Winx fans surrounding her stall.

Winx fans surround her stall waiting for her arrival
This was quite a change from last year, where there was hardly anyone in the stalls area.  But as her winning streak grows ever longer, Winx’s popularity has expanded exponentially.

The race meeting was practically a sell out and the grandstands were packed to the rafters.

Crowded Grandstands
Back on the Grand Pavilion lawn, race 3, the Group 3 N E Manion Cup was next to run. For Sydney Cup  bound stayers it’s a race over 2400 metres.

The Lloyd Williams stayer, British import Midterm won from Big Duke and Shraaoh.

Midterm returns to scale

Big Duke returns to scale
Shraaoh returns to scale
One of the good things about being up the Grand Pavilion end of the course was that for 2000 metre races, the starting gates were placed just next to the lawn on a track extension.

As the next race was the Rosehill Guineas (2000 metres), starring The Autumn Sun,  I had an excellent view of the start.

Rosehill Guineas start
The Autumn Sun and Arrogant fought out the finish up the straight, with The Autumn Sun prevailing to win by  a narrow margin. Chapada finished third  2½ lengths behind.

The Autumn Sun & Arrogant still head to head past the finish line
The Autumn Sun returns to scale
Arrogant returns to scale
Chapada returns to scale
Of course I was missing out on the electric atmosphere that infects a racecourse when Winx is running, but knowing the propensity of today’s young racegoers to use their iPhones for photos, I was glad to be out of the scrum on the fence near the mounting yard, which would have been very difficult for decent photos.

Winx in the mounting yard
As ever, I was hoping for the perfect shot, and though I did get some good photos of Winx, the fact that she raced on the widest part of the track meant that a lot of them are head on shots.

Winx on her way to the starting gates
Winx returns to scale
Winx heading back to scale - iPhones at my end of the track
Winx naturally won her 4th successive George Ryder Stakes and 32nd consecutive race by 3½ lengths from Brutal with Dreamforce a further 3 lengths behind in third.

In the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes, Avilius returned to form registering a two length win over He’s Eminent and New Zealand mare Danzdanzdance.

Ranvet Stakes finish
Avilius returns to scale

He's Eminent returning to scale
Danzdanzdance heading back to scale

The feature race of the day was of course the Golden Slipper Stakes and it was next on the program.

The royal blue silks of Godolphin were prominent in the Golden Slipper finish, with Kiamichi, Microphone and Lyre running the trifecta with Bart’s grandson James Cummings training the first two.

Golden Slipper finish just past the post
Kiamichi returning to scale
Microphone returns to scale
Lyre returns to scale
After the Slipper I decided to move back to the main area of the course to be closer to the exit for trains. A lot of people had departed after the Golden Slipper, so it was easy to get a position on the fence near the mounting yard to watch the final Group 1 race of the afternoon.

This was the Galaxy and  Nature Strip started as favourite.  He led for most of the race and looked to have it won as he approached finish line, until challenged by a flying Pierata. It looked like a dead heat between Nature Strip and Pierata, with Nature Strip in the end being declared the winner.

Nature Strip leaves the mounting yard for the track
James McDonald celebrates Nature Strip's narrow victory in the Galaxy

James McDonald commiserates with Tommy Berry on Pierata
As by this time I’d been at Rosehill for five hours, I didn’t stay for the last race or the free Jimmie Barnes concert that was happening afterwards.

On Friday night I watched the running of the Group 1 Willaim Reid Stakes on my iPad and was delighted by Sunlight’s commanding win, where she led from the start to the finish to beat a fast finishing Spright and Ellicazoom by three quarters of a length.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Sydney Bound Again

Winx on her way to winning the 2018 George Ryder Stakes

I’m off to Sydney tomorrow afternoon to attend the super race meeting at Rosehill Racecourse on Saturday where wonder mare Winx will be running her second last race before retirement.

In my past two trips to Sydney I flew up on the Saturday, but this year decided to take the less stressful option of staying an extra night in Sydney to avoid the inevitable flight delays that result in fret and worry about arriving in time to get to the races.

