Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mother’s Boy Comes Good in the Rupert Clarke Stakes

rupert clarke_finish 5
Begood Toya Mother on his way to winning the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes

When I left home to go to Caulfield Racecourse, the rain was bucketing down, and the weather promised to be iffy for the rest of the afternoon.

There’s nothing worse than feeling damp for the stretch of an afternoon, so I’m glad B obligingly gave a lift to Ivanhoe station.

By the time I finally reached Caulfield the rain had abated and the sun was emerging from the clouds, though a stiff breeze was blowing directly head on to horses racing down the straight.

I stuck to the public lawn for all five of the races I watched over the afternoon, having taken my step to facilitate snaps from the fence near the finish line. Besides, I take far fewer photos from that postition than if I was on the hill above the stalls area, so it’s less tedious to sort the photos next day.

The first of the races I witnessed was Race 3, the Living Legends Plate for three year olds, run over 1000 metres. I was interested to see how I Am Immortal would fare. In autumn he won both the Blue Diamond Preview and Blue Diamond Prelude, though finished 7th in the Blue Diamond Stakes. This was his first start since then, and he started as favourite.

race 3_i am immortal 3
I Am Immortal on his way to the barriers

The race was won by South Australian trained Garner who won by a nose from race leader Sartorial Splendor with Lucifer’s Reward half a length running third. I Am Immortal missed the start and ended up finishing seventh.

race 3_finish 6
Garner overtaking Lucifer’s Reward close to the finish line

race 3_sartorial splendor 1
Sartorial Splendor on his way to the barriers

Haut Brion Her, last seen at Moonee Valley on 7 September where she narrowly lost to Tofane, again started as favourite for the Fight Cancer Foundation Handicap, but despite fighting out the finish with Fabric, lost by  overa length at the post. She is not as comfortable running the Melbourne way (anti clockwise) as she is the clockwise Sydney way.  One More Try finished third.

race 4_finish 1
Fabric and Haut Brion Her head to head down the straight

Race 5 was the Group 3 How Now Stakes, a race for mares over 1200 metres.  Pippie was the hot favourite, but she failed to feature in the finish after leading early in the race.  Godolphin mare Manicure was the eventual winner,  defeating Angelic Ruler by 1½ lengths.  Dawn Dawn ran third.

race 5_finish 5
Manicure takes the lead from Dawn Dawn in the straight

race 5_finish 6
Angelic Ruler out runs the rest of the field heading for the finishing post

The MRC Foundation Cup (formerly known as the Naturalism Stakes)  was the next race to jump. The winner gains a ballot free entry into the Caulfield Cup and the Chris Waller trained Brimham Rocks achieved this quite impressively, winning easily by 1¼ lengths from stablemate So You Win with Sikandarabad 2 lengths behind in third place.

race 6_finish 5
Brimham Rocks holds off So You Win as they thunder down the straight

The afternoon had grown considerably darker by this time and the lowering clouds looked ominous, threatening a downpour for the feature Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.

However, the rain held off and the race was run without drama.

Begood Toya Mother was the warm favourite and didn’t disappoint his many fans, winning by 1¼ lengths after racing on the speed in second place behind Iconoclasm,  taking the lead at the top of the straight. Age Of Chivalry finished second and Widgee Turf ran third.

rupert clarke_begood toya mother 1
Begood Toya Mother on his way to the barriers

rupert clarke_begood toya mother 9
Begood Toya Mother returns to scale in the mounting yard

I called it quits after the Rupert Clarke Stakes and made it home without getting drenched by the rain that eventually arrived in the late afternoon.

Next Saturday is AFL Grand Final Day in Melbourne, so the feature Group 1 Underwood Stakes meeting at Caulfield is held on Sunday.

Moonee Valley kick off their night racing season on Friday night with the Group 1 Moir Stakes, which has attracted a super field that includes Sunlight and Nature Strip.

In Sydney the feature race is the Group 1 Golden Rose at Rosehill.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Mystic beaten but not disgraced – Makybe Diva Stakes Review

makybe diva stakes_finish 4
Makybe Diva Stakes finish – 100/1 shot Gatting outguns Mystic Journey

Let’s hope that the Spring Racing Carnival does not continue as it started, with long shot winners stealing the prize from the more fancied runners.

