Monday, March 27, 2017

Bingo –The New Boy

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Bingo

The Cat Politics residence has a new cat, a Siamese kitten in fact, whom we have named Bingo.

We fetched him today from a breeder in the Kilmore area. He is four months old, but still quite tiny.

This of course has set the household into an uproar, with neither Talya nor Bingo showing any liking for the other. He growls and she hisses when they set eyes on each other.

Poor Talya is quite miffed, but hopefully she’ll get over it in time. After all it’s only day one and it will probably take weeks before they decide on a course of toleration.

Cat politics is quite dull when you’ve only got one cat. It’s the interaction between two cats that makes it interesting, even if fraught with tension and worry some of the time.

I was really not all that interested in getting a new kitten, or was steeling my mind to resist the temptation. But B has always been keen to get a Siamese cat and wanted one before he died. Who knows if we will outlive young Bingo or if he will outlive us.

Anyway, while waiting round to die, to quote Townes Van Zandt, we will have the delight of seeing a kitten grow up one more time.

Bingo is a real sweetheart, very affectionate and smoochy, with a quite different personality to our late lamented Willy. The gap left by his absence in many ways drew us to adopting another cat.

It will be interesting seeing how the sparks fly in the next few days and weeks.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Trio of Group 1 Events–Moonee Valley & Rosehill

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Sheidel after winning the Oakleigh Plate – February 2017

Melbourne’s Autumn Group 1 racing season comes to a close this Friday night at Moonee Valley which features the Group 1 William Reid Stakes at its final night meeting of the autumn.

The race was won last year by Flamberge when he was trained by Peter Moody, who bowed out of racing on the same night.

Flamberge is now with the Darren Weir stable and is back in an attempt to win the race a second time in succession. He goes well fresh and with luck could succeed.

A rather good field of sprinters will be trying to deny him that victory, chief among them Rebel Dane, Sheidel, Hooked, Silent Sedition and three year old colt Star Turn.

Also of interest at Moonee Valley are races 4 and 6, the former being the the final heat of the Inglis 55 Second Challenge where Petits Filous is making a return to the track, after almost a year missing in action due to injury.

Race 6 is the Group 2 Sunline Stakes, a race for fillies and mares over 1600 metres.  Class acts among the acceptances are First Seal, Rising Romance and star filly I Am A Star who will probably start as favourite.

Rosehill on Saturday features two choice Group 1 races, the BMW a race for stayers over 2400 metres, and the Vinery Stud Stakes, one for three year old fillies, over 2000 metres.

The BMW has mustered a really interesting field of stayers, all with a good chance of winning. The leading contenders include the 2017 Australian Cup trifecta, Humidor, Jameka and Exospheric, along with  2016 Australian Derby winner Tavago who won the Sky High Stakes at his last outing at big odds, Ranvet Stakes winner Our Ivanhowe who loves heavy tracks, and tough staying filly Lasqueti Spirit who may run the rest of the field ragged with her ability to maintain top speed over a distance.

With a number of equally matched fillies in the field, the Vinery Stud Stakes also makes it hard to single out a winner. In contention are New Zealand filly La Bella Diosa who won the Surround Stakes on a heavy track, then finished last in the Coolmore Classic, Chris Waller trained Foxplay and Dawn Wall, both in winning form, and Melbourne based fillies Harlow Gold and Montoya’s Secret, each of them having good staying bloodlines.

The Rosehill track will be heavy again, but the Moonee Valley track will be good, despite a bit of rain falling this week in Melbourne.

Update Saturday Afternoon – The Girls Have It!

Interesting results all round after a night and a day of Group 1 racing.

The William Reid Stakes was won by the unfancied mare, Silent Sedition, who defeated Hellbent and Star Turn, giving female jockey Katelyn Mallyon her first Group 1 win.

I Am A Star won the Sunline Stakes by 3¼ lengths from French Emotion and First Seal. She’s a super filly who will surely go on to better things.

The BMW was won in spectacular fashion by the wonderful Jameka who beat Humidor by 6½ lengths with Exospheric running third – the same trifecta result (with first and second reversed) as the Australian Cup.

Melbourne based fillies dominated the Vinery Stud Stakes with Montoya’s Secret, Nurse Kitchen and Harlow Gold running the first three places.

