My secret role in getting Black Caviar back to Brisbane.

February 16, 2013

The connections of Black Caviar were at a loss.

Everyone wanted a piece of the Mighty Mare. Offers were coming in thick and fast. Where should they take her next?

We were on our weekly phone hook-up. Yes, it took up some of my valuable time, but I was happy to assist. As a fellow winning owner (midweek), it was my duty.

Moody came on the line late. Some excuse about stocking the fridge with XXXX Gold, so they’d be icy cold for tonight’s celebrations.

When the master trainer asks a favour, it’s hard to say no. On the promise of a steak at the Breakfast Creek on his next visit, I agreed.

He wanted me to draw up a list, to help them decide where to take the Champ on her farewell tour.

The connections joined in, almost pleading with me. What could I do? As a National Treasure (her, not me) I had to help.

I promised them I wouldn’t share this information, so you’ll need to keep it between us. You know how narky those southern race clubs can get.

So here’s what I sent them. Let me know if you agree. If you don’t, contact the connections.

FLEMINGTON: What a wonderful track. But fair’s fair. She’s running there today. The joint will be packed. Once is enough.

RANDWICK: You know how much I love this place. But there’s so much construction work going on. Not a good look in the after-race photos. And the Sydney trainers will complain that she’s being offered preferential treatment. We don’t need the negatives.

MORPHETVILLE: Nice place apparently. But they turn the lights out after 8pm. How will we celebrate? And we couldn’t listen to that call again. No chance.

ASCOT: Now you all know I love my Perth racing. But it’s such a LONG way to get there. The Great One doesn’t need the trip. Apologies to my western friends, but it ain’t gonna happen.

CAIRNS: Don’t laugh. We could get BC out on the reef for some snorkelling. She’d love that. We’d need some fair size floaties though. There’s no better track to watch The Angels after the last, with rum in hand. Keep it on the shortlist.

And finally….

EAGLE FARM: The ideal choice. They’ll come from the Cape to Coolangatta. The Mighty Mare can spend some time in the sun on the Gold Coast, before heading up to meet the locals at Hendra. Moody can take his place on a bar stool at the Brekky Creek, and every Queenslander will have a beer with him.

It will be around Origin time, so the Mighty Maroons will shout her to dinner. Mal Meninga will give her a Queensland jersey, signed by the boys, that she can wear to the track each morning. And she can sit in the coaches box during the game.

Most importantly, the crowd on that Saturday will make her feel like the most special girl in the world. We’ll cheer till we’re hoarse, over the horse. No one does that better than a Queenslander.

The connections tell me they’re still studying my proposal. Such a big choice. No pressure. Although I will say, they’re saving that seat at the pub for Pete. I’ll have my steak medium thanks.

My Stradbroke punting disaster. Breaking the golden rule in picking our big winner.

June 9, 2012

It was a modern-day racing tragedy.

Two men, who should have backed a big winner, but didn’t. And took turns at kicking themselves.

We were only ever going to back one horse on Stradbroke Day last year. For months, we’d spruiked Sincero. Told our mates, and colleagues, and long-suffering families.

We giggled to each other about how clever we were. About the odds we’d pinch early. How we’d be ordering the specials at Chinese that night.

You see, we had secret info. My Great Mate was on the inside. He knows Sincero’s regular jockey, Chris O’Brien. They’re good buddies. The hoop rides for him down south.

The camp was supremely confident in the weeks before. This would be a raid that the Queenslanders wouldn’t see coming. Except we knew.

Then, two things occurred. Two shattering, confidence-sapping events.

Sincero flopped in his lead up run to the big race. Thrashed. The bookies wound his price out. We got nervous.

Then there was a change of jockey. O’Brien was no chance of making the weight. Our man was no longer in the saddle. Replaced for the grand final.

What happened next still haunts me. Some blamed it on our big Friday night. Too many brain cells lost.

Others thought we were just plain dills. Unable to follow a punting plan through. Not worthy of winning.

Hard to argue with any of that. Because on that Saturday, we stood in the Eagle Farm stand, and changed our minds. Just like that. Put our cash on something else. I can’t even remember what it was.

You know the rest. The black colours swept to the front. Two hearts sank. We both knew .. three hundred metres out. Home in a canter.

Those around us expressed shock at the ease of the win. “Who would have backed that?”, they asked. If only they knew.