Truth to tell, so far the racing  in Melbourne has been somewhat underwhelming, but hopefully it will be more interesting as the season progresses and the Sydney stars venture south to vie for Group 1 glory.

Last Saturday dawned into a lovely warm sunny day, so it was a pleasure to head to the big track at Flemington for an afternoon of racing action.

Due to the Flemington train timetable I was obliged to get to Flemington quite early and arrived as Race 1 was in progress, but as the feature race was scheduled at the relatively early time of 4.10pm, it wasn’t a particularly long day.

I missed watching races 2 to 5, hanging out in the stalls area awaiting the arrival of Mystic Journey, so I could get a good photo of her without blinkers or ear muffs.

Whilst waiting, I wandered around to see who had arrived and came across the special Living Legends equine guests, 2015 Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance and Who Shot Thebarman, a grand old stayer who won the Sydney Cup in 2018.

stalls_prince of penzance 1
Prince of Penzance

stalls_who shot thebarman 1
Who Shot Thebarman

Mystic Journey  turned up at last and looked bright and bouncy as she was led to Stall 32.

stalls_mystic journey 4
Mystic Journey – black and beautiful in stall 32

Race 5 was the Group 2 Danehill Stakes for three years run over 1200 metres, so I headed for my usual spot just past the finishing post with my step stool to photograph the action.

South Australian based Dalasan started as the race favourite and raced on the speed behind race leader Dubious then overtook him close to the line to win by ¾ length, with Express Post running third.

race 5_danehill_finish 2
Danehill Stakes finish – Dalasan overtakes Dubious close to the post

race 5_danehill_dalasan 4
Dalasan returns to scale

Named to honour the great staying mare of the early 1990s, the Group 2 Let’s Elope Stakes had attracted a field of classy mares, that included South Australian Oaks winner Princess Jenni, Fundamentalist and Aloisia.  Pretty grey mare Fidelia, who was kicking up her heels in the birdcage walking ring earlier in the afternoon, started as favourite.  The winner however was Spanish Whisper who battled out the finish with Miss Siska, to prevail by ½ length. Fidelia flew late along the rail to finish third.

race 6_let's elope_finish 5
Let’s Elope Stakes finish – Spanish Whisper & Miss Siska head to head with Fidelia charging along the rail.

Whether it was the curse of winning the P B Lawrence Stakes, or maybe me jinxing her by getting Adam Trinder’s signature in my racebook,  Mystic Journey, though trying her hardest, failed to catch runaway winner Gatting at the finishing post.  The margin was ¾ length with Mr Quickie a further ¾ length running third.

At least Mystic Journey  avoided the double curse of winning the Makybe Diva Stakes, which has as bad a record as the P B Lawrence Stakes, with winners of that race failing to win again during the season.

makybe diva stakes_gatting 1
Gatting on his way to the barriers

makybe diva stakes_mystic journey 2
Mystic Journey in the mounting yard

makybe diva stakes_mystic journey 9
Mystic Journey returns to scale

makybe diva stakes_mister quickie 5
Mister Quickie on his way to the barriers

It was disappointing that Mystic Journey didn’t win, but we hope she will be successful in the next race she tackles, by all acounts the Turnbull Stakes in early October.

Apropos Mystic’s trainer Adam Trinder, I read that he was relentlessly trolled on Social Media by ignorant anonymous users. Let me just say that Adam Trinder is a gentleman and a very nice person to speak to. I love his old fashioned way of expressing his thoughts.  He says demeanour instead of nature, for instance.

Gatting’s win  took everyone by surprise as he came in at over 100/1 and paid a fortune in dividends. He’s another West Australian horse who was having his first start in the East.

Speaking of former Western Australian horses, it was interesting to see the superstar of the West, Arcadia Queen, take out the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes at Rosehill.

