Monday, March 15, 2021

Mud & Mugatoo – All Star Mile Review

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Mugatoo and Russian Camelot fight out the finish in the All Star Mile

It was wet, it was bucketing down, it was an unremitting deluge on Saturday at Moonee Valley, though when I set out at around 12.00pm it was warm and humid and I wondered if putting on shoes and socks would make me too hot.

When I reached Moonee Valley the rain had not yet started so I was able to get a good photo of the new Winx statue, in pride of place in the new Tote Park which leads to the main entrance to the track on McPherson Street.

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Winx statue in Tote Park on McPherson Street

It’s a wonderful statue, miles better than the Black Caviar statue at Caulfield, and I was pleased that I came across it as I headed for the entrance gate.

Once inside Moonee Valley, my Zone 2 ticket permitted me to hang out on the Burston Lawn, so there I headed and found my photographer friend George already ensconced in the prime fence position closest to the finishing post.

There we stayed for the rest of the soggy afternoon, perhaps foolishly, considering how wet it got.

Getting a race book involved standing in a bar queue for at least 15 minutes, but I got two (one for George) at a discount price as the barman was confused.

Other freebies were paper flags for every runner in the All Star Mile, a red Ladbrokes Cap, and if you were lucky, a rain poncho.

Unfortunately, even though I grabbed two sets of the flags, they got damp, being impossible to protect in the circumstances. I should have forethought to take a plastic bag, but how was one to know such freebies were up for grabs.

So Bec, if you’re reading this, you are welcome to a set of water damaged flags if you want them. At least you can prove they are the genuine article.

My arrival at the Valley was in time for Race 3, the Xtreme Freight Handicap. run over the Cox Plate distance of 2040 metres.

As the rain hadn’t arrived at that time, my photos of the race are OK , but photographic conditions for the rest of the day were challenging in the extreme.

Race 3 was won by Persan, one of the few on the day to zoom from back of the field, and seized the lead close to the line to beat Irish Flame by a narrow margin.

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Persan about to overtake Irish Flame as they charge to the finish line

The next race was sprint over 1200 metres, and Ancestry was the warm favourite. He led from the start and won by over two lengths in the end, from Riddle Me That and Dollar For Dollar.

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Ancestry flashes up the straight in the Ranvet Abell Stakes

Of more interest than the previous races, Race 5 the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes was up next. Also run over 2040 metres. it was pleasing to see Jameka’s little brother Grandslam blitz the field and win by over six lengths, leading from the start. Jameka was a grand race mare in her time, winning the Victorian Oaks in 2015, and the Caulfield Cup and BMW in 2016.  Grandslam obviously has some of her talent and seems to appreciate soft tracks as she did.

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Grandslam burns up the straight in the Alister Clark Stakes

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Jamie Kah brings Grandslam back to scale

The rain had settled in by this time, and it was in vain that we hoped for a break. George had not come prepared for the weather, wearing only a T-shirt, so got considerably more drenched than myself, who had a raincoat and an umbrella. A kind person took pity on him and gave him a poncho in the end.

There were two more races to run before the All Star Mile, the first of these being the Australia Country Mile, won by Fontein Diamond, and Race 7 was the Gold Reef and won by Air Defence.

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Air Defence on his way to the barriers

Before the All Star Mile was run there was a bit of razzamatazz in the form of flag bearers, drummers and dancers up in the grandstand. Obviously this part of the pre- race entertainment was meant to happen on the track, but the rain stymied that option. The track stage technicians looked disgruntled as the rain continued unabated, so their equipment remained unpacked and they drove their vehicles off the track.

By this time the track had been downgraded to a soft 6, which favoured the All Star contenders who appreciated a soft track, such as Russian Camelot, Sir Dragonet and Mugatoo among others, but not my particular favourite Probabeel.

Here are some of the field (or those whose photos turned out OK) on their way to the starting gates.

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Regalo di Gaetano

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The Harrovian

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Lunar Fox

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Russian Camelot

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Shout the Bar

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Still A Star

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Sir Dragonet

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Streets of Avalon

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Mr Quickie

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Fifty Stars

The All Star Mile, as a race, lived up to the hype. It was an exciting competition, fiercely fought by the contenders. Hugh Bowman, no stranger to the peculiarities of the Moonee Valley track skilfully guided Mugatoo to a memorable victory, outfoxing Damian Oliver on Russian Camelot to win on the line. Behemoth finished third.

Hugh, as was his wont when Winx won her Cox Plates, paraded Mugatoo  up the straight and back along the fence for the benefit of the crowd . An explosion of blue and white streamers billowed from the Grandstand.

