Saturday, March 19, 2022

Zaaki – A Class Act in the All Star Mile

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Zaaki winning the All Star Mile

With the All Star Mile scheduled at the relatively early time of 3.40pm it wasn’t what you would call a marathon session trackside on Saturday at Flemington.

The trains to Flemington were running at 20 minute intervals with the last train to the course expected to run at 1.40pm, so I took my time getting there, arriving around 2.00pm.

As the support card was not all that interesting I didn’t bother to watch Race 4, but headed for the stalls area to get some photos of the All Star Mile runners in their stalls.

Not all were present at that time, but I found a few in both the lower and upper areas.

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Callsign Mav

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Lunar Fox

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Mr Brightside

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Sierra Sue

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After tarrying in the stalls area I figured I should get some action photo practice in Race 5, the Country Mile, a 1600 metres race for all comers, so headed to my favourite spot on the Front Lawn

This resulted in a win for Glassey Miss who won narrowly from Gracias Amigo  and Intellective. I’ve never heard of any of the aforementioned I must admit.

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Glassey Miss wins the Country Mile

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Glassey Miss on her way to the barriers

The weather gods were kind on Saturday and the afternoon was bright and sunny, quite hot in fact, and certainly a pleasant contrast to the relentless rain last year at Moonee Valley.

I made sure this time that my camera was set correctly and was glad that I managed to get some good photos of the star performer.

As previously mentioned it was a short afternoon trackside, as the All Star Mile was the next race on the card.

Before that happened there was a bit of pomp and ceremony that involved flags and drums in the mounting yard, which I couldn’t be bothered watching having seen it all before in 2019.

Soon enough the runners were heading onto the track.

Zaaki whizzed out first, so I had to be fast to get photos of him going to the barriers.

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I’m Thunderstruck

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Streets of Avalon

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Inspirational Girl

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Sierra Sue

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Mr Brightside

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Zaaki jumped from the widest barrier, but a pearler of a ride from Jamie Kah had him up on the pace shortly after the race started. Callsign Mav and Lightsaber led the field early, but Zaaki took over as they raced down the straight and won convincingly from I’m Thunderstruck and Streets of Avalon.

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Zaaki – full speed ahead

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Runners up – I’m Thunderstruck, Streets of Avalon & Mr Brightside

I called it quits after the All Star Mile, catching the first train back to the city and was home by 5.00pm.

The Melbourne Autumn  Carnival is now over, except for the William Reid Stakes next Friday night at Moonee Valley, so I won’t be going to any more race meetings until the Spring, which hopefully this year we will be able attend.

I enjoy my excursions to the races, but will be content to watch the Sydney Group 1 races on my computer from now on.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Seeing Stars

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Mystic Journey winning the 2019 All Star Mile

This coming Saturday I’m looking forward to attending the All Star Mile meeting at Flemington, and hopefully getting better photos than I  managed on Super Saturday last weekend.

Imagine my horror when I viewed my photos last week and discovered that most, if not all of them, were blurred and unfixable, but such was the case.

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Roch ‘n’ Horse – 100/1  shot winner of the 2022 Newmarket Handicap

After much thought on what may have caused this problem, I finally realised that the Auto Focus button on my lens was turned off. I must admit I was puzzled when looking at the settings on my camera that the Auto Focus options were greyed out and inaccessible, but thought little of it at the time as my photos on the camera screen seemed to be OK.

Anyway it was a waste of a sunny day and a salutary lesson I won’t forget in a hurry.

Goodness knows how the Auto Focus button came to be turned off as I always leave those buttons well alone. An inadvertent slip of the finger perhaps resulted in this grievous error.

This year will be the fourth running of the All Star Mile, and I’ve attended all but one – in 2020 Covid restrictions prevented public attendance at the event.

Last year the All Star Mile was run at Moonee Valley and it was a miserable rainy day, so hopefully the weather will be kinder this year; forecast to be partly cloudy and a dry 26°C.

A field of 15 runners will be contesting the race, headed by star performers Zaaki and Inspirational Girl who clashed in the Blamey Stakes recently with Inspirational Girl proving the winner on that occasion. Also in the mix are Group 1 winners such as I’m Thunderstruck , Tofane and Sierra Sue, as well several three year olds – Captivant, Lightsaber and Pinstriped.  Alas Hitotsu’s connections did not accept his  wild card nomination.

