Friday, August 30, 2019

Winter’s Almost Over–Group 1 Racing Returns at Caulfield

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Humidor - winner of the 2018 Memsie Stakes

A sunny day is forecast tomorrow, so what better way to celebrate the last day of winter than to head out for an afternoon at the races.

The first Group 1 of Melbourne’s Spring racing season is the Memsie Stakes and it is the feature race at Caulfield.

Run over 1400 metres, it boasts a star studded cast of prior winners that include Sunline, So You Think, Makybe Diva, to name a few.

Last year it was won by Humidor at big odds. He is again part of the field of thirteen that have accepted for the event. Black Heart Bart, who won the Memsie in 2016, has emerged from retirement to try his luck in this year’s edition, having not been seen at the races since October last year.

Alizee is the current favourite and could well prevail, already having a win at her first start this season. She won the Group 1 Futurity Stakes in autumn over the same distance and course.

The highly interesting field also has the popular Begood Toya Mother thrown in at the deep end at his first start at Weight For Age, and the reformed rogue So Si Bon who won the Group 3 Aurie’s Star earlier this month.

Overall it’s a pretty even field with any of the runners in with a chance, such as  Hartnell, Scales of Justice, Fundamentalist and Cliff’s Edge.

The  support card is also pretty interesting with several Group 3 events, particularly the HDF McNeil Stakes for three year olds, where Dubious will be out to redeem his reputation after his poor showing in the Vain Stakes.

It will be tricky getting to Caulfield via public transport tomorrow, with no city loop trains and buses replacing trains to Caulfield and leaving from Parliament Station, leading me to decide to tram it to Caulfield from Flinders Street, where the Hurtsbridge train line terminates.

I hope to arrive at Caulfield around 2.00 pm. Happily the rail will be in its true postion, so photography should be easier this time. Even so, I’m taking my new step for public lawn shots.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

You say you want a Revolution? – The 1960s Exhibition at Melbourne Museum

John Lennon – Kaleidoscope Eyes – by Larry Smart 1967

Last Wednesday I finally got to the current exhibition at Melbourne Museum, titled Revolutions: Records and Rebels, which explores the period 1966 to 1970 with a vast array of iconic items from that time.

That period covers the time when I was a student at Melbourne University - my late teens and early 20s - when I was unleashed from parental control, having moved to Melbourne from the family home in Wangaratta in 1966, to experience the highs and lows of freedom and independence.

So it was like a trip down memory lane, especially as when you enter the exhibition you are given a set of headphones attached to a media player that is synced to the various galleries, and plays appropriate music for the year or theme of the display.

The exhibition is arranged in chronological order, so you start off in 1966, when the Beatles were in their heyday, and had released Revolver on 5 August (coincidently my 19th birthday) of that year.

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John Lennon’s glasses

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John  Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for Tomorrow Never Knows (Track 7, Side 2 of Revolver)

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Toy Yellow Submarine

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Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Band – released 1967 – featuring John Lennon’s suit

The above records were naturally familiar to me – we danced to Revolver and grooved to Sergeant Peppers at parties in the communal houses I lived in at the time. In fact I received Sergeant Pepper for a 20th birthday present.

Though we were not into drugs at that time, having no means to acquire them, we certainly knew about them and loved the druggy psychedelic posters of the time. There was an establishment down the road from our shared residence called The Love In which put on psychedelic light shows,  played music and films and served coffee.

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Buy Granny Takes A Trip and join the Brain Drain poster

The above poster advertises a London boutique opened in 1966 - known as the first psychedelic clothes shop.

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Feed Your Head poster – based on Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit song on Surrealistic Pillow

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Psychedelic poster

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Head Shop magazine

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Acid Test

Meanwhile the headphones were playing such hits as Cream’s Strange Brew, White Rabbit, Itchycoo Park and other such psychedelic tunes.

Also covered in the exhibition was fashion, mostly extravagant creations to match the period.

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The Twiggy dress

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Twiggy clothes hanger

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Campbell’s Soup dress

Barbarella costume from the 1968 film of the same name starring Jane Fonda

There were books, many of which I have in my personal library

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Richard Brautigan – Trout Fishing in America – a cult book in the 1960s

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Lord of The Rings

Naturally there were records as well, again many that I owned at the time, though I noticed that the record cover of Sticky Fingers did not have the physical zipper of the original issue.

