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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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Flemington Super Saturday

March 9th, 2019

I had a losing day. So near, and yet so far! In the Newmarket Sunlight looked fine but the favourite was nowhere to be seen. Then at the last minute Osborne Bulls was whipped in and straight out onto the track without even a circuit of the yard. Very disappointing not to display the favourite for such a big race. I caught a brief glimpse, but no see, no bet.

In the Australian Cup I really liked that unreliable conveyance, So Si Bon, but now much improved since losing his undercarriage. Head down, positive strapper, fit, and showing $6 for the place. The horse flashed down the outside and it looked like he had got up for third, but somehow Trap For Fools had held on. Losing is so much more painful when you think you have won!

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Caulfield Blue Diamond Stakes

February 23rd, 2019

The Blue Diamond – the Melbourne Cup for two-year-olds. Out the back I was immediately smitten by the Godolphin horses, and Lyre in particular, looking very relaxed alongside the stable pony. In the parade ring she looked terrific, bright red ear muffs, and salivating furiously, a positive as we know. Not big, and by comparison with the back side of the strong-looking favourite Loving Gaby, positively tiny. But the course announcer said the fave had a vet check, never a good sign. And a cross-over noseband.

In the yard I scored Loving Gaby as changing stride, two strappers and dumping. Lyre was a head-in horse, still dripping saliva, and clearly superior. I went and backed it straight away. The horse came from last to first to run over the top of them. $2.60 for the place!

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Flemington Black Caviar Lightning Stakes Day

February 16th, 2019

There were some good horses lining up for the Lightning. Sunlight immediately caught my eye and looked outstanding. I nearly put my book down since there was no point in looking at any other horse. But I persisted, after all $1.60 for the place is not my sort of bet. Osborne Bulls looked good. Relaxed, big, strong. I wrote off Written By, misbehaving with the two strappers. The speedy Divine Quality needed guidance from the clerk to make it around the yard. Not a good sign. Graff was OK. In Her Time was a bit head up when she went past me and showing a bit of teeth. With hindsight, Osborne Bulls should have been the place bet.

But it was a good day with two standouts. Intuition in the third streeted them and Talented in the two-year-old ran a bold second to Microphone. Always happy with two out of two.

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Caulfield Australia Day

January 26th, 2019

Life is a beach! Is it not? I suppose if horse racing doesn’t attract the punters because they are all at the beach, then bring the beach to the punters! I would have thought that if you are at the beach then the new technology makes it easy to have a bet and watch the race under your umbrella, with cold beers close at hand in the chilly bin. Why bother going to the track? Maybe it is just a gimmick for Australia Day. But it is reassuring to see that there are lifeguards with flotation devices in case anyone drowns in debt!

I had a losing day, my first for some time. Lifeguards! Help! In the first race for three-year-old fillies Embrace Me looked too good to refuse but went to the line boxed in and untested to finish third in a six horse field. I was very disappointed with the ride of Craig Williams. How do you get trapped in such a small field? The stewards’ report noted that Embrace Me was “held up for clear running from the 400m until approaching the 100m and laid inwards in the straight.”

And in the two-year-old preview for males Auxin was the only colt holding on to his head in the mounting yard. I thought I had third place all wrapped up only to be lunged out of it on the line. So a third and a fourth for zero return!

The only other thing of interest to report is the behaviour of the two-year-old filly Catch Me in the mounting yard. Throwing the jockey off, was it twice or three times? The horse then went out and won convincingly. I would normally lay these types of horses except my stats advise caution! In Watching More Racehorses I point out an apparent anomaly where Airborne Jockey has a positive behavioural handicap of 54%! The sample size is small, but I have seen 64 flying jockeys with 9 improbable winners. Those stats now become 10 out of 65, or a strike rate of 15.4%! Clearly I should back and not lay.

And another thing. What the hell is VOP? The course broadcaster kept banging on about it until I was forced to ask Siri. Apparently it is a new system that replaces the old bookies starting price. Known as the Victorian Official Price it is sourced from the prices of high turnover Australian Wagering Service Providers as opposed to oncourse bookmakers in Victoria. I guess that means the corporates in Darwin. And I guess that the old SP system has been ditched anyway as not many bookies bother to show up on course these days!

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Flemington Chester Manifold Stakes Day

January 12th, 2019

And a Happy New Year to all horsewatchers!

I got there early for the two-year-olds and it was a hotbed of testosterone. Five colts, and it seemed like all of them were calling out, rearing up, and flopping huge erections around. Amid all the chaos there was one filly calmly ignoring the carry-on, Pretty Brazen, with a nice positive strapper. I went for it at $1.90 on the tote, only to see it tumble into $1.70 the place. Obviously I wasn’t the only one to be impressed. The filly had it won, only to be nailed in the shadows of the post. I didn’t have another bet until Manolo Blahniq in the last race, a typical horsewatcher’s head-down horse, and a nice $2.20.

So between the first and last I tried to work out a new strategy for watching horses at Flemington. My refuge, the Island Bar, is no more. Its replacement, the Members Bar, has been kicked upstairs to the first floor of the Club Stand. Too hard for me to wander in from the yard. I don’t want to climb stairs. But there is a walkway to the horse stalls on the first floor, so maybe that’s an option, but I discover there is no way to get down to the stalls once you get there, you can just look down from above. What is the point in that!? There is the Paddock Bar near the yard, but it is open and exposed to the south-westerly wind, and there are no tote operators, just a few machines. I do like a cash bet now and then and handling the folding money. So much better than a change in the balance on your phone. The bookies ring is deserted and I don’t bet with them. But there are a handful of tote windows out there. So I guess it’s the Paddock Bar and then out to the tote near the bookies. The entrance to the Club Stand is like the foyer of a five star hotel with comfortable lounge chairs and a screen for the races flanked by racing memorabilia, but no screens with odds. I suppose this is where I will end up watching the races. I could even fall asleep here!

Do you think horse racing is dying? All the horse bookshops that used to sell my book have closed down – the Horseman’s Bookshop in Melbourne and Sydney, Mitty’s in Melbourne, the High Stakes Bookshop in London, the Gamblers Bookshop in Las Vegas. My book distributor, Dennis Jones, has gone into liquidation owing me about $1000. My IT advisor says this is all “the sad state of dead tree publishing”. He also says long form blogs are going the same way and that I should move to Twitter or Instagram. Twitter? Whoever would want to share a platform with Donald Trump?

So, I’m thinking, I should probably stop flogging a dead horse. Maybe this blog should become shorter and less frequent. And maybe just fire up for the spring!

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The Zipping Classic

November 17th, 2018

It should probably be renamed the Lloyd Williams Classic. How many times has he won it now? Today he has the favourite and last year’s winner The Taj Mahal. Out the back in the horse wash the horse is getting pretty aroused. And roaring! He must have an assignation in the breeding barn on his mind. As you may know I like my horses to be relaxed so high arousal is generally not a good sign. The traditional view is that too much testosterone means that the horse hasn’t got his mind on the job. But the trainer does a good job to dampen his ardour with a well directed hose. Let’s see how he looks in the yard.

In the yard The Taj is fine, all sweetness and light, with the usual two strappers. And Dal Harraild is a head in horse. I like that. And Libran looks good head down, salivating. I check my cheat sheet list of positive variables (page 140 of Volume 2) and note that head in is plus 25, sex signs plus 31, and head down salivating plus 51. So I go for Libran. In the straight The Taj is too good and noses out Dal Harraild.  A triumph for sexual energy!  Old Libran feels his age and compounds to finish last. Oh well.

 

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