Just putting it out there. What jockeys really mean on Twitter.

March 9, 2013

I enjoy reading what jockeys think on Facebook and Twitter.

It makes us mug punters feel like we’re part of the family. Even if we’re at the table set aside for the kids.

They’re not allowed to tip, but every now and then we get pointed in the right direction.

I love how they support each other. For all the ribbing (and there’s plenty of that), they look after their mates. Especially when the going gets tough.

The likes of Nash Rawiller, Josh Parr, Ryan Wiggins and Luke Nolen are great value. The Pumper has a huge following too. You can hear them cheering when he pinches another one from out front.

Blokes who’ve been around a bit know how to keep the youngsters on track. Chris Munce is forever praising and encouraging. It must mean the world to an apprentice just starting out, to get praise from a legend.

It hasn’t always been like this. Not too many years ago, the only way we’d be able to connect with the little guys and girls would be through the Sunday papers. And even then, there’d be plenty of the same old stories.

“The favourite was just a bit too good on the day”.

“He’ll be tough to beat when he gets up to a mile”.

“He didn’t handle the going. Forget the run”. Blah blah blah.

That’s the beauty of social media. Follow the right people, and you’ll get to hear what they really think.

Imagine if Jim Pike had been on Twitter. Would he have given much away? Or would he have been working on getting a price for Big Red?

@JimPike1 .. Riding Phar Lap again today. The weight is a worry. And the boss has been working him hard. Sure, we won by 10 lengths last start. But he’s vulnerable. Just don’t tell the bookies. #cansomeonegetonforme?

Some of racing’s most famous moments may have been recorded differently. Bill Collins would have loved to be tweeting after the ’82 Cox Plate.

@BillTheAccurateOne .. Just to clarify, when I said Kingston Town couldn’t win, I was talking about the Melbourne Cup. He was ALWAYS going to win the Plate. #cansomeoneerasethetape?

The boys involved in the Fine Cotton debacle would have gone straight to twitter. And stuffed that up too.

@HaydentheGoose .. Bit of a mix up today guys. No harm done. Weren’t we silly billys! #cansomeonecharteracheapflight

If you’re a racing fan and you’re not on Twitter, you’re missing out. Get your kids to explain what to do, and be part of the fun.

You’ll be amazed at what you discover, from the biggest names in the industry. And you’ll have a laugh along the way.

Just don’t trust Jim Pike. I’m sure that Big Red horse goes better than he’s telling us.

Are you a Phar Lap fan? Still angry about what they did to him? Then join our Derby Day protest.

October 29, 2011

Last night 25 years ago, we would have been gathered around the old VHS player.

Our favourite movie would be getting yet another workout. Phar Lap. What else? The perfect way to prepare for Cup week.

It was our routine to get ready for the Carnival. And no one could get us there quicker than Big Red.

Viewing would take place with several cool drinks, and delicacies from the local Chinese.

Like any classic of the cinema, heroes were cheered, and villains hissed.

We celebrated every time the great horse hit the front. Applauded the efforts of Tom Burlinson, as he battled cranky trainer Harry Telford. And wished we’d been around to back Jim Pike.

But there was one man we loathed. The boos would echo around our lounge room as soon as he appeared. I believe more than one spring roll was thrown in his direction. Lachlan McKinnon.

Remember him? The pompous, snobbish head of the Victorian Racing Club. I’m pretty sure the same actor played one of those Pommy generals giving the disastrous orders at Gallipoli. No one was more hated in our bachelor pad.

Back to Flemington. McKinnon wanted his own donkey to be in with a chance to beat the greatest galloper of all. After Phar Lap won the 1930 Melbourne Cup, McKinnon made it his mission to get our hero out of the winner’s stall.

The images replay in my mind now. I can hear his voice. See his scheming features. Ordering weights that would have crippled a lesser animal.

I can’t remember the pin number for my credit card, but I recall with ease scenes from a movie decades ago.

