Locals reveal their secrets, on how to back a winner at the Cairns Amateurs.

September 13, 2014

The best racecourses get you excited at the front gate.

Walk into Eagle Farm, and tell me you’re not tingling. Randwick too. You can’t help but breathe in the history.

Cairns does it to me every time. The walk to the entrance, reminds me of everything that is wonderful about the tropical north.

So it will be today. There will be a swarm of us, ready for the fun that is Amateurs.

Some, it must be said, will be dusty. Many of those dressed to the nines, will be showing remarkable powers of recovery.

Just hours ago, they were dancing up a storm at the Amateurs Ball. Screaming Shannon Noll’s name as if he was a short-priced favourite three lengths clear.

They will be sweating pure champagne. Such is the sacrifice that must be made for the North’s premier racing event.

Of course, it’s all well and good to be in the social pages tomorrow, but the priority today is to find a winner or three. Luckily, I’m here to help.

After shaking off the black-tie cobwebs, I’ve been able to canvass some experts in the field, to guide you in the right direction

The bloke two stools up at the early-opener told me we must follow that wily veteran Frank Edwards.

He may have been giving that advice for half a century, because that’s how long it seems Frank has been winning races up here.

But age shall not weary him, so don’t be afraid to get on today.

Another veteran hoop will be in action, and as sure as I’ll be late getting a winning bet on, he will win a race.

Robert Thompson could salute on a rocking horse. He’s been coming up here for years, showing the youngsters how it’s done. He might be the one to finance your lobster tonight.

What we don’t want, is to be following jockeys who were bopping to ‘What About Me’ last night.

They tell me he’s a fair dancer, but Chris Whiteley will be saving his special moves for this afternoon. My Gold Coast mates rate him at the top of the tree. Follow him with confidence today, even at odds.

Here’s hoping those three have us excited when we’re walking out of the gates too.

And one final piece of advice. If a woman in fancy headwear tips you something based on names, colours or lucky numbers, follow her. Funny things happen on Amateurs Day. That’s the beauty of it.

All the tips you need. Our crystal ball reveals this year’s big punting secrets.

January 5, 2013

As punters, we’d all like tomorrow’s paper today. To have race results twenty-four hours early, just once.

Of course, with my luck, there’d be a mis-print. But enough negativity.

The next best thing is the Hold All Tickets crystal ball. Priceless predictions that will be the headlines of 2013.

You, the select few, have the chance to get in early. Sharpen your pencils, and prepare for the ultimate early mail.

First stop, the Gold Coast. The Magic of January. Yep, next weekend.

I see two young horses. Clevadude and Missy Longstocking. Is that Rick Hore-Lacy doing a jig in front of the cameras? I believe it is. There’s your winner.

Fast forward to Rosehill, and the Golden Slipper. The world’s richest race for two-year olds.

I’m polishing the trusty ol’ ball, with my best clean cloth. And I can see a V. Now two Vs.

Villa Verde. Shaun Dwyer’s flying filly from Bendigo. And the Slipper couldn’t go to a nicer bloke.

I’m hearing his speech. He’s thanking a young journo for the story he did on him in Queensland all those years ago, when Regimental Gal took all before her.

Now he’s saying something about sharing the prizemoney with that same bloke. He just needs to find him. But the reception is cutting out. The ball is going hazy. Dammit!

Ok. Now we’re in Brisbane. It’s Stradbroke Day. Our vision has cleared. Eagle Farm looks a picture. Queensland’s premier trainer Rob Heathcote has the trophy in his hand. Jockey Ryan Wiggins has a smile from ear to ear.

What a win. A hometown hero. But which horse?

He’s saying something about the most amazing improvement he’s seen in a galloper. The son of Pins, who won his first race in mid-January this year, now a Group One winner.

I can see some of the owners. They seem drunk already. And they’re singing. What a day that will be.

The crystal ball is fogging up. I’m looking carefully. I think we’re back in Brisbane. Doomben. With a crowd I’ve only seen once before.

There’s Black Caviar. The champion mare is having her final run. It’s a special million dollar race, put on by Queensland Racing.

I can see Peter Moody. He’s having a dart and a XXXX Gold. And telling someone he had to come back, to have a beer at the Breakfast Creek Hotel.

Old faithful is showing me more drinks. This time Flemington in November. The first Tuesday.

There’s a horse winning the Melbourne Cup, by a margin we rarely see. It’s a thrashing. And yes, he’s an international.