It pains me to admit that I have form for going off the Stradbroke winner. In 2004, I had walked onto the track ready to launch into Bob Thompson’s colt, Thorn Park.

Similar circumstances. Declared it weeks before. Tipped it to all and sundry. And then, minutes out, changed my mind.

I can still see where I was standing. A tote line, in a fancy corporate tent. With too much time to think.

I had just been given a tip. For a donkey that would jump from a barrier so wide it was positioned in Racecourse Road.

I looked at the blinking odds on the TV above me, and got greedy. A juicy price, for a galloper being tipped by a judge way smarter than me.

And so I changed my mind. Just like that. You know the rest. The yellow colours swept to the front. Daylight second. For a punter, there’s no lower feeling.

I forgot that bitter lesson last year. Never again.

So, here it is. The golden rule for backing the Stradbroke winner. Stay solid. Stick with what you’ve liked for weeks. Don’t be swayed by others.

So what have I liked for weeks? The Snowden flying machine, Mental. An absolute special. Except for one tiny detail. It hasn’t made the field.

Instead, it will win a race earlier in the day at ridiculous odds. And leave me guessing again in the big one.

There’s no hope for me today, but it’s not too late for you. Back your own judgement. And if you a spot a bloke in a tote line, staring blankly at the TV above, throw him a tip. I need all the help I can get.

Dressing for success on Oaks Day. Fashion secrets to make any racing bum a winner.

June 2, 2012

I’m not one to notice fashion at the track. Good or bad. Mine, or anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for you to get dressed up. Ditch the thongs and find some sensible shoes. But there are other things to concentrate on. Like finishing the day with bus fare.

Oaks Day is one of those great occasions, where lots of non-racing people head to the races. Stylish women who might not see a horse all afternoon. Refined men who toss the form guide away to get to the theatre guide quicker.

And that’s just fine. The fashion parades, and the young fillies and stallions, add to the fun.

Of course, we need to find the winner of the Oaks. Pretty clear-cut I reckon. But first, tips that are even more important. What you should be wearing.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a fancy box today, well done. You’ve obviously grovelled to the right people. The aim now is not to blow it, so you get another invite next year.

For the blokes, it’s pretty simple. Dust off your best suit. Iron a decent shirt. Check that you can do up the top button. Believe me, those collars shrink each year.

Never wear new shoes. Shine up your old favourites. Grab some comfy socks. You’re now set to sprint through the betting ring to snap up the best odds.

There’s another advantage to this strategy. If you have to walk home, branded one of the day’s great losers, at least you won’t get blisters.

Don’t wear a tie that has a cartoon on it, or a flashing light. No-one has ever had a successful day on the punt with Bugs Bunny hanging from their neck.

Unless you’re a member of a Royal Family, or you’ve just had scalp surgery, don’t wear a hat. Those close to you saying it’s a winning look, are secretly making a documentary on your worst fashion moments.

You might think that I wouldn’t dare give fashion advice to the ladies. And you would be right. Not that they would listen to me anyway. I have enough trouble remembering to put a belt on.

My Kiwi friends are not known for their sartorial elegance either. They’ll be required to check in their fleecy overcoat at the front gate.

What they do know, however, is how to train winners in the Queensland winter. If it’s a distance race, double your bet.

They’ll pinch the Oaks today. John Sargent has trained Quintessential to the minute. She’ll be saluting, with my Kiwi mate Damian Browne in the saddle.

A word of warning though. Go easy if it gets too wet. One of the few New Zealanders who doesn’t grow a leg in the mud. That could bring Miss Artistic into the picture. That’s right. Another Kiwi.

So there you have it. Everything you need to make the big day a success. Making money and looking good, all in one afternoon. Unless your tie is flashing. If it is, good luck with that walk home.

Working out those sneaky Kiwis this Winter Carnival. Any help to find their winners greatly appreciated.

May 5, 2012

I go ok with Kiwis.

They were side by side with us in the war. Nothing about being across the ditch then. They were warriors. Helping their Aussie cousins.

Now there are cousins on every street corner. Cheering the Warriors.

In the racing world, there’s an affinity between New Zealanders and Queenslanders.

We share that laid back attitude. And a love of sticking it up those good folk south of the border.

That’s all well and good. But how the hell do I know what the visitors fancy for the Winter Carnival?

Kiwi Raiders are everywhere. They bring their best over, to pluck our riches. That’s fine, as long as I know the sting is on.

It’s not confined to the feature days. They’ll be winning in the coming weeks. On the Gold Coast, and at Caloundra, and all points in between.

