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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Your chance to pat a champion. And help him retire in style. Why we all love Chief De Beers.

May 26, 2012

Imagine if Matt Hayden had scored all his test centuries at the one ground. Hundred after hundred, at his beloved Gabba.

What about if Dawn Fraser had only won gold in the one pool? Picture Cathy Freeman streeting the opposition time and again, at just the one stadium.

I hear you. It could never happen. Unless, of course, you were Doomben’s favourite galloper.

Racing fans know the story of Chief De Beers. The Chief. I’ve heard it a dozen times, and it still amazes me.

The great horse won twenty races. All at the one track. Something we’ll never see again. He was simply unbeatable at Doomben.

Send him to Eagle Farm, or anywhere else for that matter, and he lost a leg. Yet a few hundred metres up the road, they couldn’t get near him.

Why would that be? I’ve heard plenty of theories. From old punters, and sports psychologists, and modern-day horse whisperers. And none of them have a clue.

I reckon it was all about being comfortable. We do our best work in a happy place. Maybe it was the view from his stall.

He was even happier, when the Doomben 10,000 rolled around. The great sprinter won it twice. With the crowd cheering his name all the way down the straight.

The best horses can take ownership of our biggest races. Makybe Diva made the Melbourne Cup her own. Super Impose was forever linked to the famous Doncaster Handicap. Won it back to back. From impossible positions. Find one on YouTube, and watch it again. Simply breathtaking.

The Chief did the same thing for the 10,000. The mere fact that the race was at Doomben gave him a few lengths start. Today, old timers will recall the link with a smile.

When they retired him, the Chief became an equine copper. The most famous of police horses. Patrolling the streets, always just in front of his four-legged colleagues. Old habits die hard.

A policeman I know reckons that whenever they used the Chief to patrol late night party districts, violence from drunken yobbos would reduce. Someone in the crowd would know the Chief’s story. A crowd would surround him, and tempers would calm. They weren’t game to cause strife on the Chief’s watch.

He left the force last week. It’s a young horse’s game now. I’m hearing he received a golden hoofshake, involving buckets of carrots. Every one deserved.

He’ll be back at Doomben this afternoon. Special guest at the track he made his own.

You can go and pat him. Get a photo. The old boy will love that. And when he parades for the crowd, cheer like there’s no tomorrow.

When the great day is over, the Champ will leave his favourite place, possibly for the final time. And he needs a new home.

His fans at the Brisbane Racing Club club are on a mission. They’re raising money, to allow the Chief to spend his final days at the Living Legends facility in Victoria. A 5 star retirement village for racetrack superstars.

He’ll be the first Queenslander to be retired there. Sharing paddocks with the likes of Might and Power, Saintly and Fields of Omagh.

You can help him get there. They’ll be raising money today at the track. If you have a win, give a little back to help one of our best.

Racing thrives on tradition, and memories. The exploits of Chief De Beers will be remembered for generations to come. Especially at Doomben. He only needed one place to shine.


There’s something about Doomben. Mid-week or Cup day, you’re not trying if you can’t have fun.

May 19, 2012

Every punter has a favourite racecourse.

Like others have pubs they swear by. Or pie shops. Places that make you smile. Especially if there’s free sauce.

For some, it’s the first track they visited.

My debut at the races was in Gosford. Not quite Royal Ascot. It didn’t matter. What a thrill for a young bloke, to see bookies and barmen, all on the same patch of dirt.

I know folk who grew up on racetracks. A great mate tells me of spending wonderful Saturdays at Eagle Farm as a kid. It doesn’t matter how much they change things. He still remembers the glory days, nearly half a century ago.

Others are fond of the course where they had their biggest win.

Obviously, that doesn’t apply to those of us who can’t remember their last decent collect. It may or may not have been ridden by Mick Dittman.

It’s true, that a special bond is created with the place that they hand over bundles of crisp fifties. Or so they tell me.

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the buzz of the track across this great land. They all have their attractions.

A bloke has had more fun at the Gold Coast than is legally allowed. Randwick and Flemington still take my breath away, with the ghosts of the greats hovering near the gates.

