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Flemington January Raceday

January 20th, 2018

I’ve just about worked out a routine at Flemington. A lap or two of the horse stalls, a charge up the lawn to the mounting yard, and then watch the race from the lawn, or if the gate past the mounting yard is open, a canter over to Saintly Place. This is the part of the Hill Stand I always thought was called the Undercroft, a pretty dismal area under the public stand. But it has been tarted up and is now called Saintly Place, in honour of the legendary trainer, Bart Cummings. And there is a terrific display here of Bart’s trophy collection. Four cabinets full of priceless memorabilia. Bart had nearly 7000 winners including 83 Group 1s, 12 Melbourne Cups, 7 Caulfield Cups, 5 Cox Plates and 4 Golden Slippers. Poor Mrs Bart. Imagine all that dusting.

A quiet day, but a good start with the Hayes import Al Haram, sweating profusely, but as I tell anyone who will listen, which is obviously not many people, that it is a positive on a hot and humid day when the temperature is over 23ºC. The horse lasted for third at $2.20. I gave most of it back on a disappointing River Goddess, which seemed to ring a faint bell in my brain that I’ve been sucked in by this horse before. And then I redeemed myself with a cool Sohool at a generous $2.50 for the place. In the eighth I narrowed it down to three: Amber Sky, Thermal Current and Husson Eagle. The clerk took Amber Sky out onto the track early, which is a negative, although the prominent lolling tongue looks a negative but is pretty much neutral. So I was all set to back Thermal Current when the horse violently resisted the jockey as it went out onto the track. So I just watched them go around and packed my bags for home. But two out of three for the day is not bad. In fact, that’s my long term average. Thank goodness I’m back on track.



Flemington Manifold Stakes Day

January 13th, 2018

I arrive nice and early for the first race, the two-year-olds. Only seven runners and I find that I have crossed six out. So I go for Train The Brave. The horse showed no courage and finished a disappointing fifth of the seven. In the second there are six horses, half of them from DK Weir, so I leave the race alone. In the third Jacquinot Bay is a standout, totally relaxed. But $1.50 the place for a ten-year-old? You must be kidding! Of course, the geriatric brains them! And now, look, the pages of my race book are starting to crinkle from the light rain. In the fourth they are an even lot of three-year-old fillies, and I can’t really sort them. But my straw hat is starting to sag and it too is complaining about the rain. I check the Melbourne radar and it is clearly not going to improve. I decide discretion is the better part of valour and head off home. A pretty miserable start to the year. The streak is definitely over!


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Money Valley

December 23rd, 2017

I’m a member of the Bart Cummings school of racing thought. I like my horses to be relaxed. A sure sign that a horse is unsettled and not relaxed is if it is “on the toe”. The problem is that there are two ways a horse can be “on the toe”. The most common is if a horse is changing its gait from a jog or trot back to a walk. If the horse has its head up as well then it is clearly not settled. I cross these horses out straight away. The other way a horse can be “on the toe” is if it is prancing. These horses keep their head under control and usually have a pronounced arched neck. Gait problems get a good discussion in the first book and prancing horses only get a one line comment in Watching More where I suggest it is well worth while getting down on hands and knees and crawling across broken glass in order to back them! And so I followed my own advice and backed Ormito in the stayers race. The horse ran on well for second at $2.60.

I also like horses to be accepting of the bit. In the seventh Teleplay was lobbing around with its head down munching noisily on the bit. I regard grinding on the bit as a negative although my stats don’t totally support this view. But chewing on the bit is a strong positive. The horse was blocked for a run when it looked all over a winner but still managed a strong third at $2.40.

So that’s two out of two. Long may the streak continue! All the best to all horsewatchers for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



Caulfield Christmas Race Day

December 16th, 2017

I’m feeling a bit rusty with no racing for three weeks so I plan to get there nice and early for the two-year-olds at 1 pm. I’ll need plenty of time to look at the babies. But at Flinders Street station I’m confronted by scenes of chaos. There is a fault at Caulfield station and all trains to Caulfield are cancelled! A harassed official explains that my only options are the number 3 tram, if I could get on one, or a train to Darling, and then the dreaded replacement bus. A tram to Caulfield? I reckon it would take a week to get there, so I opt for the train. Darling? Who has ever heard of Darling? It turns out to be on the Glen Waverley line and the train stops all stations to Darling where a thousand stressed punters hop off to cram into a single bus to Caulfield! Ah, the bane of my life, the replacement bus! I arrive just as the babies jump at 1 pm.

It always takes a while to recover from a slow and difficult start and I don’t open my wallet until the sixth when I was quite taken with a relaxed Bint El Bedu. I was quite happy that the mare was sweating up since it was over 23 degrees and I was sweating up too. The horse rocketed home from the back to grab third. It was $2.50 with 30 seconds to go but was crunched into $2.10. Don’t you hate that?

In the seventh I took a set against Urban Ruler. I don’t like bar plates so I laid the horse at $2.20, despite some bookies offering $1.85 for the place. Phar Lap wore bar plates in that race in Mexico (see Watching More page 70) so they can’t be all bad, but then again Phar Lap was a freak and in a different class to Urban Ruler. Home early on the train. Thank goodness they fixed that fault. Two out of two. I think I’m on a streak.



Sandown Zipping Classic

November 18th, 2017

I arrived in time for the two-year-olds despite the bane of my life, the replacement bus. There was a lot of coltish behaviour going on, especially by Irukandji and Mumbles. But Long Leaf, Sanglier and Oohood all looked good and duly took out the trifecta while I watched on. In the three-year-old fillies I was quite taken by Yulong Xingsheng with its head in towards the strapper. The horse romped in at $2.30 for the place. In the Zipping Classic the old boy looked great at the age of 16 and I am reliably informed that his prominent white sock on the near hind had some of the old Bold Personality treatment! The Taj Mahal looked fine, especially if you are sympathetic towards cross-over nosebands, and won well.