Few will tip them. And connections will be invisible until they strut their stuff at Eagle Farm in a few weeks.

The Kiwi jockeys will be heavily involved. They’ll all be trying to book my man Damian Browne. Larry Cassidy will be engaged for an outsider with form that features duck eggs. His brother Jim will come up, saying he needs some sunshine.

The NZ trainers will say nothing meaningful. You’ll get more out of Easter Island statues. They’ll attend breakfasts, and expensive lunches, and praise Aussie runners that couldn’t beat time with a stick.

I heard John Wheeler at Queensland’s Breakfast with the Stars a few years back. You wouldn’t meet a nicer bloke. Need a tip? Get in the queue.

The rest are the same. Roger James. The mob that trained Ethereal.

They hide around corners, hoping to get an extra point from the bookies.

Beware the smokescreens. Their charges always need another run. They come from the land of mud, but they won’t handle the track. The competition is too hot.

Forget the form over the ditch. They run their best hopes in races on the South Island that we don’t understand. A win by seven lengths is written off as a canter against ‘ordinary opposition.”

Make no mistake, the mob with black and white caps are here to plunder. Ignore them at your peril.

It’s all part of the Winter Carnival fun. Makes it even more special when you find a winner. And that’s the other thing. They hate it when we find them out. Discover their secrets.

Let me know if you’re onto something. It’s the least you can do for a cousin. Thanks Bro.

How I can save Qld Racing. Along with Moody, Singo, a radio legend and a sexy model.

April 28, 2012

First off, on behalf of all Queenslanders, let me congratulate the good folk of South Australia.

You won the Black Caviar battle. She’ll be breaking records in your backyard this afternoon, instead of ours.

What an experience to savour. Maybe even your greatest racing moment. Something to tell the kids, and the grandkids. Like we did up here last year.

Yep, they’ll be celebrating into the night down there. The pubs might even allow one last beer after 9pm. Wild times.

So where did we go wrong? Why is the Mighty Mare thrilling the southerners, instead of dazzling Doomben again?

It’s clear that we need a plan, to make sure it doesn’t happen again. To do that, we need the sharpest and most innovative minds in the game.

Sadly, they’re all either asleep or trying to make bail at the time of writing. So the job has been left in my less than capable hands.

And that’s a good thing. Because I have a simple solution, that will only cost a few million.

It’s time we appointed Queensland Racing ambassadors. Some superstars to get us noticed from boardrooms to bush tracks. And I have just the cattle.

Ambassador #1 .. Peter Moody.

Yes, the bloke who’s in Adelaide today. If Australian Racing had a Board of Directors, Moods would be my chairman.

They don’t, so we can pinch him.

Moody is constantly promoting the industry. Taking the best mare ever all over the nation, so everyone can experience racing at its finest.

He wants to attract people back to the races. And knows the best way to it. Show them a superstar.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s a Charleville boy. Proud Queenslander. And he’d come cheap. Give him free XXXX Gold at every pub in Brisbane, and he’d never go home.

Ambassador #2 .. John Singleton.

My mate Singo is another who can’t help but promote racing. It’s his passion. And he cares more for the bloke in shorts at the bar than anyone in the Members.

He might be a Blue, but he’s at war with NSW Racing officials. Perfect time to make him an honourary Queenslander.

Whack on a big money race for More Joyous at Eagle Farm, and he’d be ours. Believe me, having Singo in our corner would be a huge asset.

Ambassador #3 .. Alan Jones.

As much as I love the boys on 4TAB, we need some added punch down south. Selling our story, to get the horses, jockeys and fans spending their cash north of the border.

Alan is our man. Another Queenslander, living in enemy territory. It’s now law in Sydney to listen to his breakfast show. He’ll spread the message far and wide.

The radio legend gets back to his home state whenever he can. Let’s make it official.

Ambassador #4 .. Miranda Kerr.

The world’s most famous model went to school in Brisbane. With some creative story-telling, we’ll tell her fans overseas that she was a trackwork rider for Rob Heathcote in her early days. I’m pretty sure she weights less than Chris Munce.

The international interest would be enormous, if we could have Miranda and her Hollywood boyfriend in a photo shoot inside the new Eagle Farm enclosure.

She has other friends too, that she could invite to the Winter Carnival. Make no mistake, there can never be enough Supermodels at the racetrack.

