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The Valley All-Star Mile

March 13th, 2021

Third-up from a spell. And what a spell that was! Is it really a year since we were struck down by the virus? It is amazing that racing has managed to keep going by separating the players from the spectators, but that is not much help to me as I need to see the horse in the flesh. I struggled to have two bets for the whole year. The restrictions have eased over the last couple of weeks and I managed to blow the cobwebs out at Flemington for the Australian Guineas and the Australian Cup. But there was no access to the parade ring or horse stalls so I was operating with only half the information. But it didn’t deter me as I went overboard with nine bets over the two days! I think I was a victim of a phenomenon known as behavioural rebound – when prevented from performing a behaviour for a long time it then rebounds to a much higher level!

And so to The Valley. The forecast is ominous but surprisingly there is access to the horse stalls, although not much use to me in the wet. The rain arrived on cue and the track was downgraded to a Soft 6 before the Mile and then a Soft 7 straight after. Mugatoo had the head down and the cross-over noseband and looked very muscular and wet. Russian Camelot had the two strappers and looked classy and wet. And Behemoth looked, well, big and wet. I don’t bet if my race book gets wet and today it is saturated. Well, that’s a lie as I was a coward sheltering under cover! I’ll keep my powder dry. No point betting in the slush when looks count for nothing. Mugatoo muscled through for a strong win from Russian Camelot and Behemoth.


Caulfield All-Star Mile

March 14th, 2020

A ghost meeting! All spectators are banned! The main meeting of the autumn and I’m in quarantine. Warned off! The club was anticipating a drop in crowd numbers but certainly not to zero! The compensation was going to be a database with 200,000 or so email addresses of all those who voted for a runner. I voted for Aristia, at the invitation of Dr Andrew Clarke, the CEO of Living Legends, the retirement home for racehorses. It is a good cause as I think all horses who make the field win some cash for their nominated charity.

So, what am I to do? on the TV I suppose. I’m only interested in a couple of races, the two-year-olds and the All Stars. There are only five runners in the two-year-old, so it is a betting opportunity. A place punter only has to cross out three horses. I eagerly wait for the mounting yard coverage and get to see the topweight being unruly as he leaves the yard. The rest of the field are on the track with the jockey up before the camera looks at them. Not enough information! In the All Stars it is much the same story with a glimpse of two thirds of the field in the yard and the rest with the jockey up on the track. No bet! This is the way my season ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

It is hard to see me getting back to the track before winter. Here’s hoping for spring.


Flemington Super Saturday

March 7th, 2020

The time-honoured Newmarket Handicap. The Melbourne Cup for sprinters. There are only eleven runners with the other half of the field running in Sydney. Why is that? Out the back Gytrash had the twisted neck which is pretty neutral and slightly salivating which is pretty positive. Bivouac had the head down which is very positive. In the yard Loving Gaby had two strappers and the arched neck together with another attribute that I quite like and which is quite positive. They formed my top three and completed the trifecta, which doesn’t happen too often. I backed Loving Gaby for the place at $1.80 only for it to be wound down to $1.75 the moment I pressed submit. Don’t you hate that? Bivouac streeted them with Loving Gaby looking the winner before being run down. Gytrash just managed to hold on for third.

In the Australian Cup I had no particular opinion except I didn’t fancy Regal Power when the jockey couldn’t control it leaving the yard and it had an interaction with the racecourse infrastructure. I was considering a lay bet when the PA announced that the horse was having a vet check at the barrier, which it subsequently passed. Who am I to argue with the vets? I passed on the lay. The horse ran home well for second.


Flemington Australian Guineas

February 29th, 2020

The market has it as a match race in four between Alligator Blood, Alabama Express, Catalyst and Chenier. I’m inclined to agree as they are all top class three-year-old colts and geldings, but it’s not my sort of race. Alligator Blood’s head is way out of control, even with two strappers. Alabama Express has the stallion chain on out the back and is salivating with the tongue tie and bubble cheeker in the yard, but is probably OK. Catalyst has head problems too, with the strapper employing little tugs and I didn’t see Chenier until the jockey is up and the horse is flaring his nostrils and showing me teeth with his head up. No rules need to be broken here! Alligator Blood streets them at $1.30 for the place.

I had two bets for the day. I liked Gai’s two-year old Vangelic in the red ear muffs, with two strappers and no faults. The jockey made the strange decision to put the horse in the middle of the pack from a wide barrier. It got squeezed out at the 300 but recovered a little to run on quite well. That jockey should be lynched. In the mares I again liked the relaxed Mamzelle Tess who always stands out in a field like this. She ran her usual honest race for second and a nice $2.70. Even nicer was my 10% Tabcorp multiplier!


