Matters of Racing Royalty. How One protests against The Queen. No foot kissing allowed.

June 25, 2016

It’s fair to say that The Queen and I were in contrasting states, as we waited for the late-night protest.

Her Majesty had taken a large cup of tea. I had taken a large bucket of wine.

She was in a magnificent blue dress, on the lawns of Royal Ascot. I was in my Cowboys T-shirt. In bed. Eating biscuits.

I’d arrived home in fine spirits, with the Moon high, to find world class racing on the box. And money in the account.

That’s when I had my Royal Encounter.

The Queen owns Dartmouth, who was first past the post in the Hardwicke Stakes.

I had twenty bucks on Highland Reel, who finished an unlucky lip away second. The stewards called an Inquiry. Which is Royal Ascot-speak for delaying things a few minutes until Her Majesty takes the trophy.

I had hoped that the protest hearing would be fair and telling, despite the players involved.

Those hopes faded ever so slightly, as my jockey kissed The Queen’s feet.

As the stewards grilled the race participants, I noticed a bloke hovering towards the rear of the room. I’d never seen his equivalent at Randwick.

He may or may not have been An Executioner. The large shiny sharp thing gave the game away. He seemed to be looking directly at my trainer.

I struggled to hear all the evidence, because the Stewards broke into a chorus of God Save The Queen as the video replay hit the furlong.

Once I saw them taking Royal selfies, I’d accepted my fate.

While I was gracious in defeat that night, there’ll be no such niceties if we don’t claim a different piece of Royal silverware at Eagle Farm this afternoon.

The Azkadellia camp would still be having nightmares, after their Stradbroke plan sank into the shifting track on day one back at headquarters.

I’m tipping the dreams will be more pleasant tonight, as the mare romps away with the Tatts Tiara.

The simple fact is, she’s better than these. By a stretch.

Watch for her flying down the outside, to win the final Group One of the season.

Only bad luck can beat her. Or owners who can make stewards sing.

I’ll be watching carefully if there’s a protest. The first hint of feet-kissing, and you’ll find me back eating those biscuits.

Advertisements

One for the battlers. The knockabouts you should be cheering at Doomben.

May 28, 2016

While Damian Browne was taking on the world in Dubai with Buffering, his best mate was knocking around the NSW provincials.

Their pay cheques would have been very different that weekend. No so their skills in the saddle.

Not that Chris O’Brien would have begrudged his Kiwi buddy. Far from it. He would have been cheering like the rest of us.

Browne and O’Brien were young stars across the ditch, long before they were spotted by Aussie eyes.

Like so many other episodes in life, fortunes differed as careers progressed.

Browne is rightly regarded as one of Australia’s best hoops. His association with the Buff made sure of that. He’s in great demand from the top trainers, and the richest owners.

O’Brien gets a handful of city rides every year. Injuries and weight problems made sure of that. He’s had more problems on the scales than Oprah.

Today, he gets one of those rare opportunities, on a Group One day. And in the sweetest of ironies, it’s thanks to a fellow bush battler.

Fred Cowell has been training at Gosford since the bullock teams went through to build the Pacific Highway. Or so it seems.

He’s a genuine horseman. No backing from an overseas sheikh here. Just some loyal owners, most of whom enjoy a cold drink with him at day’s end.

So the trainer who I’m pretty sure doesn’t own a mobile phone, and the jockey with a body held together through pins and tape, will take on the best that Waller and co can give.

Mighty Lucky is one of those horses the punters love. Gives his all. Wins at odds. If he could talk, I’m tipping he’d explain that he’s just fine with the current arrangement.

Just as Takeover Target didn’t know his trainer was really a taxi driver, Mighty Lucky wouldn’t give two hoots that Freddy would much rather be in the public bar.

It won’t be hard to recognise O’Brien as he walks into the enclosure. Let’s just say he doesn’t have the gait of a male model. But don’t let that fool you.

Horses run for him. Soft hands, that can urge in an instant. The right spot at the right time. And best of all, he knows how to find the line.

I hope Mighty Lucky wins the Lord Mayor’s Cup. And that’s not just my wallet talking. The after-race banter between the jockey, and the trainer, and the Lord Mayor, would be worth the price of admission.

