Monday, August 21, 2017

Heart Stopping Action–Spring Has Sprung

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Hartnell returns to scale after winning the PB Lawrence Stakes

Saturday dawned cold, gloomy and wet and definitely didn’t look promising for an afternoon at the races. However, the weather cleared after midday and when I arrived at Caulfield at around 2.00pm it was bright and sunny.

And sunny it stayed for the remainder of the afternoon, which turned out to be a very interesting race meeting.

I just missed Race 4, so I had plenty of time to wander around the stalls area before the Quezette Stakes, so got a few photos of the horsey stars in their stalls or walking in the parade ring.

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Black Heart Bart

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Catchy naturally started as hot favourite for the Quezette Stakes, but the super fit Crown Witness stole the show, beating Catchy by a head.

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Quezette Stakes finish – Crown Witness leads with Catchy & Ploverset just behind

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Crown Witness in the pre parade ring

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Catchy returns to scale

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Ploverset returns to scale

Next up was the Vain Stakes, but before that was run, the Warwick Stakes was due at 3.00pm, where Winx was aiming for her 18th win in succession.  We found a screen to watch the race, and what a race it was, with Winx blowing the start and ending up 4 lengths behind the rest of the field. You could hear an audible gasp when it happened, then silence as everyone watched Winx slowly catch up.

Will she make it?

That was the question in everyone’s minds, as her position looked impossible as they turned the corner into the straight. Foxplay had grabbed the lead from Ecuador and looked the winner until the very last moment, when Winx flew down the extreme outside to win on the line. An extraordinary performance by the great mare assisted by a cool headed ride, coupled with perfect timing, on the part of her jockey Hugh Bowman.

The Vain Stakes was almost an anti climax after the Warwick Stakes, and resulted in a win for Jukebox, who prevailed over Plutocracy to score by a neck. Poseidon’s Pool finished third.

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Vain Stakes finish – Jukebox (blue & green silks)

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Jukebox returns to scale

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Plutocracy returns to scale

Shadows were lengthening over the track by the time the feature race, PB Lawrence Stakes, was run.

It was no great surprise that Hartnell won despite having his first run at Caulfield. He didn’t mind the soft track and won easily by 2.25 lengths from on the pace leader Charmed Harmony. Black Heart Bart scrambled into third place a further length back.  Without Winx to spoil his party, Hartnell is a force to be reckoned with and could well go on to greater glory this spring.

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Just past the post in the PB Lawrence Stakes

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Hartnell on his way to the barriers

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Charmed Harmony returns to scale

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Black Heart Bart on his way to the barriers

I decided to tarry at the course for the  Listed Regal Roller Stakes to see the hyped Brave Smash, a former Japanese horse now with the Darren Weir stable. This was his first start in Australia and  he acquitted himself well,  running a close second to favourite Vega Magic and with better luck in the running would have won.

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Vega Magic & Brave Smash just past the post

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Brave Smash in the pre parade ring

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Vega Magic returns to scale

With the shadows encroaching on the remnants of the sunny afternoon, I headed home.

It had been an enjoyable afternoon at the races and I was pleased that my hunches regarding the winners of the Quezette, Vain and PB Lawrence were spot on, though I didn’t bet on any of them.

The first Group 1 of the Spring racing season is only a fortnight away, but in the meantime there is a reasonably interesting meeting at Moonee Valley next Saturday.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Early Spring Fever – Winx, Bart, Hartnell & Catchy

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Black Heart Bart at Caulfield after winning the Futurity Stakes

Technically it’s still winter, but the  Spring racing season gets a fine taster of what is yet to come this Saturday at Caulfield and Randwick.

For a start, the wonderful Winx will be kicking off her spring campaign in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes at Randwick, a race she won last year on her way to her second Cox Plate. She faces seven rivals, whom she should easily account for, the most threatening being her stablemates Fox Play and Antonio Giuseppe and young gun Inference. Winx will be gunning for her 18th consecutive win. We all hope she succeeds.

Hartnell was runner up to Winx last year in the Warwick Stakes, and many other times besides, so his path this spring will not cross with hers. We get to see him in Melbourne this weekend in the feature race at Caulfield, the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes, where he will take on local hero Black Heart Bart.  The Lawrence Stakes has attracted a classy field that include Australian Cup winner Humidor, 2015 Mackinnon Stakes winner Gailo Chop,  former Japanese horse Tosen Stardom, He’s Our Rokkii and Group 1 winning mares Abbey Marie and Montoya’s SecretLankan Rupee was an acceptor for the Lawrence Stakes, but has been scratched to take an easier option at Morphettville. He ran a great second in the deferred Bletchingly Stakes, only narrowly beaten by Ability.

As well as the Lawrence Stakes there is also the Quezette Stakes and Vain Stakes, both Group 3 over 1100 metres for three year olds heading for the Thousand Guineas and Caulfield Guineas later in the season.

The Quezette Stakes for fillies has a super field, highlighted by the return of Blue Diamond Stakes winner Catchy. 

