Friday, February 23, 2018

A Multifaceted Blue Diamond

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Long Leaf – current favourite for the Blue Diamond Stakes

The Blue Diamond Stakes is the feature race next Saturday at Caufield and it has to be one of the most open competitions for years, with no real standout colts or fillies. Even Long Leaf, the current favourite is $7.00 on the tote and several others share second favouritism, priced between $8.00 and $10.00.

As usual a full field of sixteen will be competing for the prize and most of the them have (on form) the ability to win the 1200 metre dash. 

Of the colts, Long Leaf, Written By, Prairie Fire and Plague Stone have all been prominent in the build up races, as have fillies Enbihaar, Kinky Boom, Lady Horseowner, Ennis Hill and Oohood.

As Saturday afternoon is forecast to be showery,  this could favour those runners who appreciate a bit of give in the ground.

Whatever the outcome, it looks a doozy of a race.

There are two other Group 1 events at Caulfield on Saturday – Futurity Stakes and Oakleigh Plate, which have both attracted excellent fields, the Oakleigh Plate in particular.

The Futurity Stakes  run over 1400 metres is the first of the Group 1 events to run and the field of  11 contestants is similar to the Orr Stakes; in fact eight of the runners contested the Orr Stakes. Black Heart Bart won the Futurity Stakes last year, but he is out of action for autumn.  2018 Orr Stakes winner, Hartnell  is not in the field, though will be running later in the afternoon in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes. Fresh starters include Humidor and Sovereign Nation.  Top chances are Tosen Stardom, Brave Smash and the three year olds Mighty Boss and Showtime.

A huge field of 18 runners has accepted for the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate, a sprint run over 1100 metres.  The sensational field includes 2017 Golden Slipper/Moir Stakes winner She Will Reign, 2017 Blue Diamond winner Catchy, Sheidel, last year’s Oakleigh Plate winner,  and dual Group 1 winner Russian Revolution who is three wins from three first up.

As the Group 1 races are scheduled as races 6,7 and 8, I can take my time getting to Caulfield and shan’t mind the delays in public transport caused by railway track updates.

Rosehill in Sydney has three interesting Group 2 races  - the Silver Slipper Stakes  for Golden Slipper bound two year olds, which stars Magic Millions winner Sunlight, the Millie Fox Stakes for mares with Chris Waller stars Egg Tart and Foxplay kicking off their autumn campaigns, and the Hobartville Stakes for Guineas and Derby bound three year olds run over 1400 metres, which has a terrific field that includes Trapeze Artist, Ace High, Pierata  and Kementari.

Anyway I’m looking forward to seeing the action at Caulfield even though I suspect that my favourite spot on the hill above the stalls will be reserved for Young Members.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Seeing Red– Black Caviar Lightning Review

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Regan Bayliss celebrates Redkirk Warrior’s Lightning win as he returns to scale

It was another classic Group 1 finish in the Black Caviar Lightning with Redzel, who looked the winner, being overtaken at the finish line by Redkirk Warrior, who flashed down the outside to win by a nose. It was a perfectly timed run by jockey Regan Bayliss who had reason to celebrate after several recent misjudged rides had dented his reputation. Missrock finished third 1.3 lengths behind.

I reached Flemington at around 1.30 pm,  and headed directly to the stalls area to see the Living Legends who were out in force to mark The Great Horse Raceday.  As I already have heaps of photos of the old legends,  I didn’t bother to get snaps, other than one of Maluckyday who I had not seen before.

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Maluckyday – 2nd in the 2010 Melbourne Cup

Dillydallying in the stalls area I missed  Race 3, but returned trackside to watch Race 4, the Goodwood Racecourse Handicap (1600 metres) where the romantically named Kings Will Dream, an Irish import with the Darren Weir Stable,  won easily from Notio and Downhearted.

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Kings Will Dream wins the Goodwood Racecourse Handicap

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Kings Will Dream returns to scale

Flemington was in festive mode though not crowded, with families out in force. The roses were not yet in full bloom, no doubt perfectly timed to display their full glory on Australian Cup Day.

Flemington roses

Race 5 was the Royal Ascot Handicap, a sprint over 1200 metres and the Darren Weir trained Ken’s Dream won the race comfortably from Lucky Liberty and Prima.

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Ken’s Dream (outside) wins the Royal Ascot Handicap

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Ken’s Dream returns to scale

At Randwick, Winx was scheduled to have a trial under race conditions against her stablemates and the race was played on the big screen. Winx looked as good as ever, winning the trial easily in her customary style.