So there we have it. A foolproof plan, to put the national and international spotlight on Queensland racing. The four of them will be our version of The Avengers.

They can have caps with a catchy slogan. “Queensland Racing Ahead”. Get them and their horses/partners/fans on board, and we won’t be able to fit the crowds onto the course.

I’ve done the hard work. The officials can take it from here. Please send my cheque to the Hold All Tickets office. And one of those fancy caps.

Tips for Queensland’s new Racing Minister, on how to make friends. It will help him save an industry.

March 31, 2012

It’s a fair bet that not one Queensland racing supporter voted Labor last weekend.

What a turnaround. Surely that’s never happened before.

It’s hard to remember an industry and its players being so against a sitting Government.

Trust me, I have no love of politicians on either side. But I experienced the difference between the parties first hand at this year’s Magic Millions.

Campbell Newman’s table was overflowing. Party people with a genuine love of racing. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know who the favourite was, but the leader surrounded himself with those who did.

The Government of the day was represented by just one bloke. Not the Minister. He wasn’t interested in attending. Instead, he sent an advisor. Impeccably dressed, as they all seem to be. I was lucky enough to sit next to him.

He’d never been to the races before. Didn’t understand it, and had no intention of learning that day. He ate the meal, finished his water, and left before the Gold Coast’s biggest event.

I’m guessing he now has plenty of time to catch up on the form.

Racing people are famous for having strident views. Raised voices are as common as wet tracks. The usual position is that no-one agrees on anything.

But in this case, it seemed that everyone was on the same page. The multi-million dollar industry, one of the state’s largest, was heading in the wrong direction. And people were hurting.

Not just owners and trainers. The tote worker, and the beer-pourer, and the stablehand.

Not just in the city. In the regions, and the country towns, where racing is sometimes a once-a-year affair.

The lesson would seem to be – ignore such folk at your electoral peril.

So now, we have a new Government, and a new Racing Minister. A bloke by the name of Steve Dickson. Not one of their big guns, it must be said. He lists martial arts as one of his interests. Could be the perfect preparation for this job.

An audit has been ordered of the Racing Queensland books. That might tell us where the money was going, and more importantly, where it wasn’t.

There’ll be immediate action on an election promise, to re-instate slashed country race meetings. Bravo.

Those behind the decision to scrap meetings in the bush, have obviously never been to one. Might have been that joker I sat next to.

Some small towns have their biggest day of the year on Cup day. An event that brings people together from miles around. A glimmer of hope, in tough times for so many.

They don’t just drink and punt. They dress up, and talk business, and support each other. And that’s worth every cent of funding.

As important as all that is, let’s hope Campbell and his new Minister don’t think that it stops there. Because there is so much to do, right here in Brisbane.

Prizemoney must be raised for city racing. Quickly. Owners and trainers have been carrying the can for too long. The comparison with other states is a giant embarrassment.

More cash keeps all those players in the game. It attracts better horses and jockeys. Better racing leads to bigger crowds.

The racing surface at Eagle Farm needs urgent work. Everyone knows it. It should be our showpiece. Instead, we now have punters refusing to bet on it.

As soon as the Winter Carnival is done, do it. Properly. Make the old girl a track to match the great courses of the world.

Those at the Brisbane Racing club know all this. They’ve been taking great strides in improving facilities at both Eagle Farm and Doomben. There have been decent improvements in a short time. They’re racing lovers. They want their sport to shine.

Problem is, they’ve been operating with hands tied behind backs. Racing Queensland, in its infinite wisdom, cut grants, and created obstacles at every turn. Let’s hope that’s a thing of the past.

New Minister Dickson needs to get people involved from the top down, who have a passion for racing. They must want to be there. It’s more than a job. Just ask all those who get up at 3am every day, to keep the industry alive.

That’s what the advisor in the expensive suit didn’t understand. Those in the racing game are different. They live and breathe their industry. And they refuse to be treated as fools.

Want decent prizemoney? Take your horse to country Victoria, or Perth. Anywhere but Brisbane.

March 17, 2012

From all accounts, Bendigo is a pleasant enough place. A gold rush town in country Victoria.

I’ve never been there, but I’m guessing there are no great delays at traffic lights. Population is a tick over 100,000.

Today, plenty of those locals will head to the races. A stand alone Saturday meeting if you don’t mind. Good luck to them.

A few thousand kilometres to the north, they’ll be racing too. At Brisbane’s majestic Eagle Farm. Queensland’s premier racetrack. Headquarters for an industry that’s one of the state’s biggest employers.