I won money at Cairns one day, and then listened to The Angels near the stables. A bunch of us lost all but the shirts on our backs at Bundaberg years ago, when the favourite in a big Sydney race fell in the back straight.

We mingled with Queensland’s biggest race crowd on Ipswich Cup day, and shivered in the freezing cold of Toowoomba in winter. Rums are compulsory to keep the blood pumping.

Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Day? It doesn’t get any better for a Queenslander. Extra points if you can make the walk back to the Hamilton Hotel.

But for all that, there’s something about Doomben. I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is, but I love the place.

Maybe because it’s a bit more compact. Always feels like there’s a crowd there, even on a quiet day.

Before they upgraded the old girl, you’d still find a decent spot close to the action. Food, drink, toilets and tote, all handy.

Unlike headquarters up the road, where Members rule, Doomben gave me the feel that the boys and girls in the public stands were having just as much fun.

It’s even better now. The new Members’ area is as good as you’ll find. If you can’t have a good time there you’re not fair dinkum.

My fondness for the place soared to new heights, fifty-three weeks ago. The day Black Caviar came to town. A day every one of us who saw her up close will never forget.

And so, to Doomben Cup Day. It’s not the highlight of the Winter Carnival. But it’s always hugely competitive. This year we have a Moody superstar, and a Kiwi hot shot. And the sentimental favourite Scenic Shot, with the inspirational Shane Scriven up top.

Don’t expect a Caviar roar if the old bloke salutes, but it won’t be far off.

Whatever the outcome, everyone there will have a bucket of fun. That’s what Doomben does to you.


My brilliant plan to get Black Caviar back to Brisbane. Just don’t tell The Chief..

February 25, 2012

Sports fans, the time has come. The challenge has been issued. Greatness is within our grasp.

We need a cunning plan. Something that will be so sweet, so enticing, that Peter Moody will have no choice but to again tie up his famous horse to the Doomben rail.

The master trainer is tossing up what to do next with Black Caviar. Will it be Brisbane or Adelaide, for win number 20?

Really, I’m hearing there’s a chance the mighty mare could be heading to the City of Churches. Stop laughing. All I can think is that the team wants a good night’s sleep, given lights will go out there at 10pm.

Normally, I’d be relaxed about our chances. But there’s so much at stake here. I want every Queenslander to have the chance to experience what 20,000 of my mates did last year. So we must get to work.

Keep it between us, but the powers-that-be in our great state have made some quiet approaches to the marketing arm of Hold All Tickets. Smart move.

They realise that there isn’t another blog in the land with access to such a qualified reader base. A bunch dripping with oodles of common sense and bright ideas. Yes, those still in pyjamas, I’m talking about you.

To help, I’ve come up with a preliminary plan, that I think will take some beating. For a modest deposit into my TAB account, I’ll get her back, and have the House Full sign up at Doomben.

It’s all about making Black Caviar’s return to Brisbane a major event. More than just the race. Like the Cup, and the Slipper, and the Stradbroke, it must last for days.

The mare, Moody and Luke Nolen will be required to attend all of my events. Three chairs at the front each and every time. One very big one. For the horse, not the trainer.

There’ll be a lunch, of course. Friday will see us fill the Convention Centre. Bart Sinclair and Wayne Wilson can co-host. And a special guest. I’m going outside the square here. Forget Cummings or Freedman or Glen Boss. This champion will blow Adelaide back into the Great Australian Bight.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome… Chief de Beers! Yes, THE champion of Doomben, back on stage.

Imagine the interview. With the Mighty Mare looking on, eyes menacing, Bart would nervously ask the question everyone in the room wanted to hear.

“So Chief, you won all 20 of your races at Doomben. Black Caviar will be chasing her second. How does she compare to you?”

“Simple”, the old boy would say with a cheeky grin. “Tell her to come and see me after another 18.”

The room would explode. The mare and the police horse would be trading blows centre stage. Wayne would be doing his best to keep Sinclair and Moody apart. The parched jockey would sneak a beer amid the chaos. What theatre. It would lead every news bulletin across the land.

Saturday, we’ll need something different. This is no normal day. And it all starts before we get to the course.

