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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.