The rest of the card is bit ho hum, but at least will afford an opportunity for photography practice.

I’m pleased to see that the All Star Mile will be run mid afternoon at 3.40 pm, so it won’t be a terribly long day trackside.

It’s Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill this Saturday, so it will break up the afternoon pleasantly watching the Sydney racing action on the big screen.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Inspirational Guineas Day at Flemington

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Hitotsu wins the Australian Guineas from Lightsaber

Early Saturday morning it bucketed down with rain in Melbourne, but by the time I arrived at the big track it had cleared somewhat, though was overcast in the afternoon.

Quite a change from the sunny days of the previous weeks race meetings. At least it wasn’t hot though it was humid.

As trains were running at 20 minute intervals all afternoon to Flemington, for a change I could take my time getting there, so arrived as Race 3 was in progress, and in plenty of time to watch the fillies and mares  contest Race 4, the Group 3 Frances Tressady Stakes.

After acquiring a race book, I decided to head up the stalls area and try and get a photo of star performer Zaaki who was engaged in Race 6, the Group 2 Blamey Stakes.

Zaaki’s presence at the track was bonus, as I have never seen him in the flesh before, his previous races in Melbourne being over the Spring Racing Carnival, which due to Covid restrictions I was unable to attend.

During the Melbourne Spring, Zaaki won the Group 1 Underwood Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes and was hot favourite for the Cox Plate, before his shock scratching on the morning of the race.

Up in stalls area most of the Guineas contenders had already arrived, so I got some photos of them in their stalls as well.

The first horse I came across was Apache Cat, one of the Living Legends special guests for the meeting. Apache Cat won the Australian Guineas in 2006, so his presence was perfectly appropriate.

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Apache Cat

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Forgot You

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I eventually found Zaaki’s stall…

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and Inspirational Girl was close by.

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Inspirational Girl

Back track side it was almost time for the Frances Tressady Stakes where Annavisto romped in, winning by over 3 lengths from Vespertine and Electric Girl.

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Annavisto wins the Frances Tressady Stakes

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Vespertine and Electric Girl

Flemington was nowhere near crowded and the kid zone was concentrated up the Elms end of the lawn and even had a Ferris Wheel.

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Ferris Wheel

Race 5 was the Inglis Sprint and Overpass was the hot favourite and didn’t disappoint winning fairly easily from Spellcatcher with The Art of Flying two lengths behind running third.

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Overpass overtakes Spellcatcher to win the Inglis Sprint

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Overpass returns to scale

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Spellcatcher returns to scale

As the Blamey Stakes was up next I decided to grab a spot on the Mounting Yard fence for some photos of the runners parading.

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Inspirational Girl

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Lunar Fox

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Mr Brightside

The Blamey Stakes is a race over 1600 metres and of course Zaaki was the hot favourite. It was a slowly run race and Zaaki raced on the pace in third spot. He was briefly blocked for a run,  but broke clear to take lead, only to be run down late by Inspirational Girl who pipped him at the post to win by a nose. Corner Pocket ran third.

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Zaaki and Inspirational Girl fight out the finish in the Blamey Stakes

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Inspirational Girl returns to scale

Then it was onward to the feature race of the day, the Australian Guineas. Last year Lunar Fox won it at odds of 300/1, but this year 2021 VRC Derby winner Hitotsu, having his first start since that victory, won the prize.

Profondo was the much hyped favourite for the race, but failed to handle the Melbourne way of going and finished  third last.  Pretty boy Lightsaber raced up near the speed and ran a great race to lose out to Hitotsu by a narrow margin. Sole filly in the race Bon’s A Pearla ran third.

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Hitotsu, Lightsaber and Bon’s A Pearla as they finished

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Hitotsu returns to scale

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Lightsaber on his way to the barriers

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Bon’s A Pearla returns to scale

Hitotsu became the first horse since Mahogany in 1993/94 to win the VRC DerbyAustralian Guineas double – a rare achievement that I am glad I was able to witness in person.

Next Saturday the racing action is again at Flemington with the Australian Cup and Newmarket Handicap the feature Group 1 races. The All Star Mile is scheduled to run the Saturday after.

The latest All Star Mile news is that Hitotsu, Lightsaber and Pinstriped are the wildcard entries, which certainly adds to the allure of the race, which already boasts a quality field of contestants.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Diamonds For Daumier

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Daumier parades in the mounting yard after winning the Blue Diamond Stakes

A colt may have won the prized Blue Diamond Stakes, but the fairer sex took out the other two Group 1 races on Saturday at Caulfield.