Next week the racing action is at Randwick for Doncaster/ Derby Day – a great race meeting every year, featuring four Group 1 races.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Global power may currently be in the hands of a scary three year old in the body of a grown man, a sinister former member of the KGB and an ambitious inscrutable oriental power,  but I try not to let that bother me overmuch.

What can you do?

My answer is to find things that make you cheerful and take your mind off the dire new world – world war three  will happen, or then again, it may not.

I have several pleasant things to look forward to in books, music and horse racing.

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Firstly, books.  I was pretty underwhelmed by the literature on offer at the start of 2016, but I did find some gems published last year after it was almost over.

I’m currently reading A Gentleman In Moscow by American writer Amor Towles, an author unfamiliar to me, even though he has one other novel, The Rules of Civility, published in 2011.

A Gentleman In Moscow is a real find; a charming and thoroughly enjoyable novel set in Moscow, covering the years 1922 through to the 1950s. 

Though  the novel is set in Moscow in the period following the Russian Revolution,  it is mostly confined to the grand old Hotel Metropol where the novel’s protagonist, Count Alexander Rostov, is detained under house arrest. 

It’s a novel to be enjoyed for its elegant and witty prose style, rather than page turning action.  However, there is plenty to keep the reader amused and beguiled as Count Rostov settles into his prison and adapts to its limitations. He’s a likeable character, a man with good taste and manners -  a true gentleman- who enjoys the good things life has to offer in his confinement, and treasures the friends he makes along the way.

Events outside the Metropol are not ignored; the tumultuous events of post revolutionary Russia  intrude on the charmed lives of the Hotel Metropol residents every so often.

Other 2016 published novels I was taken with are Margaret Atwood’s wicked take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest Hagseed, and Moonglow, a fictional biography by Michael Chabon, wonderfully written as you’d expect. I also read some super short story collections, Joan Aiken’s The People In The Castle, Get In Trouble by Kelly Link and Children of The New World by Alexander Weinstein.

This year’s fiction offerings are far more promising with novels by favourite authors Neal Stephenson (The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O), Nick Harkaway (Gnomen), Phillip Pullman (The Book of Dust) and John Crowley (Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr)  all to be published this year.

As for music, I have three concerts to attend in the next few months, with the Dixie Chicks on April 2 at Rod Laver Arena. My all time favourite artist Ryan Adams will be performing live in May at Margaret Court Arena. In July I’m off to see America, the 1970s band, best known for the song “Horse With No Name”, at Hamer Hall.

Having been awed by the amazing performance of Winx in the George Ryder Stakes last weekend, I had an overwhelming urge to go and see her in her final race for autumn, in three weeks time at Randwick, in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. I have decided to fly to Sydney for the day and have booked my flight and purchased a ticket to the event, which also covers public transport fares to Randwick Racecourse.  So a sort of mini adventure is on the cards for Saturday 8 April. I don’t care what the weather is like – rain or shine will suit me either way.

Rebecca, if you’re reading this, I can get you a race book (can’t promise to get it signed, but I’ll try) and hopefully a Winx flag. Send me an email at pollycatster@gmail.com if interested.

If you’re wondering at my folly, check out this video of Winx winning the 2017 George Ryder Stakes last Saturday.  Be mindful that the track was a heavy 10 (Heaviest category track, very wet, towards saturation). All the racing fraternity are lost for words at her latest win, but I can’t help but rejoice that a racehorse of her calibre is back with us again so soon after Black Caviar stole our hearts away. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Golden Slipper Day Preview

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Catchy after winning the Blue Diamond Stakes

This March, Melbourne has been experiencing a late summer. It has been consistently warmer this month than the previous three summer months.

In Sydney, however, rain has fallen relentlessly over the past three weeks, so the super race meeting at Rosehill on Saturday will no doubt be run on  a heavy track.  This is not all that unusual, as in the past heavy tracks seem to have been the norm for Sydney’s Autumn Racing Carnival.

The meeting  features five wonderful Group 1 races that put Melbourne’s recent carnival to shame with the quality of the fields mustered for the event.

The Group 1 Golden Slipper, the richest two year old race in the world, is the feature event. But the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes is the race that most racing fans will be keenly watching, with wonder mare Winx aiming for her 16th consecutive win.

