Forget the Royal Wedding – here’s how to win the Get-Out Stakes.

April 29, 2011

There’s something special about backing the winner of the last.

Find the winner of the first? At 12.05? No-one cares. Still thirty contests to go.

But at day’s end, with shadows lengthening and funds dangerously low, victory is sweet.

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, it provides bus fare home. Or dinner. Perhaps a final cleansing ale. Maybe all three.

As a young bloke, when punting was done either at the pub or on track, it seemed that Sydney was the venue we’d be trying to get out on.

I don’t know why. I’m sure there were other races around, but that was our cut-off from the punt to the pool table.

Over the years, the Get-Out stakes moved, and got later.

Adelaide was a favourite. Still is for many. Sometimes the Gold Coast. One final crack before settling. The result often depended on the frequency of refreshments.

Now, it’s never-ending. Perth and Toowoomba run into the evening. Want more? They’ll be running somewhere overseas till midnight.

For most, however, an end of daylight dictates we declare a ceasefire. Or for those stay-at-home punters, when the Treasurer orders the BBQ to be fired up.

Are there rules to ensure victory at day’s end? Of course there are. I just wish I knew what they were. No-one will tell me. So, you’ll have to make do with the following. If you’re not careful, this could change the way you place your final bet.

I’ve always believed that certain jockeys are more likely to get the cash in the last on the card. And it’s all Mick Dittman’s fault.

The Enforcer is the best I’ve seen. Better than Beadman, Quinton and Oliver. The great George Moore and Scobie Breasley were too early for me. I saw Roy Higgins and Harry White as their marvellous careers ended. But no-one carried my cash better than the Enforcer.

From the late seventies, it seemed that Mighty Mick was riding the winner of the last. Forget the form. Time and again, he’d get our gang out of strife. Mostly favourites. The odd longshot. With delightful regularity.

Of course, it helped that Mick was so gifted. But there was something more to it. I always sensed that this great competitor wanted to leave the jockeys room on top. On the rare occasion that he’d gone without an earlier winner, we’d double up for his final ride.

All jockeys want to win. Australia is blessed with the most talented, courageous and hard-working hoops in the world. It’s just that by the end of a long day in the silks, some want it more than others. It’s a hunger.

Like the rest of us, focus can stray ever so slightly in the last ten minutes of the working day. Dittman wanted to be first even if they were riding rocking-horses in the dark.

Now, I hear some of you yelling at your screen, demanding evidence before you fork our your hard-earned. Well, I’m happy to say that there is none. My form sheets were soaked by Tooheys and XXXX long ago. (That’s the beauty of this blog – no boring computer-based statistics. Just lots of half-baked theories that you’ll be able to blow apart next week.)

Since the Dittman days, plenty of others have filled the bill in my Last Of The Day system. The likes of Cassidy (Jim), Oliver and Scriven have all helped pay the bills.

Who are they today? Well, here goes. And remember, this isn’t a guide to the best jockey. Just the one we’re backing to win at day’s end.

Brisbane is tough. So many great riders at present, all gunning to be top gun. Stathi was the one, God rest his soul. Now, hard to split Damian Brown and Chris Munce come Race 8.

The system falls down a bit in Melbourne because of the dominance of the Moody stable. Stay with Luke Nolan.

It’s hard not to back Simon Price at the end of the day in Adelaide. Consistent and competitive for so long.

The bloke who seems to ride winners at the end of the day in Sydney is Tim Clark. Not the biggest name, granted. But he salutes regularly. And usually at odds.

And I always keep an eye on Dean Tanti at the Gold Coast.

So, where does that leave us this weekend. Chris Munce coming from barrier 1 at Eagle Farm. Nolan is in action in the last at Caulfield, but not for Moody. No Sydney meeting, and Clark without a ride at the end of the day at Hawkesbury. No ride for Price at Morphettville. And Tanti riding on the Coast.

Oh, I should have mentioned, the system goes out the window in the wet. Like all my other punting instincts.

So, there it is. A new way to get out. Or go under. Good luck. We’ll see how we go in the coming weeks. I should add that I forget to follow it sometimes. Tips and old favourites can sidetrack me. For better or worse.

Now remember, tread carefully. This comes from a bloke who once went five months without backing a winner. Seemed like it anyway. That’s a story for another day.

