At last, the long-awaited sequel to Dr. Geoffrey Hutson's breakthrough book Watching Racehorses is now available! In Watching More Racehorses, learn more about behavioural handicapping, betting on horses to lose, and the taxation of gambling winnings! Order Now!

Caulfield Guineas disgrace

October 10th, 2010

I love this day. The true start of spring. But it starts off badly. John Brumby should hang his head in shame. They are working on the Broady line so there is a replacement bus to North Melbourne. If you have had any experience with replacement buses you know to fear the worst. So with trepidation I proceed to the designated bus stop and wait 25 minutes for a bus to arrive. But it is the Craigieburn bus, going the other way. I eventually give up and decide to walk ten minutes to Macaulay Station. Another bus turns up so I run back to the designated bus stop to catch it. The driver says it’s a Craigieburn bus and that I need to wait on the other side of the road, where I’ve just come from, to get the North Melbourne bus. Back I go. Then again I give up waiting and head off for Macaulay. Half way there the North Melbourne replacement bus passes me. Then another. And then another. A trifecta of buses. And of course I miss the train at Macaulay.

So after much planning to be there nice and early I miss the first race. And what a disaster awaits. The Melbourne Racing Club has blocked off access to horse stalls 75 to 95 to allow Aquanita Racing a patch of green grass for a private function. The horse watchers are infuriated. I seldom get angry, but I stomp over to the raceday office to voice my complaint. What a disgrace! The reason I pay my membership is to look at the horses, and here, on one of the most important days of the racing year, I am unable to see all of them. The CEO, Alasdair Robertson, should hang his head in shame. I run around for a few races like a headless chook, urging people to complain. I even use some bad, bad words. My language has certainly gone downhill since I’ve been watching Deadwood on ABC2. I finally settle and promise myself to send off a fax when I get home.

I saw a few nice horses. I started out well by backing Amaethon in the second race which should have won at $2.90 the place. And I narrowed the WFA sprint down to the champ Black Caviar and the Sydney horse Winter King. I couldn’t believe the place odds about Winter King. I took $3.80 on the tote but I then noticed that Waterhouse had it at $4.20. I should have doubled up. So coming into the guineas I was cashed up and made my second mistake for the day. The first of course was the replacement bus. Ilovethiscity looked stunning in the yard, a picture of health and fitness, but compounded quickly in the straight. Boss thought the horse was lame, but the stewards found nothing amiss. In the last race I liked another Sydney horse, Dorf Command, but after you have had a loser you start umming and aahing a bit, and I was still umming with my wallet out and walking towards the tote when they jumped. Dorf Command flashed home for a miracle third at $3.30, but without me aboard. So my perfect strike rate has been diminished, but my eye is now officially on fire.

On the train home I wonder whether Brumby ever rides the replacement bus, or whether Robertson ever goes out back to look at the horses?


Turnbull Stakes Day

October 3rd, 2010

My equilibrium has been quite unbalanced. It throws you right out of whack, racing on a Sunday. I was already unsettled by the Collingwood premiership, and was fearing for the worst. Would Flemington be overrun by hordes of tattooed, toothless bogans? My fears turned out to be quite unfounded. I only saw two people in Collingwood jumpers down at the parade ring, and both had all their teeth, although one was in fact tattooed. I have also learnt that a sleeve is not something on the end of a shirt, but a technicolour tatt that covers the whole arm of a Collingwood supporter.

I was already unbalanced because I had lost $100 before I even arrived on course. On Saturday The Missus dispatched me to Vic Market with two fifties for my wallet to do the fruit and veggie shopping. When I opened my wallet to pay for the oranges the $100 had vanished into thin air. It makes you question yourself. Did I put them in the wallet in the first place? Maybe I was done over? Snitched? Maybe my brain has broken? It’s a funny, peculiar thing – I can lose $100 at the races and it doesn’t even register, but at the market? I think it’s the not knowing that nags you. The mystery. How the hell? Much better to lose it on a horse.