So I can take it easy this year, staying overnight and being pretty well assured of an early arrival at Rosehill Racecourse.

Last year I was astounded by how easy it was to get a good position on the fence to photograph the races. This year I suspect it will be more crowded with Winx fans jostling for position. Anyway I’ll play it as it lays and hope for the perfect spot and good photographs.

As it has rained heavily in Sydney this week, the track is sure to be on the soggy side. This won’t faze Winx – she loves it wet.

There are five Group 1 races on the program and the first to run is the Rosehill Guineas, where I’m looking forward to seeing The Autumn Sun in action again.  He faces 12 rivals, the most threatening being New Zealand colts Madison County, Crown Prosecutor and Surely Sacred.

Winx will be gunning for her 32nd consecutive win in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes, a race she has won easily three times already.  Six other runners will be vying for second place; the formerly Darren Weir trained Land of Plenty, So Si Bon and colts Ringerdingding and Brutal.

In the Ranvet Stakes Avilius will be out to redeem his reputation after his poor showing in the Australian Cup. Also in the picture are Chris Waller mares Egg Tart, Unforgotten & Shillelagh and classy New Zealand mare Danzdanzdance who has excellent wet form.

The Golden Slipper is a conundrum with no particular stand out performers, the field comprised of six colts and ten fillies. Top colts are Microphone, Yes Yes Yes and Cosmic Force whilst the top filly chances are Blue Diamond Stakes winner Lyre,  recent winners Tenley, Pin Sec, Exhilarates and Kiamichi.

I’m looking forward to seeing Nature Strip again in the final Group 1 of the afternoon, the Galaxy. Can he redeem his reputation after his dismal failure in the Oakleigh Plate?  He’ll have to beat a classy field that includes double Everest winner Redzel who loves the wet.

On Friday night Sunlight will be aiming for another Group 1 win in the William Reid Stakes. At her only other start at Moonee Valley under lights, she ended unplaced for the only time in her career, though had excuses when she missed the jump and was then blocked for running room.  She has drawn the widest barrier this time, but with Shoals and Champagne Cuddles scratched she faces only seven rivals, most of whom she has beaten in the past.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Mystic Magic – All Star Mile Review

Mystic Journey wins the inaugural All Star Mile from Hartnell & Alizee

Though the supporting race card was somewhat uninteresting, it was worth all the trouble of getting to Flemington via public transport for the first running of the All Star Mile.

As the papers have said, it was one of those fairytale results, where the bargain basement Tasmanian trained filly Mystic Journey blitzed the All Star Mile field and earned her connections over $2 million in prize money.

I have personally witnessed Mystic Journey racing four times for four wins, firstly on 22 September 2018 at Caulfield, where she won a listed race at big odds, then at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day when she won the Group 2 Fillies Classic, beating Fundamentalist who recently narrowly lost to The Autumn Sun.  Then of course I saw her win the Australian Guineas earlier this month.

She is certainly a special filly, whom I thought had a really good chance to take out the All Star Mile.
I reached Flemington at around 1.20 pm after a long bus ride from Ivanhoe to Queen Street, then a walk to Spencer Street to catch a train to Flemington Racecourse.

Race 2 was in progress as I made my way up the public lawn to stow my step behind the rose hedge near the access gate.  When passing through security at the railway entrance I thought for a moment that I would not be permitted to take the step inside, but eventually was waved through after the security guard checked with another guard who had no issue with it.

With the inner rail being out 7 metres, it would have been impossible to get good rail free photos without the step.

One of my aims for the day was to get Tony McEvoy’s signature on Sunlight’s name in the Coolmore Stud Stakes and Newmarket Stakes racebooks. I’d also taken along the Australian Guineas racebook on the off chance I could get Mystic Journey’s trainer Adam Trinder’s signature.

I therefore hung around in the stalls area for a fair while and missed both race 3 and race 4.

Mystic Journey  arrived whilst I was waiting, so I managed to get a blinkers free photo of her in her stall.