The weather forecast was for an overcast day, but it turned out to be hot and sunny with a fast track, whilst in Sydney it looked very gloomy and inclement and the track was rated  a heavy 10.

As the main races I wanted to see were later in the day, I took my time getting to Caulfield and arrived a half hour before the running of Race 4.

This was the Angus Amanasco Stakes, a Group 2 race for three year old fillies, run over 1400 metres.  A field of blue blood fillies had accepted to run, including Argentia (Frankel –Princess  Coup ), Yearning (Snitzel - Rising Romance) and  Mokulua (Redoute’s Choice – Dear Demi). I remember the aforementioned fillies dams racing several years ago and winning prestigious races.

Argentia started as favourite, but was outgunned by Lavish Girl  who led from the start.  Argentia was blocked for a run, stuck on the inside rail,  so by the time she managed  to break clear Lavish Girl had too much of a lead to beat. Yearning finished third.

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Lavish Girl maintains her lead to the finishing post

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Argentia in hot pursuit of Lavish Girl

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Yearning (black & gold) overtaking back markers up the straight

Our usual spot on the fence was occupied by a corporate event, so Rebecca and I had to settle slightly further from the winning post than we normally would.

Race 5 was the Peter Young Stakes, another Group 2 race, this time over 1800 metres.

The highly recognisable Cascadian was the favourite and proved his superior class by winning by half a length from Yonkers and Emissary.

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Cascadian (blue) about to pass Yonkers, Emissary is behind them

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Cascadian on his way to the barriers

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Yonkers on his way to the barriers

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Emissary on his way to the barriers

The first Group 1 of the day was the Futurity Stakes and set to run next up.

Tofane who won the Orr Stakes recently was favourite for the race, but she only managed to run third. Sierra Sue, who raced close to the pace in fourth spot, broke through to take the lead up the straight and won by over a length from Mo’unga bolting from mid field to run second.

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Sierra Sue hits the front from race leader Turaath with Tofane in pursuit

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Sierra Sue parades in the mounting yard after winning the Futurity Stakes

Naturally the Blue Diamond Stakes was the feature Group 1 race of the afternoon, but before that was run we watched the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes from Sydney  on the big screen. Wonder mare Verry Elleegant demonstrated that she had returned to her fighting best with a thrilling win, after disappointing at her first start a few weeks ago in the Apollo Stakes.

Saturday was the tenth year that I have attended the Blue Diamond meeting; my first time in 2012 I recall being a sizzling 40°C, and the feature race was won by Samaready. Also running that day was 2011 Blue Diamond Stakes winner Sepoy in the Oakleigh Plate,  2011 Cox Plate winner Pinker Pinker in the Futurity Stakes and 2011 Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed in the Peter Young Stakes. I must say there were  more stars of the turf at that meeting 10 years ago than there were at this year’s edition.

Anyway the 2022 Blue Diamond was a puzzler with a pretty even field with no standouts. Jacquinot started favourite. It resulted in a win for Daumier who beat Revolutionary Miss by a short margin and Jacquinot ended up in third place.

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Daumier, Revolutionary Miss & Jacquinot  in a line of three overtake race leader Semillion as they charge to the finish line.

We stayed on for the final Group 1 of the day, which was the Oakleigh Plate. I was keen to see unbeaten mare Marabi, who seems to have come from nowhere into prominence. She is a very lightly raced five year old mare having only contested seven races, but she has won them all by a good margin.

Such was the case in the Oakleigh Plate, Marabi winning easily from Away Game and Oxley Road to register her first Group 1 victory. It will be interesting seeing how she goes in her next race.

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Marabi streets ahead of her rivals up the straight

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Marabi parades in the mounting yard after winning the Oakleigh Plate

And so ended another Blue Diamond Stakes extravaganza. Next year it will be run at Sandown while the Caulfield track is upgraded, so I doubt if I will attend.

There are only three Saturday meetings remaining in the Melbourne Autumn Carnival, all at Flemington. I have tickets for all three and am looking forward to seeing the Australian Guineas next Saturday.

The world may be heading for world war three with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unsettling the world order, but at least there are still enjoyable outings to be had in the meantime, before hell breaks loose.