Next Saturday the racing action returns to Caulfield where the feature race is the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes. Fortunately this time there will be no public transport disruptions.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Down Home at the Valley – Feehan Stakes Day Review

feehan_finish 1
Homesman burns down the straight to win the Feehan Stakes

It certainly wasn’t ideal, weather wise, to spend an afternoon at the races, but I braved the cold and rainy conditions to attend the Feehan Stakes meeting at Moonee Valley last Saturday.

feehan stakes 2001.I’ve been going to this raceday for over 15 years and have witnessed some of the greats of the Australian turf competing.

Still in my proud possession is the race book for the 2001 Feehan Stakes, where Sunline and Northerly clashed for the first time.

Sunline at the time was six years old and in the twilight years of her illustrious racing career, and Northerly, a year younger, was very much the up and comer from West Australia, nicknamed "the fighting tiger” for his tenacity and will to win.

The 2001 Feehan Stakes resulted in Northerly winning by a nose from Sunline.

They would meet again in the 2001 Cox Plate which yielded a similar result and a sensational three way protest that was dismissed.

Back to this year’s edition of the race, I got to Moonee Valley in time to watch the fourth race, where I was interested in seeing the Chris Waller trained mare, Haut Brion Her, who had won her last three races and was the starting favourite.

haut brion her 2
Haut Brion Her in the pre-parade ring

Haut Brion Her raced on the speed behind race leader Working From Home, then wobbled around the turn into the straight where she was challenged by Tofane. They fought out the finish and hit the line together, Tofane the victor by a head. They left the rest of the field 3 lengths behind them. Mystery Love ran third.

race 4_finish 4
Tofane (gold cap) & Haut Brion Her head to head down the straight

race 4_tofane 3
Tofane returns to scale

race 4_haut brion her 1
Haut Brion Her on her way to the starting gates

Though it was cold and windy, fortunately when it rained, it was passing and light, and the sun occasionally emerged from the clouds to brighten the track.

The races resulted in a variety of close fought finishes or dominant winners.

Exhilarates, last seen winning the Quezette Stakes, started as favourite for the Atlantic Jewel Stakes, race 5 on the program - a race for three year old fillies over 1200 metres, and proved her superiority winning by ¾ length from Sassy Salitage with St Edward’s Crown running third.

race 5_aj stakes_finish 3
Exhilarates wins the Atlantic Jewel Stakes

race 5_aj stakes_exhilarates 9
Exhilarates returns to scale with jockey Craig Williams signaling his pleasure at winning

race 5_aj stakes_sassy salitage 2
Sassy Salitage on her way to the barriers

race 5_aj stakes_st edwards crown 1
St Edward’s Crown on her way to the barriers

Tasmanian training was once again to the fore in Race 6, the Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Stakes, where the pocket rocket The Inevitable won by a sensational 4 lengths, from Deprive. He’s a neat little fellow who looks very like his sire Dundeel (It’s A Dundeel), with the same crooked blaze and four white socks.

the inevitable 2
The Inevitable in the walking ring earlier in the afternoon

race 6_finish 7
The Inevitable in full flight down the straight

race 6_the inevitable 6
The Inevitable returns to scale

The first of the Group 2 feature races was the McEwen Stakes. Sunlight and Nature Strip were originally nominated for this race, but contested the Concorde Stakes at Randwick , where both failed to run a place, the race being won by the resurgent Redzel with Pierata and Graff filling the minor places.

Anyway, the McEwen Stakes still had a pretty good field. Eduardo was the race favourite and leader, but the globe trotting Faatinah proved his class, winning by a short margin from Bons Away with Eduardo hanging on for third.

race 7_mcewen stakes_finish 5
McEwen Stakes finish – Faatinah (blue & white) is the widest

race 7_mcewen stakes_faatinah 1
Faatinah on his way to the barriers

The afternoon was drawing in when the feature Feehan Stakes was set to run. It was an open field with no real standouts, so it was hardly a surprise that the Lloyd Williams owned Homesman earned himself a free ticket to the Cox Plate by winning the race by 2.5 lengths from Mahamedies and Best of Days.

feehan_finish 4
Homesman in full flight

It was pleasant being back at Moonee Valley for a day meeting, but I won’t be returning there until the Cox Plate.

