In memory of Bart. The horse we’ll all be cheering at Flemington.

October 31, 2015

So here we are. Our favourite time of the year. But the star of the show is missing.

Cup week without Bart. It’s like Christmas without Santa. Sure, we’ll open the presents. But it’s not as much fun.

Those words of wisdom in the days prior. A subtle tip, for those truly listening.

What would he add to the groaning mantlepiece? A feature mile? Another Derby? Dare we dream .. another Cup?

Those more interested in hats than horses would throw a dollar or two on. The rest of us would have a safety bet. Just in case.

And now .. he’s gone. But not forgotten. There will be tributes every day. Words from the heart. We’ll think about bushy eyebrows and thoroughbreds trained to the minute.

So what would the Great Man be thinking, sipping tea at the Head Table upstairs?

I reckon he would be telling us to get on with it. He always believed that the horses were the stars. He’d be happy with the quality on show today.

Surely he’d be impressed with the raw power of Exosphere. There’d be a nod towards Mick Price, as he chases the Derby with Tarzino. But that wonderful gaze, honed over the decades, would be saved for one horse.

Check the form guide for the Group 3 Lexus, and you’ll find the famous Cummings name. Not son Anthony. Grandson James.

He’s training Ruling Dynasty. The way Bart taught him. It’s a big chance, with Tommy Berry up.

A win this afternoon, means an automatic place in the Melbourne Cup. Yep, our most famous name, could be running on Tuesday.

It’s fairytale stuff. And there’s a twist, that only racing could throw up.

It could be the other famous name, that spoils the script. Gai has Excess Knowledge humming. Those using head over heart won’t hear of him being beaten. So here we go again. Cummings V Waterhouse.

The beauty of all this? Bart would be smiling. He loved the twists and turns leading into the Cup. And if young James is successful, the roar might be bigger than we hear for the Derby.

Hold on to your hats folks. That Cummings name might be heading to Cup Day again. Maybe things haven’t changed too much after all.


Today’s special at Forty Winx. Cox Plate glory at the Valley

October 24, 2015

Mooney Valley and I are uneasy lovers.

Sure, I respect her tradition. The awesome line of champions to have paraded before today.

Three in a row for Kingston Town. Gunsynd. Tulloch. And Phar Lap.

Bart and So You Think. Bossy and Makybe Diva. What a roll call.

I last backed the winner of the Cox Plate in 1924. Or so it seems. Let’s just say .. the great race hasn’t been a happy hunting ground.

Never get it right. That impossibly short straight. Gets me every time.

I’m usually doing my best work late, in the spacious final furlong of Flemington, or Randwick, or Eagle Farm. Let us stretch our legs.

Not at the Valley. No waiting for the clock tower. Watch them take off from the previous suburb. If you can’t sustain a run, don’t bother turning up.

I not only miss the winner, I’m a chance of missing the first eight. I’m studying the form, and it could be an assembly brochure from IKEA.

But this year, it’s different. I’m on something special. Something good enough to carry Hughie Bowman and my fragile hopes.

I’ve watched Winx closely. Both up close, and on the screen. She’s one out of the box. An excitement machine.

We love them flying home. Coming from impossible positions to greet the judge. This mare does it, time and again.

She ran in a Group Three race on the Sunshine Coast last year, and won as if jet propelled.

From there she went into the Queensland Oaks. If you had gold bars hidden in the yard you were digging them up. She came home so fast Hughie returned to scale with windburn.

Fast forward to the Epsom. She couldn’t win from there. No way. Can she win from there? Of course she can!

And so to the Valley. The race for the purists. It doesn’t get any tougher.

There can be no mistakes. Hughie will have to get her rolling early. That’s ok. No-one is riding better.

Watch her fly. Keep an eye out for that dark cap late. It will be airborne.

The owner who’ll be in charge of celebrations is a Queenslander. The party will be epic. Again. Another prize for our shelf.

Good luck this afternoon. Fingers crossed for a repeat of 1924. The name of the winner back then? The Night Patrol. Which is exactly what they’ll need after the last.


Time for a little Romance on Caulfield Cup day.

October 17, 2015

The first thing they teach you in Punting School is .. Stick.

If you like something, don’t drop off.

Stay with whatever caught your eye all those weeks ago.

If you happen to be the Dunce of that school, (hand goes up), chances are you forget this golden rule on a monthly basis.

You may remember my Flying Spur tale of woe. The day I not only broke the rule, I smashed it into a thousand tiny pieces.

Before Flying Spur was a mighty sire, he was a flying youngster.

