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.

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Locals reveal their secrets, on how to back a winner at the Cairns Amateurs.

September 13, 2014

The best racecourses get you excited at the front gate.

Walk into Eagle Farm, and tell me you’re not tingling. Randwick too. You can’t help but breathe in the history.

Cairns does it to me every time. The walk to the entrance, reminds me of everything that is wonderful about the tropical north.

So it will be today. There will be a swarm of us, ready for the fun that is Amateurs.

Some, it must be said, will be dusty. Many of those dressed to the nines, will be showing remarkable powers of recovery.

Just hours ago, they were dancing up a storm at the Amateurs Ball. Screaming Shannon Noll’s name as if he was a short-priced favourite three lengths clear.

They will be sweating pure champagne. Such is the sacrifice that must be made for the North’s premier racing event.

Of course, it’s all well and good to be in the social pages tomorrow, but the priority today is to find a winner or three. Luckily, I’m here to help.

After shaking off the black-tie cobwebs, I’ve been able to canvass some experts in the field, to guide you in the right direction

The bloke two stools up at the early-opener told me we must follow that wily veteran Frank Edwards.

He may have been giving that advice for half a century, because that’s how long it seems Frank has been winning races up here.

But age shall not weary him, so don’t be afraid to get on today.

Another veteran hoop will be in action, and as sure as I’ll be late getting a winning bet on, he will win a race.

Robert Thompson could salute on a rocking horse. He’s been coming up here for years, showing the youngsters how it’s done. He might be the one to finance your lobster tonight.

What we don’t want, is to be following jockeys who were bopping to ‘What About Me’ last night.

They tell me he’s a fair dancer, but Chris Whiteley will be saving his special moves for this afternoon. My Gold Coast mates rate him at the top of the tree. Follow him with confidence today, even at odds.

Here’s hoping those three have us excited when we’re walking out of the gates too.

And one final piece of advice. If a woman in fancy headwear tips you something based on names, colours or lucky numbers, follow her. Funny things happen on Amateurs Day. That’s the beauty of it.


Champagne taste on a beer budget. And no madam, we are not Old Queens.

December 10, 2013

It could not have been any more romantic.

The sun, blazing a fiery orange, sinking into the Top End sea before us. On the table, a bucket, holding an icy bottle of champers, and two chilled glasses.

A woman of advanced years walked past us, and gave us a look. It wasn’t quite a smile. Just a look.

I was sitting with Big Nose. The two of us have been mates for years. Old coaching buddies. But this was a first. Normally, we would have shared a cold brew. Or eight. Not this time.

It took some explaining that I was now enjoying a champagne. He may have had one once, at a wedding a long time ago. Probably not his own.

This is a bloke more at home in the raucous front bar of a pub. It is fair to say he’s built for comfort rather than speed. Yes, he’s been in a decent paddock.

We would have looked .. different. Not that we cared. There is a reason for the shift to bubbles.

I had my first beer at the kitchen table, many moons ago. Dad shared a sip of his precious bottle. A brew from the time known as KB. It may or may not have been made in a vat of his old work socks.

Over the years, I developed a taste for the amber fluid. I have helped make shareholders in big breweries very rich indeed. A beer would be had most nights. Maybe two, on a warm weekend. But the Spanish Dancer changed all that.

After surgery, I found that my love affair with it had changed. These things happen. Those remaining organs expressed concern that they were not happy with the arrangement. So a replacement needed to be found.

As it would happen, I strayed into the world of champagne. And, to my great surprise, loved it. Who would have thought?

When the need for a cool drink beckons, I now more often than not head that way. And everyone is happy. Everyone, except Big Nose.

Back to our table for two in Darwin. As a great mate, he understands the change. A small price to pay, he reckons, for still being around. But such noble thoughts didn’t help much, when one of his workmates spied us.

At first, I’m sure he was just coming over to say g’day. A big bugger too. Covered in tough stickers. He was mid-greeting, when he saw the champers.

He looked at Big Nose, and at me, and at Big Nose again. The wheels were turning slowly. Surely not, he was thinking.

I believe it was our ordinary looks and complete lack of fashion sense that saved the day. Even old footy coaches, it seems, can enjoy a fizz together.

Don’t be put off if I knock back a stubby for a flute glass over Chrissy. It’s all about embracing change. Whether we like it or not. The Old Man would be shaking his head. If only his work socks had been a little sweeter.