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Hugh Bowman parades Mugatoo along the fence

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Mud bespattered Hugh Bowman & Mugatoo closeup

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Mugatoo in the winners rug

It was a pity that the weather was so awful. A sunny day would certainly have been preferable, but George and I soldiered on at the fence when everyone else had fled to drier places. By the time the All Star Mile had been run and won, we had been standing (or sitting in my case, after I liberated a stool) for over two hours and I was wet through despite my raincoat and umbrella.

I squelched up to Moonee Ponds Junction and caught a tram back up Pascoe Vale Road to the 510 (Essendon to Ivanhoe) Bus Stop.

When I got home a full change of clothing was in order.  My camera was wet, as well as my bag and step. Luckily, so far I don’t seem to have come down with an ague.

I’m not sure if I’d undergo another extremely wet afternoon at the races again.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Super Saturday–The Home Stretch

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Australian Cup finish – Homesman & Best of Days head to head

A bright sunny day and no transport disruptions made it a perfect afternoon trackside at Flemington last Saturday.

It’s pity the races were not all that riveting, fields wise, but there were enough interesting outcomes to make the the time pass pleasantly.

Arriving at the track on the second last train, I had plenty of time on hand before Race 3, to wander up the lawn to the stalls area.  They were accessible, but I didn’t tarry there long, heading back to the west lawn to photograph Race 3, the March Stakes, run over 1400 metres.

Former rogue, So Si Bon won the race by a narrow margin from Holbein and Pretty Brazen.

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So Si Bon overtaking Holbein on the line

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So Si Bon on his way to the barriers

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Holbein on his way to the barriers

The Group 2 Sires Produce Stakes  for two year old's was next to jump, and it was pleasing to see the Peter Moody/Luke Nolen combination back in action with Lightsaber, an unusually coloured colt, winning the bickies easily after leading throughout. Saif and Micro filled the minor placings.

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Lightsaber wins the Sires Produce Stakes

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Lightsaber on his way to the barriers – pretty boy

The Listed  Incognitus Stakes, a sprint over 1100 metres for three year old’s, was next on the schedule and the starting favourite was Oxely Road, another Peter Moody trained runner, but he finished fourth in the end. The race was won by Marboosha, who broke through a wall of horses to win by over length from Supreme Idea with Bella Nipotina running third.

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Marboosha wins the Incognitus Stakes

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Marboosha returns to scale

As usual the official photographers were hard to avoid when the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap was run, so my photos of the finish are less than perfect. The field split into two, a small group racing down the inside of the straight, with the bulk of the field running down the grandstand side.  The winner, Zoutori, was with the inside rail group and flashed through at the last minute to overtake leader, Indian Pacific, to score by a whisker. He paid generous odds, as did the placegetters Indian Pacific and Amish Boy.

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Newmarket Handicap down the straight

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Newmarket finish left to right – Zoutori, Indian Pacific & Amish Boy

With the Australian Cup scheduled as Race 8, there was one more race to witness before it was run.

This was the Group 3 Matron Stakes, a 1600 metres race for fillies and mares.

Sovereign Award led from the start and still had plenty of energy at the finish to win by over a length from Quantum Mechanic and Scarlet Dream.

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Sovereign Award wins the Matron Stakes

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Sovereign Award returns to scale

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Quantum Mechanic on her way to the barriers

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Scarlet Dream on her way to the barriers

With the death of music promoter Michael Gudinski last week, much has been made about Homesman winning the Australia Cup last Saturday. Gudinski was a part owner of the horse, so in a way it was sentimentally apt that Homesman won the race.

It was a close finish, almost a dead heat between Homesman and Best of Days, the former winning by a nose. Chapada ran third.

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Australian Cup finishing post

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Homesman on his way to the barriers

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Best of Days on his way to the barriers

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Chapada on his way to the barriers

With the Cup being run and won I headed home, which took less time than last week, with trains running as normal.

Flemington was in festival mode, bands and children’s entertainments happening all along the public lawn.

I’ve rather liked the Covid Safe race meetings – less crowded than usual and better behaved.

Next Saturday I’m off to Moonee Valley for the All Star Mile. It’s been well over a year since I last ventured there, so I’m looking forward to it. 

The All Star Mile looks to be a fantastic race, a sort of Cox Plate with many equine stars engaged  - possibly the best race of Melbourne’s Autumn Racing Carnival.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

The Moon and the Stars – Guineas Day at Flemington

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Australian Guineas – the finishing post

If I had realised that transport disruptions were scheduled for last Saturday at the time I booked my ticket to the Australian Guineas meeting at Flemington, I probably wouldn’t have bothered attending.

