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Flemington National Jockeys Trust Race Day

May 22nd, 2021

Winter is coming. There is hardly a soul at Flemington and just four bookies in the main ring. I suppose they are all online these days. Out the back it is deserted apart from a few owners and trainers. There are two zones but thankfully both have access to the horse stalls.

Winter is coming

The weather seems unaware that winter is coming. It is a balmy 20 degrees with cloudless blue skies. And even better is that the programme is agreeable with the two-year-olds letting me sleep in and not jumping till 12.55 pm. I was quite taken by Deprivation, head down and chewing gently on the bit. It’s the omen bet too – I’ve been in deprivation for over a year! I was in the process of taking $4.40 fixed for the place when the odds were immediately wound back. Don’t you hate that? So I had to accept $4.20! The horse jumps out to a strong lead, which is a bit of a worry for a baby having its first go at 1400 m. Deprivation is swamped at the post, but manages to hold on for second. That’s a good start!

The next is a small field of eight stayers. I take a set against Wyclif the second favourite, mainly because the horse was sporting a humungous black nose roll for the first time, but also because it was unsettled with its head up and a fast, changing gait. So I laid it at $1.50 the place and with hindsight it was probably a brave bet in a small field. The horse drifted back to third last and then the jockey became anxious about 1000 m out. Wyclif then dropped out of the field and finished stone motherless last. I loved it when Matt Hill the race caller said Wyclif wasn’t travelling a long way from home. Obviously it didn’t like the nose roll.

I hung around for the main race the Straight Six and was half tempted by a relaxed Dexelation but in the end it was too hard and no surprise to see a 100/1 winner. So I’m out of here now. Into hibernation. Hopefully if my battery doesn’t go flat I’ll be back in the spring for the Caulfield Guineas.

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Caulfield Race Day

May 8th, 2021

It’s an age since I’ve been out to The Heath. In fact Blue Diamond Day on 22 February 2020, some 440 days! I’m keen to get there early for the two-year-olds with a field of six runners. I elect to take the car rather than the train since everyone seems to be avoiding public transport in case COVID is hiding under the seats. I park in the centre of the track but the main tunnel is closed. Did you know that there are two tunnels? Well, I didn’t, but I am directed towards the Guineas tunnel which is a long walk that ends up where the old Guineas stand (the cheap seats) used to be. It turns out that after walking so far I’m still only just opposite the train station and have to struggle onwards to the main gate. It’s looking ominous and sure enough the babies jump the moment I enter the course.

The course is divided into two zones. Zone 1 is members with access to the horse stalls, Zone 2 is general public with no stall access. That’s discrimination, isn’t it? Still I have plenty of time to check out the horses, but there are no horse name cards on the stalls. An official explains that there have been no name cards since COVID as the cards are touched by too many hands – the printer, the courier, the track staff. There is a directory in the racebook but the horses are listed in alphabetical order which means the stall numbers are randomised and a real pain to sort out. And then to get to the parade ring you have to negotiate what looks like a bomb site. What are they building here? Public toilets? Maybe it’s some new stalls with electronic names like at Flemington.

In the mares I backed Savigne which was lolling its tongue and is surprisingly a positive. The horse ran an unremarkable fourth. I made another attempt to check out the stalls and noticed only one horse, Exeter, mainly because it had a saddle cloth, but also looked nice and relaxed. Exeter seemed to be running well on the pace but then faded at the 100 only to surge again in the last 20 metres. I was pretty sure it had got third, but the photo finish took an age to decide and with each passing minute it was looking more and more ominous until a dead heat was finally declared. The worst thing about dead heats is that you only get half the dividend. $1.10 the place is simply money back. I watched a couple more but the stewards were calling the horses straight up to the yard without a circuit of the parade ring and no chance to look at them. Not much point in continuing when you can’t identify them easily in the stalls or see them in the parade ring so I packed up my biro and headed home. I think I should have caught the train.


Flemington Anzac Day

April 25th, 2021

My father Medwyn Hutson was a Medical Officer in the Second War. He served in Syria, where Australians were fighting the Vichy French, New Guinea and Borneo. In Borneo he was part of a mercy mission that flew in by flying boat to a POW camp in Kuching before the Japanese surrender. He found it a very emotional experience after the plane and river journey to encounter the deference and cooperation of the Japanese, and the overwhelming misery, problems and courage of the prisoners.

He always thought that his involvement in this mission was the highlight of his medical contribution to the army.

And on other matters. Those who have followed my cardiac adventures in the books or on the blog may be interested to know that I had “a turn” last week. I have a loop recorder in my chest which monitors my heart rate and sends a message to the cardiologist if anything goes wrong. It sent off a message to Sparksy and I was summoned to his rooms on Monday. The recording showed that I had flatlined for 10 seconds, a small blip, then another flat line of 3.6 seconds. No wonder I had felt like I was at death’s door! 24 hours later I had a pacemaker in my chest and 24 hours after that I was back home! And the best thing is the battery lasts for 12 years! That should see me out. But I’ll have to miss Flemington today. I’m not allowed to drive for two weeks.

Isn’t modern medicine amazing! Lest we forget.


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!