McKinnon and his cronies made Phar Lap carry 68 kilos in the ’31 Cup. Kim Beazley would have almost made the weight. It was the bravest 8th in racing history.

We couldn’t take it any longer. The screen was getting covered in too many Chinese entrees. Something had to be done.

My mate came up with the solution. A practice we follow to this very day.

It was decided that we would boycott the McKinnon Stakes. When the field jumped in the time-honoured event on Derby Day, we would turn our backs to the screen.

This would happen in the pub. The three of us were on self-bans. No watching the race. And no bet. After it was run and won, normal viewing, and punting, would resume.

None of our mates joined in this silent protest. We may or may not have been mocked. Didn’t worry us. If Phar Lap could lump the grandstand, we could take the barbs.

Year after year, we assumed the position. I took the stance with me when I moved on. The lads in Bundaberg thought I was mad. They would punt on the tide going out. Missing a race was unheard of.

I’m proud to say one of the boys did join in. He’s still part of our team. Rings me just before the McKinnon, every year, to make sure I’m facing in the honourable direction.

The beauty of our ban, is that the premise behind it has never been researched. Not once. Our stance was taken solely on the script of our favourite film. That was often viewed through one eye.

We refuse to contemplate that it could be false. McKinnon may have donated buckets of cash to orphans and baked cookies. But I doubt it.

So, the tradition continues. As they jump in race 5 this afternoon, I’ll be in my lounge room, facing the other way. So will a handful of other blokes, in various parts of the country.

If you worship Phar Lap like we do, feel free to join in. At the pub, or the TAB, or the track. Tell your mates you’re helping to right a wrong, all these years later.

Trust me, it will feel good. The punting Gods might even smile on you kindly later in the day.

If you know the real story, don’t bother telling us. Too late to change our ways now. We owe it to the memory of Phar Lap. And besides, it’s the one race of the day I can’t lose on.

How you can be part of Team Black Caviar. Just cheer like a dizzy schoolgirl.

October 8, 2011

Have you ever been part of sporting history?

Were you there the day Cathy Freeman ran the race of her life in Sydney? That life-changing, golden lap.

I have mates who were. Magical, they called it. Bordering on a religious experience.

What about the tied Test at the Gabba? Back in ’60. Were you at the Vulture St end for the final over? The great game’s greatest game.

It was the biggest crowd ever. Around 400,000 that day. That’s if you believe everyone who said they were there.

If only I’d been around back in 1930. Phar Lap achieved the impossible. And then some.

He won the Cox Plate in a canter, then lumped more than 62 kilos to win the Melbourne Cup. He also won three other races that Cup week. Four wins in seven days. All that, after being shot at on the morning of Derby Day.

The cheap seats at Flemington would have been just fine. Anywhere, just to witness such perfection.

The huge crowds cheered themselves hoarse, over a horse. Most had nothing in their pockets. It didn’t matter. Big Red lifted their spirits like no politician could.

I reckon I heard a similar sound a few months back. The day the roof nearly lifted off Doomben. What might now rank as my greatest racing moment. The day Black Caviar came to town.

I wrote about it that night. Basking in the glory of a magnificent win in the BTC Cup.

This was one, furious, magnificent roar. The stands shook. Form guides quivered. Chills multiplied. Just before 4 o’clock, on Saturday May 14, sporting history wasn’t made. It was amplified.”

And so she’s back. We’ve been counting the days. Officially rated the world’s best. The mighty mare with the ability to make the most grizzled racegoer giggle like an X-Factor fan.

You don’t need me to explain what’s in store today. But I will, because it’s so damn exciting. Win number 14 is a few hours away.

They’ll be hanging from the rafters at Caulfield. When she surges past the post, with Luke Nolen sitting quietly, possibly doing the crossword, Black Caviar will equal Phar Lap’s number of consecutive metropolitan victories.

If you’re lucky enough to be there, savour it. Every sight and sound. Especially the sound. File that roar away.

The rest of us will be watching from afar. At the track, and in pubs and clubs. We’ll be loving it too.

