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The Brisbane winter racing carnival has come in for plenty of criticism in recent times, and not unjustifiably so.

The well-documented problems with the Eagle-Farm renewal and the not unrelated reshuffling of much of the winter program in recent years have left many punters dizzy if not disaffected.

While I have been happy to climb aboard this particular band wagon, I do feel obliged, as a lover of racing and my home state of Queensland, to find something positive to say about the carnival as it reaches its conclusion this Saturday.

To be fair, such wasn’t too difficult. While class has certainly been down, field sizes have been excellent in the major races, and it has been a tremendous battle between bookies and punters, with the latter thankfully coming out on top.

And notwithstanding the aforementioned class deficit, one or two horses who shone in the past few weeks, particularly among the two and three-year-olds, may go on to bigger and better accomplishments down the track.

The really good news for Brisbane carnival lovers is that the best is yet to come. Since it became Group 1 in 2007, the Tattersall’s Tiara really has grown to challenge the Stradbroke to be considered Queensland’s best horse race.

Even before the move to Group 1, it was a competitive event often featuring really top-flight fillies and mares. After all, Dane Ripper came up to take out the race in 1997.

Since the transition to G1, Yosei, Red Tracer, Cosmic Endeavour and Srikandi were all very good horses, so as I say, the Tiara does now rival the Straddy for class and likely future significance.

Poor horses don’t win this race, nor usually do out-of-form ones. Bearing this in mind, Saturday’s running presents punters with something of a conundrum.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Prompt Response is the best horse in the field, but whether she is in form might be another matter.

Those who have followed this horse’s career closely could not question hher ability. At certain times, she has been the most underrated horse In Australia, and until very recently, she seemed incapable of running a poor race.

While her strike rate is not exceptional, many of her seconds should have been wins, and importantly, plenty of her unplaced runs were actually very unlucky fourths and fifths.

She was a certainty beaten on Victoria Derby Day behind Shoals in the Group 1 mares race in 2017, as she was a few months later in the Coolmore Classic at Rosehill behind Daysee Doom.

Later, she hit a career peak, when running a cracking second to Alizee in the Queen of the Turf during the Randwick carnival.

As for her present form, frankly, there are serious question marks. After her slashing win in this event last year, she has gone winless, and has, in fact, rarely threatened to break through.

Her spring campaign in Melbourne was cut short when she was showing nothing, and her autumn/winter performances have been mixed.

Punters should look at her Dane Ripper run last start and make up their own minds, as I am having trouble making up mine.

I am pretty confident she can turn the tables onn Invincibella, who should not have beaten her in either of the past two Dane Rippers. Invincibella is a false second or third favourite on Saturday, as Prompt Response, for one, is in a superior league.

Spright has real quality, but looks highly suspect at a solid 1,400 metres, as Saturday’s race will doubtless prove. Something similar might be said of Outback Barbie, but she couldn’t win on her last start in any case.

Of the in-form runners, Pohutukawa was well served at the barrier draw, while Savatiano and Multaja were handed tricky gates.

All of this probably just muddies the waters, but I for one cannot bet against the brave bay mare, Prompt Response, who despite an indifferent barrier and questionable form, has the ability to defend her title from last year, and anyone who has been with her all the way would agree that another Group 1 success would be richly deserved.

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Australia is the only country in the world to have a public holiday for a horse race. We are known for loving a flutter.

And it’s not just the Melbourne Cup. There are half-day gazetted holidays in country towns in NSW for their major race meetings and some places have a full day off for their Cup meeting.

It was once deemed quintessentially Australian to go to the races and have a flutter.

And that was okay. But this country has gone from a country that loves a flutter at the races to a nation that bleeds money through gambling.

Statistics show that Australians lose more money through gambling than any other nation in the world.

On a per capita basis, Australians lose more than $1200 per year from betting, whether it be through racing, gaming machines or buying Tattslotto tickets.

That’s more than double of the second-placed nation, Singapore, whose people lose about $600 per year on gambling.

Something has to change in Australia.

(AAP Image/James Ross)

It’s time for this nation to take a stance and stop the rot.

