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31 May 2014

Happy Days

The days seem lovely at the moment.  My mare is here, and somehow many things seem right in the world.  In recent news it was announced that the gorgeous Fiorente is going to stand at stud right here in Victoria at Eliza Park Stud.  

I'm delighted about this.  He's a smashing horse.  A real individual.  And I loved him as a racehorse and I hope I come to love him as a stallion as well.  His breeding is different.  He's an Irish bred stallion, from the Germany stallion Monsun.  I'm not familiar with this sireline, however he's a prolific sire of G1 winners in the Northern Hemisphere, including sons Manduro and Novelist.  He joins fellow Melbourne Cup winner Americain at stud in Victoria and will I hope lead a resurgence of Australian bred stayers that can begin competing with the current dominance of the northern hemisphere bred stayer.  A girl can hope...

29 May 2014

Coming Home

Freelance came home yesterday.  I spent the day before her arrival arranging feed bins and checking out her paddock and getting rugs, etc, organised.  The morning of her arrival I saw some of my friends at school, breathlessly told them my mare was arriving, and then went off to buy dinner for the evening and horse feed for her.  

I got to her new home about 30 minutes before the truck was due.  I'm out of practice lifting heavy feed bags.  I must be going soft

I had wanted to take photos of the truck, and of her getting off, and all of those things.  In the end I was too busy helping the lovely Tazzie turn the truck around and getting Freelance of the truck.  The truck was huge.  The mare heard my voice and I could hear her calling me before the truck gate came down.  When the gate opened she looked at me, a bit bewildered and disbelieving.  I guess I felt the same way.  My once pristine looking mare was covered in mud, courtesy of Freelance deciding that a mud spa bath in her Bungendore paddock would be an ace idea the day before her departure.  I winced slightly, but that didn't last long when she put her head into my hands.  I turned her around quietly and lead her down the ramp.  She flared her nostrils and trod gingerly, but thankfully she was too sensible for any hysterics. 

I thought I'd cry.  I almost did, but I think I was too happy to cry.  Once off the truck she wheeled around a few times, eyes wide, but she was far calmer than her arrival at Bungendore.  She'd whistled and snorted for half an hour on arriving at Wyndarra.  Was it because she came home to me that she was quiet and calm?  Was it the sea air that she could have smelt?  Or was it the fatigue of an 11 hour float drive the night before?  I'll never know.  But my lovely mare took less than 30 seconds to drop her head on the lush grass and begin to graze.

After this I popped her in a yard and gave her a feed.  For a short while she looked stressed and she tucked up in the flanks.  I always get a worried knot in my stomach when she does this.  However once Tazzie had left I returned to the mare and got my brushes out.  Gradually the worried look left her face, she began to eat, and her flanks relaxed, and after some determined brushing, my beautiful mare began to emerge from the dust and grime that coated her.  I probably fiddled about with her for a good hour, just fussing and hugging her, telling her I'd missed her and how happy I was to have her home.

We then made the short walk to her paddock.  There was a bit of snorting on the way there.  I took a couple of cameras with me, and after a minute on the lead I set her free.  To tell the truth I was really hoping she'd go for a trot and a canter in her new and beautiful paddock.  She didn't.  She walked.  She grazed.  She stopped and stared, then walked again.  Her coat looked much better after all the brushing, and I'd pulled her mane too.  She's little next to Arche.  But so familiar.  She's well trained and she's not prone to naughtiness, and she stands still when I ask her to.  I've had Freelance since she was 5 years old.  And when she was only 7 she had small children around her feet, so it's always been important to me that she was well behaved and respected personal space.  

Next week I'll get on her and see how those legs stand up.  It will be small steps with her.  Short work outs to begin with.  I'm going to get her a permit so I can take her to the beach.  Along with my obvious delight at doing this with her there's the advantage of the salt water for her joints.  It's the best location I could have dared to hope for.