Two race meetings. One, at a regional track in a country town. The other, in the nation’s third largest city.

Your question this morning dear reader, is this. Which of the two is offering the most prize money?

On the surface, the answer should be simple. Logic would dictate that it would be the meeting in a city of a few million people, featuring some of the country’s most talented jockeys and most successful trainers.

Wrong. Sadly, when it comes to prize money in Queensland, logic runs a distance last, under the whip a long way from home.

Yes, the good folk of Bendigo leave Brisbane in the shade today. What an embarrassment.

If you’re an owner trying to make a quid with your horse at Eagle Farm, the best you can do is a $50,000 dollar race. Four events on the card are worth $45,000 dollars, where the winner will pick up a bit under 29 grand.

Down Bendigo way, on their big day, there’s a feature race worth $125,000 dollars. Two big races worth $90,000, and another worth $75,000.

The rest of the card, another five races, are all worth $50,000 dollars.

Not convinced something stinks in the River City? Let’s board the red-eye to Perth, to compare figures with our Western cousins.

At Ascot today, they’ll be competing in a few early races worth a lazy $45,000 bucks. After that, they’re counting the cash. Five races, all worth $80,000 dollars. Yep, in Perth.

I won’t even mention Sydney. Fair enough, they have Group One racing today. But take a look any other weekend in the Harbour City and Melbourne. If you’re involved in the industry in Brisbane, it makes for grim reading.

The crazy thing is, everyone seems to agree. Anyone who sets foot on course, or who has a flutter in the TAB, knows it’s the biggest issue facing the industry.

Trainers are now eyeing off southern stables. Owners are doing their sums, and accepting that they may have to take their beloved horses elsewhere.

Costs are skyrocketing, but the cash in the winners lounge isn’t keeping up. The industry is tough enough as it is. They can’t run around for the fun of it.

So who do we blame? Who is dragging the chain here?

Brisbane Racing Club is in an impossible position. The club has done plenty to improve the racing experience at Eagle Farm and Doomben. But the state’s controlling body, Racing Queensland, has stripped thousands from the budget.

With subsidies reduced by so much, prize money can’t be increased. Help is badly needed.

The big bosses will scoff, and dismiss such criticism, as they always do whenever someone dares to examine the problem.

Here in Queensland, we’re in the 66th week of an election campaign. Or so it seems. Everyone else has their hand out in the lead up to the poll. We can only hope those running the industry we love are doing the same.

Good luck if you have one running today. Unless you’re in Bendigo. You don’t need luck. You’ve already had a win there, and they haven’t even left the gates.

It’s official. The three greatest days recorded on a racetrack. Were you there with me?

November 26, 2011

I’ve never had a bad day at the track.

Sure, there have been frustrating days. Costly too. Afternoons where common sense ran a distant last. And sessions that led to a long walk home.

But it’s always fun. Sometimes in a perverse sort of way. Non-punting friends are shaking their heads again.

To help those poor unfortunates who prefer golf or scrabble on their Saturdays, I thought I’d compile a list of some memorable days at the races.

Every chance you won’t remember them. No Phar Laps or Black Caviars here. Just some personal favourites. Special racecourse visits, that still make me smile.

So here we go. Counting down my all-time top three Ripper Days at the track. Not including the ones I can’t remember.

*Ripper Memory Number 3 – Magic Millions Day 2003 .. Regimental Gal.

I have always had a love of Gold Coast racing. And nothing says surf and turf better than Magic Millions.

Singo used to call it Melbourne Cup day in shorts and thongs. A unique party atmosphere. In the middle of summer.

Back then, Shaun Dwyer was training out of Toowoomba. A fine horseman, who’d been having great success. But without the profile of Bart, Gai, and the Freedman boys.

I convinced the boss that it would be fun to follow a Queenslander trying to win the big race. Just maybe, we’d link up with a bunch of locals who could  knock off the big guns.

Shaun was great. Incredibly generous with his time. He introduced me to the owners, and to a flying filly called Regimental Gal. More importantly, he confided in me that she was a huge chance.

On race day, the course was packed, as usual. We had a big crew, and no-one missed out on a cool drink.

Nothing unusual there. Except this year, I considered myself part of the team. Whether the team liked it or not.

She won, running away. One of Michael Rodd’s first big victories. When she saluted, I jumped in the air like she was mine. Possibly something to do with the 15 to 1.

