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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.

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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!

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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.

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Cox Plate

October 26th, 2019

The pundits are shouting it from the rooftops. Lys Gracieux. The highest rating horse ever to come here from Japan. It must be pretty good then. My first look at Werribee. Head down, relaxed, fabulous. My second look in the stalls. Relaxed, hind toe up. What’s the word? Imperious. My third look, in the yard. A standout. This looks like the best horse ever to come out of Japan!

A bet then. It’s showing $1.50 fixed and $1.90 tote for the place with a few minutes to go. I decide to risk the tote although I know it will be crunched. What a win! The pundits were right! That’s a pretty good horse! And I was quite happy to be crunched to $1.60.

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Caulfield Cup

October 19th, 2019

These big race days make it hard to get to the mounting yard so I spend most of my time out the back around the stalls and parade ring. Even so they still rush them through the parade ring. The first cup horse to arrive was the winner Mer De Glace. I’m always suspicious of the Japanese horses. They are usually highly strung, flighty, with a team of attendants, and bandaged on all four. Mer De Glace was no different. Hand held in the stall, restless, is that two or three fussing strappers, and pacifiers. But fleecy travel boots. I like them – they are rather like my Ug boots!

The horse doesn’t last long and is whipped out to the pre-parade ring. That’s what I would do. Settle it! Walk it! Two hours later it is still walking! And wow. Look at those ribs! Fit enough. I change my mind about Japanese horses. It is ready.

My final six for the trifecta in no particular order was 3, 6, 10, 14, 16, 18. I missed the third horse Mirage Dancer, probably because of the cross-over noseband. My only other bet was on Humma Humma in the mares race. The horse streeted them!

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Caulfield Guineas

October 12th, 2019

Four months in hibernation, so I’m a bit rusty. But I did see some horses at the Terracotta Warriors exhibition. You would probably say they were in need of a run and the wind might whistle through their bowels a bit! And at the track there was a new sculpture of Black Caviar. I did not recognise the horse, but I worked out the jockey Luke Nolan from the name on his pants and I struggled with the trainer Peter Moody. I can’t remember Pete ever being that demonstrative! And Black Caviar’s backside seemed a lot slimmer than the one that is imprinted on my brain. Artistic licence I suppose.

I didn’t get a decent photo of the Guineas winner, Super Seth, mainly because I had ruled it out of contention with the winkers/cross-over noseband combination. But the red muffs and salivation were positives. I’ll need a bit more practice before I blow the cobwebs out of my wallet.

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Flemington Andrew Ramsden Stakes

May 25th, 2019

This used to be a pretty ordinary race over two miles for worn out stayers at the start of winter. But the VRC and Racing Victoria have now given it a boost by doubling the prize money to $400,000, reducing the distance to 2800 metres, restricting the race to three, four and 5-year old horses at weight for age, and giving the winner a golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup. So that piqued my interest!

The form guide and the bookies had it as a two horse race between Steel Prince, with the picket fence form, and the Adelaide Cup winner, Surprise Baby. Ten to one the field bar two. The horsewatcher had it much the same, with a slight preference for the Baby, mainly because the Prince was sweating up. Both looked keen, ears pricked. But both too short at $1.40 the place. It was a stirring race with a dramatic finish. It looked like a dead heat and they would have to find a second golden ticket, but the Prince prevailed by a hair’s breadth. I was happy just to watch. The barrier probably beat the Baby.

I’m out of here now for the winter. Hopefully back in the spring for the Caulfield Guineas.

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Caulfield Race Day

May 11th, 2019

At last the autumn break. 37 mm of rain at my place after the driest start to the year on record. But danger lurks at Caulfield. A Soft 5, so some give in the track, but not badly affected. I’m no good in the wet, but I really want to go to see just one horse, Villermont, in the second last.

I last saw this horse winning the Sandown Guineas as a three-year-old in 2017 and I was blown away by his relaxed attitude and looks. I made the comment that “it’s hard to see that I will ever get $2.70 the place about this horse again!” Clearly I was wrong! Today Villermont is going around at $2.80. The horse is relaxed, head down, and led on a nice loose strap, but  hasn’t raced in 12 months, the distance is too short, and a disturbing development is the appearance of a tongue tie and cross-over noseband combination. So after all that anticipation it’s a no go. Villermont bounded in the air at the start and ran an even race to finish sixth.

The day wasn’t a total wipeout though as Neurotic, despite the name, was a calm, head down horse, and loomed up to win. The mare fortunately held on for third at $3.40. That’s even better than $2.70!

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Flemington Anzac Day

April 25th, 2019

I always find it a quite emotional day. And the sea of red poppies on the lawn don’t help. A stunning display of remembrance. Thousands of hand-crafted poppies, knitted and crocheted. Just so beautiful. And sad.

The weather was perfect. One of those idyllic late autumn Melbourne days. And a top day on the punt. As I strolled around the stalls I made a note in my book that Vow And Declare was “interested”. Now that is not one of my usual variables, but the horse obviously made an impression. In the yard with the jockey up the horse was prancing with an arched neck. It ran on well and I was quite pleased with $4.20 for third. In the St Leger Gai’s horse looked the goods and won well from go to whoa, but I was quite taken by Rock Dove, the Godolphin three-year-old filly. Totally composed. Head down. Why do all Godolphin horses look like Hartnell? I was very happy with $2.50 for second and two out of two for the day.

After the last I was counting my blessings in one of those comfortable chairs that have replaced the Island Bar when a nice lady from the CWA gave me a packet of two Anzac biscuits. Wow! I now understand why so many of the returning diggers had broken teeth!

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Flemington All-Star Mile

March 16th, 2019

A $5 million pop-up race! A lot of hype but it’s hard to get really excited about it. Public voting decides the majority of the field with four wild card entries offered by Racing Victoria. The syndicated owners of some of the donkeys got themselves organised with $90,000 for just turning up! It looks like a prizemoney arms race with Racing NSW is underway.

With so many donkeys it seemed like a good betting opportunity. I thought there were only four horses with a chance – Mystic Journey, Alizee, Hartnell and Grunt. In the yard both the favourites, Mystic Journey and Alizee, looked a bit unsettled with the two strappers and changing stride. Alizee had the red ear muffs to try and calm her down. Hartnell looked stunning, in total control and looking as if he owned the mounting yard. Grunt was gaping with crossed jaws.

So Hartnell was the bet. The pick of the yard. My only bet for the day. A standout if you can forgive the cross-over noseband, and I was in a very forgiving mood. A late surge for second at a very generous $3.10 for the place.

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