Damian Browne will be doing his best to spoil the party. If his old mate salutes, watch for the pat on the back. Maybe it’s not Dubai. But for the battlers, Doomben will do just fine.

 

 

 


Music to a mug punter’s ear. The perfect way to end Doomben Cup day.

May 21, 2016

There was a time when entertainment after the last came from your cashed-up mate.

He’d be the one tap dancing, cash in hand, while the rest of us looked for dropped coins and winning tickets discarded in haste.

Times have changed.

It’s not a feature day now without a superstar belting out his or her favourite tunes, minutes after the stragglers have been sent back to their stables.

What a treat last weekend. The legendary Daryl Braithwaite, in full voice at the Doomben 200 metre mark.

They tell me he went over a treat. I was busy near a monitor trying to get out in Perth so couldn’t join the great man on stage, but I could hear him in the distance.

“That’s the way it’s gonna be, little darlin’…’

Yep, the most famous ‘Horses’ since Phap Lap and crew were parading at Flemington.

One of the best racecourse concerts I’ve seen, through bleary eyes, was in Cairns, a few furlongs ago.

It was Cairns Cup day. Quite possibly the greatest consumption of Bundy rum over a 24 hour period in the southern hemisphere.

We were at a footy reunion, dressed sharply, and receiving golden tips from a mate working for a local bookie.

Our deal was that the mail would continue, as long as we loaded up on his counterparts.

It was in this winning environment, that someone mentioned the after-race entertainment.

In the best bit of scheduling since Nikki Webster was sent dangling over the Olympic stadium, local organisers had enticed The Angels to head north.

It’s doubtful if Doc and his mates would have had more loyal fans than those who’d trekked across the state’s far north, many of whom would be sleeping in swags that night.

It’s also doubtful that organisers had painted a true picture of where the ageing Aussie rockers would be strutting their stuff.

The stage was plonked in a swampy paddock, near the top of the straight. This proved difficult for many of the raceday patrons, who by now were without shoes.

It was loud enough to keep the crocs at bay, but not the mozzies, who created a new blood-borne disease based entirely on rum.

We’ve come a long way since then. Race day entertainment is a vital part of getting young people to the track.  What better place to boogie, than the wonderful spaces stretched across our top tracks.

After Our Ivanhowe wins the Doomben Cup this afternoon, a performer by the name of Mashd Kutcher will be doing his thing. The teenagers at home tell me he’s top shelf. Actually, they used a term I didn’t understand, but they seemed excited.

There’s a whisper Elvis has been booked for Stradbroke Day. I may or may not be making that up. Either way, it will be better than your tap dancing mate.

 

 


Remembering the Queen of Doomben. The day we roared for the Mighty Mare.

May 14, 2016

What were you doing on this very day five years ago?

I was at the races. A shock, I know.

But not just any race day. This was sporting history in the making.

On May 14, 2011, Black Caviar came to town. The nation was in the grip of Mighty Mare Fever. She just kept winning. And finally, we’d be able to be part of it.

The night before, her trainer Peter Moody was enjoying a few Fourex Golds at the Brekky Creek. Another shock. Nothing wrong with settling the nerves.

He’d taken her across the country by then. But this was special. This was his home state. The boy from the bush, under enormous pressure, giving something back.

Come race day, and women who may have watched Bernborough go around were in their finest dresses. Blokes in battered hats craned necks to get a glimpse. Small children were waving flags. Doomben was awash with black and salmon.

She was against her old foe Hay List. The world’s second best sprinter. And a youngster named Buffering. Flying the local flag.

They left the gates, and we cheered. Like a Melbourne Cup start. Soon we saw that this was a contest. Hay List was flying early. She would have to work for it.

They rounded the bend, and it happened. Something special.

She glided past her old foe. Lengthened that massive stride. There would be no defeat in Brisbane.

What I remember most, was the noise. The stands shook. I’ve never heard anything like it. A collective roar, as she hit the line.

You hugged whoever was next to you. Apologies again officer. There were tears. One dollar tickets remained in pockets, instead of tote tills. So they could be kept for the grandkids.

We owe Peter Moody and Luke Nolen so much for what they did that day. Signing momentos long after the last. Soaking up the smiles.

Five years on, and one is still drinking those Golds. Possibly at a bush track, sleeping in a swag. The other is in hospital, after a terrible fall last weekend.