So, again, a pretty quiet day. The Turnbull was too hard. I was left with Shocking, Zipping, Zavite, Metal Bender, Zabrasive, Faint Perfume, Jessicabeel, Dariana and Descarado all looking good. My top fancy was Faint Perfume. Zipping was terrific and I was half tempted since I backed him in the Australian Cup. But in the end no bet. Only one bet for the day on the Sydney horse Strawberry Field which got up for third at $4.30. So my 100% strike rate is still intact for the new season. I just need to get settled, find my balance, and have a few more bets.

PS. Where’s Wally?

1 comment

Grand Final Day

September 25th, 2010

Three race meetings this weekend. I’m a no show at The Valley on Friday night. Night meetings aren’t friendly for horse watchers. There is only half an hour between races, which doesn’t allow much time to get a decent look at the horses. Sandown on Saturday, but I’m off to the footy. One in 100,016. I’m glad Essendon wasn’t playing or I would have had a heart attack in the last quarter. Caulfield on Sunday, but Sunday is my day of rest and reflection.

What do we do now?

Heard on the train on the way home from the footy: “I’m going to go home and pass out on the couch”.


Underwood Stakes Day

September 19th, 2010

Not much punting action today. There’s a cold south-westerly blowing and my anorak stays on all day. It’s hard to get the blood fired up when the weather refuses to warm up. But you know spring is coming when the crowds start picking up. It’s difficult to get near You Know Who’s stall. I wonder whether Bart has even got to see this horse this year, what with his asthma, pneumonia, and now his broken hip. But you’d have to say the horse looks pretty fit. I’m even prepared to forgive him the cross-over nose band, but of course no bet at $1.20 the place. And I’ve been told by a lady fan that So You Think is pretty! I think it must be his forelock – I just wish he’d flick it out of his eyes. A good run considering that he was fractious in the barrier and pulling mid-race. I noted the farrier in his stall after the race.

One small bet only on Sistine Angel, who ducks up on the inside for a place at $3.30. I was so busy backing it that I missed a laying opportunity on the favourite, Ringa Ringa Rosie, who was fractious and sweating up, despite the cold.

My third run back from a spell. I didn’t feel as tired on the train home.


Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes Day

September 11th, 2010

“Oh, the springtime it brings on the shearing,
And it’s then that you’ll see them in droves,
To the racetrack they are all a steering,
A seeking a bob off the coves.”

Or so it goes – the punter’s bastardised version of the traditional Australian folk song. The crowds are picking up, and the tracks are drying out. The Valley was posted a Slow 7, but it was obvious after the first two races that it was a genuine Dead. Bettable. And a lot of horses have been shorn or have lost their winter coats. There are still a few shaggy ones, and quite a few clipped. I don’t pay much attention to coat condition, but Whobe looked pretty good, nice and shiny with a good poverty line. And my favourite horse Zipping and Rundle have both been one third clipped with hairy backs and legs and clean unders. Can horses have Brazilians?

I had my first look at the boom horse Hay List. He’s built like a tank with a backside as big as a barn door. He was a clear standout in the race and was showing $1.50 the place with 2 minutes to go. But I knew it would be crunched with the bookies offering $1.20 and Betfair $1.36. So no bet on a dead-set winner. But I did have one bet for the day, as I ease myself into spring. Sussuro in the third came from last to first at $4.10 the place. So I’m sitting on a 100% strike rate for the new season.

I’ve celebrated by having a haircut.


Makybe Diva Stakes Day

September 4th, 2010

Melbourne has been miserable and cold and wet. But at last, spring has sprung. All the good horses and all the desperate punters have been flooded out of their spelling paddocks. Flemington is rated an optimistic Slow 7 but is clearly Heavy and is eventually downgraded to a Heavy 8. A no bet day if ever there was one and normally I wouldn’t even bother to attend. But I’m keen to have a hit out and get my eye in, especially on the Cups horses. And I suppose it would be fair to say that I am carrying a bit of extra condition.

