Fat, Fat Years

The year can only get better. The filly didn’t win at Randwick, didn’t even pay the petrol money. My future as a deck hand in the Mediterranean will have to wait a while yet.

It was a sweltering 35 degrees and the perspiration was embarrassing when I arrived at the Gold Coast on Thursday. But after a brilliant lightning display that evening and some downpours there was considerable relief on Friday. Remember the day Ha Ha won the Magic Millions 3YO Trophy? The mercury hit 41.

By Friday’s end, with just four clear days until the start of the sale, still many horses either not on the grounds, including the Coolmore draft, or still settling in and not being shown.

I’ve done a tally of the yearlings I’ve inspected and find the percentage to which I give a ‘pass mark’ is the same as at sales in the past. Either I employ a consistent standard or I’m being soft.

I haven't spoken to a great many people yet - because they haven't arrived! - but there doesn't seem to be an overbearing atmosphere of doom and gloom around the grounds. Not everyone's broke - give it 12 months - but I think all vendors know they are going to have to be realistic. As I said to one: a lot of you guys have had fat, fat years for a decade or more, and in what other business do you get rich rewards for producing a product which more often than not is going to fail badly?

Whilst driving the final stages of my journey to the Gold Coast on Thursday, I was pleased to listen to the successes of Tommifrancs (7g Real Quiet (USA)-Schwarzkoff (NZ), by Centaine) in the Tatts Cup at Randwick, and Anton Pillar in a maiden at Cheltenham.

Tommifrancs because he was bred and is raced by a fellow Kiwi, full-time part-time Aussie resident John Thompson with whom I’ve had working relationship in recent years. John’s black with silver fern colours are familiar particularly in NSW and Victoria. Until quite recently he had horses with up to 17 different trainers! John stopped going to the sales six or seven years ago when he found he had a couple of stallion prospects on his hands. He owned some interesting though fairly modest fillies and mares from which he started breeding with the intention of racing the progeny to prove the stallions, and even bought the farm to house them all.

A prominent Magic Millions vendor reminded me today that three percent (his figure) of commercial stallions can be classified as successful after five years. He said he’s not in the habit of backing 33 to 1 shots so will never get into the stallion business. John also knew the odds were long but he’s a sportsman at heart. Tommifrancs, ironically not by one of John’s own stallions, is one of those rare horses who pay for all the slow ones and now has earned $435,000. A slow-maturer originally with the Freedmans, he’s these days with Gerald Ryan. The horse has never been too predictable because he often doesn’t get the strong pace he needs in his races. And he’s gone from being a lover of damp tracks and unable to back-up to one happiest on good and winning on the back-up.

If the vicissitudes of breeding are evident from John Thompson’s experience, so are they in the Anton Pillar saga.

This very cleverly named horse (3c Flying Spur-Prove It, by Dehere (USA)) was bred in Victoria by Sean Buckley of Miss Andretti and Ultra Tune fame – horse power of another sort. Sean and I have compared notes off and on over many years while he’s quietly gathered together a fantastic broodmare band, the results of which are only starting to come on stream.

Anton Pillar’s sister Forensics, as we all know, won the Golden Slipper in 2007, nor did her winning stop there. Anyone owning her dam, coming as she does from one of Australia’s most popular families, would have reason to be pleased with themselves. But Sean could only look ruefully at the Slipper result because he had lost Prove It 18 months earlier, shortly after foaling a brother (only the second foal) to the top filly and 11 days after she’d been covered by Encosta de Lago. They say (wrongly if you ask me) that out of every catastrophe comes a positive: Sean consoled himself that he still had the young sibling which was then earmarked to be one of Ultra Thoroughbreds trail-blazers at the Easter sale of 2007.

Not to be. Murphy’s Law. The young colt developed problems the most significant of which was an abscess on the top of his rump which left a hole big enough to put your fist in, with some related muscle wastage. Time would fix these problems but there was no alternative but to abandon any thoughts of taking him to Easter even though the sale was nine months away. There’s no doubt the colt was a seven-figure proposition, perhaps even a sale-topper, a bitter pill for Sean to swallow after earlier losing the dam and being eager to state his breeding credentials to the market place. It would be hard to measure the loss of Prove It at only six years of age, her first foal a sensational filly, and the expected income-earning potential of her subsequent foals. So while you might think Sean is the luckiest man alive to have raced Miss Andretti through her glory days, he knows what downside feels like, in spades.

Anton Pillar started out with David Hayes but his New Year’s day’s win was first-out from the stable of David Balfour who has won a couple lately with another Buckley-bred Specialisor (NZ) (4m Don Eduardo (NZ)-Special Sal, by Alzao (USA)). Anton Pillar still has his tackle and if he’s able to develop his form someone will be putting their hand up to stand him.

Also on New Year’s day, Miss Andretti’s half-brother Danny Beau won his ninth from 14 in Perth and smashed the state 1000m record. There is not a single stakeswinner – not even in WA or SA - in their tail female descent for another four generations. What makes Peggie’s Bid such a great broodmare? I know she’s a grand-daughter of Mill Reef which carries plenty of weight with me, but so are plenty of others and they aren’t Peggie’s Bid! Fascinating.

P.S.: on the theme of "out of every catastrophe comes a positive" - what about those Russians? In a poll being held currently, one J. Stalin is amongst the top three in line for the mantle of the greatest Russian ever. Brainwashing must be alive and well. Are they SERIOUS? Tell that to the relatives and descendants of the 25 million. If this sort of distortion is possible in this day and age we must still be swinging from the trees.

I've Learned Not To Rely On The Fillies

I’m penning this New Year’s Eve epistle from the bright lights of downtown Tenterfield, ‘the Birthplace of the Nation’, where I’m overnighting on my way to Magic Millions.

It’s been a wonderful day’s driving from Sydney: not a cloud in the sky, virtually deserted roads, the roof of the car folded away, me looking like the playboy of the Western world, and the warm wind blowing through where my hair’s meant to be.

I find few things better for the soul (if we have one) than driving the Australian bush. Thanks to all the rain along the eastern seabord the country’s still looking great in midsummer. The route I take going north is off the beaten track and I always put aside two days for my journeys. It’s peaceful and the vistas are grand.

Tenterfield is just a few kilometers south of the Queensland border but tomorrow I’ll take a right turn out of town, staying in NSW, and head due east through the Range again for 100 kms to Casino, then north to Kyogle and Murwillumbah. From there is one of the best bits of all, breaching the Queensland border and into the land of cheap petrol via the tropical rainforest of the Gold Coast hinterland, coming out at Currumbin. You can stick the Pacific Highway where the sun don’t shine.

Sir Henry Parkes gave his famous Federation speech to the people of Tenterfield at the Tenterfield School Of Arts on 24 October 1889. His catch-cry was: “One people, one destiny”. It was a good idea at the time, pity it took until 2008 to take on the appearance of reality. Hank was a Pom with little formal education who in 1836 married his teacher in Birmingham – obviously, his mind was on extra-curricular activities rather than his textbooks – and emigrated to Australia under assisted passage. Eventually, in 1872, he became Premier of NSW, which says to those of today who didn’t get their HSC, don’t worry, too much education’s a dangerous thing. Parkes had three wives, not all at the same time, which helped him reach the age of 81. Perhaps with no wives he might have reached 100.

The bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ (Frederic Ward) is another celebrity of the Tenterfield district. He made his last stand at Uralla, just south of Armidale. He ended up there after escaping from Cockatoo Island Prison in Sydney Harbour, his offence: horse stealing (where is he today when I need him?). The beautiful stretch of road through the cattle country from Walcha to Uralla is known as Thunderbolt’s Way.

Major J F Thomas, a local solicitor, was noted for his defence of Harry "The Breaker" Morant.

My literary hero A B ‘Banjo’ Paterson is also a Tenterfield luminary. On 8 April 1903 he took the hand in marriage of one Alice Walker of Tenterfield Station. They were married in St Stephen’s (nice touch) Presbyterian Church. The Walkers built Concord Hospital in Sydney. Paterson married well, a bit like Henry Parkes. Malcolm Ellis wrote: “If ever there was a natural son of the old squattocracy, a fit mate for a daughter of the Walkers of Concord, it was Banjo. He always looked sartorially like a colonel of the cavalry who had just left Tattersall’s Sale Ring with a field-marshal after having bought a steeplechaser.” Reminds me of Arnold House, Sydney's most sartorial racegoer.

The other Tenterfield legend appears to be the late song-and-dance man Peter Allen, after whom the motel I’m staying at is named. You don’t see many motels named after people. There’s one on the right hand side going north through Singleton (not named after John). I can see it now, the Steve Brem Motel, on the road to nowhere somewhere. Talking about John, that More Than Ready-Sunday Joy two-year-old filly of his which Gai trialled at Randwick on Tuesday looks an absolute natural and the Encosta de Lago yearling half-sister is a MM sale topper if ever I’ve seen one. I suppose Singo’s got enough fillies out of the mare he just might let this one go, but I’m not taking any bets as to who the buyer’s name might be.

I haven’t found out yet what public New Year’s Eve celebrations are held in Tenterfield but after a short kip I’ll wander down the main street (the only street) and see what’s up. Years ago I swore never to go and see those Sydney fireworks again, or even watch them on TV. Another exercise in proving to the world that we do it “bigger and better” than anyone else. Who cares? Up until Tuesday we said that about cricket. As far as the crowds are concerned, there’s nothing attractive about being stuck amongst a million intoxicated Aussies. Everyone whoops and hollers on the stroke of 12 as the harbour bridge catches fire, conveniently forgetting it’s actually only 11 p.m. Why spoil a good story with a fact?

2009 ushers in my 61st year which causes reflection about what happened to the last decade and what to make of the next. Suddenly, these matters take on an urgency. I get the feeling this might be the last year I do this sales business. I love the horses, and most times I can pick the good ones, but it’s the people who are the problem. (By the way, my top pick from Easter '08, Wanted, is no longer with J Hawkes but with J O'Shea, and on another matter stand by for a juicy court case involving two of racing's headline-grabbers from 2008). I’m thinking I should be getting on a yacht and sailing round the world for five years, or something of that ilk. Despite 2008 being a leap year, I have still to find the woman of my dreams – actually, she’s hiding out in Melbourne and doesn’t take my calls. Ten years ago, on the occasion of my 50th, she gave me a certificate, done by her own hand, on which it proclaims that having attained the half-century I was now officially a “stayer”. Sad to say with another 10 years under my belt I’m now just an old plodder.

To wind up the year on the blog, I was going to recap the last month’s racing and pat myself on the back as usual for all my shrewd choices, observations and missed opportunities, but I decided that’s as boring as bat droppings. (Yesterday's first-up Gosford winner Zuhoor (3f Lonhro-Nesnas) was a MM stunner of '07, 'bought' by Dean Watt's Dynamic Syndications for $200k. Straight afterwards I approached him to secure a big chunk of her but was told she was all spoken for. Correct. He was buying her in for 'The Boss', Emirates' Nasser Lootah. I was also underbidder on another Gosford winner Power To Surprise at Easter '06. By the then despised Viking Ruler, splashed all over with white and with only one stakeswinner on the page, in the fourth dam, I was confident of getting him within budget. I cried 'enough' at $180k and let Nick Moraitis have him). I have a runner in the first race at Randwick on New Year’s Day. It would be very obliging of her if she could win or place because (a) it would be a nice way to start my particular decade, and (b) with the proceeds I might be able to fund that trip on the yacht. Especially as most of my meagre savings are locked up in one of those investment vehicles which currently prohibit me from accessing them “for my own good”. As someone who lived through the oil shocks, then 1987 and now this catastrophe, excuse me if I have a jaundiced view of the world financial (dis)order and all its greedy foot-soldiers.

Anyhow, the weather man says it’s going to be 34 degrees in Sydney on New Year’s day, so I’m not relying on a filly in those circumstances, she’ll be off to the paddock afterwards. I only have 286 first-book yearlings to see at MM when I get there on Friday. Less scratchings of course, but MM are never kind enough to list them on their website, unlike the other crowd.

Happy New Year to you all, my loyal readers from Vietnam to the Maldives and all points north and south. Back a winner.

Pic above: the National Trust-listed Tenterfield Saddler, immortalised in song by Peter Allen. This town and surrounding region is steeped in history and if you're interested in things other than, or in addition to, what's winning the next race, it's well worth a visit.

Big Breasts In Scone

I finished off my ramblings in the Hunter with visits to Amarina, Baerami, Brooklyn, Byerley, Edinglassie, Emirates, Glastonbury, Goodwood, Lomar Park, Reavill, Turangga and Vinery, so, all in all, I’ve managed to get a few hundred yearlings under my belt before facing the onslaught at the Coast. I begin my trek up there on New Year's Eve.

There’s one consignor in the Upper Hunter I can never get to see. I always seem to pick days when there’s something on at his place – x-raying, photos, Sirecam or all the staff having to dash up to Tamworth because suddenly the other farm’s got flooded. The same bloke is always the first to hassle me to see his horses when I arrive at the complex.

With no kids or missus to come home to, not for a lack of trying, I can take my time, and generally do. Breathe in the scenery. There are some fantastic vistas especially out in the Sandy Hollow/Baerami direction. Out in Patinack country as it soon will be. Does it mean anything that they’re setting up a pre-training facility in a place named Broke? I enjoy visiting the occasional vineyard on my journey with my trusty James Halliday under my arm. I’m trying to like Hunter region wines. The rivet-jolting roads around Pokolbin are still a disgrace. Perhaps under Kevin 737’s Infrastructure Australia crusade they might get around to it before my jalopy disintegrates.

Gai was also in the area and one night I was her guest for dinner at her Scone hideaway. Another night I visited Canter, the relatively new licensed restaurant in the space near the railway station where once lived Quince. Canter gets the thumbs up for a good feed in tasteful surroundings. The herb encrusted chicken breasts were the size of Maria Venutti’s. Both look like they were fed on growth hormone. On another night I was enticed by a billboard outside one of the pubs on Kelly Street proclaiming their “new summer menu”, so I thought, 'this looks promising, I’ll give it a go'. If you think there is no way you can completely bugger up something as simple as a Caesar salad, think again. It was so bad it was Seizure salad. Never again. I proclaimed last year that McDonald’s was going to be the culinary salvation of Scone but nothing appears to be happening on the building site, which also includes a servo, at the north end of the town just under the speed camera.