She will face seven challengers, among them champion sprinter Chautauqua having his first start over 1500 metres.

Back in 2015 Chautauqua and Winx provided the wow performances of the Spring racing carnival, over a night and a day at Moonee Valley; the grey flash winning the Manikato Stakes on the eve of Winx’s first Cox Plate victory.

So it’s kind of wonderful to have them both competing in the same race at a middle distance. 

As for the rest of the field, Canterbury Stakes winner Le Romain and 2016 Epsom winner Hauraki are the next best.

The first of the Group 1 races to run is the Ranvet Stakes a race for stayers over 2000 metres. Top pick is of course Hartnell who failed to fire in the Chipping Norton Stakes (won by Winx). If he is anywhere near his best he should win. His main opponents are Antonio Giuseppe and The United States.

Victorian Derby winner Prized Icon is one of the main chances to win the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas, another race over 2000 metres. He’s a stunning black colt trained by James Cummings (Bart’s grandson). He may not handle the heavy track, but Inference the winner of the Group 1 Randwick Guineas certainly can. Also in contention is New Zealand Derby winner Gingernuts , with good wet form to his credit.

Fillies appear to have edge over the colts in the Golden Slipper (1200 metres) with Houtzen, She Will Reign, Catchy, Tulip and Frolic being the top chances. Pariah, Single Bullet and Diamond Tathagata are the best of the boys.

I think both Houtzen and Catchy are exceptional fillies, both unbeaten in four starts, and hope either one of them wins. Whatever the outcome, it looks a fascinating race.

The final Group 1 of the afternoon is a sprint over 1100 metres. The Galaxy has attracted a full field of fourteen sprinters. Top picks are English, Redzel, Fell Swoop, Heatherly and Russian Revolution.

In the racing news today it was revealed that Extreme Choice and Flying Artie have both been retired to stud. So I’m glad I at least got to see them race this autumn.

Update Saturday Afternoon

I’m pleased to note that the Group 1 results at Rosehill, eventuated pretty much as I imagined them. The track was extremely heavy with frequent showers of rain.

The highlight as expected was Winx stunning 7½ length demolition of the George Ryder Stakes field. She sailed effortlessly over the soggy turf to beat Le Romain, with Chautauqua squelching into third place.  It was an emotional experience watching her win her 16th race in succession and 11th Group 1. She’s simply amazing!

The other Group 1 races results:

The Ranvet Stakes was won by 3.3 lengths by outsider Our Ivanhowe who only wins on extremely heavy tracks.  Hartnell finished second and The United States ran third.

New Zealander Gingernuts relished the heavy going in the Rosehill Guineas winning by 7.3 lengths from favourite Inference. Victorian horse So Si Bon ran third.

Fillies ran the trifecta in the Golden Slipper with She Will Reign winning the bikkies from Frolic and Tulip. Alas, Houtzen who led for most of the race was caught napping and finished 5th. I think the heavy track was not to her liking. Ditto with Catchy who finished last.

Three year old Russian Revolution won the Galaxy narrowly from Redzel with longshot Jungle Edge close behind running third.

I was pleased with Russian Revolution’s win as I’d used a bonus bet on my Sportsbet Account – $20.00 to win.  He was a sort of omen bet, as I’m currently reading a novel that is set during the Russian Revolution, and a bet on the eponymous horse seemed to be the thing to do.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hot & Steamy – Super Saturday Review

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Humidor wins the 2017 Australian Cup

God knows why this particular Saturday in March is called “Super Saturday” when only two Group 1 races are featured, with the rest of the card being a bit ho hum, something to watch while waiting for the main event.

Yes, I sound underwhelmed and have been for most of this year’s Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival.

I was discussing this with my photographer friend George, on Saturday and he reckons it is because there were no charismatic equine stars this year to add excitement to the events. No doubt if Winx had contested a few races in Melbourne (we hope she does so next year) it would have been a different story.

However, Saturday’s meeting was quite enjoyable really, and flashed by relatively quickly, considering I was obliged to arrive early owing to the train timetable.

So I arrived at Flemington in time to watch Race 3, the Listed Incognitus Stakes a race for three year olds over 1100 metres. Hugh Bowman rode the longshot winner Falcool, who beat favourite Ken’s Dream by over a length. Sheriff John Stone finished third.