Team Williams has Linton, Alandi, C’est La Guerre and Mourayan running. I don’t make it on course until the fifth race so I miss seeing Linton. The stocky Alandi looks very bulky and the lighter framed Mourayan only slightly better. Shocking looks good, but not fined down.

I like looking for fitness from the rear, in the region of the croup and tail head, with the horse walking away. I don’t place a lot of emphasis on fitness because horses can still win half-fit, as Shocking duly demonstrated. But by way of comparison cast an eye over Harris Tweed. A lightly framed horse, but as Roy The Boy would say, carrying no surplus.

After only half a card and five races I pull up a bit short and breathless. Like Alandi, I’m going to need a few more runs yet.


Postcard from Noosa Heads

August 10th, 2010

It’s a hard life, but someone has to do it. Comfortable lodgings. Coffee on main beach. Air temperature between 21 and 23 degrees. Water temperature 20 degrees. Off shore wind. No stingers or stone fish. Gentle surf. Tempting enough to break out the wet suit, flippers and shark biscuit.

Winter must surely be over. Home soon.


Postcard from Airlie Beach

August 1st, 2010

Airlie Beach was probably a nice spot once, but now seems massively overdeveloped. I guess it’s popular as the kickoff point for the Whitsunday Islands. Still, there’s a nice view from our comfortable lodgings.

Swimming in the sea seems pretty dangerous up here. If the crocs don’t get you then the marine stingers will. And watch out for stone fish. So The Missus has taken up twitching, which is much less life-threatening. She has added some impressive birds to her lifetime list:

Jabiru (now the Black-necked Stork)
Lotus Bird (now the Jacana)
Great Bowerbird
Pheasant Coucal
Papuan Frogmouth
Shining Flycatcher
Grey Goshawk
Orange-footed Scrubfowl
Bush Stone Curlew
Channel-billed Cuckoo
Rufous Owl
Blue-winged Kookaburra
Forest Kingfisher
Red-backed Fairy-wren

And best of all the Spangled Drongo

Heading south now. We’re only 2500 kms from Flemington.


The Townsville Cup

July 24th, 2010

We’re frisked at the gate and our bottle of water and Diet Coke are confiscated. You’d have to be kidding, wouldn’t you – water banned in stinking hot Townsville? But it might be gin or vodka and the Coke might have bourbon in it. They don’t want punters bringing their own grog. And no one under the age of 18 is admitted to the track. This is a serious, adults only piss-up. Overheard on the way in – “I’m only here to drink”.

This is racing in FNQ – that’s Far North Queensland. I’m starting to fear the worst. I’m expecting a crowd full of bogans, Hansonites and redneck punters in Bob Katter ten gallon hats – but I’m wrong. Everywhere I look there are beautiful, nubile young women and smartly dressed young men in suits and ties. About 80% of the women have a tatt, and about 80% of the men have a tie, and about 40%, both blokes and girls, have a hat. I’d say the average age is about 23 years. I feel a bit old and crumpled.

Conditions for horse watching are poor. The public are not allowed into the horse stalls area and I can only gain access after paying $20 to get a members pass. Many horses seem to be unattended in the stalls, which I regard as a serious negative, and some are even hobbled. The mounting yard is long and narrow so that only about half the field parades past before going on to the track. Most of the mounting yard fence is taken up with the catwalk for the fashions on the field. The conditions are so bad for horse watchers that I don’t even have a bet. But it’s ideal for people watching. Hats and tatts. The boys go for the Gleeson, the pork pie hat popularised by the retired VRC steward, Des Gleeson. And the favoured tatt spot is at the base of the neck on the back.

Tora Tora Tora wins the Cup.

We leave before the last race. Heels are coming off now. And blokes are falling out of trees.

1 comment

Postcard from Palm Cove

July 20th, 2010

I see the forecast for Melbourne today is a Min 6 and Max 12. Here at Palm Cove, in the spelling paddock, it is Min 19 and Max 29.

Wish you were here. On second thoughts, maybe not.