I left her unrugged because it was sunny and I just wanted her to settle.  She normally always wears a rug.  It's better for her coat.  Of course it rained the moment I left, which made me switch straight back into my 'will my horse be cold' worrying.  I picked the kids up and then we all went to put her 'to bed' and the kids were really pretty pleased to see her.  The afternoon was pretty important to me.  There was a lovely moment when watching Freelance following Jessica up to the gate in the paddock without a headstall on.  She's always been so good with my kids.  We fussed and brushed her some more and gave her some dinner.  There were a few more photographs.  Then a rug on for night time.  at this point we investigated the paddock a little bit more.  My attention was turned to Heath running after us.  Not because of him.  But because my mare was trotting after my son.  With a 'wait for me' look to her face.  It was pretty nice.  

It is a lovely paddock.  With a lovely arena, and lovely facilities.  In the best possible location.  We couldn't be happier.  Welcome home Pony..  Welcome home..  We are here.  We are home...

Happiness...  Does it feel complete?  Yes, I think it does.

She's wooly, but looking better after a lot of brushing.  The rugs are back on and it's milder here.  I'm hopeful that my wooly mammoth won't stay quiet so wooly here on the Peninsula.
Freelance did always have a lovely striding walk and trot.  She moves well, does my mare.
Spare a thought for Fred tonight.  He was my friend Angela's horse.  I took this image a few years ago for Angela.  Probably in 2010??  Fred died today.  He was getting on in years and arthritic.  I believe Angela had to have him put down, but I haven't talked to her yet.  We are talking tomorrow.  The loss of Fred made my feeling of relief at having Freelance back with me grow larger.  I always worry about my mare.  I hope that she has a number of years of happiness here in our new home though.

27 May 2014

Shining Jewels?

I popped out to the trials at Cranbourne on Monday morning.  This time I was convinced that a more direct route actually existed, and so rather than take the LONG way around I drove straight up the Peninsula and avoided driving the huge semi circle I did last time.  As a result getting there was a breeze and hardly took anytime. 

Commanding Jewel was running in Trial 1.  In our house we've decided we will call her "CJ".  Her older half sister we got quite fond of when we followed her about a little bit.  Her name was "AJ".  She was Atlantic Jewel.  My little daughter was very fond of her and AJ proved to be like other horses we've encountered who seem to warm to her gentle touch.  AJ is a flighty mare, easily spooked.  Yet look at her with my then 8 year old daughter.

Jessica with her pin up girl "AJ", aka Atlantic Jewel.  Just gorgeous.
There's a little story about these two girls, "AJ" and "CJ" (who I want to call Claudia Jean, after CJ in The West Wing).  Both mares are clearly brilliant but sadly have both also been prone to injury.  The case of the older "AJ" she was trained by Mark Kavanagh and leaped to prominence after winning the 2011 Thousand Guineas and Wakeful Stakes.  A minor injury saw her miss the VRC Oaks for which she was a raging favourite.  That race was won by Mosheen, by 9 lengths.  "AJ" had walloped Mosheen by 6 lengths in the Wakeful!  She returned late in April 2012 for two victories in Sydney, including the G1 All Aged Stakes.  She was preparing for her Spring Carnival campaign when she injured a tendon in August, resulting in her missing her entire 4 year old season.  Her long rehabilitation process was rewarded with on 31 August 2013 with victory in the G1 Memsie.  She was defeated for the first time in the Underwood Stakes by It's a Dundeel, then won the G1 Caulfield Stakes before injuring her tendon again and being retired.  She was sent to Ireland to be mated with champion Galileo.  I hope she one day returns to Australia.

As for "CJ", she's currently on the comeback from a serious hoof injury she sustained during the 2013 Spring Carnival. Her trainer is Leon Corstens.  She won the 2012 Thousand Guineas, which her older half sister AJ won in 2011.  That's a bit of a feat. 

"AJ" and "CJ" are the only live foals born to the Zabeel mare named Regard (Zabeel - Nanshan{IRE}).  Regard was bought by Team Williams in 2004 for $235,000. They apparently thought very highly of the filly however after winning 2 or her only 3 racestarts, Regard sustained and injury and was retired and offered for sale as a broodmare.  A breeder named Greg Perry purchased her at the 2008 Magic Millions broodmare sale for $340,000. At the time of her sale she was in foal to Coolmore's champion stallion Fastnet Rock.  That subsequent foal was "AJ" who was foaled on 26 September 2009.  Coolmore purchased "AJ" out of the Vinery Stud draft for $320,000.

