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.

Finally the campaign is over. Your expert form guide to the Great Queensland Election race.

March 24, 2012

They’ve been trained to the minute for this day. Coats are shining. These candidates are ready to run.

They’ve been put through their paces morning and night for six weeks. The backroom boys will tell you they’ve done their bit. Nothing has been left to chance.

If you’re north of the border, you couldn’t have missed the lead up to the big event. Every training gallop has been scrutinised time and again.

As you head to the ballot box, ready to have a punt on the finish, feel free to ignore those infuriating party people standing on the fence, thrusting meaningless bits of paper into your hand. All the help you need is right here.

The Hold All Tickets team has been hovering in the shadows, getting the lowdown on the favoured chances. So here it is. Your official guide to the main hopes in the Great Queensland Election race 2012.

1/ Last Chance Anna. Trained by the ALP.

Responsible for a memorable victory at this track before. Hit peak form more than twelve months ago on an extremely heavy Brisbane track. Has suffered numerous setbacks of late. Smart money abandoned the stable weeks ago, which is always a bad sign in this class of race. Bookies happy to offer huge odds, and already packing for Pacific cruises. Late betting moves unlikely.

2/ The Cando Man. Trained by the LNP.

Blue blood pedigree for an event like this. Impressive record performing on a neighbouring track in recent years. Stable cleared after being involved in inquiries by stewards relating to betting irregularities. Has been a star performer in traditional lead up events. The only one they want in the betting ring. Into Black Caviar-type odds. Expect female owner to plant big kiss on him at the finish line.

3/ Home Town Kate. Trained by the ALP.

Hand-picked for this race, although doesn’t usually compete in this class. Impressed in early barrier trials, but has struggled of late. Stable has enlisted plenty of support to fine tune for today. Popular local filly, but might find the visitor too nippy.

4/ Mad Katter. Trained by the Katter family.

Distinctive grey who’s a star performer in the bush. Prolific winner of Country Cups. Stable known for betting plunges, usually hit and run missions. Connections very confident, even though City judges have been dismissive. Could be an each-way chance. Track officials warn that trainer’s speech could go till midnight if they spring an upset.

5/ Going Green. Trained by Mother Nature.

Another outsider capable of causing a surprise. Needs plenty of luck from an outside barrier, and only performs on inner-city tracks. Popular with young racegoers. Connections have advised there’ll be group hugs if they snare a placing.

Good luck with your investment. Remember, every ticket counts. They won’t go to these starting gates for another three years.

If your friends are struggling to find a winner, feel free to send our exclusive form guide to them. Just make sure they sign the legal disclaimer on the back.

Finally, look away if the favourite is declared the winner, and the kissing and hugging begins. And if you see a country trainer in a big hat start heading to the microphone, make sure you find a comfy seat. Trust me, it will take a while.