As a racing fan, I don’t have an issue with people going to the races to have a bet on a horse.

I’m not about to call for a ban on gambling in Australia. All it would do is make more criminals by introducing an underground betting racket.

But there needs to be more regulation.

If I was in Scott Morrison’s chair, I would introduce a bill that bans gambling advertising. Not just on TV, but everywhere.

No more billboards, no more radio commercials, no more signage at stadiums and on sporting goods.

Currently, you can’t watch any sporting event on TV without being reminded of the odds.

It is rammed down our throats and it needs to stop.

It was somewhat comical when Jaidyn Stephenson was handed a ten-match ban by the AFL on Wednesday.

Sure he did the wrong thing and had to be punished, but the AFL should also have a good look in the mirror.

One company (I won’t name them to give them a free plug) is paying the AFL $10 million to be its official betting partner.

And it’s not just the AFL. Cricket Australia’s boundary ropes had betting advertising on them during the summer, while you can’t watch an Australian-based NBL game without seeing a wagering company’s logo plastered over the courts.

This has to stop.

I’m not against ads appearing on Racing.com or Sky Channel because horse racing is a sport that is stimulated by betting.

However, I think that the government should introduce new laws that stop betting companies from feasting on problem gamblers.

As it stands, a punter can self exclude, but there is no rule that says a bookmaker must stop a gambler from continually betting.

It might sound like nanny state kind of stuff, but research says that most problem gamblers come from the lowest socioeconomic sections of society.

Which means that the people who can least afford to gamble are the most affected.

This goes for the pokies, too. Something must be done on what is a leech on society.

I understand that thousands of jobs would be lost and many small towns would be crippled if pokies were to be banned, so I’m not going to call for a shutdown of electronic gaming machines.

However, I feel like punters should have a loss limit. When you enter a pub or club, you can make one deposit on the card for a predetermined limit.

You use the card to play the pokies. When you run out of credit, you can’t top it up for another, say, 72 hours.

Limits could be higher in casinos, but pokies were once supposed to be fun, just like having a flutter at the races, not so people could insert thousands of dollars in them.

A lot of people won’t like what has been written here because they feel that they can control their actions and shouldn’t be punished by law changes.

But the law changes are not for them. They are for the people who are unable to help themselves.
The statistics say it all. Australia loses more than double the amount of money to gambling (on a per capita basis) than the next country.

Let’s make this generation the one that starts the swing in the right direction.

There’s no issue with having a bet on the horses on a Saturday or putting $50 in a gaming machine when out to dinner on a Friday night (if you can afford it), but there is an issue when you can’t put food on the table.

Gambling has destroyed too many people and too many families in this country for us to keep ignoring it.

Make some changes, get rid of gambling odds from our TV screens and be happy when your horse runs third in the Melbourne Cup sweep.

Anybody impacted by gambling (your own gambling or someone else’s), can call the Gambler’s Help line, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 858 858. This service can give you the contact details for your nearest Gambler’s Help service or, if you prefer, a service away from where you live.

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Self-interest will be the death of horse racing in Australia.

While there’s no reason to think the industry is going to fall off the perch any time soon, alarm bells are starting to ring based on recent movements.

The most recent was the announcement by Racing NSW that it would have a $45-million spring carnival program to compete directly with Melbourne’s historic events.

Although there has been nothing scheduled to do battle with the Melbourne Cup, Racing NSW boss Peter V’Landys made it clear that he wants to make Sydney the capital of Australian racing.

Which is great if you are training a horse in Sydney and probably even good news if you are in Melbourne, but it’s not so great if you are in Queensland or South Australia.

Australian racing does not revolve around Victoria and NSW. Sure, they have always been the main jurisdictions for the industry, but the racing ecosystem has always revolved around having a competitive playing field in South Australia and Queensland.

More prizemoney in elite races in Melbourne and Sydney does not do anything for the sport. It doesn’t create more champions and it probably won’t attract a whole lot more newcomers to the industry.

But what it will do is effectively kill racing in Queensland and South Australia. It won’t be immediate, but it will do it over a long period of time. A death by a thousand cuts.