Excuse me if I don’t read the newspapers much, particularly when I’m away in places like the Hunter, but what’s happened to John Messara? One day proclaimed a dictator-in-waiting, next day nowhere to be seen. Gone from Aushorse, gone from TBA, presumably in readiness for the board of RacingNSW? But he’s not one of the Gang Of Five, so what happened? Is it correct that he was appointed to the Board but couldn’t live with some of his would-be bedfellows and withdrew before the announcement? I missed all the excitement! I’m only acquainted to any degree with two members of the Board, Alan Bell and Arthur Inglis, so I have no opinion on the appointments overall. Bell is a hard man from way back and Inglis has come to light in latter times as a harder man than some might have thought. John has got much more to offer than just continuing to make Arrowfield the brilliant success it is, so how do we tap into him without all his jealous enemies out there getting up in arms about it?


Greg Childs handled his exit from riding with pure class, the guy is an exemplar of his profession. He’s a Kiwi so he had a head start. He was actually born on New Zealand Day or Waitangi Day as it was then known, February 6. Seems like only yesterday he was a budding apprentice from Taranaki, a region famous not for its sheep but for its cows, its mountain and John Wheeler. The local joke is that if you can’t see Mt Taranaki (Mt Egmont) because of the clouds, it’s raining, and if you can see it it’s going to rain. Childs had a marvelous career winning more than 40 Group 1s in Australia, throwing his leg over several of the epochal horses of the late 20th century. That group of NZ jockeys who filtered over to Australia from the mid-70s onwards had a major impact on racing here, guys like Garry Willetts, Midge Didham, Brent Thomson, Nigel Tiley, Bruce Compton, Greg Childs, Shane Dye, Jimmy and Larry Cassidy, Brian York and Grant Cooksley (I’ve probably missed a few, sorry) and even the women of that period like Maree Lyndon, Dianne Moseley and Linda Jones proved a point or two. It’s hard to fathom why those times, now more than 20 years ago, should have unearthed such a strong group of NZ jockeys capable of making cut-through in Australia where, up till then, it had been a national sport, cheer-led by those boorish, self-aggrandised old pressmen, to savage NZ jockeys at every opportunity. Since that intake which ended about the time of Childs's arrival, there have been more Kiwis who have tried their luck but none has made the same penetration.


That's not a Hunter Valley scene, above. It's Heron Island at sun-up.

See you at church on the 25th. Outside.

On The Hunt In The Valley

Five of the last seven days I've spent tootling around a very green and lush Hunter Valley looking at Magic Millions yearlings.

I've been to Strawberry Hill, Attunga, Yarraman, Kitchwin Hills, Bellerive, Holbrook, Kia Ora, Segenhoe, Darley, Riversdale, Ashleigh, Willow Park, Murrulla and Kulani Park.

I took the opportunity to go up to Willow Tree to see the new Kulani Park farm of Rhys Smith and Chloe Latif. I'm too much of a hardened old cynic to start pissing in peoples' pockets at my age, but this country blew me away. The property is on a magnificent stretch of virgin horse country lying to the north/east with rich soils, 1,000 acres or so, and whilst it's being set up with practicality a priority it is aesthetically very stimulating and will be a real showplace. Looks to me every bit as good as anything in the Valley proper. I used to say when I was running Waikato 20-odd years ago that a fool could breed good horses there (and I did, often) because the farm itself was superior. I can visualise Kulani Park breeding and rearing good horses at this new location; they have wide open spaces and fertile soils and have made a decision in principle never to overstock the place. Good luck to them. I also heard on the Hunter Valley grapevine that Coolmore have either bought or are acquiring land in this area as an insurance policy for the future.

I'll be up in the Valley for a further two days, look at about 100 more yearlings, then call it quits. At least that breaks the back of the main catalogue. I hit the Gold Coast on 1 January.

There's general nervousness, and rightly so, about what state the market will be in when MM opens. In times of economic uncertainty - and I'm sure the worst is still well ahead of us - people react primarily on emotion and are likely to approach this sale thinking conservatively. I believe vendors hold the key; if from the start they adopt a realistic approach to the value of their horses and allow them to get sold and create momentum at the sale, that will be an encouraging signal to the buying bench to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in. Let's face it, yearlings have been selling for far more than they're worth for several years now and many breeders have enjoyed massive profits. It's in breeders' best interests now to keep the stock moving, keep owners in the game and help keep the wheels of racing turning.

In the last recession, late '80s/early '90s, the damage was done when very high ingoing costs of production (notably service fees) were met by a rapid drop in the value of resultant progeny, as much as 60% over a couple of years. This imbalance put a lot of breeders out of business. Faced with the near-certainty of a declining market in the immediate future, upper-end service fees in 2008 are totally out of kilter with the reality. Major studs profess to have the interests of their breeder customers at heart (though savage increases in service fees, sometimes before stallions even have a runner, tend to belie that). If they truly did have those interests at heart they should be rebating 25 or 30% of the service fees charged in 2008 for breeders who are contracted at full freight and who pay on time. They can afford to do so. It would give their customers a better chance of trading profitably at the sales of 2011 and would be an appropriate gesture of goodwill as breeders head into uncertain times.

Oh look at the sky! Pigs flying!

Excellent News

Hear ye, hear ye. William Inglis & Son are on the verge of unveiling a bells-and-whistles catalogue search engine on their website which will answer all our prayers!

Excellent news. MM will surely follow.

However, I have made the point to Wm Inglis that not everybody relies on the internet and that it would be advantageous and a positive service if both the indexes I mentioned - broodmare sires and grandams - appeared in hard copy in the catalogues.

An Old Whinge

This is an old whinge of mine but it falls on deaf ears.

The indexes or, if you insist, indices, in Australian and NZ yearling sale catalogues are inadequate.

In addition to the sire and dam indexes, yearlings should be indexed by broodmare sire. An index of second dams should be provided, too. Both have been featured in Keeneland catalogues for decades. They are invaluable for finding your way around the offering. If I want to know which yearlings are out of O'Reilly (NZ) mares - to some buyers that's as relevant as knowing which yearlings are by Redoute's Choice - I shouldn't have to thumb through 900 pages to find them. Likewise, if I want to compare yearlings from a family, an index of second dams will help me locate them. (Remember how useful the Bruce Lowe numbers were?). These filters should also be incorporated into the sales companies' web-based catalogue searches.

Please MM and Inglis, it's only a few extra pages.

I thought I'd bore you with another Heron Island pic (above). The black noddy tern. There are about 70,000 of them up there at the moment. Ear plugs are provided in your rooms so you can get to sleep at night. In the cities we complain we never hear birdsong, up there it never stops and the faint scent of guano wafts on the Pacific breeze.

If I keep chipping away with these photos I reckon I'll do more for Australian tourism than the movie Australia. I haven't seen it and probably won't. Fair dinkum, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman??? Archetypal metrosexuals.

I Have Owned Some Turtles, These I Just Watched

Thank you Mum, Dad and the kids for those ‘come back!’ ‘come back!’ messages of encouragement during the last couple of weeks.

I warned you kids, DO NOT to play with the computer!

