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Caulfield Guineas

October 8th, 2022

Ah, the excitement of the spring carnival is in the air. At long last! I’m here for the Might and Power, a Cox Plate warm up where Anamoe is the hot favourite. The horse looks the part in his stall and gets all the media attention. And is James Cummings taking lessons from Gai by putting straw in the stall? No matter, I’m a Zaaki fan. The horse is nice and relaxed and I take $1.60 the place with a 10 percent multiplier on the tote. What’s that? $1.76. It is a fabulous race with Zaaki taking on Gai’s front runner Alligator Blood nice and early. He needed to do that to get ready for the Plate. And it looks like he will hold on to win until the hot pot swamps them on the line. A terrific run for third. I’m excited!

But I’ve had a bit of a set back. I have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease which affects my walking ability. I’m now shuffling around like an old person and have trouble getting more than 10,000 steps. I don’t have a noticeable tremor, but like Billy Connolly, I have trouble rolling over in bed! Another side effect is a condition called micrographia, where my handwriting has turned incredibly small. I have trouble reading my own writing at the best of times, but now the scrawls I make on my racebook are virtually illegible. And also I reckon there has been a ten percent decline in my cognitive ability. I feel I’m losing the edge off my sharpness. Simple cryptic crossword clues can take me an age to crack.

So what does all this mean? It means I have trouble checking out the horses in their stalls and in the parade ring. And it means I will have to give away the blog, although I will try to keep it going for a few more weeks. And I will keep the web page going for a while in case there are a few punters out there who haven’t yet read the books.


Flemington National Jockeys Trust Race Day

May 21st, 2022

And also election day! Thank goodness it will soon be over! Six weeks is a long time to have to put up with constant images of our PM, Scott Morrison, mopping floors, crash tackling children, welding without eye protection, or inspecting engineering works in a hard hat and high-vis jacket. So I’m off to vote early and since I’m an inner urban Melbourne boy, it will be a vote for the Greens!

To Flemington, where it is cold and quiet. The grey Brosnan looked good in the two-year olds and then not much action until the sixth, where I took a set against the second favourite, Worthily. The horse had the red ear muffs (which are discarded at the barrier), but the strapper needed two hands and a shoulder to control the fast gait, with occasional tail swishing. The head was very unsettled, up, down, in and out, gaping and showing me teeth.

I was obviously looking at a different horse from the mounting yard expert Warren Huntly, whose comments were broad cast over the PA: “He wears the red ear muffs, but just seems to save all his energy. He doesn’t look like he gets worked up to the point that he needs the pre-race ear muffs. He’s just relaxed, saving all his energy, stepping out nicely. Looks in good order!” I would have said: Looks in bad order! I laid the horse for a place and was very satisfied to see it run second last. Too bad if you were betting from the TV at home!

I’m off to the spelling paddock now. Hopefully, if the body holds up I’ll be back in the spring for the Caulfield Guineas.


Caulfield Thoroughbred Club Cup Day

April 9th, 2022

It’s not often that the two-year-olds are the feature race of the day. But today is the day and I can even sleep in as the race is not off till 2.15 pm. But I’m early. I’m keen to check out Cannonball as this horse seems to have done a Lazarus and come back from the dead. When last observed in January 2010 (check out the search box!) he was an American horse ridden by the controversial Pat Valenzuela, who had previous convictions for substance abuse. Gosh, have I really been blogging on for that long? 12 years? Must be time soon to hang up the hat.


In the stalls the horse looks a million dollars. Well, $975,000 to be precise. So obviously it is not the American horse. In the yard the horse is frothy, dumping and is shitty behind. The favourite Yowie is a head up, changing gait, dumping horse, flashing me an occasional bit of white eye. In the end I decide it’s too hard and leave the race alone. Cannonball bursts to the front and holds them off for a strong win. In retrospect I probably should have laid Yowie, but my mind was stuck 12 years in the past.


Flemington All Star Mile

March 19th, 2022

It’s all Zaaki!

Down the back the horse is asleep in its stall being taped up. Asleep, oh, how I love that. In the parade ring it is a cross-over noseband and supreme fitness. In the mounting yard it is head down with an arched neck (no photo), salivating, and two strappers. Pity about the odds, but I managed to get $1.50 the place. I didn’t even get to see the main dangers – Inspirational Girl, out on the track early but a known miscreant, and I’m Thunderstruck, out late. Zaaki does it at both ends, and brains them.

It’s all Zaaki!


Caulfield Blue Diamond Stakes Day

February 26th, 2022

I’m nervous. This is my first excursion out in public without a mask for what, six months? I’m triple vaxxed, but I’m in a vulnerable age group now. Time doesn’t seem to stand still for anyone these days. The last Blue Diamond I saw was two years ago! I have had one fleeting visit to Caulfield since then last May. There was a lot of excavation work going on and it looked like they were building a huge block of public toilets. It turns out that they are temporary stalls while they build new subterranean stalls and a parade ring. They will four metres below ground level! Part of the master plan apparently. And we are going to be sent out to Sandown while they do all this.

I arrived in time for the third where Gai’s horse Castlereagh Kid looked a standout. A measly $1.80 for the place, but nice to have a winner first up after such a long spell. In the next Yearning was a nice head down horse and powered home for third. I managed to get $2.80 for the place, and so now I was more than satisfied. Cascadian looked the goods in the next but $1.30 the place is not my sort of bet so I waited for the Diamond. I didn’t fancy the winner Daumier as the horse was gaping and the strapper needed two hands. But Revolutionary Miss was very relaxed and just nosed out by the colt. Three out of three for the day. Long may it continue.


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.


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.