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Sandown Australian Hurdle and Steeple

May 31st, 2014

By the time this meeting comes around I’m normally in hibernation, but here I am, out at Sandown for a jumps meeting. It’s unseasonal weather for May, and there must be a quirk in the calendar, because the jumps don’t start till June, and I’m not a jumps fan, but here I am, on a mission. My mission, should I decide to accept it, is to photograph Picture Editor’s browband, for the Rare Stuff chapter in the new book.

With plenty of time to cool my heels I decided to get a shot of the steeplechasers jumping the last fence. Gosh. There were a dozen security guys in red and yellow jackets guarding the length of the straight. The club is obviously very touchy about the anti-jumps brigade. I got past the first couple OK but number five wanted to see my pass. My members ticket did the job. I got up to the rail and the guard there had apoplexy and tried to usher me away from the rail. Photo ID! Photo ID! My members pass wasn’t good enough. I said I was a jumps fan, and that I just wanted a picture of the horses, and I’m a member of the club. Not good enough. Photo ID! Photo ID! Can I see your supervisor. Yes, yes. And the supervisor agrees I could stay, but not on the rail. So my picture is not half as good as those you see in the press. There were at least five photographers there, with three or four cameras on the ground, all triggered by remote control. All hoping for a fall, no doubt. Krase won the race.

In the end I managed a reasonable picture of Picture Editor’s browband, but I’m still mystified as to what they do. It can’t be for sweat control like McEnroe’s head band, because horses don’t seem to sweat there. Maybe it’s for decorative purposes, like Pat Cash’s checkerboard number. Maybe it keeps hair out of the eyes. The strapper suggested that it calmed the horse and was something to do with shadows. Maybe it cuts out overhead glare, like a croupier’s visor. Maybe it’s one of life’s mysteries, like life itself.

And an average picture of a yawn, but a nice one of fetlock boots, and not too bad of the old sticking plaster. I’m off on sabbatical now till October, maybe back for the Turnbull Stakes, definitely the Guineas. Hopefully some of these final photos will make the cut and get into the book. Look out for progress reports.




Flemington Andrew Ramsden Stakes Day

May 24th, 2014

A busy day looking at heads and feet. I missed a shot of the custom-made bar plate on Riziz. There must be a serious problem there in the near-side fore as the bar covers not the frog but one of the quarters. The horse came in tenth at $8.50. Garud had the one-eyed blinker and I’m Jake and Wells sported visors, which allow those sneaky peaks behind. I don’t much care for them.

A loser in the two-year-olds and a couple of collects on Gotta Take Care and Gig for not too bad a day. But I’m still spewing about Tooleybuc Kid. I was so busy taking photos of one-eyed blinkers that I wasn’t planning on betting and didn’t check the odds until the last minute. The kid was $1.10 for the place. And was that $1.02 with the books? A quick check of my book had him down as groaning in his stall, which I always interpret as meaning the horse would rather be at home than at the track. I fired in my lay bet for the place with 20 seconds to go and took the odds that were showing in the Lay column – $1.25. The horses jumped, and you know the rest. The bet wasn’t matched, and the horse laboured into fourth.




Caulfield Taralye Raceday

May 17th, 2014

With only two weeks of the season left till I go into hibernation I have been trying to finalise the photographs for the book. I scored a couple of good ones today. First, hoof pads. They are usually just a thin piece of plastic or polyurethane covering the sole and frog of the hoof and act as a cushion for the sole and heel. A variant on the hoof pad is the MacPad as seen on Elusive King, which is secured by a half-sized racing plate, and provides extra cushioning to the heel. MacPads are often referred to as “flip-flops” as the unsecured part of the pad can separate from the heel.

Second, I managed a half-decent shot of the barrier blanket on I Am Titanium. Of course, the champion horse Black Caviar is the most famous user of the barrier blanket. The blanket, known in New Zealand as the Monty Roberts blanket, was originally designed by Monty in 1992, and is a double-carpeted blanket that fits behind the saddle and drapes over the hips down to the hocks. The primary objective was to cushion the effect of rails that run along the inside walls of the starting gates. The blanket approved for use in Australia is only a single layer and doesn’t have the weight or padding of Monty’s blanket and only covers the hindquarters without extending down to the hocks. The blanket prevents direct contact with the structure of the barrier stall and is left behind when the horse jumps out. You can just about make out one of the loops on the blanket that is clipped to the barrier and pulls the blanket off when the horse jumps.

And I also got a fair shot of the stallion chain used on Khutulun at the barrier. Occasionally you can observe a chain in the mounting yard, but more usually when a chain is listed in the gear list it is only employed at the barrier. The chain is attached to a halter and applies pressure to the bridge of the nose. The recalcitrant horse can avoid the pressure by moving forwards into the gate.

The barrier blanket is a positive, the stallion chain a negative, and hoof pads are too rare to have much of an opinion.   I Am Titanium came in fifth,  Khutulun was second and Elusive King finished eighth.




Flemington Green Fields Raceday

May 10th, 2014

My mate Barry asked me how I was feeling, which is a dangerous thing to do. I told him that I was feeling a bit off because the track is off. And besides, everyone reckons I am sick with a cold, but I just think it’s hay fever. To be on the safe side I went and had my flu and pneumonia injections and now my arm is really sore, but nobody will give me any sympathy. Barry said that you can find sympathy in the dictionary, between “shit” and “syphilis”. I haven’t laughed so much in yonks.

We are descending into winter. There was 12 millimetres of rain in my rain gauge so the track was obviously going to be off. It was raining so much that I couldn’t even open my racebook for the first race, the two-year-olds. Green Roller was a standout in the second so I broke all my rules about wet tracks and went for it and was rewarded with a good third at $2.20. Time to shut up shop. I don’t bet in the wet. The track was immediately downgraded to a Slow 7.

I wandered around listlessly for the rest of the day moaning about the weather and my arm and decided to go home early. But then, you never know when an opportunity may arise, so I had a brief squiz at the last. Another standout, the grey ghost Specter! The horse loomed up to win at the 200, and then suddenly realised that the track was a Slow 7 and that it couldn’t pick up its feet. The horse faded to a weak fourth. I nearly doubled my money, but I know I shouldn’t bet in the wet. Maybe I’ll find some sympathy at home.




Caulfield Thoroughbred Club Cup Day

May 3rd, 2014

I’m an unlikely participant with all the rain about, but the optimistic track rating of Dead 5 eventually sucks me in. Just inside my betting range. I reckon it’s London to a brick on that the track will be downgraded. Do you remember Ken Howard using that expression? I never knew what a brick was worth, but apparently it’s slang for ten quid.

Escado gives me something with a grinding second in the second, but I give it all back on Leia in the third. A heavy shower passes through and the track is downgraded to a Slow 6 and then a Slow 7. That’s it for me. I’m no good in the wet. Besides, they are running Heavy track times.

I only managed a couple of photos. An average shot of a nasal strip and a pic of sticking-plastered shoes. Some trainers like doing this to prevent any cuts or abrasions when the horse is in the float. Usually the plaster is removed on arrival at the course, but sometimes it lingers a little longer. My camera battery then suddenly decided to die. It was that sort of day. I gave it all away and didn’t even stay for the last.