My Blogpatrol widget tells me precisely how many people have read the blog, where they come from, what time of the day they log in, what search engine they use, the resolution of their computer screens, the operating system they use and the type of web browser. This is Big Brother! So I know how depressingly small is my constituency.

Which leads into the fact that the holiday I took recently was on account of my own big brother who, with his partner, was making just his second return to the southern hemisphere after leaving NZ 46 years ago. I have traveled north to spend time with them several times this decade but I managed to convince them they were well overdue for another look Down Under – 1982 was the last time.

The Heron Island trip was part of our time together. They were very keen to see the Great Barrier Reef before global warming stuffs it completely. I understand Heron is one of only three cays which has accommodation. If your vanity demands a five-star resort experience then Heron’s not for you; stick to Cairns or Townsville, Hayman, Lizard or Hamilton, even though they’re not actually on the reef, but if you want an inspiring experience with perfectly tolerable living conditions then Heron is the place. Give it a Google. Heron is only 18 hectares, much of it is forest and there’s almost 100,000 birds living there, including nesting under your room. The snorkeling and diving are tops. You can swim with the sharks and the rays here, they don’t bother you (it’s true!). If you do go, spend the extra money and take the helicopter rather than the launch from Gladstone, it’s fantastic flying over the reefs and the pilots are a fount of knowledge. We were lucky to be there during the turtle egg laying season, one of the best in recent years. Each night at high tide as many as 80 green turtles (and the occasional loggerhead) come up out of the sea to dig their nests where the vegetation meets the sand, laying up to 150 eggs each. If you get up at first light, you’ll also see many of them lurching back down the beach to the water having completed their tasks. They are fascinating to watch; nature in all her splendour.

Another compelling feature of Heron is that your mobile phone doesn’t work nor does your wireless broadband. Stuck out there, you don’t give a hoot in hell what’s happening in the outside world. Whatever is happening, it’s bound to be bad news anyway.

I can wean myself off racing almost instantaneously so being cut off never bothers me. If I had a single other skill I could drop racing and go do it without a moment’s hesitation. But I’m 60 next month and virtually unemployable, so that isn’t going to happen. When you get to 60 suddenly it hits you: shit, look at all the things I haven’t yet done in my life and to think I may have just a decade left to get my act together – if I’m lucky. You have a panic attack at the thought and for the first time in your life the meaning of the old saw “live each day like it’s the last” sheets home to you.

Such a day was the Saturday before Heron, when my guests and I were in Melbourne. Sydney is extraordinarily beautiful – take a week off like I did, just to appreciate its breathtaking vistas – but Melbourne is more humane and if it had Sydney’s climate perhaps everyone would live there. It's growing at a faster rate anyhow. This particular Saturday, not far off the official start of summer, it definitely did not have Sydney’s climate. I think it was the coldest Melbourne November weekend on record, the mercury managing to creep up to about 8 degrees celsius. My guests came from Toronto where 8 above can be interpreted as a heatwave at certain times of the year so they were disappointed about the weather but inured to it. As they were shopping for Chinese-made Australian souvenirs, I took refuge in the Elizabeth Street TAB and watched a filly I race in partnership win at Kembla Grange. Horses do that when you’re not there. Anyway, it lifted me out of my meteorological depression. I was just as pleased with the win of another filly in NZ, Tampiko (3f Lonhro-Ancient Song) as I had bought her for $500,000 at Easter ’07. She might be OK. They got stuck into her over there as an early two-year-old which amazed me as I thought she was a relatively immature but nevertheless stunning first foal but I’m pleased to see she has survived this far.

Doubtless lots of interesting and newsworthy things have happened in the racing and breeding worlds since I went bush and I don’t intend commenting on much of it, except for an extraordinary article I saw on the Racenet news service a short while back in which the writer, one Brad Waters, tore new Melburnian jockey Glen Boss to shreds after he had ridden a treble at Moonee Valley. I’ve tried finding this article on Racenet’s news archive but it’s either been removed or reworded on legal advice or appeared earlier than the archive cut off date and is no longer available, otherwise I would have reproduced it here. The standard of journalism on Racenet falls short of the Pulitzer Prize but that’s OK, it’s an umbrella website used by a lot of people for a lot of different reasons and it's here today, gone tomorrow. But this vitriolic piece by the shrill Waters (who’s he?) was an astonishing critique of possibly Australia’s number one money rider, right down to how he sits in the saddle and where he points his elbows. I’m not a member of any jockey’s fan club but even so, this guy Waters was clearly having a bad night. Did anyone happen to read it?

Resisting the necessity to return to normal working habits, I have been to my mail box only once since my holiday ended. At this point in time I have just one sale catalogue in front of me, Book 1 from Magic Millions (somebody read my blog earlier this year). I also have the Inglis Easter preview. Sales of a different colour. I will begin looking at yearlings on Wednesday. Why I’m not sure.

Off to Heron Island

The blog is suspended. For the next fortnight. I'm going on holiday which will take me to such exotic places as Melbourne and Heron Island. For four days I'm not even going to be able to turn on a computer - fantastic! I expect to be hitting the road looking at yearlings when I get back (why I don't know, no one's asked me to) so whether I resume the blog or not is in the lap of the gods. I might start talking to real people instead of myself. That would make a change.

I Forgot To Take The All-Upper

Horses I sell to Far North Queensland love the air up there.

At the Atherton meeting yesterday, their local, the three starters which I sold to Tom Hedley all won: Gaelic Lad (6g O'Reilly (NZ)-Swanette, by Danzero), his eighth win for Tom in 12 starts; In Absentia (5m Diatribe-Bolted (NZ), by Pentire (GB)), her fifth win in eight, and Vacillator (5m Diatribe-Bobbin Head (NZ), by Senor Pete (USA)), her fourth win in eight.

They're not racing for a fortune, but the bookies do operate!

Tom's trainer Roy Chillemi might have the best strike rate in Australia. Maybe even better than Gai's. It must be a bad situation fluking a really good horse up there. Placing them would have to be a fine art.


The winner of Saturday's G2 New Zealand Cup, 3200m, at Riccarton Park, Hoorang, is unlikely to shake the living daylights out of next year's Melbourne Cup but as one of the few brave enough to run this journey these days she deserves her moment of fame. She clocked a pretty respectable 3:18.11 for the journey - not bad for a supposed mudder - compared with Viewed's Melbourne Cup which, for all the vaunted firmness of the track and breakneck Irish tactics, took 3:20.40.

She has no Sir Tristram (Ire) or Zabeel (NZ) in her pedigree but carries the next best thing, Mill Reef through the male line of Shirley Heights, Darshaan and Zerpour (Ire). The Aga Khan's Zerpour, a descendant of Petite Etoile, averaged just over 22 live foals per year in his seven NZ seasons from which he's had five stakeswinners including the hard-knocking Victorian Light Vision, winner of 10 and fifth in Saturday's G2 Sandown Classic.

Hoorang's pedigree is a large reservoir of stamina. Her unraced dam is by Rhythm (USA), the good USA Mr Prospector two-year-old who turned out more an influence for stamina during his largely forgettable southern hemisphere career. Her grandam is the G1 Queensland Oaks winner Triumphal Queen (NZ) by the temperamental Ribot-line horse Triumphal March (USA) who won a G2 Moonee Valley Cup over 2800m. Then the next dams are by champion sires Agricola (GB) and Faux Tirage (GB) until you come to the fifth dam Sunbride (GB), an epochal NZ import in the '40s whose descendants dominated classic and Cup racing in the late '50s and '60s. Her own foals included Melbourne and Sydney Cup winner Straight Draw, Caulfield Cup winner Ilumquh and Sydney Cup winner General Command. Brilliant performers like Dayana, Grand Cidium and Terrific were the next generation. Unquestionably, Hoorang is what she was bred to be.