Caulfield Blue Diamond

February 22nd, 2020

I didn’t fancy the three favourites much. Out the back both Hanseatic and Letzbeglam were gaping and being restrained by a strapper needing two hands. In the yard Hanseatic was all over the shop, reefing and tearing and out early onto the track. And Rulership was rotating his tail in a most impressive manner with his head up and ears back and clearly didn’t want to be there. And I didn’t like Tagaloa who had the stallion chain on in the parade ring. I dislike this gear, especially in young horses. Rathlin looked nice and relaxed at $4.80 so I put my money where my mouth is and backed it. The horse was not favoured by the track bias and got too far back but ran on reasonably well for seventh.

I skipped the Oakleigh plate. It’s just too hard for me with 18 horses in a helter-skelter dash over 1000 metres. The winner Pippie did look good chewing and salivating, but so did a handful of others.

I got some back on the nice-looking head down favourite Kings Will Dream in the last. I backed it with 30 seconds to go at $1.70 but of course it was crunched into $1.50. Not a bad run for second. And as the horses left for the yard Mirage Dancer was suddenly returned to his stall with a lot of fuss. I rushed over expecting to see a bucket of water being flung at this undercarriage. But no, he was being replated! It obviously distracted him as he ran on well for third!


Flemington Black Caviar: The Great Horse Race Day

February 15th, 2020

The weather is bleak with a miserable drizzle blanketing the track. The misty rain doesn’t even register on the Melbourne radar but it registers on my race book. What a shame! Too wet to bet!

The weather clears enough for me to venture outside from the comfort of my lobby chair and check out the three-year-old colts and geldings. I normally don’t bet on these races as the testosterone interferes with my judgement, but gosh, look at that gelding Alligator Blood. I recall my own advice from the second book and decide to crawl across broken glass to back it. The place price of $1.30 is a bit short and even the win at $1.80 is skimpy. So I go for the win on Betfair at $2.00. I never go the back on Betfair as my brain can get confused. Keep it simple – back on the Tote, lay on the Fair. But rules are meant to be broken, aren’t they? The poker player jumps to the lead but the Kiwi champion goes with him. They thunder head to head down the straight and in a stirring finish Alligator Blood prevails over Catalyst by a nose. What a race! I’ve won! But I’ve broken three or is it four rules: betting on a wet track (Soft 5), backing on Betfair, betting to win, and betting on three-year-old males!

Black Caviar paraded before the Lightning Stakes. The crowd were lined up four deep to get a glimpse of the great mare looking in great condition. Has she really had five foals? That backside looks much the same! I like Redzel and Loving Gaby in the race but keep my powder dry.

In the Vanity for three-year-old fillies Pretty Brazen is pretty relaxed but at $1.50 for the place is too short for me. But generous Tabcorp offered me a 1.2 times multiplier taking it to $1.80. Well within my rules! The horse didn’t disappoint with an even run for second. The day turned out to be not so bleak after all.


Caulfield CF Orr Stakes Day

February 8th, 2020

The first Group 1 of the season and the punters have emerged from the woodwork. There is a gale force south-easterly blowing and playing havoc with the temperament of horses and watchers alike. The sky is hazy and the wind carries the whiff of smoke from the East Gippsland fire grounds. The wind is so strong that I need one hand to hold onto the brim of my hat in addition to its usual anchor rope. That leaves one hand to hold the race book and no hands to hold the biro!

The good horses are starting to appear now. In the Orr I liked Scales Of Justice who was asleep in his stall. The blue army’s Avilius had no faults and the three-year-old Alabama Express looked striking. Hey Doc looked like a big strong horse, but eventually I crossed him out for being too big and strong and requiring the strapper to use two hands. Mirage Dancer was the obvious lay bouncing his fifth leg off his belly. Clearly his mind wasn’t on the job at hand. In the end it was too hard so I didn’t bet. The three-year-old colt blitzed them with the lay Mirage Dancer tailed off last. Fierce Impact and Kings Will Dream finished second and third and had no faults.

I lost on the day with two fourths, Riverina Storm in the two-year-old fillies, and Mamzelle Tess in the mares. But I left the track in an agreeable state of mind. One punter thought that I looked like a Greek philosopher. Aristotle, he decided. I like that. The Aristotle of horsewatchers!