It’s Mount Athos. But we didn’t need the crystal ball for that. You all saw the run in last year’s Cup. The best of good things.

So that’s the year ahead. No need to thank me. My pockets will be loaded too. Especially after that Stradbroke win.

The perils of big-race tipping. Cashing in on my Spring carnival selections. Almost.

November 17, 2012

As Judith Durham and the bloke in the big glasses told us years ago, the Carnival is Over.

Such great racing. So few wins. No-one seems surprised.

Lucky for us, I recorded my big tips for all to see, in a bold piece on these pages more than two months ago. The idea was to be boasting right about now. With pockets full of folding stuff.

Sadly, that’s not the case. In a bid to learn lessons for next year, I thought it would be wise to go back over those selections, to establish what the hell I was thinking. Or drinking.

First tip was for the Caulfield Cup. I dismissed the visitors, and stuck with a local. Lights of Heaven was the one. I suggested you get on at big odds.

History tells us that I was wrong about the internationals. Dunaden won with a leg in the air. But Lights of Heaven returned to form, and grabbed third. At the each-way price, we were up.

For the Cox Plate, I plumped for a three-year old star. Pierro was my good thing. Another third, behind the outstanding Ocean Park.

Skinny odds this time, so we did our dough. But my tips filled the first three placings, so if you had a trifecta, like I did, you were eating Chinese that night.

In the big one at Flemington, I admitted I had no idea, other than to say that a foreigner would win our great race yet again.

I kindly offered this bit of advice. I hope you ignored it.

“Although I will say one thing. Forget this business about local trainers picking up foreign horses….It might work in a few years, when they get their systems right. But not yet.”

Unless, of course, we’re talking about Green Moon. The former international, now trained here. That streeted them on the first Tuesday in November.


In my wildly popular Cup form guide, put out the day before the race, I changed tack a little. My tips were Red Cadeaux and Mount Athos.

Can I say here and now, that if the jockeys and horses hadn’t stopped after the first mile, sat in a circle together and enjoyed tea and hay, before embarking on the second part of the race, they would have figured in the bloody finish.

The slow pace killed them, and any hope I had of making a dollar out of the race.

We can’t complain. It’s a tough gig, this tipping. Luckily, the majority of you put the red pen through anything I suggest. I might start doing the same.

Although I will say this. In that original crystal-ball piece all those weeks ago, I made special mention of one horse. Of course, I ignored my own advice. You’d expect nothing less.

“I should add here, that I also like Green Moon. He’ll also be vastly improved this Spring. He’ll win something, for sure.”

He did. Paid a heap. And I didn’t have a dollar on him. I hope you did. Unless you couldn’t see him through all that red ink.

It’s back! The ultimate Cup guide. Who won’t win, and is Warwick Capper really a jockey?

November 5, 2012

So here we go again. Last year’s guide to our greatest race was such a hit, you’ve demanded a repeat. You really need a hobby.

Remember my tip last year? No? Good. Surely we can’t have such bad luck again.

Our team of researchers went through a box of cool drinks to help you sound like an expert on Cup day.

If you’re named below, apologies. If you’re my lawyer, stay close to the phone.

Dunaden – Craig Williams. Has won everything bar Big Brother. That run of luck is about to end. The French horse will think Williams has been replaced by Santa Claus he’s carrying so much weight.

Americain – Damien Oliver – Won’t win. This French favourite isn’t getting better with age. The booking of Oliver is a plus, as opposed to last year’s jockey, Mister Magoo.

Jakkalberry – a bloke named Colm you’ve never heard of. One of those international types with no chance. Couldn’t beat me up the straight. Aren’t you glad we invite them here?

Red Cadeaux – Michael Rodd. The winner. Do you have a tin of cash hidden in the backyard? Dig it up, shake the dirt off, and head straight to the TAB. You can pass on my ten per cent later.

Winchester – Jamie Mott. A slow American horse who’ll still be running when they start the presentation. Out of a mare called Rum Charger. What a shame.

Voila Ici – Vlad Duric. A visitor from Italy now trained here, who couldn’t win if they gave him a lap head start.

Cavalryman – Frankie Dettori. Why did they bother bringing him? Frankie obviously wanted a holiday. He’ll have plenty of time to check out the sights before, during and after the race.

Mount Athos – Ryan Moore. A big danger. Plenty of good judges have already backed this bloke. A prolific winner in Europe, still on the improve. If you’re running the sweep, slip this one into your back pocket.

