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Caulfield Cup

October 19th, 2019

These big race days make it hard to get to the mounting yard so I spend most of my time out the back around the stalls and parade ring. Even so they still rush them through the parade ring. The first cup horse to arrive was the winner Mer De Glace. I’m always suspicious of the Japanese horses. They are usually highly strung, flighty, with a team of attendants, and bandaged on all four. Mer De Glace was no different. Hand held in the stall, restless, is that two or three fussing strappers, and pacifiers. But fleecy travel boots. I like them – they are rather like my Ug boots!

The horse doesn’t last long and is whipped out to the pre-parade ring. That’s what I would do. Settle it! Walk it! Two hours later it is still walking! And wow. Look at those ribs! Fit enough. I change my mind about Japanese horses. It is ready.

My final six for the trifecta in no particular order was 3, 6, 10, 14, 16, 18. I missed the third horse Mirage Dancer, probably because of the cross-over noseband. My only other bet was on Humma Humma in the mares race. The horse streeted them!

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Caulfield Guineas

October 12th, 2019

Four months in hibernation, so I’m a bit rusty. But I did see some horses at the Terracotta Warriors exhibition. You would probably say they were in need of a run and the wind might whistle through their bowels a bit! And at the track there was a new sculpture of Black Caviar. I did not recognise the horse, but I worked out the jockey Luke Nolan from the name on his pants and I struggled with the trainer Peter Moody. I can’t remember Pete ever being that demonstrative! And Black Caviar’s backside seemed a lot slimmer than the one that is imprinted on my brain. Artistic licence I suppose.

I didn’t get a decent photo of the Guineas winner, Super Seth, mainly because I had ruled it out of contention with the winkers/cross-over noseband combination. But the red muffs and salivation were positives. I’ll need a bit more practice before I blow the cobwebs out of my wallet.

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Flemington Andrew Ramsden Stakes

May 25th, 2019

This used to be a pretty ordinary race over two miles for worn out stayers at the start of winter. But the VRC and Racing Victoria have now given it a boost by doubling the prize money to $400,000, reducing the distance to 2800 metres, restricting the race to three, four and 5-year old horses at weight for age, and giving the winner a golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup. So that piqued my interest!

The form guide and the bookies had it as a two horse race between Steel Prince, with the picket fence form, and the Adelaide Cup winner, Surprise Baby. Ten to one the field bar two. The horsewatcher had it much the same, with a slight preference for the Baby, mainly because the Prince was sweating up. Both looked keen, ears pricked. But both too short at $1.40 the place. It was a stirring race with a dramatic finish. It looked like a dead heat and they would have to find a second golden ticket, but the Prince prevailed by a hair’s breadth. I was happy just to watch. The barrier probably beat the Baby.

I’m out of here now for the winter. Hopefully back in the spring for the Caulfield Guineas.

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Caulfield Race Day

May 11th, 2019

At last the autumn break. 37 mm of rain at my place after the driest start to the year on record. But danger lurks at Caulfield. A Soft 5, so some give in the track, but not badly affected. I’m no good in the wet, but I really want to go to see just one horse, Villermont, in the second last.

I last saw this horse winning the Sandown Guineas as a three-year-old in 2017 and I was blown away by his relaxed attitude and looks. I made the comment that “it’s hard to see that I will ever get $2.70 the place about this horse again!” Clearly I was wrong! Today Villermont is going around at $2.80. The horse is relaxed, head down, and led on a nice loose strap, but  hasn’t raced in 12 months, the distance is too short, and a disturbing development is the appearance of a tongue tie and cross-over noseband combination. So after all that anticipation it’s a no go. Villermont bounded in the air at the start and ran an even race to finish sixth.

The day wasn’t a total wipeout though as Neurotic, despite the name, was a calm, head down horse, and loomed up to win. The mare fortunately held on for third at $3.40. That’s even better than $2.70!

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Flemington Anzac Day

April 25th, 2019

I always find it a quite emotional day. And the sea of red poppies on the lawn don’t help. A stunning display of remembrance. Thousands of hand-crafted poppies, knitted and crocheted. Just so beautiful. And sad.

The weather was perfect. One of those idyllic late autumn Melbourne days. And a top day on the punt. As I strolled around the stalls I made a note in my book that Vow And Declare was “interested”. Now that is not one of my usual variables, but the horse obviously made an impression. In the yard with the jockey up the horse was prancing with an arched neck. It ran on well and I was quite pleased with $4.20 for third. In the St Leger Gai’s horse looked the goods and won well from go to whoa, but I was quite taken by Rock Dove, the Godolphin three-year-old filly. Totally composed. Head down. Why do all Godolphin horses look like Hartnell? I was very happy with $2.50 for second and two out of two for the day.

After the last I was counting my blessings in one of those comfortable chairs that have replaced the Island Bar when a nice lady from the CWA gave me a packet of two Anzac biscuits. Wow! I now understand why so many of the returning diggers had broken teeth!