I’d watched from up north, as Lee Freedman plotted a course all the way to the Golden Slipper.

There was something about this flashy bloke that caught my eye. The horse, not Lee.

Days out from the two year old classic, he was doing nothing in the market. The smarties didn’t want a bar of him. That didn’t worry me. Another Golden Rule is not to be scared off by big odds. We’ll discuss that another time.

Anyway, I was confident. We would fill our boots on the back of Flying Spur.

That was, until race morning.

I woke to the news that our champion jockey Jim Cassidy had been given a stretch by stewards. It was the infamous Jockey Tapes Scandal. Pumper had been innocently giving tips. And was now banished. On the morning of the bloody Slipper!

I staggered as if shot. This could not be happening. I strained my ear to the radio, to hear that one of racing’s greatest, had been replaced by some kid I’d never heard of. A young bloke called Boss. I think they said his first name was Glen.

Just like that, I was off. The bet I’d been drooling over was cancelled. No way could this no-name handle the frenzy of the world’s most intense dash for juveniles.

There would be no Sticking. Instead, I backed something else. It may have been called Donkey. And watched, as Bossy sent Flying Spur to the line for an easy win. It paid over 20 bucks. I contemplated becoming a nun.

Anyway, if nothing else, we learn from our mistakes. Even costly, gut-wrenching ones like that.

And so, to the Caulfield Cup. And the point of this rambling. I have been taken by Rising Romance since she ran second last year.

Something about the run has stayed with me. The way she hit the line. It was like someone had scribbled ‘follow me’ across her sizeable rump.

I’ve followed her this campaign. Ignoring results. Knowing the Cup was the aim.

Today is pay day. I reckon she’ll rocket home and line our pockets. D.Lane is a patient rider. It’s what we need in the rough and tumble at Caulfield.

Stick to what you like. I can’t make it any clearer. Although I do have one question. What’s Bossy riding?


The Broncos, Tina Turner and a snoring coach.

October 4, 2015

There were socks and undies in that Sydney hotel drawer, but no grand final tickets.

It wasn’t for a lack of looking. Granted, we were gazing through A Grade hangovers, but surely we would still be able to spot two gleaming tickets through Smithy’s large white Bonds.

We were in Sydney, to watch the Broncos win a grand final. Way back in ’93, when Alfie was leading the way, and Powers sat on the front of their jerseys.

You might remember it. Tina Turner was there. Belting out a few tunes, and cuddling the Brisbane boys. So I’m told. Because we didn’t actually make the game.

It was a bunch of rough heads from North Queensland. A footy trip from Cairns, led by a former Origin player. Who demanded to hold the tickets.

It had been fun, up until the empty-drawer moment. A few beers. Plenty of laughs. I may have even had a punt.

On the morning of the grand final, we treated ourselves to a hearty breakfast, to prepare for the big day ahead.

The boys made their way to respective rooms, to tidy up as best they could, and grab their tickets.

They were waiting out the front for us. Unaware that on Level 6, panic had set in.

Smithy decided there had been a theft. The only explanation could be that a maid with a long criminal history had snuck in, and guessed that he would have hidden the tickets with his jocks.

I suggested that it may have been more simple. That as a former forward .. he may have lost them. Leaving us ticklet-less. And laughing stocks. He did not take this suggestion well.

By now, the boys were making their way onto the bus. A search party was sent to our room. To find us in a blazing row about various levels of stupidity.

Blame then shifted to others in the travelling party. Perhaps the thief was among us. This was met with howls of protest. And laughter. They were in. And we weren’t.

We jumped on the bus anyway, hoping that we might find two tickets under a seat. We didn’t. The laughter was now a little over the top.

We arrived at the Football Stadium, and watched our dear friends disappear through the gates. They were telling strangers, and pointing at us. If Twitter had been invented at the time, we would have been trending.

As kick-off loomed, we accepted our fate. There would be no grand final miracle. We would not see the Broncos, or hear Ms Turner.

By now, we didn’t have the energy to blame the other. The hopelessness of the situation seemed to accelerate our already crushing hangovers. Instead of heading to the nearest pub, we decided to go back to the crime scene.

A two thousand kilometre trip .. to watch the decider on a small hotel room tv.

As we hit our respective beds, I wondered how things could get worse. The answer came, in a bone-rattling snore.

The tour leader, exhausted from the ticket-tragedy .. had fallen into a deep sleep. And that was the grand final of ’93. Victory on tv, with a soundtrack of snoring.

We laugh about it now. Sort of. No doubt he’ll blame me at the reunion. Now you all know the truth. Just in case it makes Twitter.