The only Sir Tristram/Zabeel to be found in the result is per medium of third placed Vickezzchardonnay who is a daughter of Don Eduardo (NZ) whose sprinter-looking son Swift Alliance made it two from two at Rosehill on Saturday.

Sanbetdownfair Park

Any truth in the rumour that the executives at Doomben have been burning the phone lines trying to flog Betfair some cheap naming rights to a racetrack?

I gagged on my muesli when I read about the‘re-naming’ of Sandown; had to reach for another big dollop of Greek-style yoghurt to make sure it slid down safely.

Composing myself, I came to realise it’s only a sponsorship, it’s not as if they’re going to tow the place out to sea. After about three years people will say “Betfair Park” although they will still think “Sandown” – the same mental process as translating into another language. Betfair obviously have good data which tells them such a spend will be rewarded by increased market share.

How are the form guides going to show it: BETPH for Hillside and BETPL for Lakeside? Or will they ignore it and stick to SANH and SANL? And Melways?

Think: when the proletariat overthrow the Germanic-Hellenic mob who live at the end of The Mall, naming rights will be up for grabs at Randwick, too. Crazy John's Randwick.

I wonder how The Family is going in the Global Financial Crisis? Any palaces up for grabs?

A Time Of Opportunity

If you’ve got cash and are not in debt up to your eyeballs, the next couple of years are going to be good years to be buying yearlings and breeding stock.

There will be bargains out there.

Those of us old enough to remember what happened 20 years ago, when the last serious worldwide financial tidal wave occurred, see it happening all over again. This time, it looks like a full scale tsunami.

Though it took a couple of years to feed through, bloodstock prices in Australasia plummeted between 40 - 60%. Breeders who had been breeding at a high cost of production – big service fees in particular – took a pummeling when a shrinking buyers’ market eschewed over-matings. Weakly structured stud businesses went down the gurgler.

If you’re relatively new to this business you might think this is a fairytale. It’s not. The horse business, which relies on players at all levels not just the most wealthy, is very sensitive to the wider economy. It might take an extra year before the full impact is felt here, but felt it will be. Some studmasters who have been gouging breeders with service fees in the last few seasons will be begging for your custom (even though invariably they will oppose you in the yearling market). If you can still be bothered, that is. Not that they will lose much in having to chop their fees – many of their stallions have been mind-bogglingly profitable throughout their stud lives.

It was interesting to read in other media comments attributed to Garry Chittick, owner of Waikato Stud, probably NZ’s top performing stud this decade. He says he’s down 150 bookings on last year. It can’t be because his stallions are either over-priced, duds or unappealing in the NZ context – O’Reilly, Pins, Savabeel, No Excuse Needed, Fast ‘n’ Famous, Scaredee Cat. Though he speaks from a position of strength, he’s never been frightened to call a spade a bloody spade. In this game of smoke and mirrors and PR spin, few would have the balls to flesh out their argument publicly with “commercially sensitive” hard numbers, so Garry has shown leadership in drawing attention in this way to the malaise which is occurring.

The world’s biggest breeding stock sale, Keeneland November in Lexington, completed its eighth session on Tuesday, which means 60% of the catalogue has been offered. The gross is down 46.5%, the average down 36.9% and the median down 33.3%. There have been 284 fewer horses sold than at the same stage last year. Buyers are keen on the weanlings and are walking away from mares, especially those whose commercial prospects are questionable. Consignors have been withdrawing their entries in significant numbers to save themselves the bother/cost of having to buy them back in, unwilling to let such a weak market value them (what is their value other than what the market will pay for them on any given day?). It must be a frustrating sale to attend.

To get things in slightly better perspective, it was unquestionably a higher quality catalogue last year, so some of the deficit is due to that. The less attractive offering may well be due to owners of high-end fillies and mares deciding they did not want to have their horses valued on a declining market so they refrained from entering them. Last year, the Australian dollar was riding around 90 cents US, as against around 67 cents US this year. ANZ buyers, of whom I was one, bought about 25 mares; this year, up to Session 8, I’ve identified six in the names of ANZ buyers including Dean Fleming’s US$1.3 million Diamond Necklace, though perhaps there's more under other guises. Leaving her to one side, because Fleming is a northern hemisphere player, the other five have ranged from US$25,000 to US$270,000. Even with the dollar the way it is and the extra costs of shipment, individually they look value. With catalogue quality dropping away progressively, I don’t expect much more participation from ANZ interests.

The market will “correct” globally for some time yet. The well-situated breeder with long term aspirations who is prepared to do, or have done for him, the required homework, has a period of considerable opportunity opening up to him.

Incidentally, I love the term “correction” as it applies to price levels. Corrections only happen in hindsight. Which sellers were objecting, at the time, that the prices were ridiculously high in the first place?

More Than One Maldivian

There might be more than one Maldivian in Australia before too long.

Reported today, the Republic of The Maldives has created a fund with which to purchase "a new homeland" in a foreign country for the relocation of its people in the event that rising water levels, as a result of climate change, submerge all or most of the archipelago. It is made up of 1,192 coral islets of which 193 are inhabited by about 300,000 people.

India and Sri Lanka are mentioned as possibilities, favoured because of cultural and climatic similarities, with the vast, empty, warm land of Australia next on the list.

The Maldives is the lowest-lying country above sea level on the planet with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 metres.

Have we seen the future?

Remember The Heavy 10 In The Middle Of July

So what do you think of the VRC again treating the punters like second-class citizens throughout the Melbourne Cup carnival?

I’m referring of course to the exclusive live race telecast rights granted to and paid for by Channel 7.

Here we have the punters and addicts who watch the dedicated racing channels Sky and TVN, day in and day out, all year long, having to flick to Channel 7 if they want to see the race live or sit through the indignity of a call without vision waiting for delayed coverage. It’s a slap in the face for the people who fuel racing’s engine room 363 days a year.

TABCORP, which relies on profit from wagering and gaming, owns Sky. The VRC is part-owner of TVN, at much expense to the racing industry. Ironically, it contrives to deprive even its own flesh and blood of live broadcasts in the biggest week of the year.

Let me emphasise, it is wonderful that this magnificent racing festival is available free-to-air. It serves racing very well in that the coverage reaches, potentially, everyone, especially those who do not subscribe to pay-TV. Channel 7 presumably pays millions for these rights so I imagine they drive a hard bargain in nailing down the terms. But what's being gained by disenfranchising Sky and TVN pay-TV viewers?

Channel 7 aims to maximize its audience by inducing people to watch. Fair enough. It sells a suite of expensive advertising around the whole week, aimed right across the consumer base. It can claim to its advertisers, rightly, that it’s the only medium where the races can be seen live, except on-course, and it achieves ratings, especially on Cup Day itself, which justify the advertising rates.