Racing at Eagle Farm – one of Queensland’s premier race tracks. (AAP Image/Albert Perez)

And when you kill off racing in two major states, you will actually harm racing in Victoria and NSW.

Look at the trainers and jockeys competing in Melbourne and Sydney this Saturday. It is not full of Victorians and New South Welshman.

There are a number of Cane Toads, Sandgropers and Croweaters. Even our biggest trainer is a Kiwi.

I was speaking to an old mate of mine from Mount Isa last week.

Andrew Saunders and his family have owned horses for years and have been one of the biggest players in the north-west Queensland non-TAB racing circuit.

His father Graeme is a renowned bookie and his mum Lenore was the listed owner of Le Chef when he won the Magic Millions 2YO race.

Racing in that part of the world is not far from being in dire circumstances.

You see, virtually all the horses trained out of Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Julia Creek etc are tried racehorses. Horses that couldn’t quite make the cut in Brisbane or Victoria and NSW.

Ten years ago, you could buy a tried horse from Ballarat and truck it up to outback Victoria for $15,000 and win a handful of races.

You wouldn’t get rich but you’d have some fun and probably cover your costs.

Now, with the prizemoney so high in the southern states, buying a horse from Ballarat might cost $50,000 and you just won’t see that kind of return when racing for $6500 to the winner.

This is what Andrew said last week: “It’s not just the prizemoney increases – it’s the fact they are paying down to tenth place down there.

“If a horse wasn’t winning races, owners would move them on and we’d be able to buy them at a decent price. Now they just keep them and run them around picking up cheques for finishing fifth and sixth.”

While there have been some great additions to the Racing NSW calendar – The Everest was a brilliant idea and is virtually self-funded – I don’t understand what Mr V’Landys is doing in Sydney.

Sure, we want to see more great races, but competing directly with Victoria makes no sense.

There’s much more to Australian racing than just Sydney and Melbourne. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Punters want to see the best horses running against one another, not avoiding each other for easier shots at big prizemoney.

Victoria Racing Club chair Amanda Elliott spoke on the radio on Tuesday morning and wasn’t far off the mark.

“I’m getting to the stage where I am actually getting a little over the whole thing and a bit frustrated and a bit angry because we actually do have a responsibility to the sport of racing in Australia,” she said.

“At the end of the day, the Australian racing industry is the one we care about.

“So, this kind of single-minded determination to knock off Victoria infuriates me, to be honest.

“This glorious sport is in some way demeaned by this rather unnatural amount of prizemoney that is getting thrown at one or two races.”

Mr V’Landys fired back with: “The Victorian participants should be thanking NSW because without us all the millions of dollars in prizemoney increases in Victoria wouldn’t have happened.

“The Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate hadn’t moved up in prizemoney for years and all of a sudden they’ve realised they’ve got to return money to their participants.

“Out of every negative there’s a positive and the positive is that the participants in Victoria are now getting proper returns.”

The rich are just getting richer with this kind of thinking.

Top races don’t need any more money thrown at them. More money won’t increase the calibre of horses.

Don’t reward mediocrity, stop paying past fourth place and allow smaller racing states to be able to stand on their own feet and be competitive.

If you were Rob Heathcote, how could you possibly attract owners to race their horses in Brisbane?

Remember, the trainer of Black Caviar came from a tiny country town in Queensland. Most horse racing people don’t grow up in suburban Sydney.

Black Caviar wins her final TJ Smith Stakes. (Photo by Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

The biggest threat to the Australian racing industry is itself and something needs to be done about it.

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Are you a horse-racing lover who cares about tradition? If so, the Brisbane winter carnival doesn’t have much to offer any more.

I remember when the Doomben 10,000 and Doomben Cup were both handicaps, and horses sought to emulate the great Bernborough in winning both in the same year.

While the switch to weight-for-age of the two events might have aided this quest, the lamentable reduction in distance of the former from 1350 metres to 1200 metres has made the double all but impossible.

There are many more examples of the total disregard for the Brisbane racing history in the current carnival programming.

The Brisbane Cup used to be run over 3200 metres, whereas now, there seems no major distinction between the Cup and its lead-up races.