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Falcool winning the Incognitus Stakes

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Falcool returns to scale

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Ken’s Dream returns to scale

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Sheriff John Stone returns to scale

The Flemington Members Stand has recently been demolished to make way for a new stand, so the members have invaded areas that once were the province of Joe Public. Luckily Flemington is so large an area that such accommodations hardly inconvenience anyone, be they members or casual racegoers.

In the stalls area, to which I walked after Race 3, I found the two Living Legends special guests, Apache Cat and Zipping.  They were appropriate equine guests, one, Apache Cat,  being a former champion sprinter, the  other, Zipping, formerly a fine stayer, who won the Australian Cup in 2010.

They were both outside their stalls being fed carroty treats by their admirers.

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Apache Cat with Living Legends CEO Dr Andrew Clarke

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Zipping holding still for a moment

Whilst in the area I had a quick stroll through to see who had arrived, and found a few of the main contenders for the feature Group 1 races.

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Extreme Choice – look at his lovely long forelock

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Terravista communing with his strapper

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Sheidel headshot in the walking ring

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The Quarterback – a photo of him without blinkers

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Humidor in his stall

Back trackside, Race 4 was about to run.

It was the Group 2, Sires Produce Stakes, for two year olds, run over 1400 metres.

Eshtiraak started favourite, but as seemed the case for most of the day, he was never in the picture, finishing sixth.

Female jockey Linda Meech steered Sircconi to victory, leading all the way, to narrowly defeat Aspect and Feng Chu.

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Sires Produce Stakes Stakes finish

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Sircconi returns to scale

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Aspect on his way to the barriers

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Feng Chu returns to scale

I Am A Star was one of only three favourites to win on Saturday, winning by a whisker Race 5 , the Group 2 Kewney Stakes, a 1400 metres race for three year old fillies.

Ellicazoom ran second with Kenedna a length behind taking third place.

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I Am A Star and Ellicazoom neck and neck at the finish of the Kewney Stakes

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I Am A Star returns to scale

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Ellicazoom returns to scale

In between the Flemington races, I caught glimpes on screen, or heard through the loud speakers, the races from Sydney.  Like Flemington, very few favourites saluted.  2016  Australian Derby winner Tavago was back in winning circles defeating hot favourite Antonio Guiseppe in the Sky High Stakes, and outsider Heavens Above won the Coolmore Classic from Silent Sedition and Danish Twist. The highly fancied Omei Sword, Global Glamour and La Bella Diosa all finished well back.

Race 6, the Group 3 Schweppervescence Trophy was the last race before the two features, and “magic man” Joao Moreira, guided the starting favourite Circular to his only win for the afternoon, his “magic” image being a tad muggled as a result.

Zasorceress nudged out Miss Rose De Lago for second.

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A close finish in the Schweppervescence Trophy

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Circular on her way to the barriers

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Zasorceress returns to scale

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Miss Rose De Lago returns to scale

Finally at 3.55 pm the Newmarket Handicap was set to run.

Rather than split into two sections, as is mostly the case with sprints at Flemington, the entire field stuck to the inside fence, the colt Star Turn leading for most of the race with Redkirk Warrior handy in second or third place. He took over half way up the straight and drew away from the rest of the field to score a two length win. Voodoo Lad ran second and Star Turn hung on to run third.

Extreme Choice was the favourite, but it’s obvious now that he doesn’t handle Flemington. He finished sixth.

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Jockey Regan Bayliss celebrates Redkirk Warrior’s Newmarket Handicap win

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Redkirk Warrior in winners rug in the mounting yard

Redkirk Warrior came in at huge odds, paying over $30 for the win.

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Voodoo Lad returns to scale

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Star Turn returns to scale

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Extreme Choice returns to scale

Jameka started as warm favourite for the Australian Cup and she almost won, if it hadn’t been for Humidor who tackled her close to the finish line and stole her glory. Exospheric ran third.

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Humidor (green silks) and Jameka neck and neck approaching the finish line.  Exospheric is inside Jameka and Stratum Star is behind the leading bunch.

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Humidor returns to scale

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Jameka on her way to the barriers

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Exospheric returns to scale

That was it for the afternoon, as I headed home after the Australian Cup.