Then there are the Sky and TVN viewers. I suppose some are happy to watch wall-to-wall Channel 7 on these four days, concentrating on just the one meeting, and do make the switch. Not too many I'm picking.

What’s left are we addicts who don’t give a rat’s what Simon Marshall’s kid is wearing to the races or which Channel 7 ‘celebrities’ or other products of indulgent parents are fart-arseing around in the marquees.

In our homes and in the pubs and clubs, we stay stuck to our Sky or TVN, two channels which between them, by the way, can barely sell a non-industry advertisement, such is the narrowness of their viewer base. We do anything to avoid the non-core fare served up on Channel 7 because, for the most part, we find it nauseating. At the death, as the last horses are loaded into the gates, we flick over to Channel 7 to watch the race live. As soon as John Letts has done his bit with the winning jockey we flick back again, hoping to get some insightful analysis from our trusted presenters.

Therefore, we haven’t seen a single Channel 7 advert or piece of self-promotion. Deliberately and happily. There’s not many of us anyway. If there were, Sky and TVN would be able to convince more of the commercial world to buy advertising space. We statistically insignificant people are the ones the VRC and Channel 7 punish for our intransigence. If we are statistically insignificant, what difference would it make if we were allowed to see the races live on the racing channels? It would hardly send Channel 7 out of business. Sky and TVN aren't Nine or Ten.

Melbourne Cup week is one of the world’s premier sporting occasions. It reaches deep into the social fabric of the Australasian community and enjoys an ever-expanding international awareness (witness the lead items on several overseas sports news services, for example).

The proprietors of this festival hold the whip hand. Possibly outside the Olympics once every four years, there’s not another sporting product to rival it. They ought to be doing that little bit better for the loyal customers who are still with them when it’s a Heavy 10 in the middle of July.

An American's Take On The Cup

American racing journalist Dick Powell attended this year's Melbourne Cup. Here's his account, reprinted from Bloodstock Journal on Brisnet of 8 November.

By Dick Powell

In 148 years of running there has never been a dead heat for win in the Melbourne Cup (Aus-G1). On Tuesday, we almost had one but enough history was made to more than make up for it.

On a sunny, cool, windswept day, Bart Cummings won his record 12th Melbourne Cup and 250th Group 1 stakes when longshot VIEWED (Scenic [Ire]) held on by a desperate nose under a fantastic ride by 21-year-old Blake Shinn. Denied glory was European invader BAUER (Halling) who had every shot to go by in the final yards, looked like he did when his rider Corey Brown was ahead of Shinn at the wire, and then saw the result of the photo with Viewed holding on by what should be termed "anything closer would be a dead heat."

After the race, Brown was inconsolable. It's one thing to run second -- it's another to think that you have won and then find that you didn't. For trainer Luca Cumani, it was the second year in a row that one of his charges suffered a heartbreaking defeat. Last year, PURPLE MOON (Galileo [Ire]) had a clear lead in the stretch before being run down by EFFICIENT (Zabeel) in the final yards. This year, Cumani's Bauer was making up ground with every stride before falling a nose short. It was a cruel day for many but not for the man they call the "Cups King."

It's good to be the King and Cummings is all of that. Despite the presence of eight European invaders the Cup stayed in Australia even though many Melbourne newspapers were predicting that the home team might not ever win again.

Two years ago, Aidan O'Brien brought champion stayer YEATS (Ire) (Sadler's Wells) to the Melbourne Cup and he failed miserably. Last year, O'Brien brought SCORPION (Ire) (Montjeu [Ire]), who was scratched because of a career-ending injury, and MAHLER (Galileo [Ire]), who ran a good third while disputing the pace. The Melbourne Cup is a two-mile handicap and a great horse will have to not only carry high weight but concede to very capable distance specialists. It takes the right kind of horse to win the Melbourne Cup and O'Brien thought he had him with SEPTIMUS (Sadler's Wells) who won the Irish St. Leger (Ire-G1) by 13 lengths in his last start.

The Melbourne Cup is usually run with a strong pace out of the gate and down the home straightaway the first time. When the horses settle into position as they go around the first turn, the pace usually slows to a crawl and it's then a matter of biding time until the last three furlongs. The wide, sweeping nature of the second turn enables the horses running behind to get clear sailing and it's a mad scramble to the wire. O'Brien did not feel that this kind of pace scenario would suit Septimus and he brought along HONOLULU (Ire) (Montjeu [Ire]) and ALESSANDRO VOLTA (Montjeu [Ire]) to insure that the pace would be strong and even throughout.

All week O'Brien made no secret of what his tactics would be and when the gate opened and the field of 22 was sent on its way, everything went according to plan. However, all week O'Brien publicly worried about the condition of the turf and made it clear that his runners would not like it too firm as Flemington Racecourse had been. Southern Australia has been in a long-term drought and the turf courses have been very firm. Even with overnight watering, the course would start out with some give and then firm up as the sun and wind dried it out.

On Tuesday, the course started out rated as "Dead Four" which for comparison purposes would be between good to firm in America. During the day it was then changed to a much firmer "Good Three." Co-owners Derrick Smith and Tom Magnier made no secret of the fact that if the course were not watered enough and it played like it did on Saturday they would scratch Septimus. When the course rating was changed they had the opportunity to scratch any or all of their three entrants but they, along with O'Brien, decided to give it a shot.

As the field settled itself out and they went around the first turn, Johnny Murtagh had Septimus prominently placed and Wayne Lordan took over the lead aboard Alessandro Volta with Honolulu right off their flank. At the point of the race where the Melbourne Cup usually slows to a crawl, the O'Brien-trained trio separated themselves from the rest of the field and covered the first 1,600 meters (just under a mile) in 1:40.8.

At this point it looked like the O'Brien tactics were working like a charm but they continued on a relentless pace with no letup. They were going to take the late kick out of the closers by forcing them to use too much energy to keep up. Unfortunately, the rest of the field pretty much ignored them and ran the way they were most comfortable.

With more than a half-mile to go, the two pacemakers not only tired but dropped back suddenly leaving Septimus completely exposed. The field was catching up and at the top of the stretch they began to swoop by with Septimus offering little resistance as his stride shortened noticeably.

The first to strike was Viewed and for a while it looked like Shinn had attacked too soon. But what made Shinn's move so successful was that he did not hesitate for a moment. He didn't want the lead more than a quarter-mile from the wire but when the front runners stopped he seized the moment and the Cup itself. Viewed, one of two entrants trained by Cummings, opened a clear lead with a furlong to go and the only real threat was coming from Bauer.

Unlike O'Brien, Cumani has prepped his Melbourne Cup starters with a race in Australia. This year, he ran Mad Rush (Lemon Drop Kid) in the Caulfield Cup (Aus-G1) where he was a tough-trip fourth and Bauer in the Geelong Cup (Aus-G3) which he won. O'Brien has chosen to ship in later, go through quarantine and train them for the race off a layoff.

In America, we define a layoff of at least a month but many of Tuesday's starters not only raced in the Caulfield Cup on October 18 but some competed in the Cox Plate (Aus-G1) on October 25 and/or the Mackinnon Stakes (Aus-G1) which was run on Saturday. Some also ran on Saturday in the Saab Quality S. (Aus-G3) with only a three-day rest before a two-mile handicap.