A lady with attitude and a runny nose – Chelsea brings some joy to the world.

April 26, 2011

It was hardly appropriate behaviour in the house of God. Even I knew that. The person just up from me was out of control. There was screaming. Punching. Tears. At one stage, a grab was made at the breast of the woman next to her. Outrageous.

Those in the front row were doing their best to find a solution to the chaos. Soothing words. Shiny objects. Cuddles. Nothing worked. There were stares from others, obviously more accustomed to quiet reflection in church.

 The wonderful thing about being 16 months old is that you don’t care. Chelsea didn’t tell me that herself, but I’m guessing she lost no sleep over the unholy outburst. After all, it was her big day. She could do what she liked.

We spent Easter Sunday at the christening of a special little girl. A very loud girl. Surely no carol has been sung with such gusto in that Cairns church than the notes she reached from Pew One.

Christenings are good spectator sport. It’s a group activity. Others are there doing the same thing. Sort of a spiritual buffet. Comparisons are inevitable. Which frock is whitest. Who has the brightest candle. That sort of thing.

Each party was given their own row. We were on the right hand side. From what I could see, amid the thrashing going on along our bench, the other babies had their best manners on show. The mob in the centre row would send a look our way every now and then, with the slightest hint of smug.

Granted, their little bloke was doing everything right in his first start. No tears. Big smiles at Grandma. No throwing shoes at the priest. Ticking all the boxes.

All smooth sailing on the left row too. Their party was perfect at repeating the bits from the little blue book. The bub wasn’t even fiddling with the bow in her hair. Unlike Chelsea, who by now had a stream of nasal discharge pooling on the church floor.

It got me thinking. Could this be the next reality tv series? The Biggest Baptism? My Christening Frock Rules? Each row could be a different colour. Cameras at home, and outside the church. Candid interviews with the priest on how he wanted to throw that noisy lot out. Troublemakers eliminated, so that only the shiniest, holiest survive. We could be on to something.

After a painful, ear-splitting half hour, we were almost done. Chelsea was now hanging upside down, frilly-socked feet in the air, as we hit the home turn. Her loving parents were a deep shade of red. Team Perfect across the aisle had progressed to head shaking.

The Treasurer had a role in proceedings too. She had to bring forward the new dress. When she was asked. All part of the ceremony apparently. But there was a problem. She left the gates early.

The starter, Father Martin, was less than impressed. Like nothing else was going wrong for him. He called for the dress carrier to return to her seat, his irritation obvious. She’s been ordered to barrier trial to the satisfaction of the church.

The girls and I thought this was a highlight. The Treasurer didn’t. She quietly suggested that this episode should not be written about, so we’ll not mention it again.

Despite all the dramas, Chelsea did get her head wet. I might have been imagining it, but I reckon the priest dunked her with just a splash more water than the others. Obviously one of those old pulpit jokes for those who stray from the hymn book.

I mentioned earlier that Chelsea was special. That’s what the family of Little Mr Perfect didn’t realise. They don’t know the half of it. That noisy bundle of joy was fifteen years in the making. To a mum and dad who refused to give up. Their only child, finally. The end result of so much love.

Yes, she was the most disruptive baby ever to don the tiny white gown. Responsible for a turn that will be talked about through the ages. But none of us cared. We still think she’s an Easter miracle.

Shame we didn’t have the cameras on her. It would have been great tv. I had her ahead on points. The judges might have thought otherwise. I’m no expert on these things, but I reckon the Executive Producer upstairs would have given her the thumbs up too.


A digger who missed out on the applause – why we need to cheer louder on ANZAC Day.

April 22, 2011

Dad hid his medals in a drawer.

As a kid, it was the only secret we had. We talked about everything. Shared dreams about footy and cricket. But not what he did in the war. The one subject I knew not to bring up.

I took them out once. And once only. He let me know, quietly, to never do that again. Back in the drawer they went.

We weren’t allowed to watch the big march on the ABC. And that march fascinated me. All these men, proudly wearing their medals. But not Dad.

If I’d turn it on while he was outside, he’d come in and turn it off. Nothing would be said. He just didn’t want to go back there. And didn’t want others to know.