The heady years of 1966 to 1967 gave way to the revolutionary years of 1968 to 1970 and covered such movements as Womens Liberation, the Vietnam War, Conscription, Black Power, the Moon Landing  etc.

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Women’s Lib

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Anti conscription poster

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Black Power

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Model of lunar command capsule for Apollo 11 moon landing

I’d forgotten that Chairman Mao Zedong was a counter cultural hero of the late 1960s and remember that I had a copy of his Little Red Book.

Strange to think of now, with China a formidable and quite scary World Power in the 21st Century.

Chairman Mao bust

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The Little Red Book

There was much to see in the Revolutions exhibition and a it was a real trip back in time for me. It was predominently American and British centric, with not many relics from Australia in the1960s, though Indiginous issues were covered with a poster from the Aboriginal Rights Referrendum of 1967.

aboriginal rights

One last object that tickled my fancy was the first computer mouse invented by Douglas C. Engelbart in 1968.

First computer mouse

I took a great many photos, but haven’t used them all in this post.

The exhibition has been extended to 6 October 2019. If you haven’t been to see it, I highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic experience, especially if you are a baby boomer. I enjoyed bopping around the exhibition to the music.  Millennials might regard it as ancient history, but would also enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Taste of Spring – Magical Mystic Result

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Mystic Journey on her way to the barriers

There was a definite taste of spring in the air at Caulfield on Saturday,  a welcome mild sunny day after the greyness of winter, warming the cockles of the heart and making it a pleasure to be outside.

This was reflected in the quality of the racing program, with several potential equine stars beginning their Spring campaigns, most notably the super Tasmanian mare Mystic Journey.

As anticipated I arrived at Caulfield racetrack around 2.00pm and stayed for four races.

Normally at Caulfied I would head for the hill above the stalls to take photos, but this time took along a new step stool I had recently purchased at K Mart for the princely sum of $5.00. It is less cumbersome to tote around than the one I had been using up till now, being a smaller plastic foldout step that has the same elevation of 220mm (8 inches) – the perfect height to surmount the high rail around the Caulfield track. This now allowed me to get photos of the action down the straight to the finishing post, which was impossible for me to accomplish previously.

Race 4 had just been run when I arrived at the course, so there was plenty of time to wander around the stalls area before the running of the Vain Stakes.

A new statue of Black Caviar had been unveiled that morning…

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Black Caviar statue

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Black Caviar Statue close up

It has been placed close to the walking ring in the stalls area, coincidently the last place I saw Black Caviar in the flesh at her Farewell in April 2013.

At this time Mystic Journey, the star attraction of the afternoon, had not arrived, but a small group of fans were waiting patiently outside Stall 44 where she was allocated.

The colts were parading in the pre-parade ring, prior to the Vain Stakes, so I headed back to the fence on the public lawn.

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Bivouac – Race favourite and eventual winner in the mounting yard

Bivouac was sensational in the Vain Stakes, winning by over 4 lengths from Sebrakate with Dirty Work, a further 2 lengths behind running third.

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Bivouac draws away from Sebrakate racing up the straight to the post

Back in the stalls area Mystic Journey had turned up and was in her stall, looking bright and beautiful. She’s a lovely black mare, and according to her trainer Adam Trinder has a calm demeanour. She is known to her fans as Betty the Jet.

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Mystic Journey in her stall with ear muffs

The Quezette Stakes was up next and 2019 Blue Diamond Stakes winner Lyre was the favourite. She finished fourth, the winner, her stablemate Exhilarates, stealing the prize from the consistent Absolute Flirt by 1½ lengths, with Pin Sec running third.

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Exhilarates overtakes Absolute Flirt speeding to the finishing post

Recently the Melbourne Racing Club made peace with Racing NSW regarding the running of The Everest on Caulfield Cup Day, by purchasing a slot for a runner, with the winner of the Schillaci Stakes getting a chance to run in the 14 million dollar race. The winners of three qualifying sprint races buildlng up the Schillaci Stakes would get ballot free entry into it. The first of these qualifiers, the Listed Regal Roller Stakes, was run last Saturday.