Next week  Group 1 racing returns to Flemington, the feature race being the Makybe Diva Stakes, where super Tassie mare Mystic Journey will be aiming for her 8th consecutive win.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Justice Triumphs – Memsie Stakes Day Review

memsie stakes_finish 7
Scales of Justice storms down the straight to win the Memsie Stakes

The major disruptions to public transport on Saturday, meant that it took considerably longer than usual to reach Caulfield from Ivanhoe, but I did arrive shortly after my anticipated ETA , as Race 4 was in progress.

For a change, as trains were not running on the Caulfield line, I took a tram from Flinders Street to the track. It traces a scenic route through the bayside suburb of St Kilda, and stops very close to the Caulfield Racecourse, so I only had to catch two methods of transport instead of three if I’d taken the replacement bus.

On arrival I didn’t bother watching race 4, but headed to the stalls area to see who had arrived. I came across Alizee first off, standing calmly in her stall.

stalls_alizee 1
Memsie favourite Alizee

It was rather pointless taking stall photos with the bright sunlight making it difficult to see the subject and also adding an unwanted flare effect to my photos.

Though the sunlight was problematic in the stalls area it was welcome when taking photos trackside on the public lawn.

My step stool is blessing as I can now get a clear view over the rail, which was impossible previously. I had no trouble getting it into the course, though admittedly was not stopped at all by the security personnel at the entrance gate.

Race 5, the Group 3 H. D. F. McNeil Stakes was the first of four races I witnessed over the afternoon. Super Seth started as favourite and prevailed over race leader King of Hastings, winning by 1¼ lengths, with Sebrakate running third.

race 5_finish 4 
Super Seth (no 4) is about to overtake King of Hastings in the straight

The second race in the MRC Everest Series, which qualifies the winner to run in the Schillaci Stakes was The Heath, race 6, a sprint over 1,100 metres.  Vega Magic, back after a long lay off due to injury, started as the warm favourite.  However, though he initially raced on the speed, he faded to finish last and may not race again. He actually won the 2017 Memsie Stakes and was regarded a top sprinter a year or so ago.

Crystal Dreamer won the race at big odds (40/1) by ½ length from Gytrash with race leader Ball of Muscle filling third place.

race 6_heath_finish 4
Crystal Dreamer overtakes Ball of Muscle in the dash to the finish

The speedy Pippie, on a roll of two consecutive wins, was the warm favourite for Race 7, the Group 3 Cockram Stakes, and win she did, leading from the start to record a 1½ length margin over second placed Spanish Whisper and  Sylvia’s Mother, a close third.

race 7_cockram_finish 2
Pippie holds her lead from Sylvia’s Mother down the straight

race 7_cockram_pippie 1
Pippie returning to the stalls area after winner’s presentation

The feature race was of course the Memsie Stakes and it was up next with Alizee starting as favourite.  It was however a pretty open race, with any number of chances. Begood Toya Mother fought out the lead with Despatch, but  both were swooped by the back markers, in particular Scales of Justice who seized the lead half way down the straight. So Si Bon and Alizee flew from the rear to run second and third, close to the finishing post.

memsie stakes_scales of justice 7
Scales of Justice on his way to the barriers

Though I didn’t have to wait long for a tram and train home, it still took two hours to get there, so hopefully  transport disruptions will not be too tiresome as the Spring Racing Carnival progresses.

It has been enjoyable going back to the races, and it can only get better as the equine stars come out to  shine, and also pleasant to catch up with my racing photographer friends Rebecca and George.

Next Saturday is Feehan Stakes day at Moonee Valley. I’m glad that the so called Cox Plate qualifier, known as the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes since 2005, has reverted to its original name after all this time. What’s more a pretty good field has nominated for the event. But the icing on the cake is the nomination of both Sunlight and Nature Strip in the McEwen Stakes, a mouth watering prospect. Alas they’re also nominated for the Concorde Stakes in Sydney, so I suppose it all depends on weather and track conditions where they will run.