It stayed that way until he died. Way too early. A hidden heart condition the doctors blamed on his service in World War Two. Even Dad didn’t know that secret.

I was 16. Not old enough to have asked the proper questions. Too young to let him know that it was ok to share. That maybe I could have helped.

Years later, Mum told me that she’d tried to talk to him about it. Nothing. He’d seen terrible things. It troubled him greatly. A gentle, funny, loving man, who struggled with what he’d been part of. Easier to dump the memories in that drawer.

When I started work, I was able to soak up the ANZAC spirit that Dad had distanced himself from. I’d cover the dawn service every year. Watching veterans just like my father. Listening and learning from the silence. And wishing I had him standing with me.

I’ve watched the crowds build over the years. People smarter than me talk about a nation growing up. The proof is how we mark ANZAC Day. As the number of diggers dwindle, the numbers watching surge.

It’s my favourite day. Honour those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. Heroes. Later, a few beers. That first one at the RSL always tastes special. Have a go in the two up ring. Heads of course. And a punt. Just like they did.

Everyone has their favourite place for ANZAC Day. Hometown memorials are special. But for me, there’s something inspiring about being on the water.

Maybe it’s the link to that Gallipoli beach. Such horrors in the early morning light.

Our family tradition is to attend the dawn service on Surfers Paradise beach. Thousands make their way to the memorial in the pre-dawn dark. The diggers and their families marching. That shuffle of footsteps. The clink of medals. Gets me every time.

Last year, when the service was done, an old bloke remained. He was in a wheelchair, with a chest full of medals. Thick silver hair, straight back, eyes clear. He would have been a strong bugger in his day.

He was waiting for someone to collect him. But there was no hurry. Not today. He smiled at those around him. Not much was said. It didn’t need to be.

Before long, a line had formed. People of all ages, waiting patiently to shake his hand. Some took photos. Kids waved Aussie flags. One man, telling us so much, just sitting there. When I got to him, I simply said, thanks.

The beauty of ANZAC Day is that there’s always someone to thank. If you haven’t been before, find a service this year. Soak up that silence. And take your spot in the line.

Before Mum died, she gave me something precious. Those medals are finally out of the drawer. We have little replicas now. The girls fight over who’ll have them at the dawn service. And I’ll wear them with pride, while having a beer and a punt in the afternoon.

I tell myself that Dad would have worked it out if he was still around. No need to hide them any more. We’re so proud of him. He could have been the bloke getting his photo taken. Thanks, Dad.



From Phar Lap to Hannah Montana – what fathers do for their daughters.

April 19, 2011

Hannah Montana revealed her true identity, just as final scratchings came through.

The squawking teen actress took off her wig on a false Jay Leno show. It had all been a sham. The gig was up. Emotions ran high in our house. My red pen almost missed non-starters in the last.

Does any other punter in the land start race day with Saturday Disney blaring in the background? The rest are getting the latest track upgrade while I’m marvelling at the acting ability of Billy Ray Cyrus. Although it should be said that the man had a mullet to die for.

We’ve watched this damn show from the very start. Some episodes time and again. The very loud Tennessee teenager is almost part of the family.

Daughters will do that to a man. I’m used to it now. Long ago, things changed around here. A father with a house full of women learns to live his life differently. But it wasn’t always this way.

As a young man, sharing a house with other young men, the choice of home entertainment was simple. We had two movies on the shelf. Phar Lap, and The Man from Snowy River. For a long time, I thought Tom Burlinson was the best horseman this country had produced.

We’d usually whack the videos in on a Friday or Saturday night, after arriving home from our local, a little on the damaged side. Viewing would be done with several pies, picked up on the way home, and if we could squeeze another in, a cool drink. Or two.

We knew all the lines. There’d be cheers when Tom the Man took off down that impossible cliff. Boos when those mongrels gave Tom’s Phar Lap even more weight to try to have him beaten in the Cup.

The bagmen would offer long odds for any of us to still be awake when the credits were rolling. More likely, we’d find a snowy pattern on the tv the next morning, along with a throbbing head.

Sure, Rambo and Rocky would get a decent run from the local Video Ezy. But those iconic horses were the stars of our living room in the eighties.

Somehow, I’d always imagined treating a son to those movie classics. A young bloke in his high chair, burping with glee at watching Tom plant one on Sigrid Thornton’s cheek, just before breaking in the mob. But it wasn’t to be.