Mad Rush was the more fancied of the Cumani pair but it was Bauer that was making the mad rush to the finish. It fell a nose short and Bart Cummings had a dozen Melbourne Cups in his possession. Immediately after the race, there was talk of a baker's dozen for Bart since Viewed is only five years old and he has MOATIZE (Danehill Dancer), who won the Saab Quality and finished sixth in the Melbourne Cup, and DANDAAD (Istidaad) who won the Long Black Handicap at 2,800 meters earlier on the card.

For Shinn it was vindication and reward for an aggressive move that looked premature but turned out to be prescient. Had he been caught, he would have had to live with being known as the rider that blew Bart's 12th Melbourne Cup by moving too soon. Instead, he won the photo and gets Melbourne Cup win number one out of the way.

As exciting as Melbourne Cup 148 was, the fireworks were just beginning. The stewards called in the riders from the O'Brien team after the race and questioned their tactics. Considering that Septimus finished 18th, Alessandro Volta finished 20th and Honolulu finished 21st, this seemed to be unnecessary but Australia does have a rule that each horse has to be ridden in a way that ensures the best possible place in the field. Obviously, a rabbit is in the race to ensure the best possible place of his stablemate but O'Brien had said all along that this was how these three horses run.

Both Septimus and Honolulu pulled up lame after the race and O'Brien now was second-guessing not only his strategy but even running them in the first place. He said the course was like concrete after being promised that it would be watered sufficiently. But his day was not over.

Ninety minutes after the race was over, O'Brien was summoned back to the track to answer the stewards' questions about riding tactics that the riders had already given them. O'Brien was rightfully upset that he and his riders' integrity were being challenged. The fact that all three went out, set the pace, and tired badly had O'Brien, tongue planted not-so-firmly in cheek, ask the stewards "Do you think we were running our horses for Bart Cummings?" Even chief steward Terry Bailey had to respond, "I wouldn't have thought so."

I can understand the stewards doing their job and enforcing the rules of Australian racing. The betting public needs to be protected and each horse should only be entered and ridden with the best possible placing in mind.

But what about all the horses in the race that showed virtually no recent form and suddenly blossomed when history and big money is on the line? Do the stewards go back and question why Viewed ran dead last in Saturday's Mackinnon? Do they call in Viewed's rider that day, Steve Arnold, and question him about what instructions were given to him with the Melbourne Cup only three days away? What about all the trainers that avoid winning the prep races so as not to pick up a weight penalty? How is the betting public's interest protected when horses are entered in races and there appears to be a lack of effort because bigger races are on the horizon?

Australia has this rule and it's a good one but it is only a good one if it is enforced unilaterally. It was a bad day for O'Brien and it could not have been a happy plane ride back to Ireland for the team. Besides the stewards' inquisition, the Australian media has been brutal on him

One other thing that Cumani and others do is use Australian jockeys in the Melbourne Cup. Cumani had Damien Oliver, who has won two Cups, aboard Mad Rush and Brown aboard Bauer. Dermot Weld, who has won two Melbourne Cups, one with Ireland's Mick Kinane and the other with Oliver, used Glen Boss, winner of three Cups aboard the immortal Makybe Diva, on PROFOUND BEAUTY (Danehill). O'Brien brought his own riders, decided against a prep race and went home with an ignominious ending to a season that at one point looked like he was going to set a record for Group 1 stakes wins.

Beneath O'Brien's placid exterior is a burning passion for success. I have to assume that he and Team Coolmore will regroup and plan another raid down under next year with a vengeance. But, they will have to show some flexibility in selection of horses and tactics. Next year's Cup will be extremely difficult for anyone to win; even Bart Cummings. The Japanese, who ran first and second in 2006, should be over their Equine Influenza issues by then and two miles on firm ground is right up their alley. Cumani will be a force again and Profound Beauty ran a gigantic race to be fifth for Weld. Godolphin had horrible luck when ALL THE GOOD (Diesis [GB]), winner of the Caulfield Cup when Viewed ran 10th, came up injured the week of the race and they will be back next year as well.

There are many things to like about Australian racing. In the track program, every imaginable equipment change is listed. In a section called "Today's Gear Information," details on blinkers, bandages, glue on shoes, bar shoes, cross over nosebands, lugging bit, tongue tie and winkers are listed at the time of entry.

On Saturday's card that was highlighted by the Victoria Derby (Aus-G1), an announcement was made two races in advance that the probable heavy favorite, WHOBEGOTYOU (Street Cry [Ire]), had suffered an injury in shipping to Flemington and had been examined by the attending vets for contusions on one of his forelegs. He passed inspection but no piece of information about the horses is too small to be communicated to the bettors.

Flemington Racecourse is a big, expansive track that handles the six-figure crowds quite well. Saturday's Derby card saw 117,700 attend and while there were long lines to bet it was comfortable. I purchased my seat online like anyone else and due to the luck of going online the day that they went on sale it was right on the finish line in the Hill Stand. I can't imagine having that opportunity in any major American race.

The train system in Flemington is fantastic. They have constant service for their four major race days of the Spring Racing Carnival and most take advantage of it. I walked from my hotel to the Flinders Street Station on the two days of racing that I attended, got aboard with thousands of other racegoers and was at the track in twenty minutes. The train arrived behind the track as close as Union Avenue is to the Saratoga grandstand. Leaving the track was even easier.

Because of the long lines to bet I made most of my plays through the many licensed bookmakers at the track. If you want to make exotic bets you have to get on line and bet with the tote but if you bet win and place -- as most people do -- the bookmakers are a convenient option.

Two factors with betting with bookmakers are worth noting. First, most of the money comes in early. If a big bettor likes a line that is being offered they grab it and do not wait until the last second like tote betting. When I arrived on Tuesday, Septimus was offered at 6-1 odds. Even with the firm ground, I thought that was a very fair price and took it. Second, by post time, he had drifted up to 7-1 meaning that not only could I have gotten better odds had I waited but the money was going elsewhere and there was little confidence in his chances. The favorite wound up being Mad Rush at 9-2 but the horse that dropped the most was Profound Beauty who was quoted at 7.5 to 1 near post time.

We all complain in America about late odds changes but the reality is that many horse's odds go up at the last second as go down. Fixed odds wagering is great and if given the chance I would always use it but there is a downside to it when you are locked into a price that is going the wrong way.

Melbourne is a long way from home and the Albany/Baltimore/Nashville/Los Angeles/Auckland/Melbourne journey is grueling to say the least. But if finances permit it, I'll be back. It was that good.

Steve adds:
NB: regarding on-line booking, I have booked seats on-line for Del Mar long before leaving Australia for the southern Californian meeting (Clubhouse, pictured above)and, depending on what you wanted to pay, the options were excellent. A few years ago, for US$8 a day, I had entry and a reserved seat in the grandstand opposite the winning post for the whole fortnight I was there. The first day I arrived I fronted up at the Will Call window and the tickets were there as booked, waiting for me. No one ever mistakenly sat in my seat, the place was as clean as a whistle, there were no drunken louts abusing me as I left the track and no one vomiting on the train station platform (because there isn't one). One of the most pleasant parts of the experience was to go to the organised trackwork sessions in the morning (around 7.30 a.m.), breakfasting al fresco in the grandstand while noted former jockeys and personalities wander around with a remote microphone giving all the details of the workouts happening in front of you. The weather always seemed good and the prices very reasonable. They are getting out of hand for the average family in Australia. After paying entry and racebooks for a couple of adults on some of these big days, how much do people have left to bet with? Every time you spend a dollar at the windows you are contributing something to help pay for putting on the show. Turnover is the name of the game in racing, that's why gate prices should be cheaper than other forms of entertainment or sport.