If you’re at home like me, gather the kids. And Grandma. Let them feel that exhilaration. They don’t need to be race fans. That’s the beauty of it.

Enjoy today. Embrace a champion, and the wonderful, all-Australian cast around her. Play your part in sporting history. We all have a role. Cheer like crazy. You might never get the chance to do it again.

From Phar Lap to Hannah Montana – what fathers do for their daughters.

April 19, 2011

Hannah Montana revealed her true identity, just as final scratchings came through.

The squawking teen actress took off her wig on a false Jay Leno show. It had all been a sham. The gig was up. Emotions ran high in our house. My red pen almost missed non-starters in the last.

Does any other punter in the land start race day with Saturday Disney blaring in the background? The rest are getting the latest track upgrade while I’m marvelling at the acting ability of Billy Ray Cyrus. Although it should be said that the man had a mullet to die for.

We’ve watched this damn show from the very start. Some episodes time and again. The very loud Tennessee teenager is almost part of the family.

Daughters will do that to a man. I’m used to it now. Long ago, things changed around here. A father with a house full of women learns to live his life differently. But it wasn’t always this way.

As a young man, sharing a house with other young men, the choice of home entertainment was simple. We had two movies on the shelf. Phar Lap, and The Man from Snowy River. For a long time, I thought Tom Burlinson was the best horseman this country had produced.

We’d usually whack the videos in on a Friday or Saturday night, after arriving home from our local, a little on the damaged side. Viewing would be done with several pies, picked up on the way home, and if we could squeeze another in, a cool drink. Or two.

We knew all the lines. There’d be cheers when Tom the Man took off down that impossible cliff. Boos when those mongrels gave Tom’s Phar Lap even more weight to try to have him beaten in the Cup.

The bagmen would offer long odds for any of us to still be awake when the credits were rolling. More likely, we’d find a snowy pattern on the tv the next morning, along with a throbbing head.

Sure, Rambo and Rocky would get a decent run from the local Video Ezy. But those iconic horses were the stars of our living room in the eighties.

Somehow, I’d always imagined treating a son to those movie classics. A young bloke in his high chair, burping with glee at watching Tom plant one on Sigrid Thornton’s cheek, just before breaking in the mob. But it wasn’t to be.

Early on, the girls loved the Wiggles. And Hi-5. We knew the songs. All parents do. I went to concerts for both of them. Eldest daughter and I even got to meet the Hi-5 gang back stage before one of their shows. For a brief period, that had me as the coolest dad on the block.

As they got older, the girls became more, well, girly. The stars in our house were singers and dancers. Young women like Hilary Duff. She played Lizzy McGuire, a tween who became like a third daughter to me. And Emma Roberts, and Ashley Tisdale, and Taylor Swift. I’m doubling my bet that you don’t know who those people are. Then there’s Miley Cyrus. Miley is actually Hannah. Remember, the one who took off her wig? That sound you can hear is old football mates shaking their heads.

Some of you might have heard of Lindsay Lohan. You may have seen her on the news. One of her numerous court appearances. She goes harder than Fevola in the party stakes. Drink. Drugs. Shoplifting. Although Fev probably has her as far as pokies go.

I know a different Lindsay. The cute little girl who played twins in a movie years ago called The Parent Trap. Then there was Freaky Friday. Funny stuff. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Can you believe I’ve seen every single movie this wild child has made. Every one. I can’t even say that about Robert de Niro. Or Sylvester Stallone. What does that say?

My point is, they’ve changed me. I know things that happen in cheerleading movies. And not the ones we used to watch. Ok, maybe we had more than two movies in that old house. I sing along to their songs. I don’t complain when we watch Cadet Kelly for the tenth time. Hilary’s in that one. She joins the cadets and her mum meets a new dad and…..well, I’ll spare you the details.

We have our own dvd of High School Musical. Haven’t seen it? Think a modern-day Grease, with less smoking.