Early on, the girls loved the Wiggles. And Hi-5. We knew the songs. All parents do. I went to concerts for both of them. Eldest daughter and I even got to meet the Hi-5 gang back stage before one of their shows. For a brief period, that had me as the coolest dad on the block.

As they got older, the girls became more, well, girly. The stars in our house were singers and dancers. Young women like Hilary Duff. She played Lizzy McGuire, a tween who became like a third daughter to me. And Emma Roberts, and Ashley Tisdale, and Taylor Swift. I’m doubling my bet that you don’t know who those people are. Then there’s Miley Cyrus. Miley is actually Hannah. Remember, the one who took off her wig? That sound you can hear is old football mates shaking their heads.

Some of you might have heard of Lindsay Lohan. You may have seen her on the news. One of her numerous court appearances. She goes harder than Fevola in the party stakes. Drink. Drugs. Shoplifting. Although Fev probably has her as far as pokies go.

I know a different Lindsay. The cute little girl who played twins in a movie years ago called The Parent Trap. Then there was Freaky Friday. Funny stuff. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Can you believe I’ve seen every single movie this wild child has made. Every one. I can’t even say that about Robert de Niro. Or Sylvester Stallone. What does that say?

My point is, they’ve changed me. I know things that happen in cheerleading movies. And not the ones we used to watch. Ok, maybe we had more than two movies in that old house. I sing along to their songs. I don’t complain when we watch Cadet Kelly for the tenth time. Hilary’s in that one. She joins the cadets and her mum meets a new dad and…..well, I’ll spare you the details.

We have our own dvd of High School Musical. Haven’t seen it? Think a modern-day Grease, with less smoking.

I went to a Taylor Swift concert. She’s a young country singer with more money than the Queen. This is a bloke who cheered Midnight Oil when they played mid-week in pubs, and rocked with The Angels when Mum thought I was studying. I left the concert early. The girls didn’t mind. They sang me all the songs I missed over the following weeks. There really is no escape.

Please don’t think I’m complaining. Fathers of daughters wouldn’t change a thing. We whinge sometimes about being part of a new dance routine in the kitchen, but secretly, we love our lot. It’s a blessing. Just one none of us saw coming.

Hannah Montana is about to wind up. Miley Cyrus is all grown up now. It goes so quick. We’ll be watching together on Saturday morning. Every chance I’ll struggle with the scratchings again. That’s ok. Another chapter in the rollercoaster ride of being a dad is coming to a close. Expect tears to be shed. The girls will be upset too.



Singo on the warpath, and ready to win a Doncaster.

April 15, 2011

Singo wasn’t happy.

That trademark grin was missing. He was gunning for someone. Whoever was responsible for the goodies sitting on the Gold Coast Turf club bar.

A committeeman had decided that scones, bikkies and tea would do just fine for the launch of the new look Magic Millions company. Big mistake.

Singo wanted a beer. The clock had struck midday after all. And he wanted everyone else to have a beer with him.

The dispute was only ever going to end one way. The teapot was removed. The committeeman disappeared, ears ringing. Some icy beverages arrived. And so began the most fun racing enterprise in the land.

It was a highly entertaining press conference. There’d be dozens more laughs over the years, as Singo and buddies Gerry Harvey and Rob Ferguson set about revolutionising the crusty business of selling horses. That era ended when Harvey bought out his partners earlier this year.

On that first day, as the rest of the media chaps departed, Singo asked if I wanted another. I must have looked thirsty. With my work for the day done (yes, times have certainly changed) I decided it couldn’t hurt to get to know a multi-millionaire a little better. My cameraman took our tape back to the station, and I buckled in for a memorable afternoon.

Still seething at the Turf Club’s handling of his big day, we retreated to the Magic Millions office across the road. Perhaps not surprisingly, the fridge was full of cold tins. We took some chairs out of the boardroom, and plonked ourselves onto a small patch of grass outside.

Singo was excited about taking over the sales and race event with his good buddies. He outlined their grand plan. A sale to rival Inglis. A race day worth a fortune to owners and trainers. With a crowd dressed in shorts.