I propose a street parade. Down the length of Racecourse Rd. From the pub to the track. They’ll fly flags, and wear salmon and black hats, and cheer until they’re hoarse for the horse.

We’ll put the mare, Moody and Nolen in their own special vehicles. An open top BMW for the boys. An open top float with extra hay for Her Majesty. 4TAB and Sky Channel could do crosses along the route.

No need to explain the race itself. She’ll look after that side of things. Which takes us to Saturday night.

I would propose a free beer for every Queenslander at the Hamilton Hotel. Clive Palmer, are you listening? Ditch that soccer club, and spend your cash where it will be appreciated. For an hour at least.

From there, the entire race day crowd will head to the Brekky Creek pub. One famous steak per person. Compulsory. Two for the trainer. A snag for the jockey. And some A-grade hay for the horse. Thanks Clive.

So there we have it. When you see Queensland Events outline the above at a special media conference in a few months, remember where you read it first.

Reserve your spot for the street parade now. Get your Thank You card ready for Clive. And if you’re planning to visit from South Australia, take your time. We’ll be open all night here.


The pests who want to pot Black Caviar. Here’s a tip – we don’t want to hear it.

February 11, 2012

Someone, somewhere is bagging Black Caviar.

Can you believe that? The best horse we’ll see in our lifetime, and the Village Idiot wants to have a crack at her.

It would seem that the rest of us have been fooled all along. Those 17 consecutive wins weren’t the real deal.

According to the lunatic fringe, the mighty mare isn’t beating anything. The competition is ordinary. Therefore, Moody’s flying machine isn’t the awesome animal we’ve declared.

Proof once again, that one doesn’t need a long neck to be a goose.

It irks me no end when people go out of their way to find fault with a champion.

Un-Australian, that’s what it is. These same fools would declare Alfie Langer too small, and Dipper too big.

The clowns without wigs, who announce to their mates that Doug Walters wasn’t fit enough, and Harry Kewell only cares about the cash.

Spend long enough with them, and they’d probably tell you Mother Teresa needed to work on her wardrobe.

I don’t get it. Why not just sit back and enjoy the freakish talents of the great ones?

True sports fans don’t need to bring champions down. They simply marvel at the performance.

Today, Black Caviar tries something different. An extra 200 metres. Her first attempt at 1400 metres.

She will win again. No doubt about that. In my humble opinion, she’ll be even better over this distance. An extra furlong to break their hearts.

Peter Moody thinks so. He’s always believed she’d be stronger as the trip increased. Luke Nolen too.

That enormous, soul-destroying stride. She’ll swallow them up again, soon after they straighten. Their lungs will be screaming for air. She’ll be cruising.

These dimwits who subscribe to the argument that she’s beating second-raters, weren’t at Doomben when she won the BTC Cup last year. The day she crushed Hay List, again.

At his best, he’s a world-class sprinter. If she wasn’t around, he’d have a mantlepiece full of trophies.

That afternoon at Doomben, for the briefest of seconds, Glen Boss thought he might have pinched it. Hay List was flying in front. Maybe this would be the day.

It wasn’t. In the space of a few strides, the Mighty Mare caught up, drew level, went past, and exploded away. Seriously, just a few strides.

There were 20,000 race fans jammed into the course that day. Screaming her name. I’m here to tell you that not one of them thought Black Caviar was beating nothing.

We were all just happy to be there. In the presence of something so special. The rank and file of the racing game get a buzz from such events. They have no time to look for negatives that don’t exist.

I didn’t see Phar Lap or Tulloch. Wish I had. To be in the stand at Flemington watching Big Red winning the Cup must surely have been the greatest thrill the sport has produced.

I have no need to compare them with our current superstar. Good fun in the pub and on talkback radio, but I don’t need the answer.

Peter Moody’s Superhorse has already given me my greatest experience in racing. The day she created history in Brisbane.

She provides that joy for so many people, wherever she runs. They don’t care about winnings. It’s about golden memories. And smiles.

You and I, we’ll see other great ones before we head to the Great Spelling paddock in the sky. But nothing like her.

Enjoy what she does this afternoon. Turn your back on anyone who dares to doubt her. And take it all in. This journey we’re on won’t last forever.