It was only on  Friday afternoon that I discovered that Buses were replacing trains on the Hurstbridge line all weekend, so rather than waste the ticket I gritted my teeth and set out at an earlier hour than usual to catch a replacement bus to Parliament Station. My arrival at Ivanhoe Station on Saturday morning coincided with the arrival of the replacement bus, so I was in the city shortly after midday with plenty of time on hand to get to Southern Cross Station and catch a train to Flemington.

As a consequence I arrived at Flemington in time for the second race on the card. My Zone 2 ticket encompassed the front lawn – from the mounting yard to past the clocktower, so I had no trouble getting to the usual spot for photography. I stayed there pretty much for the rest of the afternoon. I’m not sure if there was access  to the stalls area, but only a small section of the mounting yard fence was available for general admission patrons to watch the parade.

There was quite a crowd in attendance, most of them occupying reserved tables all along the lawn, and generally civilised, other than a table of young men who seemed to be imbibing vast quantities of alcohol and having a good time. However they didn’t bother me in the slightest, and security personnel kept them in line.

Race 2 was the Listed Roy Higgins Quality, a race over 2600 metres, and Mosh Music (a daughter of Black Caviar’s brother Moshe from a Jeune mare) was the winner, beating Sin To Win by over a length with Stars of Carrum running third.

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Mosh Music wins the Roy Higgins Quality

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Mosh Music returns to scale

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Sin to Win returns to scale

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Stars of Carrum returning to scale

It was a pleasant day weather  wise, cool and mild with little wind, though overcast throughout.

A Group 3 race over 1400 metres, the Shaftesbury Avenue Handicap was of interest due to the presence of popular Queenslander The Harrovian who had won his last 11 races and is an All Star Mile contender.

His colours were lowered in the Shaftesbury Avenue Handicap at this his first start on the big Flemington track, where he finished fifth, outclassed by the locals.

Morvada led from the start and prevailed, winning by a length from Holbien and Platoon.

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Morvada wins the Shaftesbury Avenue Handicap

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Morvada on his way to the barriers

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Holbien on his way to the barriers

The next two races were sprints, Race 4 being the World Horse Racing Handicap over 1200 metres and Race 5, the rather more interesting Bob Hoysted Handicap over 1000 metres. Both of these races were won by greys.

Subedar won the Race 4 from Street Icon and Laverrod, and West Australian grey mare Fabergino who loves the Flemington straight, won the Bob Hoysted Handicap from Indian Pacific and Humma Humma.

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Subedar winning the World Horse Racing Handicap

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Subedar with Jamie Kah returns to scale

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Fabergino wins the Bob Hoysted Handicap from Indian Pacific

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Fabergino returning to scale

The most interesting race on the card was up next; the Group 2 Blamey Stakes, run over 1600 metres. It had attracted a classy field that included Mystic Journey, Fifty Stars (2019 &2020  Blamey winner), Best Of Days and the Chris Waller trained Star of the Seas making a rare appearance in Melbourne.

Buffalo River was the race favourite and led from the start only to be overtaken in the last stretch by Star of the Seas and Fifty Stars. Mystic Journey finished 5th and found to be lame after race.

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Star of the Seas wins the Blamey Stakes from Fifty Stars & Buffalo River

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Star of the Seas returns to scale

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Fifty Stars on his way to the barriers

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Buffalo River returns to scale

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Mystic Journey on her way to the barriers

It’s not every race day that you see a 300/1 shot win a Group 1 race, but such was the sensational result of the feature Australian Guineas when rank outsider, Lunar Fox won the prize.

He raced mid field for most of the race whilst race favourite Tagaloa led from the start. Lunar Fox ran wide to overtake the leaders and Cherry Tortoni flew from the back of the pack to snag second place. Tagaloa hung on for third.

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Lunar Fox returns to scale

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Cherry Tortoni on his way to the barriers

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Tagaloa on his way to the barriers

I didn’t stay for the last two races, only tarrying to watch the Chipping Norton Stakes on the big screen. It was a great race with class staying mares Verry Elleegant and Colette fighting out the finish with the former being the narrow victor.

By rights I should left as soon as the Guineas was over.

I was under the impression that the first train from Flemington back to city was scheduled to run at 4.45pm (according to the VRC website), but had in fact left at 4.25pm.

So I had a long and tedious wait for the 5.07pm train, then was obliged to catch a tram from Southern Cross to Spring Street to catch the replacement bus back to Ivanhoe. It took almost two hours to get home.

Fortunately next weekend the Hurstbridge line services will be normal so I won’t be so inconvenienced when I travel back to Flemington for the Super Saturday meeting.

Anyway, I did find out last Saturday that Covid Restrictions were not at all onerous at Flemington and that our preferred spot for photographs is part of the Zone 2 area and no hassle to access.