He oozed passion for racing. He re-told the story of chasing glory in France with Strawberry Road. His unique call of the race for 2KY, where he mentioned only one horse. And how he tried to strangle the Pommy jockey who slaughtered Australia’s big hope.

The pile of empties mounted. The early sectionals were deadly. We talked footy. His beloved Newtown. He was impressed when I told him of my dealings with the great Jack Gibson years before. He spoke in awe of mates like Johnny Raper and the late Peter Gallagher.

Staff would peer out through the sliding office doors, wondering who Singo’s latest victim was. We got louder. It was getting dark. I was under the whip a long way from home. It was a match race between a maiden hack and a Group 1 champion.

His (now ex) wife Julie arrived. Singo was running late. She had his shirt for the official function at the Turf club that night. It was still in the plastic packet from the store. To this day I remember one of Australia’s richest men complaining about the pins sticking into his back, as he got dressed in our now tense courtyard.

Mrs Singleton could see that I’d had enough, and was badly in need of a spell. Not so her husband. He demanded I accompany them across the road. Julie was delighted.

So, under-dressed and over-done, I joined the elite of the racing industry, with my new best mate. For about ten minutes. Until I could make a stumbling dash to a waiting cab.

He’s been the same ever since. A knockabout with a genuine love of the racing game. Up for a beer with anyone who shares his outlook. I missed Magic Millions raceday a few years back because our horse was a false favourite at Ipswich. I rang in advance to apologise. He was quick to point out the difference in our racing operations.

Singo’s involvement with some of the nation’s greatest equine performers is no fluke. He’s an outstanding breeder. I’m talking horses here. Everything is done for a reason. He has a keen sense of racing history. And he loves a champion for the masses.

That’s why I hope he takes the Doncaster at Royal Randwick tomorrow with More Joyous. She’s a true champion. They deserve victory.

Yep, she’ll have to lug some weight. Don’t let it worry you. It won’t worry her. Chris Waller’s good horse Triple Elegance has nothing on his back, but the gelding will need to bring his ‘A’ game. The mare is flying. She’ll be winning.

Don’t be fooled by Singo’s bank balance and trackside jokes. He loves nothing better than claiming our classic races. Even better if the rest of us are on with him. Who knows, he might shout the public bar again. But a warning if you’re close by. Look out for the pins if you’re patting him on the back.



Exciting times with strangers and friends (and how I nearly killed a trainer..)

April 12, 2011

For a split second, Queensland’s leading trainer thought he was a goner.

What a way to go. Train a winner, and seconds later be knocked over the grandstand balcony.

Luckily Rob Heathcote saw me coming. At a frenzied pace, from a few rows behind. He braced just in time to hold my weight, as I grabbed him like a small boy latches onto Santa Claus. Not that Rob was built like Santa. Although I will say it was before the diet kicked in.

Anyway, it was a close thing. In my excitement I almost sent us both toppling over the rail, where we would have taken out a squadron of strappers.

That’s what owners do. Even part-owners. Even part-owners who own roughly a section of the tail.

The thrill of winning a Saturday race. It’s a sensation that some might find a little difficult to comprehend. After all, we’re not talking Melbourne Cup here. Just an Open Class event, the kind run on metropolitan tracks across Australia every weekend.

The horse in question was the mighty Beartracker. Honest as the day is long.

Small in stature but with a huge heart.

That day, he loomed up to the leaders in that long Eagle Farm straight. He went past them. And kept going.

As he approached the winning post, I realised I was screaming like a young girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Screaming and jumping. Then I thought I would have a heart attack. Right there in the Owners’ section. Then I screamed again. And headed to lay kisses on our trainer.

As Larry Cassidy brought the Bear back to scale, to the cheers of a small section of the crowd, I realised I had to behave like a responsible owner, in the company of mature and experienced racing people. So I screamed again. And hugged anyone within reach.

Winning connections get to go into the committee room. This is a time-honoured practice. Winners of Stradbrokes have stood at that bar.  We were offered beers to celebrate. They were in tiny glasses, so we had several.

Someone important made a very nice speech, and we clapped, and had several more tiny beers. I knew screaming Bieber-like was frowned upon in such company, so I made do with more hugs.

Apparently, the idea is to move out of the room soon after the speech, so that the committee members can prepare for the next batch of lucky owners. No-one told us that. We had another tray of mini ales, before being politely tossed out. Next stop – trainers’ bar.