I went to a Taylor Swift concert. She’s a young country singer with more money than the Queen. This is a bloke who cheered Midnight Oil when they played mid-week in pubs, and rocked with The Angels when Mum thought I was studying. I left the concert early. The girls didn’t mind. They sang me all the songs I missed over the following weeks. There really is no escape.

Please don’t think I’m complaining. Fathers of daughters wouldn’t change a thing. We whinge sometimes about being part of a new dance routine in the kitchen, but secretly, we love our lot. It’s a blessing. Just one none of us saw coming.

Hannah Montana is about to wind up. Miley Cyrus is all grown up now. It goes so quick. We’ll be watching together on Saturday morning. Every chance I’ll struggle with the scratchings again. That’s ok. Another chapter in the rollercoaster ride of being a dad is coming to a close. Expect tears to be shed. The girls will be upset too.



The girls ready to shine as Randwick hosts a magical Derby Day.

April 8, 2011

There’s something special about the Autumn carnival arriving at Randwick.

The big money might be at Rosehill. But not the tradition.

Races that date back more than a century. Won by the very best. Horses, trainers and jockeys.

The Doncaster is my favourite. There’s something about a capacity field over that Randwick mile. The greats digging deep as they top the rise. Gunsynd. Super Impose back to back. Sunline. But that’s next week.

Tomorrow, be ready for a feast at headquarters. And believe it or not, it’s more than just the Black Caviar spectacular.

As well as celebrating the Sydney debut of the world’s best horse (she’ll make it 12 from 12 .. simply amazing), fans will focus on the 150th AJC Derby. It was first run in 1861. The same year as the inaugural Melbourne Cup. At the time the American Civil war was raging. England’s cricket team toured here for the first time. Dame Nellie Melba was born. And the original pilot for Hey Hey It’s Saturday was recorded.

Keen on winning a race with a 3-year-old? This is it. It’s worth plenty, but there are those who would run for the trophy alone. A few handy types have saluted over the years.

Phar Lap won in 1929. It was Jim Pike’s first victory on Big Red. There’d be plenty more.

Fast forward to ’57. Tommy Smith had a fair opinion of a horse called Tulloch. Rightly so. He won the Derby by 6 lengths, breaking Phar Lap’s track record.

What about these names through the seventies and eighties? Dulcify. Kingston Town. Strawberry Road. Bonecrusher. And then the mighty Octagonal in 1996.

Famous tales too. Old timers still speak of 1961, when Mel Schumacher was outed, after pulling the leg of a rival jockey. They happened to be hurtling down that famous straight at the time. He won the Derby but lost the protest, and ended up as one of racing’s most famous trivia questions.

There’ll be no leg pulling tomorrow. Not on track anyway. Fair to say this field is without a Phar Lap or Tulloch. But it’s still a talented bunch, ready to carve out their own bit of history.

The raging favourite Jimmy Choux blew them away last start in the Rosehill Guineas. The Kiwi has the inside gate tomorrow. That might not suit him, but connections still seem supremely confident.

I must admit I have a niggling doubt about the heavyweight jockey. He won like Pike two weeks ago. But I rarely put my hard earned on ex-jump jockeys from New Zealand, over an arduous 2400 metres.

There’s only one filly in the field, and I give her a huge chance. Trainer Danny O’Brien had no hesitation taking on the males with Shamrocker last start, and she’ll be even better tomorrow. The distance is no concern, and Glen Boss is up top. She’ll do me.

The smokie could be one trained by the bloke who’s seen more Derbys than just about anyone. I Think I Do will love the big Randwick straight after rattling home last start. Bart might need to clear some space on that groaning mantlepiece.

No matter what the result is tomorrow, the day will carry a tinge of sadness. Twelve months ago, Stathi Katsidis was celebrating more Group One success. He won the Derby on Gold Coast stayer Shoot Out. Greatness beckoned. A few months later he was dead.

There are many in the industry still scarred by the tragedy. Memories will come flooding back tomorrow. A day with so much history, that would be so much better if he was still around to be part of it.