Mystic Journey

Note that in the above photo she is wearing a green bridle. Shortly after this photo was taken she was moved to another area close by and emerged with a red bridle.  Adam Trinder was with her so I attracted his attention and he signed my copy of the Australian Guineas racebook. He was pretty amazed to be asked and actually thanked me.  A pity I didn’t get his signature on the All Star Mile racebook, but I didn’t want to jinx Mystic Journey by presumption of victory.

Tony McEvoy didn’t show up in the stalls area, so I gave up on his signature and returned track side for the rest of the afternoon.

Race 5 was the Grand Classic Final, a race for 4 year olds and up over 2000 metres.

Wetakemanhattan won the race from Dark Pearl and El Don.

Grand Classic Final finish

Wetakemanhattan on his way to the barriers

Dark Pearl on his way to the barriers

More photography practice was afforded by Race 6, the Grand Mile Final, also a pretty open race with a number of imported horses having their first start in Australia.

The locally bred Prometheus romped in to win by three lengths from race favourite Mr Reckless and Remember the Name.

Prometheus then daylight at the Grand Mile Final finish

Mr Reckless on his way to the barriers

The All Star Mile was scheduled to run at 5.10 pm as Race 8, so there was one more race to run before that happened.

This was the March Stakes and somewhat more interesting than the previous races.

Widgee Turf was the starting favourite and won by a short margin after fighting out the finish with Tasmanian trained Hellova Street and Streets of Avalon.

March Stakes finish – Widgee Turf,  Hellova Street & Streets of Avalon
cross the line together

Widgee Turf on his way to the barriers

Hellova Street returns to scale

Streets of Avalon on his way to the barriers

After the March Stakes I stowed my step and headed for the mounting yard, ostensibly to watch the Group 1 Coolmore Classic in Sydney on the big screen and also grab a rose free section on the mounting yard fence to photograph the All Star Mile runners parading.

I certainly wasn’t expecting the razzmatazz that ensued in the mounting yard before the runners arrived. And forget the screening of the Coolmore Classic, as the interim period was taken up with over the top pomp and circumstance in the form of drummers, flag bearers, dancers (in glittering leotards) accompanied by loud musical effects.


Flags & Dancers

Jockeys enter through a corridor of dancers



As previously mentioned it was excessive and over the top, but it made me laugh and I did get some good snaps.

The decks were cleared before the horses were brought to the mounting yard.


Mystic Journey



Le Romain

Happy Clapper

Back on the Western Lawn just past the winning post, I reassembled my step and found a low rose hedge point that gave me a good view of the post and straight. I had to move around a bit to avoid being blocked by the official photographers.

The All Star Mile as a race was up there with Group 1 class in terms of interest and excitement, with Hawkshot setting the pace and Le Romain and Grunt close behind him. Mystic Journey started from barrier 13 and raced mid field, three wide, for most of the trip, then took off at the 200 in pursuit of Alizee who had seized the lead. She sailed past her to win by 1.75 lengths. Evergreen Hartnell, who raced on the inside and was blocked for a run until the last minute, ran second. Alizee hung on for third.

The cream certainly rose to the top, the first six runners home being  Group 1 winners and the 200/1 chances all finished at the tail of the field.

Mystic Journey returns to scale

Hartnell on his way to the barriers

Alizee returns to scale

Mystic Journey has been sent for a spell, but will be back in Melbourne in spring where she will tackle the Cox Plate.  She has never raced beyond 1600 metres, but her breeding suggests she’ll have no trouble running 2000 + metres.

As the sun sets on the great Winx, who has only two more races to run, it’s thrilling that already there’s a potential heir apparent in the Tasmanian filly.

And so ended Melbourne’s autumn racing carnival. Last year I was underwhelmed by the carnival, but this year was a great improvement mostly due to the performances of the star three year old fillies Sunlight and Mystic Journey.

Next Saturday I will be in Sydney to witness Winx running her penultimate race in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill. There are five Group 1 races on the program, the Golden Slipper being the feature event, supported by the Ranvet Stakes, Rosehill Guineas, George Ryder Stakes and The Galaxy.

The final Group 1 of Melbourne’s autumn season is the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night, where Sunlight will be aiming to add a third Group 1 win to her CV.