After the race, I went down to congratulate Shaun and the rest of them. Hugged them, and possibly kissed someone. To their eternal credit, they didn’t have security drag me away. They even made me stay for an ale. I may or may not have sneaked into a photo.

The locals won the day. I was proud of them.

*Ripper Memory Number 2 – Melbourne Cup Day .. 2001

Going to the Cup for the first time is incredibly special. I’d been to Flemington, but not for Carnival week.

It’s like a cricket fan walking into Lords. Almost religious.

Derby Day was awesome. As I imagined it would be. Cup day? Simply spectacular.

We arrived early. Because everyone does. The big race was sponsored by Tooheys that year. What luck. It was decided that we should do the right thing, and support them straight away.

Hitting the bar, as the rest of the country was having breakfast, we encountered a snag. The sponsor’s product hadn’t been chilled. It was just sitting there, in cartons. What were they thinking? Hot beer was not the way we would be celebrating the great race.

So, our first drink of the day was that glorious product originating from the cane fields of Bundaberg. The Queenslanders were in town.

Somehow, I still remember the following hours. The colour and excitement of the day was more intoxicating than anything they served in glass.

Ethereal won the big one. She claimed a Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double. We cheered, and hugged, and laughed. And then caught a train home with 100,000 other people.

It should be compulsory for Australians to go to at least one Melbourne Cup in their lifetime. And if you’re a punter, you have to go to two. We’ll be back.

*Ripper Memory Number 1 – Beartracker wins at Eagle Farm – November 21, 2009

It wasn’t the biggest race of the year. Not even the feature of the day. In fact, it was Race One, on a pretty ordinary card at headquarters.

If you’d been there that day, you would have found a seat with ease. And there was no line up for drinks.

That humble Saturday, remains one of the greatest days in my life. The day a gritty gelding we had a part-share in, took the prize at Eagle Farm.

It was the mighty Beartracker’s main target. A 2400 metre Quality event. And so it was that a bunch of us gathered, to watch him go around.

Jason Holder rode like a man inspired. We stood and cheered in the stand, louder than anyone has ever cheered on a racecourse.

He won.

I doubt anyone could have been more excited. My face hurt from smiling. Jason may have been injured in the post-race hug. Rob Heathcote considered applying for a restraining order in the enclosure, to keep me away.

Members of our syndicate went into the Committee room, and drank tiny beers. The same place the greats had stood, and sipped. We gulped.

They finally kicked us out, to prepare for the next race. We found a nearby table, and continued the party. I can’t remember having more fun.

I can only imagine what the celebrations must be like after a Cup, or a Cox Plate. But for us, nothing could beat the feeling we had that afternoon at Eagle Farm.

So there you have it. Three golden moments. Just thinking about those great times makes me want to go straight to the track.

I’m sure you have your own memories. It’s the beauty of the racing game. We’re easily excited. And nothing beats a winner.

How a couple of old blokes will have too much fun on Stradbroke weekend.

June 10, 2011

I’m excited. Like a kid who’s peeked downstairs on Christmas night and spotted a Malvern Star under the tree. It’s Stradbroke weekend.

Queensland’s favourite race day. At our best racetrack. Eagle Farm. Since 1890. What a tradition.

The great sporting venues are rich with history. Around every corner. Especially on a racecourse.

When I first visited Flemington, I imagined Phar Lap steaming up that giant straight. Listen hard, and you can hear the whoosh as Big Red surges to the post.

Go to Randwick, and feel the spirit of Tommy Smith bustling past. On his way to saddle up another winner. Maybe chip a jockey who ignored the gospel.

Eagle Farm is different. When I sit in the stands, I think about the punters of winter carnivals gone by. Cheering. Cursing. Offering a tale of woe to anyone who might be listening. Yep, some things don’t change.

There are spots on course, that help tell a state’s history. I like that. Something old. Something new.

Memories away from the track too. I remember watching in awe from Bundaberg when Rough Habit won his second Stradbroke in 1992. I groaned in Cairns back in ’95 when my favourite sprinter Schillaci could only finish second.

Since then, I’ve worked on some tradition of my own. And that’s why I’m so excited.

My mate and I plan it every year. Our favourite weekend, that revolves around the big race. He flies up, I take time off. A racing holiday for old farts.

