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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!


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.



The Melbourne Cup

November 6th, 2018

The heavens opened at about 7 am and didn’t stop until midday. 43 mm in my gauge! Wow! Too wet for a serious bet, but the track drained remarkably quickly to a Soft 6. My tram was held up by the floods and I didn’t get to the track and out the back until about an hour before the race. No time to see all the Cup runners and just a brief scan of the internationals.

My spot on the mounting yard fence was occupied by hats which made viewing conditions very difficult. The Cliffsofmoher was frothing on the bit, but it was pink froth! I quite like salivation, but blood in the mouth?! That’s a bad sign. A portent of doom, perhaps. I couldn’t have Cross Counter who I had marked as a head-up horse. The ear muffs were good but the bandages were bad, especially considering the interrupted preparation, and the wet track The horse was sweating freely which is a positive on a day of 100% humidity. With hindsight, maybe the bandages were a furphy!

I loved two cleanskins – Marmelo and Muntahaa. Muntahaa was probably the pick of the yard but either didn’t handle the going or the trip. Marmelo was just beautifully relaxed and looked the winner late. I backed them both for the place. I am always happy to win with my only bet for the day. Just think, Marmelo might have won if the jockey hadn’t weighed in a kilo overweight! I imagine that there were a few punters spitting chips when they heard that news!



Derby Day

November 3rd, 2018

The greatest day of racing on earth. But I suggest it should be renamed Hotham Handicap Day.

Or maybe Prince of Arran day! After all, wouldn’t you rather bet on a seasoned stayer than a three-year-old having its first try at a distance?



Cox Plate

October 27th, 2018

It’s all Winx!




Caulfield Cup

October 20th, 2018

It’s raining at my place. Steady, heavy, beautiful rain. There’s 10 millimetres in my gauge. Great for the parched garden, which has its tongue out lolling, but a disaster for the races. It delays my departure for the track for more than an hour! Watching rain is nearly as good as watching racehorses!

My intended bet The Cliffsofmoher looks fabulous out the back. Standing forward in the stall, relaxed, no strapper attention, half asleep. But look at Duretto for strapper attention. How cool is that? Compare it with Best Solution, who is very restless and has the fussing of two strappers constantly fiddling with him. The strapper of Kings Will Dream is terrific, positive, and stroking a nice calm and interested horse.

It starts raining on my racebook when the horses get into the parade ring. The page is too soggy to write on. My intended bet The Cliffsofmoher is crabbing sideways and tossing its head up. That’s a worry! It’s easy to fall out of love! And salivating and half-lolling its tongue. But that’s OK. It starts raining on my book. It’s too soggy to write! That’s a worry. It always means no bet, but it would be un-Australian not to have a go at the Caulfield Cup. So I jump off The Cliff and jump onto the favourite, Kings Will Dream. The horse stumbles at the start and loses all chance. The winner, Best Solution, was too good. Duretto ran on well. I know I shouldn’t bet with a soggy racebook!



Caulfield Guineas

October 13th, 2018

Do you do cryptic crosswords? Ever attempt DA? Here’s a clue. 13 Across. “Young white knight, with an interesting surname, I hear”.

First up for my season are the two-year-olds, and I’m much tempted by the omen bet, Utzon, the much publicised albino. There’s a heap of people around her stall with raised iPhones. The filly seems reasonably relaxed with the two strappers but by the time she gets into the yard she starts to get her head up and fidgety. Favourite, at $1.60 the place? Overbet, as many striking horses are, and probably a lay. But I’m much taken by the relaxed Biscara. In the running Biscara dived for a run that wasn’t really there, got bumped sideways, but managed to recover and run on strongly for second at $2.80. Should have won, said the watcher, but happy with $2.80 first up in the new season. The white knight, Utzon, was a victim of the interference too, but couldn’t recover.

And that’s it. I didn’t have another bet all day as I got my eye in. I saw two standouts, Sunlight and The Autumn Sun, and spent a lot of time out the back eyeing the Cup horses. I fell in love with two horses – Thecliffsofmoher (been there!) and Yucatan. Both horses were standing forward in their stall and not cringing in the back corner. Thecliffsofmoher was nuzzling the strapper and trying to eat his lunch! The horse ran on very well for fourth despite getting very hot in the yard. Yucatan just looked imperious, and that’s how he won! Bring on the Cups!



Caufield Raceday

May 12th, 2018

This is the way the season ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. Slow 6, no show. Hopefully I’ll be back in the spring for the Caulfield Guineas.



Flemington Living Legends Raceday

May 5th, 2018

My penultimate raceday for the season. And there is some good news from Flemington for horsewatchers. The mounting yard has been extended by 10 metres which will be an enormous improvement for the spring. Twenty four horses didn’t fit in a single parade line and so they were broken up into an inner and outer circle for the Cup. It made life extremely difficult for watchers. I took a snap of my new improved viewing spot!

Not much to report. The best horse I saw all day was Land Of Plenty who won with ease but was way too short at $1.20. In the same race Pilote D’Essai was bucking furiously down the back but then after spending a lot of energy turned into a head down horse! But his race was run and the horse finished fifth. Another stat for four feet on the ground! And Our Gladiator was a bucking bronco before the fifth race and faded to finish near the tail. So that’s two stats! In the end I didn’t have a bet all day, mainly because I didn’t see the horse I was looking for, but possibly because I sense a lack of motivation creeping in with my season winding down.



Caulfield Thoroughbred Cup Day

April 28th, 2018

Large fields make it hard to see them all and William Thomas was probably the best horse I saw all day although too short at $1.40. It won like a good thing. In the two-year-old I liked Fighting Harada, who looked keen and ready to go, salivating and chewing on the bit, head in to the strapper. The horse had the gun barrier, the number one slot, and just had to jump and run and win. Fighting Harada was slow to begin. The boxer I remember wasn’t a slow beginner, he came out punching! What’s wrong with that jockey? Didn’t he know that he had to boot it up out of the gate? And then the horse was booted up at the 800, when it was all too late, and had to be checked off heels! Fighting Harada made a last gasp surge at the post and I was convinced it had grabbed third but in fact had missed by a head. Very disappointing! I was spitting chips. That horse was ready to win! I should have ridden it myself!

In the eighth race I fined it down to two horses, Notio and Eclair Calling. Notio was the classic horsewatcher’s horse, totally relaxed, fit, lobbing around the yard with its head down. Eclair Calling by contrast was a horse that held its head high but in towards the strapper. The horse wasn’t changing gait and wasn’t unsettled. Imperious, dominant, I thought. As a bonus it was trained by Phillip Stokes who doesn’t bring his horses over from Adelaide for fun. And what’s more I noted in my race book that it was a dual acceptor but scratched in Adelaide. Eclair Calling was $2.60 and Notio $1.80. An easy decision in the end. Go for the odds. They finished second and third so that helped to ease my earlier disappointment! One out of two. A good day. Getting cold though.


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