The amusingly named and hugely popular Begood Toya Mother, who has racked up an impressive winning streak, started as the favourite and didn’t disappoint. He led from the start to the finish and won by 1½ lengths from challenger Haunted, with sterling mare Fundamentalist running third.

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Begood Toya Mother holds off Haunted down the straight

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Begood Toya Mother on his way to the barriers

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Haunted in the mounting yard

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Fundamentalist in the mounting yard

Though taking photos from the public lawn fence is excellent for racing action shots it leaves a lot to be desired as far as individual horse photos go, so I decided to go back to my usual spot above the stalls for the P B Lawrence Stakes.

Of course I missed out on photos of the finish up the straight, but did get some nice photos of the runners going to the mounting yard and barriers, the light being better up there.

My step came in handy as the inner rail was out by 10 metres, and allowed me to get rail free photos.

Mystic Journey started from Gate 2, but her jockey Anthony Darmanin rode a pearler of a race, getting her away from the rail and in a good postion to pounce.  Cliff’s Edge led from the start and was over three lengths ahead as the field approached the turn into the straight. Mystic Journey overtook him as the post loomed and she went on to win by ¾ length. Hartnell finished third.

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Mystic Journey on her way to the mounting yard

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Cliff’s Edge on his way to the barriers

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Hartnell on his way to the mounting yard

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Mystic Journey returns to the stalls area after the winning presentation with her happy strapper Bronte Page

I did mention in my preview of this race that I hoped that Mystic Journey would not be jinxed by winning the seemingly cursed P B Lawrence Stakes. Cross fingers she will be an exception to the rule.

Her next race will possibly be the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington in mid September.

Though the racing in Melbourne next weekend is not that interesting, Randwick race track will host the first Group 1 of the Spring racing season – the Winx Stakes, formerly the Warwick Stakes renamed to honour the now retired super mare.

Whether Mystic Journey can match Winx’s record is yet to be seen. She now has won 7 consecutive races and is building an impressive picket fence against her name in the form guide.

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Hint of Spring & Mystic’s Journey Begins

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Mystic Journey winning the Australian Guineas - 2 March 2019

After the seemingly endless grey days of winter it will be a pleasant change of scene to head to Caulfield on Saturday for the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes meeting. The weather is forecast to be a relatively balmy 17°C for the afternoon and, with any luck, the sun may even shine on the track.

The main attraction of the day will of course be star Tasmanian mare Mystic Journey beginning her run to the Cox Plate. She has had two trials in her home State, both of which she won easily, so it will be no surprise if she is successful in the P B Lawrence Stakes. In a way I am hoping she doesn’t win, considering the seeming curse on Lawrence Stakes winners who in recent years have failed to win again through the spring racing season. As the track is likely to be on the soft side, a surface on which  Mystic Journey is not as effective, she may miss the curse and run a creditable place.

A rather good field has accepted for the race, most notably the evergreen Hartnell who won this race in 2017. Also in the picture are Group 1 winners Harlem, Trap for Fools and Kenedna, along with the likes of Fifty Stars and Cliff’s Edge and the intriguing Neufbosc, a French stayer having his first start in Australia.

The support card contains several interesting races, especially the Group 3 Quezette Stakes and Vain Stakes, where three year old Guineas aspirants will be kicking off their spring campaigns.

As usual the fillies Quezette Stakes looks to have a more classy field with Blue Diamond Stakes winner Lyre being the leading contender and other potential stars like Exhilarates, Sizzlefly and Lankan Star.

Last year’s Quezette Stakes was won by Sunlight, who went on to win three Group 1 races and is being aimed at The Everest this spring, so I doubt we’ll see her in Melbourne as she’ll be building up to The Everest in Sydney.

Only six colts will tackle the Vain Stakes, the top picks being Dubious and Bivouac with Sebrakate and Star Surprise also in with a chance.

I’m going to take my time getting to Caulfield anticipating arriving around 2.00pm in plenty of time for the Vain Stakes.