I hope they both get to watch today’s UBET BTC Cup. And remember that golden day like the rest of us will.

It will be a wonderful race again. Japonisme  will be hard to beat, but my money will be on Artlee. And when he salutes, I’ll think of that roar, and the tears, on the day the Mighty Mare and her knockabout trainer stole our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


My tips for Malcolm. Why more Prime Ministers need to go to the races.

May 7, 2016

The Prime Minister’s Cup is one of my favourite days at the track.

Not that you need a reason to have fun on the Gold Coast.

But there’s something about the PM’s Cup that stirs the imagination.

So if I’m excited, why isn’t the PM?

Once again, I’m led to believe that our nation’s leader won’t be handing over the Cup.

If only he knew what he was missing.

Just in case he wants to leave election planning for a bit, I thought it would be handy to provide my guide to the Gold Coast track.

This has been carefully put together over many years, recorded on several beer-stained coasters spruiking brands all the way back to Powers.

First off, the Entrance.

There will be weird and wonderful sights as you approach the gate.

Blokes in top hats. Blokes in thongs. Girls in thongs. Some even on their feet. And more tattoos than an NRL dressing shed.

My advice to Malcolm is – don’t be distracted.

Many good punters have missed a good thing in the first, by savouring the wacky images from the glitter strip.

Once inside, ditch the party hacks, and head to the snack bar.

You’ll find those pre-made steak burgers just the trick, to soak up the hours of fun ahead.

The crowd will be bustling by this time. Embrace it. With ears open. Tips will be flying. Write them down carefully. Especially from old rich blokes. Every chance you’re standing behind an owner. Or a Cabinet Minister. Either way, they wouldn’t be telling fibs.

Find a table, and don’t let it go.

Get your mates (Christopher Pyne could come in handy here), to arrange jackets and form guides on every available chair.

You will be in a running brawl across the day, fighting off table-pinchers. Again, focus is the key.

That kind lady asking if she can rest her champagne next to your Best Bets, is actually plotting to overrun you and Christopher with ten of her noisy friends.

Treat it like a Monday morning party room meeting. Ignore everyone, banish the unwelcome drink, and concentrate on where the money’s going in the next.

Once Pyney has the table fortress-like, you can concentrate on your punting. And as a multi, you at least know that you won’t be chasing bus fare after the last.

There are key points to remember as you mark that form guide. The glorious Gold Coast is like no other. Some things stand the test of time.

Horses near the lead won’t win every race. Just most of them.

If they don’t have an inside barrier from the 1800 metre start, forget it.

Follow the money in the last. Rare that it’s off the mark.

And don’t leave it too late to get to the tote window. Remember the lady who wanted your table? She’s in front of you, about to place thirty trifectas worth about four dollars.

It’s the sort of stuff Bob Hawke knew years ago. He wrote the manual on raceday tricks. Come to think of it, he probably would have let Champagne Trifecta Lady share that table. But I digress.

I hear the PM’s staff saying I’ve wasted too much of Malcolm’s time, when all he really wants is a tip for the big one.

Well Prime Minister, I reckon your Cup might just be going to Rob Heathcote and Hopfgarten. With Coolring a definite chance at odds. Are you writing this down?

And if you’re (more) cashed up by the last, Santa Ana Lane is a good thing. Yep, another big day for your favourite jockey D.Browne.

I’ll keep an eye out for you and Christopher at the snack bar. In case you have a change of heart. What a publicity shot ahead of the election. Of course, you could always open the new look Eagle Farm. Perfect timing before we head to the ballot box. And between us, Bill Shorten has already asked me for my Stradbroke tips. Let the election race begin.


Soaring high with the soundtrack of my youth. Why they’re lighting up to remember Glenn Frey.

January 19, 2016

It was the most exciting concert of my life. With the oldest audience.

The Eagles in LA .. re-opening The Forum .. almost two years ago to the day.

‘I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling .. and I know you won’t let me down.’

It was part of what we now know will be their final tour. Because their spiritual leader, the amazing Glenn Frey, is now jamming with Bowie and John Cash.

Not everyone had a seniors’ pass. Some were there with their parents. Like my kids, they’d grown up listening to the soundtrack of the US West Coast.