Regard then produced a black filly on 31 October 2010.  The filly was sired by Darley's successful stallion Commands.  She was sold at Magic Millions' 2011 Yearling Sale in January for $205,000. 

After "CJ", Regard had a dead foal to Flying Spur, then failed to get in foal to the same stallion in 2010.  Alas and woe she fractured her verterbae in a paddock accident at Vinery Stud.  The subsequent racetrack deeds of "AJ" and her year younger half sister "CJ" have proved the loss of Regard to be a real tragedy and makes me wonder what might have been.

These are the images of "CJ's" trial.  She ran 2nd and was perhaps disappointing?  I have to admit that despite this I enjoyed every second of being at the Trials and the rest of the day.  To tell the truth, I'm actually hoping "CJ" doesn't go to Queensland and that Leon just fiddles about her here in Victoria and prepares her for the Melbourne Spring Carnival.  

And finally, in a little bit of trivia, my darling Freelance is on her way home.  She left Bungendore at approximately 2pm.  This is an image that Tassie posted to me on FB saying "Mmmuuummmmm - I'm on my way home!!!!!"  She's arriving at 10.30am tomorrow morning.  Tazzie will stable her at Cranbourne tonight and drop her out to me in the morning.  I have arranged my feedbins and they are in place.  I just need to grab her rugs and buy some feed and do some last minute fiddling and be there to greet the truck when it rumbles up the drive. 

24 May 2014


Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday party.  At a pool close by to us. Goodness we love living in Melbourne!  We are gradually getting to be part of the community.  It's a slow process but I like the way the other parents are making my children and I welcome.  The party rules me out of Flemington tomorrow.  That's a bit of a bummer with Belle Couture running. I have been industrious this evening.  Not only have I been Baking Queen and made the birthday cake (I'm beginning to think that I actually only know how to cook one sort of cake, it's a pretty ace one though) and we've made up all of the lolly bags.  On the subject of icing cakes the kids and I have been watching some of my Bewitched DVDs.  I laughed when Samantha frowned at her very wonky hand made icing before fixing it with that fantastic little wiggle she used to do with her nose. 

I thought about Guy Walter a bit more today.  I read that Wendy is going to take over training the horses and that Racing NSW were today approving her trainer's licence.  She must be in shock.  Of course I am only assuming, but they looked close to me.  How do you cope with losing your best friend?  The person you had so much in common with?  It must be very hard for her.  Death is so very sudden, and so very permanent. 

And on the subject of Guy, and on photographers I guess, because this topic is often on my mind, it makes me think of the value of experience.  There are always new, young guns out there.  They are a good thing.  Competition makes all of us work harder.  I think about a trainer like Guy, with all that wise knowledge and experience behind him, and all those photographers I have worked alongside at racecourses in Melbourne.  Many of my photographer friends and colleagues have either already been made redundant or are about to face the same fate in the current axe that Fairfax is wielding.  And I wonder who will they turn to, to get these great images?  Journalists with iPhones??  Will they tell you the images are the same?  Will the journalist have the foresight to get in the right place at exactly the right time?  Will they be able to anticipate the moment before it happens?  Or be able to react swiftly enough?  Will they have a clue about the composition or exposure? 

To finish off I thought you might enjoy a few of the 'old' images from my negative archive which I've been trawling through recently.  The funny thing is we thought our film cameras were the bees knees back then.  I look at the images then and now.  Who'd have thought they would ever get as good as they are now.  Is it As Good As It Gets?  Not yet I hope..  Not yet...

Kenbelle.  Boban's dam.  Who knew!

Dane Ripper
Thorn Park.  No longer with us.  Do you remember Ocean Park who won the Cox Plate in 2012?  It's his sire.

A little filly called Fatoon.  She's a broodmare with her breeder Emirates Park.  She's the dam of Fat Al.

The Warrior...  Grand Armee demolishes the field in the 2003 Doncaster Handicap.  From memory Lonhro ran unplaced?  Gloomy, wet and miserable day.  Cool lens though..  The 400mm f2.8 from my dear friend Julie.
Northerly.  2002 Caulfield Cup.  Incredible horse.