Flemington Twilight Meeting

January 18th, 2020

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Club Stand counting my blessings. After all I’ve just seen Sparksy this week and had my insertable cardiac monitor checked. Those who have read the books will be aware of my cardiac adventures and will remember that the electrocardiophysiologist Dr Paul Sparks fixed me up. Well, I’ve had a couple of recent events where I have lost consciousness and banged myself up, so Sparksy stuck this fancy device into my chest which monitors my heart rate and talks to my mobile phone. If there are any problems it then sends a message to him. It’s not a pacemaker or defibrillator so it won’t save me, but a diagnostic tool. So if I do have a heart attack Sparksy will know what killed me. Anyway I’ve had a clear run for over four months, no atrial fibrillation or left bundle branch block, and he doesn’t want to see me for another 12 months!

The lobby

So here I am counting in one of those comfortable chairs when a silver-tailed gentleman comes in and enquires as to whether this is the retirement home for geriatric punters. He’s got it in one! You could go to sleep here. But the lobby is not meant to be too comfortable, just a place to check in and hopefully not check out. The club doesn’t want the seniors to linger too long or set up camp here. There’s only one large screen showing the races in the four corners, no screens showing tote or bookie odds, and no replay screen, but heaps of racing memorabilia, mainly paintings and silverware. If you want racing information you have to find the hidden escalator or struggle upstairs to the Members’ Bar which has replaced the much-missed Island Bar. But I’m now resigned to it all as part of my circuit from the stalls, to the mounting yard, to the betting ring to check the tote screens and bookies odds and then the lobby to watch the race or place a bet on my phone. The times they are a’changing.

And may I say that twilight racing doesn’t really suit me with the first at three o’clock and the last at eight o’clock at night. Small fields and no standouts so I’m home just after six.


The Zipping Classic

November 16th, 2019

Only two bets in Cup week with a wet racebook so it will be nice to have a go today. In the three-year-old fillies California Salto leaves an impressive trail of sloppy excreta scattered over the yard so I go for the lay. I’m left opposing it at $2.50 for the place when the horse is backed in late to $2.10. Fortunately the horse doesn’t disappoint and labours into sixth place. In the next I take a set against Willliam Thomas but the bane of my life returns when I find my Betfair page is frozen. This often seems to happen, especially after a collect. By the time I have powered off and on the race is away and I have missed another collect.

In the Guineas, Pretty Brazen is an absolute standout and at $1.40 for the place I am forced to bet for a win at $3.60. What a magnificent filly! The name seemed to ring a bell and on checking my records at home I see that I backed this horse as a two-year-old at Flemington back in January. More in store I suggest.

In the classic Zipping looked good, although you may detect a decent bulge under that rug. The winner Southern France looked good too, salivating with the head down, but late into the yard. This time the $1.40 for the place was too short for me.

And so the carnival is over!


The Melbourne Cup

November 5th, 2019

I spent a few days out at Werribee with the wise old heads, checking out the international horses. After all, it’s not our race anymore, is it? I was quite taken with the Japanese horse and the returning British bulldog. So I put Mer de Glace ahead of Prince of Arran, and then I had Finche, who looked fabulous out at Caulfield. Next came Raymond Tusk, Master of Reality and Southern France. And of course I wouId have put Marmelo in if I was given half a chance! I backed Arran the night before for the top five at $4.00 and then the international box trifecta and the Japanese for the place once I got to the track.

As soon as I got to the stalls I crossed out Mustajeer who looked like he had been caught a rainstorm in his float. The rest looked pretty good except for Master of Reality who was mucking up in his stall. I tried to battle up to the mounting yard but kept getting distracted by various patrons. By the time I made it to the yard the entertainment had started and my usual spot was taken. I finally managed a possie on the corner, two deep. One out and one back! My spot was right next to a loudspeaker and I had to poke my fingers into my ears to prevent being deafened by John Paul Young!

There were three head up horses that I noticed: Master of Reality (also late into the yard), Southern France (also lolling) and Raymond Tusk. I tossed them out of my top six and bunged in Latrobe (salivating) and Surprise Baby (no faults, chewing). And whoa, who’s that? Vow and Declare! Absolutely stunning and a clear standout. Just enough time for another trifecta. I couldn’t have El Paradiso, yet another head up horse.

I’m struggling to remember the last time a horse led at the post the first time around and at the finish? Was it Might and Power? A daring ride and an amazing victory for Australia against strong international competition. So I ended up with only one out of four bets successful and just an average day. Maybe I should have conserved energy and taken up my mounting yard position early and backed the winner for the place. Should’ve, could’ve. The punter’s lament. Oh well, there’s always next year.