In the Guineas I spotted a standout and a possible future champion. Villermont looked stunning in the yard. The horse had a chequered run but still brained them. It’s hard to see that I will ever get $2.70 the place about this horse again! Two out of two for a top day and over two hours to contemplate my success on the wretched replacement bus going home.



Oaks and Stakes

November 11th, 2017

In the Oaks Pinot was a standout in the parade ring doing plenty of laps. Nice pricked ears, showing some rib, and a typical fit Waterhouse horse from the rear. Head down when saddled up. But I was disappointed to find odds of $1.70 for the place so I just watched it go around. On the news it said that it was an upset win? An upset, at $1.70?

I arrived early on Stakes Day for the two-year-olds where Tony McEvoy had two live chances, the colt Run Naan and the filly Belzella. The colt was rearing and roaring in the mounting yard and coyly described on the PA as being “coltish”. The filly was relaxed and head down and fortunately for me fell in for third at $2.70. In the mares race another standout Waterhouse horse Savapinski streeted them at $2.00 the place. Gai’s stable is on fire! And Redzel in the Darley Classic was probably the best horse I saw all week and I was very happy with the $1.80 for the place.

But no bet in the Stakes. I couldn’t fault Gingernuts who looked great in his stall with a positive strapper, but looked ordinary in the yard, and the three-year-old Cliff’s Edge, who looked like a good head down horse. I’d pretty much decided to back the three-year-old when the warning siren sounded. Gingernuts was out! And that put me out too, totally spooked! Cliff’s Edge place odds plummeted from $2.70 to $2.20. I put my cue in the rack. Happy to go home with three out of three!



The Melbourne Cup

November 7th, 2017

There are, apparently, two types of serious punter. Clockers and watchers. It is not often that I wander over to the dark side but last week I spent a couple of days out at Werribee to cast an eye over the internationals. My attempts at clocking were fumbling and rudimentary, but to my untrained eye and hand Max Dynamite looked the goods.

And so to the Cup. Usually I place my bet in the last minute before the jump once I have watched all twenty-four horses parade in the mounting yard. But today, in response to the poor conditions for watchers at Flemington, I metamorphosed into a clocker. And can you believe it I placed my bet on Max at 13.41, 79 minutes before the jump!

Go Max!



Derby Day

November 4th, 2017

I’m like a broken record. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Derby Day, the greatest day of racing on earth. But today, there’s a problem, apart from the weather. There’s an icy wind which requires deployment of my heavy duty winter coat to prevent hypothermia, and a blazing sun which requires the simultaneous deployment of my straw hat to prevent sunburn. Oh how I love my Melbourne!

My mission today, should I decide to accept it, is to work out a way to follow a horse from the stalls and/or parade ring to the mounting yard. And of course that’s the problem. There is a building site in between. I try two strategies – an inside run and an outside run.

I go first for the outside run up the public lawn. It works well for the Wakeful Stakes and I manage to spot a relaxed Luva Luva in both stall and yard. It should be a strong chance in the Oaks. The inside run is harder and involves battling through the betting ring and finding a hidden pathway next to the building site which leads to a pop-up bar area cluttered with stools and tables, but good mounting yard views. I try the inside run for the Lexus, but fail dismally. For the Myer Classic I go outside again but the crowd has built up to more than 80,000 and it’s virtually impossible to weave a way through. I’m going to blame the crowd for picking a disappointing loser in Heavens Above. I give up for the Derby and just pick the winner Ace High based on his good appearance in the stall.

Cup Day will be difficult. I hope I don’t self-destruct.


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Cox Plate

October 28th, 2017

I arrived in time for the third race to find big crowds in front of stall 54. It must be Winx. On closer inspection I found the stall to be empty although the photographers didn’t seem to care! Gosh, Charlotte, that must be some horse!

In the fifth I saw a lovely relaxed-looking mare, Lubiton, who streeted them at $2.20 the place. And in the seventh I had a bit on I’ll Have A Bit, who paraded with a lolling tongue, which is actually quite a positive. The horse ran on well for second at $2.80. So coming into the Cox Plate I was quite cashed up.

Winx looked much the same as last time. Maybe swishing the tail a bit more. My place bet was between Royal Symphony, Gailo Chop, Humidor and FolkswoodFolkswood had the Hanoverian nose band and winkers, so that was no-no, Royal Symphony looked fabulous in his stall, Humidor had the ear muffs and two strappers and Gailo Chop was a clean sheet, alert and interested. I pulled the wrong rein and went for Gailo Chop. Oh well, two out of three. I didn’t stay for the last.



Caulfield Cup

October 21st, 2017

There’s a chill in the air and lots of goosebumps. An omen, perhaps. I like to have a go at the trifecta in the big races, but it’s virtually impossible to see them in the mounting yard. I usually end up four deep or find hats and beers in the way. So my selections are mainly based on behaviour in the stalls and parade ring. Boom Time was the first horse I crossed out, because he was kicking in his stall. In hindsight he was obviously keen to go! My final six in order were Marmelo, Amelies Star, Abbey Marie, Ventura Storm, Harlem and Inference.

My place bet was on Marmelo who was alert and relaxed in his stall and came home like a train when it was all over. None of my selections finished in the first four!  Single Gaze was not looking anywhere but flaring her nostrils and showing teeth and Johannes Vermeer and Lord Fandango had the dreaded cross-over noseband. A wipeout! At least I Got a bit back on Gai’s Global Glamour. Now there’s some alliteration!


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