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31 March 2011

The Romance of the Turf

"It follows that these pieces are some small celebration of that cliche they call the romance of the turf, this is the fine thread.  This romance, this pursuit of dreams, is what makes the turf special.  If you like gambling, there are poker machines.  If you like speed contests, late-night television is frequently a snarl of Formula One fury.
The turf is more than these things.  There must, for instance, be a romance, or at least some strange force, which propels otherwise intelligent people out of bed two hours before dawn to work four horses, all of them fundamentally flawed...
The great thing about racing in Australia is that it is rotten with democracy.  This is what distinguishes it most from Europe and North America.  And just when they say this democracy is dead, flattened by big cheque books ... Vic Rail, hefting an old Syd Hill saddle and wearing jeans with air-conditioning vents, steals the Melbourne autumn and is seen heading off for drinks with baronets and premiers.
The ultimate tease, you see, is this:  on the turf in Australia, and unlike quests for fountains of youth and holy grails, the dreams do sometimes come true".

Les Carlyon.  August 1988.  "Chasing a Dream"

Perhaps this is why I cannot give the track, and the horses up?  Am I being selfish, and am I too consumed Chasing a Dream? Or is it also partly that, in addition to this great loves of the horses, and horses in general, perhaps it is because photographing horses, and thoroughbreds at that, is the one thing that I have ever been truly good at?  I do not know.  All I know is that there is truth to the saying a straw can break a camel's back.

We hit the highway tomorrow, bound for Sydney, and with it the Slipper, the Inglis Easter Yearling Sales, and then the following Saturday the great Black Caviar will be waiting for me at Royal Randwick.  It will be good to get away.............   Horses rarely let you down.

29 March 2011

The Queen of Queanbeyan's Final Countdown

It is officially Slipper Week.

I skipped across town this morning, again relentlessly getting my children dressed, fed and ready for school much earlier than usual.  There were pony photographs at stake!  So having done a mafia style drop off to my friend Charo's house, who will take them to school for me (humm, did I actually say goodbye???) I bolted across town heading for Neville Layt's stables and my filly, Karuta Queen, or Lilly as she's known about the stables.  

Arriving just before the scheduled time of 8am (hurrah, on time, feel small sense of achievement, however I can usually be on time when there is a pony involved), Karuta Queen was still in her box.  A very lovely journalist, James Buckley, from the Canberra Times was there, along with a photographer from the paper.  James had arranged the reproduction in the Canbera Times of the image I took of the filly after being hosed  in the week before the Black Opal, and he's a nice chap.

Karuta Queen, or "Lilly" with trainer Neville Layt

Lilly was impatient to get going, so Neville asked that she be saddled up, and we all headed down the track to watch her work.  
Karuta Queen sizzles on the track.  Given the course proper to gallop on, she breezed home in 32.7 for the last 600m and 21.9 for the last 400m.  That's really good work.

After she worked, we all returned to the stables, which was when I heard the times she ran.  They are apparently very good.  She was out to run 'as hard as she can go', and apparently ran the last 600m in 32.7 and the last 400m in 21.9 and that's apparently v quick.  I read in a news article yesterday that the filly's white blood cell count was elevated immediately after the Black Opal.  Perhaps that explains her below par performance?  Freelance has had a couple of viruses, where bloods have shown the white cell count to be high, and omigod, what an absolute misery she was, so surely that could well account for the defeat in the Black Opal.

A groom, scrub and a polish was next on the menu.  She's ticklish, and pulls faces when being brushed, but there is no malice in it, although it's clear she likes things done her way. 

"I said gentle with that brush!"

The great mare Sunline used to do this.  A good omen for Saturday?  I like to think so.


I watched the barrier draw that was televised on Sky Racing.  Groan - she's drawn barrier 13!!!!  Her odds are currently $17.00 and apparently no horse has ever won the Slipper from that barrier.  Not so good.  Still, the filly doesn't know that, and there's usually a little bit of attrition in the week leading up to the Slipper, and you never know, if a runner inside of her is withdrawn, then all of a sudden she's not in that barrier anymore, is she!

See you on Saturday filly!

24 March 2011

Basil is home... But not in one piece

Basil, brave loyal kitty that he is, has made it home to my sister's house.  He was hit by a car yesterday, and has a badly broken pelvis and suffering from shock and hyperthermia.  He woke them at 1.30am, after dragging himself home by his front legs...  Because of the amount of times I visit my sister's house in Preston, and the fact that, despite the fact that I am a cat person at heart but am now relegated to two dog and NO cats, Basil is close to the heart as well.  He's in the Kitty Hospital.

Oh kitty....

Basil and the Bunny, 1 November 2010, the day before the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup.  The neighbours bunny came to the yard for a visit.  It was really very funny.

This is Basil, on the day the great So You Think had left Saintly Place.  I'd been out that morning to see the horse depart, and came home, and wandered about my sister's house in a little bit of a daze, with Basil keeping Jessica and me company.