‘And I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight. With a million stars all around.’

This concert went way back. Their first songs .. all the way through the decades. We knew them all. Standing and singing and swaying. A capacity crowd in one of the great stadiums. This was something special.

The lady next to me was in love with Glenn Frey. She told me. Her partner may have been at Woodstock. This became more likely, once I realised that as the boys belted out ‘Heartache Tonight’, he was passing me a joint. Normal behaviour, it would seem, for such a night.

As he leant across the ample bosom of his missus, I had a slight panic attack. Visions of the three of us sharing a cell in the LA County watch house flashed through my mind.

I had already seen security search for their tasers when they spotted someone daring to take a photo of the stage. What would they think of Cheech and Chong and Panicking Aussie?

With a smooth dance move, I managed to pass on the grass. He wasn’t offended, and simply offered his reefer to the row behind. It disappeared in a chorus of ‘New Kid in Town.’

‘Everybody loves you. So don’t let them down.

The Eagles later came to Australia with the same concert. I went to that one too. Something told me we wouldn’t be seeing them again. I hate that I was right.

I took the teenager with me. It was something we’ll never forget. She knew every song. Sent selfies to her school friends, who were actually jealous. Can you believe that? Magical harmonies from blokes in their sixties, floating across high school Instagram.

‘So put me on a highway, and show me a sign, and take it, to the limit, one more time.’

My all time favourite DVD is their Melbourne concert more than a decade ago. I saw them on that trip too. It gets a run every New Year’s Eve. Saturday morning, if the housework gets too much. And a few late nights. It would cheer me up, regardless.

Except tonight. I’m listening to it now, and the sound is sad. Four blokes who guided me through my misguided youth and beyond, are now three.

Thanks for the music Glenn. Say g’day to the rest of them for us. See you next New Year’s Eve.

‘It’s another tequila sunrise, starin’ slowly ‘cross the sky. Said goodbye..’


From shorts to safari suits. A Mug Punter’s fashion tips for Magic Millions.

January 9, 2016

Singo refers to the Magic Millions carnival as the Melbourne Cup in shorts.

Great racing. Hectic parties. No top hats or waist coats.

It’s part of the magic. Winning plenty in a relaxed atmosphere. Count me in.

Sadly, not everyone has the fashion sense to make their way into the summer social pages. Fear not, because help is at hand.

Already, you are sniggering. Fashion advice from someone who once owned a safari suit. As a child.

Then there was the multi-coloured jumper Mum made we wear to the Youth Club disco. She was worried I’d be cold. Bless her. At least it matched my dance moves.

My cowboy boots were a big hit as a teenager. Huge heels, to fool the bloke at the bottle shop. A ploy that worked zero times.

Anyway, enough of my own disasters. It means I’m more than qualified to give a helping hand to those of you staring blankly at the wardrobe.

I’ve watched with interest, the photos from the week’s social functions that I wasn’t invited to. And there is a common theme. An image as handy as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Someone has decided that it’s cool for blokes to wear jackets and shorts. Together. You’ll see the photos, where they’re gazing off into the distance, with skinny hairless legs poking out of crisply pressed Joe Blorts.

Someone is taking the piss. It’s straight from the Fashion House of Gilligan’s Island.

Ladies, if you’re taking your man to the races today, set him straight. Jackets belong with pants. You can buy them as a package deal at Lowes.

If you must wear your dress shorts, a nice shirt is all you need. And say hi to Mary Ann for me.

At the other end of the scale, there are blokes out there right now, deciding which pair of footy shorts to wear this afternoon. The Premiership winning pair from the ’98 Gympie grand final, or the Broncos gift set from Christmas.

Boys, leave them in the drawer. No matter how good you think your pins are looking. Apart from turning female stomachs, they are also useless for holding betting tickets.

There has never been a Magic Millions Day under 40 degrees, so the tip is, dress appropriately. Unless you’re presenting a trophy, leave the tie at home. And for the welfare of those of us in the tote line with you, be generous with the deodorant.

That’s the best I can offer. Oh, and sensible shoes. In case you have to walk home. Yep, it’s been done before.

When it’s all said and done, I’m happy to be a fashion failure, if it means I might back a winner. I wonder if that old safari suit still fits? If I polish up the cowboy boots, it just might work..