The weather stayed fine all day and the forecast showers failed to eventuate.

I may go back to the races at on Easter Saturday for race caller Greg Miles’ farewell at Caulfield. He’s been calling races for over 40 years, and was a clear and articulate caller who will be sadly missed. There’s no news on his replacement as yet.

The racing focus heads to Sydney from now on and next Saturday’s meeting at Rosehill features five Group 1 races that include the Golden Slipper Stakes, always a fascinating event, and the George Ryder Stakes where Winx will be aiming for her 16th consecutive win. She’s rapidly catching up to Black Caviar’s record and could well surpass that great mare’s accomplishments in time.

As for the Melbourne autumn racing carnival, as previously mentioned, it lacked a certain oomph. There were few, if any, wow moments and probably the most exciting race was the Blue Diamond Stakes and Catchy’s amazing win.  Sure, Black Heart Bart won two Group 1 races, and he is a good honest horse who is always in the picture, but lacks the glamour of the likes of Winx.  Ditto with Hey Doc who has really developed into a potential star, who I’ll follow in the future.

Anyway, Catchy will be racing in the Golden Slipper Stakes next Saturday and will face a very classy field that includes She Will Reign and the unbeaten Houtzen.

And lastly, I promised another amateur photographer acquaintance Paul Colachi that I’d put a link to his Facebook page on my blog.

It’s dedicated to giving the humble and often overlooked strapper some love and is called Thankyou Strappers.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Super Saturday 2017

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Jameka – 25 February 2017

Though there is the Group 1 William Reid Stakes at the end of the months, the main part of Melbourne’s autumn racing carnival finishes on a high note this coming Saturday at Flemington.

The meeting features two time honoured Group 1 races, these being the Newmarket Handicap, a sprint over 1200 metres, and the Australian Cup, a 2000 metre race for stayers.

The Newmarket Handicap is the first of the Group 1 races to run. Last year The Quarterback won the race at big odds, and he is back for another go. He was sensationally scratched from the recent Lightning Stakes after rearing and falling over in the stalls, so if he was not fazed by that setback he is a good chance to win the Newmarket a second time.

Some very classy sprinters will be opposing him and include Lightning Stakes winner Terravista who loves Flemington, Lightning Stakes runner up Spieth, Oakleigh Plate winner SheidelRubiton Stakes winner Supercash, and colts Extreme Choice and Star Turn.

Twelve runners will be vying for Australian Cup glory and it has attracted a pretty even field with a number of chances. I’ll be barracking for Jameka who is third up after finishing a close fourth in the two races she has so far contested this autumn. 

She ran second to Hartnell over the distance and course in the Turnbull Stakes last spring. With Hartnell not in the field she could well have the race at her mercy. Hugh Bowman will be her rider.

Unfortunately, Nick Hall, who rode her in the spring to victory in the Caulfield Cup, is out of action due to injury, but Hugh Bowman is a good substitute, being an intelligent and skilful jockey and, of course, Winx regular rider.

Her main rivals are Stratum Star who is currently on a winning streak, Awesome Rock who technically won the Australian Cup last year before losing out to Preferment on an upheld protest, Ecuador, The United States, Boomtime, Humidor and Exospheric to a lesser extent who could easily run a place if not win.

Melbourne’s weather next Saturday is expected to be warmish with possible showers that may not eventuate judging by the lack of rain over the past two weeks.

In Sydney as usual it has been a wet week though clearing by Saturday where Rosehill features the Group 1 Coolmore Classic, a race for fillies and mares over 1500 metres.

A super field of 19 starters  - the classiest of the weekend racing – will contest it.

Top picks are fillies Omei Sword, Global Glamour and La Bella Diosa who ran the trifecta in the Surround Stakes, New Zealand filly La Bella Diosa being the boilover winner on that occasion, handling the heavy track better than the runners up. First Seal is the top weight and the class mare in the race, and at her best has to be considered. 

That’s my two bob’s worth. Who knows how the feature races will pan out. That’s the beauty of horse racing; anything could happen, and more often than not, does.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Hey Doc Pockets the Guineas

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Hey Doc winning the 2017 Australian Guineas at Flemington

Compared to Sydney, where the weather was miserable and wet with the races run on a heavy 10 track, Flemington last Saturday, gloried in a hot sunny day and an afternoon of  fast racing on a good 3 track.