I love that bar. It’s small and old and can’t fit everyone. But only a select few get invited in, and we were that day. Rob was kind enough not to mention my clumsy display of affection in the stands. Then he was off to saddle up more winners, and we made our way to embark on more celebrations.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like winning a race is in any way linked to the abuse of alcohol. There are strict guidelines for such activities. Apparently.

I believe the day ended with a very nice dinner at a fancy restaurant nearby. I’m told one of our party attempted to call the final 200 metres of the big win, while standing on a chair. His tie may or may not been undone. And his voice was hoarse from all that screaming.

In some countries, only the rich and famous get to experience such fun. Lords and their lucky lasses. Here, we all get to have a crack. And that’s primarily through syndication. A bunch of people from all walks of life, thrown together with a dream. To win a race. Any race.

There are some great syndicators out there. Gathering people who love the racing game, but can’t afford a horse themselves. Or even a large chunk of a horse. A small share is enough to get you jumping up and down in grandstands, and slobbering on jockeys, without spending a fortune. Go in with some friends, and it’s the same as shelling out on a carton of fancy grog a month.

Imagine if someone had invited you to race a yearling, a filly with a big bum, that they’d eventually name Black Caviar? Even scarier, imagine if you knocked them back?

We all hope that somehow, we’ll stumble into the next champion. Yes, it’s long odds. Most of them struggle to run faster than me. Some don’t make it onto the track.

We’re no longer with the Bear. He had a lengthy spell, but is now back, trying his heart out. His photo hangs proudly on the wall.

Our new syndicate is now ready to race a 2 year old. Very, very exciting. And he doesn’t even have a name yet. Horse owners are the supreme optimists. Someone prepare those tiny beers. And Rob Heathcote, be warned. Stay away from that railing.

The girls ready to shine as Randwick hosts a magical Derby Day.

April 8, 2011

There’s something special about the Autumn carnival arriving at Randwick.

The big money might be at Rosehill. But not the tradition.

Races that date back more than a century. Won by the very best. Horses, trainers and jockeys.

The Doncaster is my favourite. There’s something about a capacity field over that Randwick mile. The greats digging deep as they top the rise. Gunsynd. Super Impose back to back. Sunline. But that’s next week.

Tomorrow, be ready for a feast at headquarters. And believe it or not, it’s more than just the Black Caviar spectacular.

As well as celebrating the Sydney debut of the world’s best horse (she’ll make it 12 from 12 .. simply amazing), fans will focus on the 150th AJC Derby. It was first run in 1861. The same year as the inaugural Melbourne Cup. At the time the American Civil war was raging. England’s cricket team toured here for the first time. Dame Nellie Melba was born. And the original pilot for Hey Hey It’s Saturday was recorded.

Keen on winning a race with a 3-year-old? This is it. It’s worth plenty, but there are those who would run for the trophy alone. A few handy types have saluted over the years.

Phar Lap won in 1929. It was Jim Pike’s first victory on Big Red. There’d be plenty more.

Fast forward to ’57. Tommy Smith had a fair opinion of a horse called Tulloch. Rightly so. He won the Derby by 6 lengths, breaking Phar Lap’s track record.

What about these names through the seventies and eighties? Dulcify. Kingston Town. Strawberry Road. Bonecrusher. And then the mighty Octagonal in 1996.

Famous tales too. Old timers still speak of 1961, when Mel Schumacher was outed, after pulling the leg of a rival jockey. They happened to be hurtling down that famous straight at the time. He won the Derby but lost the protest, and ended up as one of racing’s most famous trivia questions.

There’ll be no leg pulling tomorrow. Not on track anyway. Fair to say this field is without a Phar Lap or Tulloch. But it’s still a talented bunch, ready to carve out their own bit of history.

The raging favourite Jimmy Choux blew them away last start in the Rosehill Guineas. The Kiwi has the inside gate tomorrow. That might not suit him, but connections still seem supremely confident.

I must admit I have a niggling doubt about the heavyweight jockey. He won like Pike two weeks ago. But I rarely put my hard earned on ex-jump jockeys from New Zealand, over an arduous 2400 metres.

