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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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..


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.