Sanagas – Nick Hall. Another American, now trained by Bart. Cummings, not Simpson. Unless the great man is permitted to strap NASA-style rockets to his tail, there’ll be no 13th Cup win.

Ethiopia – Rhys McLeod. A decent run in the Cox Plate. Which is lucky for connections, because it will be the only thrill they’ll receive this carnival.

Fiorente – James McDonald. An English horse now with Gai. I’m sure I heard her say he could be the greatest horse ever to be saddled. Or something similar. Actually, that could have been any one of her horses. Will over-achieve if he finishes top twenty.

Galileo’s Choice – Pat Smullen. My best roughie. Dermot Weld has been aiming at the Cup for twelve months. The canny Irishman and his camp have been playing their chances down since they arrived. That should set alarm bells ringing. Big chance at even bigger odds.

Glencadam Gold – Tommy Berry. Another one from Gai. Likely leader. If they give a ribbon for the horse in front after 1600 metres, he might be successful. That also makes him a distinct chance of running last.

Green Moon – Brett Prebble. Failed in the Cox Plate. Injured, and blowing out with the bookies. Nothing like confidence.

Maluckyday – Jim Cassidy. Runner up two years ago. Not many ride the two miles better than the Pumper. A chance to be the top Aussie home. There should be a prize for that.

Mourayan – Hugh Bowman. Terrible luck last year, because some idiot who writes smart-arse Cup guides tipped him. Of course, he was scratched hours later. I’ll never live that down. Good luck to all concerned this year.

My Quest for Peace – Corey Brown. The only horse to sing before the Queen. And did a tap dance at the opening ceremony for the London Olympics. In horse-shoes. Only has to repeat that here and could figure in the finish.

Niwot – Warwick Capper. Interesting choice of jockey. Keep an eye out for what he’s wearing during the National Anthem.

Tac de Boistron – who cares. The name means ‘French Arrogance’ in English. As in, let’s send any old plodder to take on those bums down under.

Lights of Heaven – Luke Nolen. My Caulfield Cup tip, and what a race she ran. I’d be happy for her to win this, so I could see Peter Moody drinking XXXX Gold during the Cup handover.

Precedence – Jim Pike. Not many people know that Bart actually ran this horse in the 1958 Melbourne Cup. Great that’s he’s still with us, and has all his original teeth.

Unusual Suspect – one of the scientists from Beauty and the Geek. If you get this one in a sweep, rip it up on the spot. At least those around you will think you know something about racing.

Zabeelionaire – Donald Trump. Are we finished yet? I’m running out of paper.

Kelinni – Glen Boss. The best jockey in the field. Sadly, he’s not on a horse to match. No Makybe Diva moments coming this year for Bossy.

So there we have it. Feel free to share this with friends, and people you want to annoy.

Remember, gamble responsibly. Meaning, if my tips win, you have a responsibility to give me money. Good luck to us all.

All the Cup winners, two months early. Remember me when you cash in.

September 1, 2012

The dark days of winter are a mere memory. Spring and all her delights are in the air. When a young punter’s fancy turns to the Cups.

And the Plate, of course. The Cox Plate. The Caulfield Cup. And the big one. The race the rest of the world now pinches.

Today, the first of the Cup contenders show their stuff. Early days, on the way to bigger spoils.

The rules have changed, of course. Races that were once vital, now matter little. And country cups that were good for a beer and a cheer, now host Cup favourites.

I’m telling you nothing special when I say an overseas horse will win the Melbourne Cup. That’s just how it is now. They are deadly serious about breeding two-mile specialists, and we’re not.

Our money is for sprinters, and the milers. No use protesting about it any more. Someone, somewhere, decided we didn’t need to be in the staying game. And so, a foreign raider will again pinch the cup that connections of Phar Lap sipped out of.

Of course, that makes it bloody difficult to pick the winner this far out. Because we have no idea how good any of the foreigners really are. Or if they’ll even make it here.

Depressed yet? Don’t be. There are winners coming further down the page. Just not for the Cup we love the most.

Only the brave or the foolhardy would be plonking money down for the first Tuesday in November just yet. Another few weeks needed. Although I will say one thing. Forget this business about local trainers picking up foreign horses.

It’s all the rage at the minute. Anyone with a fat wallet and a dream is buying half-decent foreign stayers, and throwing them at an Australian stable. We’ve been caught out, and we’re playing catch up. It might work in a few years, when they get their systems right. But not yet.