There’s only one filly in the field, and I give her a huge chance. Trainer Danny O’Brien had no hesitation taking on the males with Shamrocker last start, and she’ll be even better tomorrow. The distance is no concern, and Glen Boss is up top. She’ll do me.

The smokie could be one trained by the bloke who’s seen more Derbys than just about anyone. I Think I Do will love the big Randwick straight after rattling home last start. Bart might need to clear some space on that groaning mantlepiece.

No matter what the result is tomorrow, the day will carry a tinge of sadness. Twelve months ago, Stathi Katsidis was celebrating more Group One success. He won the Derby on Gold Coast stayer Shoot Out. Greatness beckoned. A few months later he was dead.

There are many in the industry still scarred by the tragedy. Memories will come flooding back tomorrow. A day with so much history, that would be so much better if he was still around to be part of it.


The power of daytime television … and why gardening is the new contact sport.

April 5, 2011

Funny what daytime tv can teach you.

Did you know that the Ab Circle Pro can get rid of flabby love handles? And that you can have funeral costs covered for just 25 cents a day? That might provide loved ones with just enough to farewell you in a cardboard box. 

I know all this because I’ve been sitting at home for the past month, with a leg in the air.

That’s not some form of kinky celebration. It’s how one recovers from a dislocated ankle. And torn ligaments. And bone fractures. A serious, painful, nasty injury usually suffered by elite sports folk in high impact activities.

I would love nothing better than to tell you how I misjudged my skydive, or won the game in the final seconds for a ridiculously fit Masters Touch football side.

No, that would be fibbing. The truth is, I’m one of a growing number of mature men badly injured while gardening.

The list becomes a little smaller when it’s revealed that it was a hedging accident at the mother-in-law’s place.

My misfortune has provided relatives with weeks of giggles and a lifetime of stories for Christmas lunch. It happened while we were all taking part in the first, and last, family working bee.

Somehow, I was the only one to end up in hospital. I’m certain the rest polished off a fancy seafood feast. They reckon they didn’t because they were too upset. Yeah right. Fresh tiger prawns wait for no man, no matter where his foot happens to be pointing.

Anyway, the finer details aren’t important. You probably know anyway, if you’re a member of the Facebook page “Pansies injured while gardening.”

What my home detention has done is allow me to spend some quality time with loved ones. For the first week. After that, phrases like “get it yourself” and “it must be better now” rang loud across the house. They’re a tough breed, these women.

Once the sympathy well ran dry, I turned to tv. And took a stroll back to my childhood.

With the help of a large black comfy recliner, as favoured in most nursing home common rooms, I settled in to make the best of a bad situation.

Movies I haven’t seen for years. Books that needed reading. And Prisoner.

Each midday, as I made a sandwich of whatever scraps the girls had left at breakfast, I would go back in time to join the female inmates of the Wentworth Detention centre.

Remember Bea Smith? Queen Bea ran things inside. When I caught up with the show she’d just been let out on parole. After a nice lunch and a new hairdo, she shot her old man. Bea was back inside before I’d finished my milk.

Franky Doyle the lesbian and dopey Doreen escaped. They stole a kid’s fish and chips, dressed up as nuns, and managed to stay on the run until my physio appointment. For all I know they could still be offering blessings at church fetes.

The crazy thing is, I remembered watching this rubbish, all those years ago. Mum loved it, God bless her. It was a family favourite. And here I was, confined to quarters, once again celebrating the antics and overacting of the girls in H block.

Other small screen memories flooded back. Green Acres. The Cosby Show. Murphy Brown. And every few days Peter Falk would return as the bumbling detective Columbo.

They all provided their own flashbacks to happy times. Nice memories. And a welcome distraction from a crook foot.

The girls from Prisoner did their bit to keep insanity at bay. I think. I’ll know for sure when I get back to reality this week.

There’ll be no marathons in the near future. Walking to the back fridge will do just fine.

I’ll be wary of nuns working in pairs for a while. The good news is that I won’t be needing that funeral coverage just yet. And I could be wrong, but I reckon my abs are really starting to take shape.



The curse strikes again!

April 2, 2011

Blame me.

How else could the second favourite in the Golden Slipper get scratched at the barrier?

Two millions dollars at stake for the winner, and Smart Missile doesn’t get to run.

The curse of the world’s worst punter.