Meanwhile at Flemington, while waiting for Race 6, I idly watched a group of guys form various pyramid poses for photos.  They looked absurd, but obviously put some thought into their configurations. Naturally, a girl was enlisted to take photos.

High spirited race patrons

With the Group 3 Vanity Stakes up next, I took up a position on the mounting yard fence to get photos of the fillies parade.

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Bring Me Roses

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Then I returned to my favourite spot at the access gate to photograph the race.

Aloisia started as favourite, but she was nowhere in the finish, the race being won by Rimraam from Bring Me Roses and Shokora.

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Rimraam wins the Vanity Stakes

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Rimraam returns to scale

The C S Hayes Stakes was next to jump and the last race before the feature event.

It was a wide open race that any of the 18 strong field could have won, the oddly named Grunt eventually winning quite impressively from Cliff’s Edge and Muraaqeb.

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Grunt wins the CS Hayes Stakes

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Grunt returns to scale

For the Black Caviar Lightning I decided not to bother taking photos from my usual spot, due to Flemington sprint fields generally splitting into two sections – one on the inner rail, the other on the Grandstand side, which makes it hard to get photos of the finish.

So I hung around near the clock tower after watching the mounting yard parade.

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Redzel  on his way to the track from the mounting yard

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Hey Doc in the mounting yard

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Redkirk Warrior in the mounting yard

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Terravista in the mounting yard

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Missrock on her way to the track from the mounting yard

Wouldn’t you know it, the field raced in a bunch down the centre of the track, so I made the wrong call for photographs. The light would have been much better at my usual spot, rather than waiting for the  runners to return to scale with the sun in an unfavourable position for photos – too dark as it turned out, though I must admit the photo of Redkirk Warrior returning to scale above isn’t all that bad.

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Redzel returns to scale

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Redkirk Warrior in the winners rug

I headed home after the Lightning Stakes, the two trains transporting me thence coinciding nicely at Southern Cross Station.

Next week we return to Caulfield for Blue Diamond Stakes Day, which features three Group 1 events. Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign will be contesting one of them, so something to look forward to, though it could be tricky and tiresome getting to Caulfield with buses replacing trains between Ivanhoe and Clifton Hill.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Black Caviar Lightning – A Dash of Red

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Redzel 2016 hot favourite for the Black Caviar Lightning

Currently regarded as the best sprinter in Australia, Redzel returns to scene of his most recent victory (Darley Classic) at Flemington on Saturday. No doubt he will be at unbackable odds and it’s hard to see any of the other nine competitors in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning outgunning him.

There’s Terravista who won this race last year and goes really well when fresh. Likewise Hey Doc and Redkirk Warrior who have both won down the Flemington straight first up. These three are in my opinion the best, though hardly likely, chances to topple Redzel.

The weather for Saturday is forecast to be warm and sunny, so I’m looking forward to heading to Flemington again to see the roses and plenty of first class racing action.

Fortunately this week I won’t feel obliged to get to the course early as the most interesting races are later in the afternoon, and the BC Lightning is scheduled to run at 4.45pm.

Other than the Lightning, the two Group 3 races for Guineas, Oaks & Derby bound three year olds are of the most interest.

The Vanity Stakes for fillies is run over 1400 metres and sees the return of Moonee Valley Vase (Group 2) winner Aloisia, along with Crown Oaks runner up Bring Me Roses.  Moonee Valley Classic (Group 2) winner Banish and the so far unbeaten Paris Rock.

Named in honour of the great trainer C S Hayes, the Group 3 C S Hayes Stakes is the colts equivalent of the Vanity Stakes. Top picks for this are last start winner Cliff’s Edge, Victoria Derby  runner up Sully, Main Stage, Peaceful State and New Zealander Embellish. It’s a pretty open race with plenty of chances.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Change of Luck for Hartnell–Orr Stakes Day Review

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Orr Stakes finish – a wall of horses crosses the finish line together

In true Group 1 fashion, the Orr Stakes ended in a thriller with the first seven across the finish line being less than a length apart.

Hartnell demonstrated that he was back in contention with the narrowest of wins, denying the doughty Single Gaze her moment of glory on the line. Brave Smash finished third.

It was an overcast day on Saturday and I arrived at Caulfield Racecourse, with the odd raindrop threatening a downpour that failed to eventuate, just after the running of the first race, but in plenty of time for the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude.

Oohood started as favourite, and was impressive racing from the back of the field to miss by half a length, unable to overtake winner Enbihaar who raced on the speed. Seabrook finished third.

