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28 November 2011

Water Queen - Black Caviar at the Beach...

Last month I spent most of my time in Melbourne.  It's like a second home for me, with many of my best friends there, and also of course the vast majority of my family.  If it weren't for my Mum being in Sydney, and my brother and his kids being in Canberra, and my kids in a very good school here in Canberra, I would move to Melbourne yesterday.  One of the things I've often sighed about, over the course of the past 10 years, since the kids were born and photographing at the track became a little bit more problematic, was the difficulty in getting to things like trackwork, or down the beach, or just to the stables, like I used to before they were born.  My son being a Type 1 Diabetic since 18 months old didn't help this at all, and there were many times I yearned for the days of being at the track all the time, or just popping down to Flemington in the afternoon to catch horses having a pick (ie - a walk and a graze), and/or having a swim in the pool.

I have to admit that I didn't do much trackwork this spring, but I did have several early rises, two of which were to follow that Famous Pony of mine, the great champion Black Caviar, or "Nelly" as the Moody team affectionately call her, to the beach.  A few of the images were run in the papers, and I'm grateful to her trainer for letting me tag along. 

The first visit was on Tuesday 11 October.  It was wickedly cold that morning, with Melbourne in the grip of a nasty cold front.  Port Phillip Bay is usually pretty serene and even when 'rough' compared to where I am used to swimming at Tathra on the NSW Coast, it's pretty tame.  However the surf was flying all around Nelly, and the water was unquestionably cold.  Her strapper, Zach Ianson, who's a lovely chap (Donna doesn't take her to the beach, or at least hasn't on the occasions I have been) started off with a jacket, but would have been better suited in a wetsuit!  You'll witness the later shot where the jacket is missing.  That's after he was bowled over completely and discarded it.  Nelly, like the Queen she is, kept her feet!  That's my girl!

The 2nd visit was on Saturday 29th October, which also happened to be VRC Derby Day.  That's a long day anyway behind the lens, with 5 Group 1 races, and the other 4 all Group 2s or 3s, finishing off with the barrier draw.  Throw into the mix getting up at 4am to drive from Preston to Caulfield, then on to the beach, and it was a long day!

Tuesday 11 October 2011.  My first session with Nelly at the beach, with young strapper Zach Ianson. 

Saturday 29th October 2011.  VRC Derby Morning.  Driving to the beach behind Nelly at 5.25am..  I wondered, as we travelled, whether anyone glanced at the truck, and wondered whether the fastest racehorse in the world was on board?  It was dark.  And raining..
Arriving at the beach..  Still dark..  Still raining.. Problematic conditions for a photographer.  On the way there, I'd begun praying for red lights to make the trip take a little longer in order for the light to improve a little bit.  As always whenever you need a red light you won't get one, and vice versa!!!
In the water with her strapper Zach Ianson.  A terrific young bloke....  The rain broke for a short while, but it was still pressingly dark.  My treasured D3s tried valiently to focus correctly in the dark... and gasped for more light....

"Look Nelly, look at the puppy!"


More puppies....

The rain came down again, so alas, just as the light was beginning to be workable in, the beach session was cut short, but as always, Nelly must come first.

25 November 2011

America gets a turn of our Black Horse.

The concept of shuttle stallions is now well and truly established in the Thoroughbred Industry.  Global operations like Darley and Coolmore have multiple farms in America, Ireland/England, Australia, and in Darley's case, Japan.  John Messara, of Arrowfield Stud, can arguably lay claim to being the man behind the whole shuttle stallion concept in Australia, and it's overwhelming success, because of his selection and subsequent half share purchase in the mighty stallion Danehill.  Messara's stallion roster is now actually 100% Australian bred, but his stallion All American (Red Ransom - Milva) was I think the first Australian bred stallion to shuttle to an American farm.  Previously stallions have shuttled from Australia to the northern hemisphere, but their destinations have largely been to Europe, with Octagonal, Fastnet Rock, Choisir, Starspangledbanner, Encosta de Lago and Exceed and Excel all serving in the northern hemisphere.

This year however, an absolute great of the Australian turf, and now breeding industry, will become the 2nd Australian bred horse to shuttle to the United States of the America, with the news that Lonhro (Octagonal - Shadea) will this year travel to Darley's Jonabell Farm in the Bluegrass of Kentucky.  This near black stallion was Champion Racehorse of Australia in 2004.  He won 11 Group 1 races, including the Caulfield Guineas, Caulfield Stakes (twice), George Ryder Stakes (twice), Queen Elizabeth Stakes, George Main Stakes, CF Orr Stakes, Australian Cup, MacKinnon Stakes and the Chipping Norton Stakes.

Lonhro the Racehorse.  Winning 1 of his 11 Group 1 races, the 2003 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).

Lonhro winning his 11th Group 1 race, the 2004 George Ryder Stakes (1500m).

Then in 2010-2011 he joined the great Vain as the only Racehorse of the Year to also become Champion Stallion of Australia.  He is pictured here at Darley's Aberdeen Stud in the Hunter Valley of NSW.  We took these images on 31 August 2011, the day before the formal start of the 2011-2012 breeding season.

Lonhro at stud, at Darley Kelvinside.  Aberdeen NSW.

So America.  Enjoy  him.  He's a superstar.  You are so lucky that he is coming across.  Take care of him, and send him home safely to us here in Australia.  We love him dearly.  He's a superstar, and a truly great stallion.  And from my own point of view, having seen the absolute professionalism and care that Darley lavish on their horses, and their stallions in particular, I am absolutely sure that the great Lonhro will be in good hands during his stay on American soil.