The winner will be trained by an international. He’s been sitting in his barn, on the other side of the world, for months now. Maybe Cumani, or Dermot again, or the Sheik. Or some other bloke we’ve never heard of.

I know what you’re saying. You paid good money to read this stuff, and so far it’s still totally devoid of any decent tips. (Hang on, you PAID to read this? Seriously? You obviously have far too much spare cash. I’ll give you my TAB account details later.)

Ok, so we’ve established that together, we have no idea who’ll win the Melbourne Cup. Brilliant. But what if I told you that this year’s Cox Plate winner is running around today?

Have a look at Rosehill this afternoon, just after 3 o’clock, and you’ll see something special. Pierro. Triple Crown winner. Unbeaten as a two-year-old. One right out of the box.

I was on when he won the Golden Slipper. Bless him. Normally, that would force me to rule him out for the Spring Carnival the following year. But not this guy.

He just keeps getting better. Gai Waterhouse can’t say enough about him. Even in Gai talk. The wraps are twice as big as those she puts on all her other neddies. God love her.

But I reckon she’s spot on. He strikes me as one of those rare beasts, who will actually thrive over the torturous Cox Plate trip as a three-year-old. Tough as old boots. With an enormous desire to win.

The downside is that plenty of others agree. He’s ridiculously short for a baby in the nation’s premier weight-for age race. Seven dollars at the minute, second favourite behind stablemate More Joyous. And as much as I love Singo’s mare, I don’t think she can beat him.

Right, there’s our first winner, for a race that’s still weeks away. Write it down, put it in your early doubles, and remember me when you collect.

Winner number two comes up the week before. The Caulfield Cup can still be taken out by a local. Even with the foreign interest.

Lights of Heaven couldn’t have been more impressive earlier this year, culminating with victory in the Brisbane Cup. I love that Peter Moody has given her all the time she needed, after struggling a touch the season before.

Granted, she’ll have to keep improving. And I think she can.

Get on right now, and you’ll nab the Zabeel mare at twenty-one dollars. Money for jam.

I should add here, that I also like Green Moon. He’ll also be vastly improved this Spring. He’ll win something, for sure. But I can’t back one that is Caulfield Cup favourite this early. They just never, ever, get up.

Two winners, a special, and a game plan for the Big One. And there’s still two months to go.

We’ll re-assess our strategy in a few weeks. And the normal rules apply. Donations from all winners gratefully accepted.

In the rare case that someone might lose from this information, contact our Complaints Department. I’ll get back to you with that address.

The secret guide to finding winners. Does anyone know where I put it?

August 27, 2011

Over three decades, I’ve developed rules and regulations to find winners.

Stop giggling. This is serious.

The idea is to stick with them religiously. Forget the tipsters and coat-tuggers. It’s all about maximising returns.

There’s a slight problem. Sometimes I forget.

This can be blamed on excitement. And yes, refreshing cool drinks may be involved. Then there’s the old age thing. Or all of the above.

To help us all, I thought I should write them down. Grab your pen now. You never know when you’ll be in need of another laugh.

Ok, here goes. Back the best jockeys. Thank you Captain Obvious, I hear you call. But it’s true. If only I could remember it.

I try to be wary of apprentices. I like small children as much as the next bloke. But I don’t generally give them my cash.

That is, until some generous trainer sits the kid on something I like. I then convince myself that the youngster is a Beadman in the making. Wham. Rule #1 out the window.

I’ve had plenty of wet track theories. They work for a while, and then they don’t.

I’ve tried lightweights, and leaders, and greys. And grey lightweight leaders. No luck.

The best I’ve done on the heavy is the brief period I followed leading wet track sires. Until I forgot who I had to follow. Feel free to help out at any time.

Something I’ve always done is back wet track duffers once they get back on top of the ground. Especially after a stretch of ordinary weather.

It’s amazing how many bob up at odds. If you see duck eggs in the wet track columns, and the sun is shining, get on for plenty.

My other favourite punting habit, this week anyway, is finding the Second Up specialist. Solid second up form becomes a pattern. And if they keep missing out second up, no matter how good, don’t back them. One of the few things that works for me.

Here’s another one to take to the bank. Like us, horses have their favourite tracks. Lets call it the Chief De Beers theory. 20 wins at Doomben; zero wins anywhere else.

If they haven’t won at a specific venue after a handful of attempts, take it as read that they won’t. Ever. If it’s Mooney Valley or Warwick Farm, double the knock.