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Flemington All-Star Mile

March 16th, 2019

A $5 million pop-up race! A lot of hype but it’s hard to get really excited about it. Public voting decides the majority of the field with four wild card entries offered by Racing Victoria. The syndicated owners of some of the donkeys got themselves organised with $90,000 for just turning up! It looks like a prizemoney arms race with Racing NSW is underway.

With so many donkeys it seemed like a good betting opportunity. I thought there were only four horses with a chance – Mystic Journey, Alizee, Hartnell and Grunt. In the yard both the favourites, Mystic Journey and Alizee, looked a bit unsettled with the two strappers and changing stride. Alizee had the red ear muffs to try and calm her down. Hartnell looked stunning, in total control and looking as if he owned the mounting yard. Grunt was gaping with crossed jaws.

So Hartnell was the bet. The pick of the yard. My only bet for the day. A standout if you can forgive the cross-over noseband, and I was in a very forgiving mood. A late surge for second at a very generous $3.10 for the place.

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Flemington Super Saturday

March 9th, 2019

I had a losing day. So near, and yet so far! In the Newmarket Sunlight looked fine but the favourite was nowhere to be seen. Then at the last minute Osborne Bulls was whipped in and straight out onto the track without even a circuit of the yard. Very disappointing not to display the favourite for such a big race. I caught a brief glimpse, but no see, no bet.

In the Australian Cup I really liked that unreliable conveyance, So Si Bon, but now much improved since losing his undercarriage. Head down, positive strapper, fit, and showing $6 for the place. The horse flashed down the outside and it looked like he had got up for third, but somehow Trap For Fools had held on. Losing is so much more painful when you think you have won!

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Caulfield Blue Diamond Stakes

February 23rd, 2019

The Blue Diamond – the Melbourne Cup for two-year-olds. Out the back I was immediately smitten by the Godolphin horses, and Lyre in particular, looking very relaxed alongside the stable pony. In the parade ring she looked terrific, bright red ear muffs, and salivating furiously, a positive as we know. Not big, and by comparison with the back side of the strong-looking favourite Loving Gaby, positively tiny. But the course announcer said the fave had a vet check, never a good sign. And a cross-over noseband.

In the yard I scored Loving Gaby as changing stride, two strappers and dumping. Lyre was a head-in horse, still dripping saliva, and clearly superior. I went and backed it straight away. The horse came from last to first to run over the top of them. $2.60 for the place!

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Flemington Black Caviar Lightning Stakes Day

February 16th, 2019

There were some good horses lining up for the Lightning. Sunlight immediately caught my eye and looked outstanding. I nearly put my book down since there was no point in looking at any other horse. But I persisted, after all $1.60 for the place is not my sort of bet. Osborne Bulls looked good. Relaxed, big, strong. I wrote off Written By, misbehaving with the two strappers. The speedy Divine Quality needed guidance from the clerk to make it around the yard. Not a good sign. Graff was OK. In Her Time was a bit head up when she went past me and showing a bit of teeth. With hindsight, Osborne Bulls should have been the place bet.

But it was a good day with two standouts. Intuition in the third streeted them and Talented in the two-year-old ran a bold second to Microphone. Always happy with two out of two.

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Caulfield Australia Day

January 26th, 2019

Life is a beach! Is it not? I suppose if horse racing doesn’t attract the punters because they are all at the beach, then bring the beach to the punters! I would have thought that if you are at the beach then the new technology makes it easy to have a bet and watch the race under your umbrella, with cold beers close at hand in the chilly bin. Why bother going to the track? Maybe it is just a gimmick for Australia Day. But it is reassuring to see that there are lifeguards with flotation devices in case anyone drowns in debt!

I had a losing day, my first for some time. Lifeguards! Help! In the first race for three-year-old fillies Embrace Me looked too good to refuse but went to the line boxed in and untested to finish third in a six horse field. I was very disappointed with the ride of Craig Williams. How do you get trapped in such a small field? The stewards’ report noted that Embrace Me was “held up for clear running from the 400m until approaching the 100m and laid inwards in the straight.”

And in the two-year-old preview for males Auxin was the only colt holding on to his head in the mounting yard. I thought I had third place all wrapped up only to be lunged out of it on the line. So a third and a fourth for zero return!

The only other thing of interest to report is the behaviour of the two-year-old filly Catch Me in the mounting yard. Throwing the jockey off, was it twice or three times? The horse then went out and won convincingly. I would normally lay these types of horses except my stats advise caution! In Watching More Racehorses I point out an apparent anomaly where Airborne Jockey has a positive behavioural handicap of 54%! The sample size is small, but I have seen 64 flying jockeys with 9 improbable winners. Those stats now become 10 out of 65, or a strike rate of 15.4%! Clearly I should back and not lay.

And another thing. What the hell is VOP? The course broadcaster kept banging on about it until I was forced to ask Siri. Apparently it is a new system that replaces the old bookies starting price. Known as the Victorian Official Price it is sourced from the prices of high turnover Australian Wagering Service Providers as opposed to oncourse bookmakers in Victoria. I guess that means the corporates in Darwin. And I guess that the old SP system has been ditched anyway as not many bookies bother to show up on course these days!

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