As good as he is, the colt couldn’t carry the weight of my tip.

My apologies to trainer Anthony Cummings and jockey Glen Boss. To the owners. If only they knew.

To readers of Hold All Tickets .. you’ll get used to it. Bizarre things like this happen to my selections all the time. Wait till Cup week!

Anyway, we’ll never know if Smart Missile would have knocked over Sepoy. It was a hell of a win by the Snowden galloper. But without his main opposition.  Still, a deserved two year old champion.

Our roughie Altar ran a ripper of a race at big odds to finish fifth. The filly has a decent win ahead of her.

So, no new BBQ, and another tale of heartache. Welcome to my world.

The good news is that we’ll get to have another crack at them next week. Hopefully with a horse that actually leaves the barriers.

Why the favourite won’t win the Golden Slipper (and how to get a new BBQ.)

April 1, 2011

Million dollar babies.

For the winner of the world’s richest two year old race tomorrow, make that 2 million.

Golden Sliper day is like no other.

A capacity field of horses barely out of the barn.

They’ll scamper over a pressure cooker 1200 metres at Rosehill. A few might create lasting reputations. Others will never be the same.

It’s not my favourite race, the Slipper. Winners don’t always go onto greatness. A few don’t go on at all. Such a gut busting event for young speedsters.

Give me the the classic 1600 metre events anytime. The Doncaster. The Emirates Stakes. Even the Epsom. Such history.

For pure quality, nothing beats the Cox Plate. Then there’s the Cup carnival. And for Queenslanders, the Stradbroke.

Of course, those with runners in the Slipper tomorrow couldn’t give a hoot what I think. They’re contesting a Group One worth a treasure chest.

For all these misgivings, the Slipper has been good to me over the years. It gave us our BBQ.

Somehow I nailed the Slipper trifecta in 2005. Stratum, Fashions Afield and Media. And backed the winner as well. I can’t recall getting a trifecta since.

I think of that result whenever I’m sizzling snags. Usually with a cold drink. One of those rare occasions that a decent win doesn’t get lost on the following Saturday.

My father-in-law was so excited he was going to make me a plaque, labelling it the “Slipper Cooker”. Sadly he passed away before he got around to it.

So then, how do we find tomorrow’s result, and provide the family with an upgrade out on the deck?

Well, here’s my Slipper system. First and foremost, don’t be fooled by the Blue Diamond form out of Melbourne.

Now I hear many of you rolling on the floor laughing, given Sepoy has been a short priced favourite for weeks.

Granted, he’s a high quality colt. Some say a potential superstar. Yes, he’s been mighty impressive so far, despite his last start defeat in the wet. I just don’t think he’s the winner.

I like Slipper runners with only one target in mind. No Blue Diamond. No Magic Millions. Remember Military Rose last year? The experts had her across the line as well.

In my humble opinion, it’s too hard for these young horses to be peak twice in a campaign. Yep, now I’m giving training advice to Peter Snowden. Stop giggling, please.

Anyway, I want them to be peaking tomorrow. Horses that will be at their very best, when they arrive at the Slipper barriers.

Speaking of barriers, these babies need a good one. Forget those who’ve drawn the carpark. There are exceptions. But backing bad barriers is a handy way to the poorhouse. Especially with youngsters.

So where does that leave us for tomorrow? Who can beat the favourite? Cummings, that’s who. But not the mighty Bart.

I’m tipping his son Anthony to take the prize, with Smart Missile.

The colt lowered Sepoy’s colours in the Todman, and I think he can do it again.

Fans of the favourite blamed the wet last time. I reckon they might be underestimating the winner. He could be something special.

Glen Boss riding. Perfect barrier. On another wet track. And one target. That’ll do me.

I give Snowden’s other runner, Altar, a fighting chance at big odds, after her impressive win last weekend. The trainer hadn’t planned to run her in the Slipper. His change of heart must mean she’s doing everything right.

I’m not discounting Sepoy. If the track is no worse than dead the hot pot will be in things for a long way. But not the winner for mine.

So there we have it. Smart Missile, Altar and Sepoy.

They might make a fool of me these babies. It’s happened plenty of times before. Here’s hoping they do the right thing. A new BBQ would be great. We might even get around to getting that plaque done.