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Catchy returning scale after winning the Blue Diamond Stakes

Up until the Golden Slipper Stakes, where she ran last on an extremely heavy track, Catchy was unbeaten in her previous four starts.  She will no doubt start favourite in the Quezette Stakes and is the top pick.  Tulip who ran third in the Golden Slipper Stakes is a serious rival along with Crown Witness, unbeaten in two starts and Arctic Angel to a lesser degree. I Am A Star won this race last year and has since proved a talented filly with a Group 1 race (Myer Classic ) to her credit.

As for the Vain Stakes,  Jukebox and Kobayashi appear the best chances along with Lone Eagle and Wait For No One. Last year Russian Revolution was the Vain Stakes winner, and he went on to win the Group 1 Galaxy against the older horses in autumn.

The weather on Saturday in Melbourne is forecast to be cold and wet, but that doesn’t put me off attending this first interesting meeting of the new season. It can only get better from now on.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Old Man Mad About Drawing – The Hokusai Exhibition

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The Great Wave

Hokusai’s signature picture is of course The Great Wave off Kanagawa – every man and his dog recognises it as his work straight off. I admit that I class myself in the aforementioned category, so it was illuminating to discover that Hokusai was not a one trick pony, but a major Japanese artist who had many strings to his bow.

The exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria features 176 works from  Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto, plus those in the NGV collection and was surprisingly extensive. Just when you thought you had seen everything,  you’d find another room featuring a different aspect of Hokusai’s art.

You start off with a selection of prints from Hokusai’s early period, such as this image of Shishi – Mystic Lion Dogs.

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Mystic Lion Dogs (detail) 1820 ink on silk

Also included in this section were pictures of Kabuki actors in various roles.

The biggest section featured 36 Views of Mount Fuji, which were wonderful to see all displayed together, causing the viewer to marvel at the various perspectives – no two alike – of the iconic mountain. I was really struck by the perfect composition of Hokusai’s images – they were quirky but nothing jarred as being out of place

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Mt Fuji and the old pine

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South wind, clear sky Red Fuji

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Inume Pass in Kai Province

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Lake Suwa in Shinano Province

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Umezawa hamlet fields in Sagami Province

From the views of Mt Fuji one moved on to The Great Wave where two almost identical prints were displayed side by side, one owned by NGV the other by Ukiyo-e Museum.

Waterfalls were next…

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Falling mist waterfall at Mt Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province

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The Amida Falls in the far reaches of the Kisokaidō Road

…then bridges.

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But there was more to come – One Hundred Poems Explained by the Nurse, Hokusai interpreting visually the meaning of various poems, Eight Views of the Ryūkyū Islands, Ghosts, Birds and Flowers, Snow, Moon and Flowers, and finally a series of notebooks, known as Hokusai Manga, a voluminous collection of sketches covering a wide range of subjects.

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The mansion of the plates – Ghost

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Cuckoo and azaleas

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Hydrangeas and swallow

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Wisteria and wagtail

Photography was permitted, so I snapped a great many shots at the exhibition, most of them wood block prints. It is certainly a truly great exhibition well worth the cost of entry – a modest $13.00 with Senior’s Card discount on Wednesdays.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just What the Doctor Ordered

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Hey Doc wins the Aurie’s Star Handicap

It’s not every day that you get to feed a piece of carrot and pat old champions of the turf, so I was delighted to find that Fish and Foo (Efficient and Fields of Omagh) were present at Flemington on Saturday as the special equine guests from Living Legends.

Effiicient is a particular favourite of mine -  a big grey horse who won the Melbourne Cup 10 years ago.

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Efficient parading in the mounting yard

Fields of Omagh has the distinction of winning the Cox Plate twice, in 2003 and 2006.

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Fields of Omagh – a hit with the kids

It wasn’t that bad weather wise for an afternoon at the races – chilly and overcast, but the rain held off.

Catching the last train for Flemington Racecourse (1.40pm) I got to the big track around 2.00pm, and thus witnessed four races.

The first of these was Race 4,  the VRC Member William O’Grady Handicap, run over 1700 metres. The horses were being loaded into the barriers as I reached my favoured position just past the winning post.

I was interested to test my new camera. Well may you ask, why I have yet another new one, but the Nikon D3300 developed a serious fault that would have cost more to fix than it was worth. As a replacement I upgraded to a Nikon D5300 which was compatible with my lenses and even used the same model battery.

Overall I’m pleased with the photos I snapped with it last Saturday, but I’m still tinkering with its settings.

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Jaminzah who won Race 4 returning to scale

As the inside rail was out 10 metres, and despite the wideness of the Flemington track, it is difficult getting clear shots without rails cutting off the view.

Race 5 was the VRC Member Mark Young Handicap over 1400 metres which was won by the amusingly named Swampland, who has now chalked up three wins in succession.

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Swampland returns to scale after winning Race 5

Chris Waller trained gallopers took out three of the races on Saturday, Jaminzah in race 4 was one, and Wayanka another, the victor in Race 6, the VRC Member Joan Watson Handicap, which had assembled a huge field of 15 starters.  The third Waller winner was Alward in Race 8.