Take a good barrier every time. You’ll hear experts say they can win from the carpark. They can’t. Not if I’m on them anyway.

There are plenty of form lines I have no idea about. Zilch. First starters heading into Spring get me time and again. Especially good horses resuming.

If I back them, they tail off. Being prepared for the Cups apparently. If I ignore them, they fly home at double figure odds. Always gave him a chance, says the trainer with a sly grin.

I’m constantly confused by overseas horses. A bit like Chinese opera.

I study an event over 8 miles in the fog in Northern England, and try to line up the 3rd placegetter with the field at Flemington. The exercise usually ends with strong drink.

They come here and win, of course. And I’m never on them. If you have the secret, let me know. Then leave quietly.

So there’s a list of all the things I do know, and a few of the hundred I don’t.

If you are reading this wrapped in a tight white coat, and actually plan to follow these ramblings, it’s time to take your medication.

If that doesn’t change your mind, and you have so much spare cash you don’t mind throwing it into the breeze, try this one today.

Melbourne Race 4, number 4 – Satin Shoes.

Top jockey, solid second up record, and winning form at the track. Three ticks. Except the barrier is rubbish. We’ll go with it anyway. See, I’m forgetting the rules again. I can still hear that laughing.

Finally, if it’s raining where you are, you know what you have to do.

Find that grey lightweight leader from England with a famous sire and a top jockey who loves the track and will improve from run number one. Now pass me my medication.

Confessions before dawn. Why a stable life is soothing for a punter’s soul.

August 6, 2011

When was the last time you were awake at 3am? No, a sleepy trip to the toilet doesn’t count.

Work around a stable, and you know all about getting dressed in the dark. Putting in a good few hours before the sun decides to make an appearance.

One of my great pleasures is paying a visit to the stables. Others play at the best golf courses or fish from the biggest boat. I like hanging around where horses live. Just wish I could do it more often.

It’s a chance to give our bloke a pat, and dream of the day we’ll need security guards outside his box, because he’s so valuable.

There’s always something happening. An assault on the senses in the pre dawn dark.

There’s the smell, of course. Goes with the horses. Funny, but there’s something comforting about that. Reminds you where you are.

If the stable happens to be based at the track, even better. There’s never a bad time to be on a racecourse.

Watching thoroughbreds in action is a beautiful thing. There’s something majestic about them being put through their paces as the sun comes up.

There are sounds unique to trackwork. The constant, is those flying hooves. Rhythmic. Some faster than others. Just like race day.

There’s plenty of banter. No shortage of giggles. I guess you have to laugh, when your day starts so bloody early.

Every now and then, the trainer will bark an order. Or a suggestion. No room for mistakes here. Everyone involved knows that.

If you’re looking for characters, you’ve come to the right place. Everyone has a story.

Watch the trackwork riders, as they go about their work. Experts in the saddle. Good trainers can become great ones with their help.

Not big talkers usually. The boldest statement they make will often be through a footy jumper, or a cap. Showing their colours with pride as they take the horses out.

Cop a loss in the Friday night game, and expect a ribbing coming back in. Such a wonderful Australian trait. Even in the dark.

If you’re a stable visitor, the strappers and stablehands are usually good for a chat. In between doing a thousand jobs for the morning.

Cleaning up, hosing down. Getting the stars of the show just right. Especially if they’re racing that day. True horse lovers.

Be careful of their tips though. One bloke is still laughing at me.

A while back, I thought I’d made an impression on a veteran strapper. And that had to be a good thing, because he knew every good thing, and every donkey. Or so he told me.

My new mate confided in me that one would be winning with ease. It was the talk of trackwork town. Get on, and get on for plenty.

Then came a word of warning. The stable’s other hope that day was no chance. It was being set for a few weeks down the track, and wasn’t anywhere near ready. Save your money, he advised.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Not only did I have a certain winner, I also knew a definite non-winner. It meant I could double my bet on the good thing.

You know where I’m going with this. The special ran just a touch slower than me. Never a hope. With nothing in my pocket, I then watched the donkey romp home in the following race. At twenties.

That costly exercise taught me a valuable lesson. People who start work in the early morning hours have a questionable sense of humour.

But the veteran was being loyal to the owners. Just as he should. Loose lips sink tips.

I just hope that on the day the security guards take our bloke onto the track, and he’s ready to shine, the stable secret will be just as tight. Now there’s something for a bloke to think about at 3am.