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Enbihaar (blue & white striped cap) wins the Blue Diamond Prelude

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Enbihaar returns to scale

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Oohood returns to scale with 4th placed Lake District Girl

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Seabrook returns to scale

As races in the early part of the program were only 35 minutes apart, it wasn’t long until the colts Blue Diamond Prelude.

Again the favourite, in this case Plague Stone,  was relegated to second place by an unfancied runner. He lost out by half a length to Written By. Native Soldier was a further 1½ lengths away running third.

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Written By (red cap) wins the Colts Blue Diamond Prelude

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Written By returns to scale

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Plague Stone on his way to the mounting yard pre race

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Native Soldier in the pre parade ring

As I’ve now witnessed the Blue Diamond Previews and Preludes, as well as the Inglis Premier and Chairman’s Stakes, the actual Blue Diamond Stakes likely winner is far from clear.  So far I’ve been the most impressed by Kinky Boom’s run in the Inglis Premier and the tote agrees, marking her pre-race favourite.

The Blue Diamond Stakes will be run on 24 February, so it’s not long to wait for the result.

In between races I  cruised through the stalls area, but my photos of horses in stalls are not much good, the overcast sky being as problematical as bright sunlight for photography.

The head turner of the day was the flashy Mighty Boss, a chestnut colt with a blonde mane and tail. His friendly strapper was only too pleased to pose Mighty Boss for snaps.

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Mighty Boss being walked in the pre-parade ring

I can see Mighty Boss becoming a crowd favourite with his unusual looks. I know I noticed him the first time I saw him at Caulfield in the 2017 Blue Diamond Prelude, where he finished third last. He did go on to win the Caulfield Guineas at 100/1 last Spring.

The Carlyon Cup, the sole race on the day for stayers, run over 1800 metres, was race 4 on the schedule.  Only seven horses were in the field and Gailo Chop was the favourite.  He didn’t disappoint winning by 1¼ lengths from Harlem with Lord Fandango finishing third.

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Carlyon Cup finish

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Gailo Chop returns to scale

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Harlem returns to scale

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Lord Fandango on his way to barriers

In the Kevin Hayes Stakes Booker led from the start to the finish, and hot favourite Shoals failed to fire, finishing second last. Leather n Lace finished second and long shot See Me Exceed finished third.

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Booker returns to scale

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Leather n Lace on her way to the mounting yard

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See Me Exceed returns to scale

So on to Race 6, the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes, where Super Cash won the race for the second year in succession, pipping old Flamberge at the post.  Merchant Navy finished third.

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Just past the post in the Rubiton Stakes

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Super Cash returns to scale

Most of the afternoon had been warm and humid, despite the overcast sky, but a blustery change came through around 3.00pm which added a strong wind factor – hell for a contact lens wearer.

I wasn’t much interested in Race 7, the Group 2 Autumn Stakes, but as it was the penultimate race before the feature, I watched it and noted that Holy Snow, running wide from the back of the field won by over a length from Mr So And So and Astoria.

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Autumn Stakes just past the post

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Holy Snow returns to scale

It had been a long afternooon , though the time seemed to pass relatively quickly, until finally at around 4.45pm,  the Orr Stakes was due to run and it was worth waiting for.

Tosen Stardom was the favourite but after being aggressively ridden early in the race, he faded to end up at the tail of the field. It was a messy sort of race as evidenced by the mass of horses crossing the finish line in a bunch, with quite a few hard luck stories among the unplaced. Young Mighty Boss was keen as mustard, but was blocked and hampered and failed to get a clear run, which stymied his chances. There were similar complaints from several of the other runners.

However, all honours to Hartnell – it’s good to see him back as winner.  His next race will possibly be against Winx in the Chipping Norton Stakes on 3 March, though it is unlikely he will turn the tables on her as she’s beaten him fair and square seven times previously.

Anyway here are photos of the first seven home.

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Hartnell returning to scale

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Single Gaze on her way to the mounting yard

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Brave Smash on his way to the mounting yard

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Thronum (4th) returning to scale

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Lord of the Sky (5th) returning to scale

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Abbey Marie (6th) returning to scale

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Mighty Boss (7th) on his way to the starting gates

Speaking of unusually coloured horses, the sad news yesterday was that Miss Vista has been euthanised due to painful foot issues. She was a great crowd favourite like her look alike Apache Cat.

I’m glad her sufferings are now over and that she rests in peace.

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Miss Vista at Caulfield 15 April 2017

Next week the Group 1 action is at Flemington for the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes, dubbed The Great Horse Day. Living Legends will be out in force, so I’m looking forward to seeing the old champs again.