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Wayanka on his way to winning race 6

The feature race was the Aurie’s Star Handicap and as it was up next I headed for the mounting yard to test the camera with shots of the pre race parade.

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Hey Doc

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I Am A Star

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Yesterday’s Songs

Hey Doc led the field from shortly after the start, racing along the outside rail. Despite his top weight, he had enough in the tank to keep his momemtum and win by a head from Cannyescent with Grande Rosso a half length third. I Am A Star did not disgrace herself running a solid fourth.

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Down the straight in the Aurie’s Star approaching the finish line

I did not stay for the final two races as the trains from Flemington to the city were running again so I headed home.

It was enjoyable being back at Flemington, despite the races not being of any great interest. And the D5300 passed with flying colours in general.

I look forward to giving it another whirl next week at Caulfield, which features the PB Lawrence Stakes with the Quezette Stakes and Vain Stakes also being of great interest.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me

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I Am A Star – March 11 2017

Whilst waiting for world war three to break out, you need to have some reason to be cheerful.

The heading of this post is the title of a novel by Richard Farina , popular in the late 1960s, the quintessential 60s novel. It doesn’t mean that I have been particularly depressed, though I’m still not happy about the impending move to another location.

Spring is on the way judging by the fairly mild weather we’ve experienced over the past few days, and the upcoming Spring Racing Season,  and  this weekend welcomes back two Group 1 winners.

The racing this weekend is at Flemington and features the Group 3, Aurie’s Star Handicap, a race over 1200 metres. The top weights are  Australian Guineas winner Hey Doc and Myer Classic winner
I Am A Star, both kicking off their Spring campaigns in this race.

Whether either will win is another matter. Both are best over 1600 metres, but have won shorter distanced races. Top chances in the race are Sydney mare Flippant, the in form Cannyescent, Snitzon and Grande Rosso

As we’re moving in four weeks, I’m taking the opportunity to use the readily accessible public transport in my current location to go places. So I’ll be heading out to Flemington tomorrow to catch the racing action.

Earlier this afternoon it was pleasing to see (on the screen) Black Caviar’s daughter Oscietra win her first race at a Geelong meeting. I saw her on New Year’s Day in her first race where she ran third to the smart Limestone.

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Oscietra at Flemington on New Year’s Day.

Oscietra won the Geelong race by a couple of lengths and looked good doing so. She’s still quite small, but appears to have some of her mother’s talent.

With the equine stars emerging from their winter breaks over the next few weeks, my interest in racing is piqued anew and cheered me up.

Winx has had a couple of trials and actually won her last  trial – something she has not accomplished before. She is due to have her first race for the spring in the Warwick Stakes Saturday week. Hopefully the world will stay in one piece long enough for me to witness Winx win her third Cox Plate on 28 October.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Boxed In

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Book Boxes

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been busy packing belongings into boxes. The most mammoth task for me was boxing my private library which ended up using 37 boxes. Books were shelved everywhere in the house and in the studio as well, so I made sure to number and keep note of the contents of each box.

The last time we moved – 31 years ago – one box of books went missing, and I still wonder what books were contained within it. Perhaps there were some books I could have sworn I owned but failed to locate, in that lost box.

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The obligatory cat photo – Bingo on top of a box.

Today, as a break from packing, I crawled out from the rubble and went to the current feature exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Federation Square titled Brave New World: Australia 1930s.

Poster by Percy Trompf

If you haven’t been to this exhibition I highly recommend that you take time to visit as it is simply splendid, covering as it does a very interesting (and stylish) period of Australian history.

Brave New World: Australia 1930s encompasses the multitude of artistic styles, both advanced and conservative, which were practised during the 1930s. Included are commercial art, architecture, fashion, industrial design, film and dance to present a complete picture of this dynamic time

I must admit many of the works on display were by artists I have never heard of, but images by  the famous photographer Max Dupain were prominent including the iconic image below...

The Sun Bather by Max Dupain

…and the provocative Brave New World, originally banned in the 1930s, which reminded me of Fritz Lang’s wonderful film Metropolis, released in 1927.

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Brave New World – Max Dupain

I regretted not taking my camera to the exhibition as there were several paintings and sculptures that I would like to have a photographed, one of which I found online. It’s a portrait by Sybil Craig of fellow artist Peggy Crombie.

Peggy by Sybil Craig

The exhibition was comprehensive and covered photography, painting, costume, furniture and ceramics, depicting a diverse range of topics – utopia & dystopia, indiginous art including piaintings by Albert Namatjira.

I could go on, but don’t want to spoil the surprise of seeing this wonderful exhibition for anyone else.

The other major exhibition at NGV is of Hokusai which I plan to visit next week.

Finally, my efforts to escape the humdrum last Saturday at the races at Caulfield were cut short, when they were  cancelled shortly after I arrived at the course, due to the severe winds. So the Bletchingly Stakes will  now be run at Sandown next Sunday.