Sounds Irish

You have to have a Ph.D. to understand the racename merry-go-round played by the VRC. Swick’s win in the G1 Patinack Farm VRC Classic on Saturday reminded me.

Let me quote from Racing In Australia, published by The Thoroughbred:

“For almost half a century the Salinger Stakes (once known as the Craven A Stakes) has been the premier sprint race down the famous Flemington straight 1200m course during the Melbourne Cup carnival.

“In 2007, the VRC took the major step of not only relocating the Group 1 sprint from Derby Day to Final Day, but also changing the conditions from a handicap to weight-for-age. To add confusion to the mix, the old sponsor Seppelts Salinger preferred to remain part of Derby Day, so the “old The Age Classic (formerly raced on Oaks Day and then Final Day as the Linlithgow Stakes at weight-for-age) was moved to Derby Day and renamed the Group 2 Salinger Stakes (1200m).”

Are you with me?

So Swick (NZ) has done the only logical thing and won both of them. He won the Salinger in 2007 which was a G2 race, not a G1, for the first time that year, even though it really wasn’t the Salinger, it was The Age Classic. He made up for that this year when he won the G1 VRC Classic, even though it really wasn’t the VRC Classic, it was the Salinger.

Are you still with me?

Anyway, the win by the very consistent Swick highlighted a notable day for his sire O’Reilly (NZ) (Last Tycoon (Ire)-Courtza (NZ), by Pompeii Court (USA)). Eight of his 10 runners on the day – two bush results are still to come – provided four winners including one other at Flemington, Vigor (NZ).

Equally significant, his daughters were represented by only two runners in NZ and both won black-type races. Daffodil (by No Excuse Needed (GB)-Spring) took out the G1 NZ Thousand Guineas at Riccarton Park and Tootsie (by Pins-Hyades) won the Listed sprint at Te Rapa. Though he’s only 15 years old, O’Reilly is already the broodmare sire of seven stakeswinners.

Check out the results of the two 2500m stakes races run on Saturday in Australasia. Stand Tall won the G3 Gold Club Metropolitan Trophy at Riccarton Park. He’s by Zabeel (NZ) (out of Grand Archway). Capecover (NZ) won the G3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington. He’s out of a Zabeel mare.

It’s a disease.

STOP PRESS: one of the two O'Reilly bush results is in and would you believe Sylvan O'Reilly has won the $52,500 Ararat Gold Cup (a bush race?). So that's 5 winners from 9 known runners by the sire. Not bad. Big day also for O'Reilly's owner Garry Chittick: he bred 3 stakeswinners on the day in G1 Daffodil, G1 Swick and LR Tootsie.

Must Mean Something

Of the six richest races of 2000m or further run in Australia and NZ this season to date, Sir Tristram (Ire) features in the pedigrees of the winners of five of them. The Caulfield Cup is the only race he has struck out in.

The winners have been Viewed (Melbourne Cup - sire of the grandam), Maldivian (NZ) (Cox Plate - paternal grandsire via Zabeel), Princess Coup (Kelt Capital Stakes - via broodmare sire Sovereign Red), Rebel Raider (VRC Derby - paternal grandsire via Zabeel and via maternal grandsire Dalmacia) and Samantha Miss (VRC Oaks - via broodmare sire Zabeel).

The closest finisher carrying his blood in the Caulfield Cup was Red Ruler, sixth. Can't figure out what happened there; must have had an off day.

Sam I Am

It’s hard to go past Samantha Miss (3f Redoute’s Choice-Milliyet (NZ), by Zabeel (NZ), pictured) in Thursday’s G1 VRC Oaks, 2500m. She is as dominant a filly in her generation as were recent winners Miss Finland, Serenade Rose and Special Harmony at the same stage in theirs, the only difference being they were all trained in Victoria.

All she’s got to do, and I say all, is prove she’s trained on and prove she can handle 2500m. Flemington should suit her better than Moonee Valley where she briefly got off stride but her closing effort in the G1 W S Cox Plate was meritorious. Her spring preparation has been a model of good timing and she looks as good a stayer as Miss Finland, the fine Redoute’s Choice filly who won this in 2006.

Kimillsy (3f Danehill Dancer (Ire)-Lady Fidelia, by Snippets) should have won Saturday’s G2 Wakeful Stakes quite easily; hers was the best run in the race which is frequently a good guide. A Danehill Dancer filly, Arapaho Miss, won the race last year but as this Cup carnival has illustrated graphically through the success of interstate horses, the class of 2007 in Melbourne left something to be desired. Four of the top chances this year are trained in NSW. The Danehill Dancers which genuinely stay are in the minority though we saw Moatize run a bottler in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Out of a Snippets mare then a Biscay mare, Kimillsy doesn’t appear to have the pedigree for 2500m but she will get a cheap run from gate two and ought to be in the finish though, like every other filly from Sydney, Samantha Miss has always had her measure.

Seven fillies carry the blood of the number one stamina influence, Sir Tristram (Ire). To save you looking them up they are Samantha Miss, Rocha, Oval Affair, Miss Scarlatti (NZ), Tobouggie Woogie, Allez Wonder and Poco Gusto. It's 16 years since the last NZ-bred won this classic, Slight Chance (NZ) in 1992. Miss Scarlatti (NZ) is the only hope this year but if Samantha Miss does the business at least it can be said she was bred by Kiwis!

Bart has won the race eight times and has two engaged, Think Money (3f Danehill Dancer (Ire)-Ponziani (NZ), by Nassipour (USA)) and Allez Wonder (3f Redoute’s Choice-Luna Tudor, by Military Plume (NZ)). Both are maidens, both have the Cummings trademark running style of getting back and getting home, and both are owned, wholly or in part, by Dato Tan Chin Nam. Lee Freedman is a four-time winner with a superbly-bred and in-form pair this year, Miss Scarlatti (NZ) (3f Stravinsky (USA)-Crimson, by Zabeel (NZ)) and Estee (3f Redoute’s Choice-Tycoon Lil, by Last Tycoon (Ire)).

Unlike the VRC Derby, who moans and groans about the VRC Oaks being 2500m and too taxing on the fillies at this time of year? Owners of fillies who are often also breeders will grab any chance to get black type so in they go. In the long run, you don’t run value off a filly for the odd over-ambitious failed attempt. When people look at dams' records in a catalogue they basically take regard of the races shown, not the ones which aren’t, whereas most bad runs are used in evidence against an aspiring young stallion.

How many times do you hear, “She’s a nice mare, she was stakes placed", as against “No stud would have him, he’s only stakes placed.”

I wonder if the Sex Discrimination Commissioner knows about this?


Bishop's Disease must be catching. Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, and I suppose I should be grateful somebody reads my blog. A Melbourne Cup story appearing in the breeding section of the nation’s number one racing website bears a more than passing resemblance to my blog, below. Journos are a lazy mob. I know. Thirty years ago I was one.