It all starts today. We’re off to the Bernborough Club lunch. Honouring a champ, with a few hundred other like-minded fans. They’ll be excited too. I’ll check this for you, but I suspect cool drinks could be on offer.

We’ve been told that Mick Dittman might be speaking. I hope they don’t mind two blokes squealing like schoolgirls on table seven.

At day’s end, we’ll devour a steak at the Caxton. Then watch the footy. Not too late, though. That’s the plan anyway. A bloke needs to be reasonably tidy for the main event.

Come Saturday, we actually get nervous walking through those big gates at the end of Racecourse road. The huge crowd walks as one. Form guide in one pocket. Hope in another.

The day flies past. Brisbane Cup. The TJ Smith. The Derby. And the Stradbroke. What a program.

For what it’s worth, we both like Woorim in the big one. Go the local boy.

At day’s end, we’ll catch the bus to the pub down the road for a few cleansing ales. Like they did fifty years ago. Hopefully we’ll have enough left to actually buy one.

Then it’s off for post-races Chinese. The same restaurant every year, of course. They should remember our order by now.

Once, when the Brisbane Cup was still run on the holiday Monday, we bumped into Paul Perry and the owners of Newport there.

They were celebrating their win in the Cup, and counting cash. With that beautiful cup in the middle of the table. We promised each other, over a mountain of fried rice and cups of cheap wine, that we’d do the same one day.

If we’re not under the whip by this stage, we venture out for a final sip. It’s a never-ending search for somewhere playing eighties music. Sad, isn’t it.

Last year we took a wrong turn, and ended up in a karaoke bar with some very loud American students. Not quite what we were looking for.

Anyway, that’s our weekend. Wish us luck. If you happen to see us along the way, some words of encouragement would be good. Maybe even a tip or two. Another chapter will be written. On and off the track. Tradition. You can’t beat it.

A tribute to the Ladies at Eagle Farm. Especially the fast ones.

June 3, 2011

Here come the good sorts. Everywhere you look. Ladies’ Day at Eagle Farm. The girls taking centre stage.

It’s winter, but coats will shine. If you’re lucky, you might see a hint of ribs. Sexy.

Yep, it’s all about the fillies. The four-legged types. You knew that, right?

Fair enough, there’ll be impressive types on two legs as well. They’ll be frocked up and ready to play all the way up Racecourse Road. But that’s of no interest to us punters.

We won’t even look. Not so much as a glance. All our focus will be on the horses. I promise. Not even in those breaks between races. Or when they hold the fashion parade. Let me know who wins.

The Queensland Oaks is the real contest. Our best three-year olds of the fairer sex. A true staying test up that famous straight.

They don’t get much tougher than a visitor from across the ditch. Scarlett Lady. A name with attitude, and a motor to match.

This Kiwi powerhouse has won her last 5 starts. In the Doomben Roses two weeks back, she flew home. A performance stamped with class.

Each time the old master Graeme Rogerson steps her out, she seems to get better. She looks like she’ll love the big open spaces at Eagle Farm. Don’t say it too loud, but this Lady could just be one of the best bets of the carnival.

Good news, too, for the girls who are more concerned with fascinators than form. If you don’t get a chance to do your speed maps, there are plenty of Oaks omen bets on offer.

What about these? A quinella with Scarlett Lady and Divorces. Maybe throw Hidden Kisses in for a treacherous trifecta. And Crafty Lady for a first four. Ex-husbands everywhere will be trembling.

For the lasses who might indulge in one too many glasses of bubbly, try In a Tangle and I Walk The Line.

We can’t leave out the beauty queens. Those wearing a sash can combine Shez Sinsational with Tropicana Girl. See, a bet for everyone. As long as you’re in a dress.

The last three weeks at Doomben have been outstanding. It didn’t hurt having Black Caviar on the card. Big crowds each week, and a great atmosphere.

It’s what happens when facilities are improved, so that racegoers don’t feel they’re back in the 19th century. Much of Doomben is now world-class. A great place to have a punt and a cool drink with friends.

Traditionally, crowds get even bigger when we wander up the road to headquarters. Let’s hope so. With the right weather, the next fortnight could cap the best winter carnival in decades.

But back to Ladies’ Day. Boys, be careful out there. It’s easy to get caught up in such a gathering. Blinded by beauty at every turn.

Lucky we’re a hardy bunch. And dedicated to the cause. If you see a fellow punter distracted tomorrow, give him a nudge. Remember, I said I won’t be looking. Maybe make that two nudges. Just in case.