Owing to the train timetable I was obliged to arrive at Flemington fairly early, so I made it in time to watch Race 3, the 3AW is Football Stakes, a race for two year olds over 1000 metres. The highly regarded Madeenaty was the firm favourite, but she was pipped at the post by her stablemate, Ploverset, having her first start.

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Down the straight in race 3 – Madeenaty leads on the rail with Ploverset storming down the outside.

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Ploverset returns to scale

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Madeenaty returns to scale

The Australian Guineas was scheduled as Race 7 to run at 4.30 pm, so it was longish afternoon to fill and too hot to be out in the sun for extended periods.

I killed a bit of time in the stalls area getting photos of the Guineas field in their stalls in between watching the races.

Happily the Flemington stalls area is more photo friendly and better lit than at Caulfield.

Here are few of the Guineas field…

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Hey Doc

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Prized Icon

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Harlow Gold

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Fuhryk

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Inside Agent

Back trackside, race 4, the Mitty’s Handicap was due to start. It’s an open class race over 1600 metres.

It resulted in Show A Star, leading all the way,  defeating favourite Portman with Divine Mr Artie running third.

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Show A Star on the fence leads with Portman trying to overtake down the straight

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Show A Star returns to scale

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Portman & Divine Mr Artie return to scale

Race 5 was the Group 3 Frances Tressady Stakes, a race for fillies and mares over 1400 metres.

Turbo Miss, unfancied in the betting, won the race from Rising Romance with Jalan Jalan running third.

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A wall of horses approach the finish line – Turbo Miss (gold cap) is about to overtake Jalan Jalan (red cap) & Diamond Baroness (fence) Rising Romance is just in the picture on the left.

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Turbo Miss returns to scale

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Rising Romance returns to scale

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Jalan Jalan on her way to the barriers

He or She who was in the three horse race Caulfield Stakes last spring won by Winx, scored his first win for a year in Race 6, the Group 3 TAB Rewards  Stakes.

He was one of the few favourites to win on the day, beating home Hooked and Zebrinz in the 1400 metre race.

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He or She & Hooked cross the finish line in the TAB Rewards Stakes

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He or She on his way to the barriers

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Hooked on his way to the barriers

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Zebrinz on his way to the barriers

In between the Flemington races I managed to watch the Group 1 races in Sydney on the drenched track.

In the Canterbury Stakes, Chautauqua showed his old spirit, fighting out the finish with Le Romain, to lose by a nose.  And Inference, a son of So You Think, won his sire his first Group 1 in the Randwick GuineasInvincible Gem, the sole filly in the race, ran second with Comin’ Through filling third place.

Back at Flemington the feature race was next up and soon the field was filing onto the track.

Hey Doc started from Barrier 1 and his jocky Luke Currie took full advantage of it, keeping Hey Doc close to the inside rail in fourth spot for most of the race as fillies Fuhryk, Legless Veuve and colt Attention set the pace. When a gap appeared near the 400 metre mark Currie eased Hey Doc through and he sped to the lead and maintained it to the line, winning from a fast finishing Prized Icon by ¾ length with Snitzon a further length back in third.

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Australian Guineas down the straight approaching the finish line

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Hey Doc in winners rug in the mounting yard post race

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Prized Icon on his way to the starting gates

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Snitzon on his way to the starting gates

I have been following Hey Doc since last Spring, first seeing him in action on Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes day at Moonee Valley in early September, so I’m delighted he finally won a Group 1 race.

Prized Icon was the good looker of the day, a splendid black colt worth following in future.

Speaking of good lookers, pretty boy Turn Me Loose has been retired to stud, so we won’t have the pleasure of seeing him race again. He injured his knee in the Futurity Stakes which accounts for his poor performance in the race.

The Melbourne autumn racing carnival basically winds up next Saturday at Flemington where the Group 1 Australian Cup is the feature race, along with the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap.

The roses will be in full bloom for the day, though they were already looking fabulous last Saturday.

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Rose hedge near where I stand to photograph the races

It will be my last Saturday of attending the races for a while, but the Sydney Championships will be in full swing from then on to keep my interest up.