Some of the recent schedule tinkering is, of course, related to the botched renovation of the Eagle Farm racecourse, but I don’t see any particular reason that the Oaks should be now permanently run at Doomben.

This smashing of tradition would not be quite so bad if it had been done in the service of a clear goal such as better quality racing, but I just don’t see it.

In short, the carnival seems diminished by recent changes, and the fields assembled for Saturday merely act to underscore the point.

For all of this, I am a proud Brisbanite and lovers of our sport who have never made the trip north or east to take in some of the action should really make the effort one year.

Brisbane’s winter climate is perfect for racing – 20 degrees, the sky is utterly clear, and the promise of a beautiful warm day is all about. Watching Group 1 racing in such conditions is a great treat, even if the depth of the events is not what it used to be.

Jockey Michael Cahill rides The Bostonian to victory in the Kingsford-Smith Cup during Stakes Day at Eagle Farm. (AAP Image/Albert Perez)

As for the events themselves, one of our carnival’s enduring strengths is the running of the Oaks a week before the Derby.

As a consequence, several fillies usually compete in the mile-and-a-half classic, and quite a few have triumphed over the years. This differs from the programming in the southern states, where the top fillies usually avoid the Derby to concentrate on the Oaks.

For weight of numbers, fillies are particularly well represented in this year’s Derby, and one or two of them have real claims.

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The Stradbroke is a race that does seem to become weaker with each passing year. The Bostonian is not a good enough horse to be handicapped with 58 kilograms in a Group 1 event, but the fact he remains a strong winning chance speaks volumes for the quality of his opponents.

The horse I did want to be on this Saturday was Sixties Groove in the Brisbane Cup. He has raced well at his three appearances this preparation, and importantly, he seems to have gradually improved each outing.

Crucially, he will appreciate the wide-open spaces of Eagle Farm, and I think he can overcome a high weight and poor barrier draw to put himself in the finish.

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Hay List would be rolling in his grave.

Australia’s sprinting ranks are in serious trouble – more trouble than they’ve been in for a long time.

For a nation that prides itself on producing world-class speed horses, we are not cutting the mustard.

The Group 1 sprints in Adelaide and Brisbane have been nothing short of disgraceful and there have been better open company sprints at Flemington on a regular Saturday.

The fact that New Zealand raider The Bostonian has pulled our pants down in not one but two Brisbane Group 1 sprints says it all.

I’m not bagging The Bostonian. He’s a lovely horse. But if he’s winning back-to-back Group 1 sprints in Australia then we have a serious problem in the depth of our sprinting ranks.

Historically, New Zealand sprinters have been a class below Australia’s, so a 1200m Kiwi horse would have to be very good to be winning at the elite level across the ditch.

The problem is that The Bostonian is not elite on his home turf. He’s good, but not great.

A kiwi horse like The Bostonian shouldn’t be dominating Group 1 races across the ditch. (AAP Image/Albert Perez)

The line-up for Saturday’ Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) is pitiful, to be blunt.

A $1.5 million race should be able to attract at least two or three gun sprinters, even in the off-season, but this is the bare bones of our sprinting ranks.

The fact that Tyzone is the third favourite to win the race says plenty about the lack of depth in both the Stradbroke and our short course horses.

Tyzone is a favourite of mine, too. He’s a Far North Queensland horse owned by a Cairns millionaire and showed his class up there before heading to the big smoke.

But nothing about his form suggests he should be third favourite in a Group 1 race, even in a handicap.

He was excellent when winning the BRC Sprint over 1350m at Doomben last month when given a peach of a ride by Blake Shinn, which made up for the howler Shinn rode in Sydney in April when on Tyzone in a Group 3 at Randwick.

But that’s his level. He’s a Group 3 horse who should be competitive in some Group 2 races in the spring.

Make no mistake, Tyzone is an excellent chance in the Stradbroke on Saturday. He’s well weighted, has drawn a good barrier for his style of racing and the competition is poor.

However, it is a blight on racing that he could be a Group 1 winner on Saturday night.

The root of Australia’s problem is that there are too many Group 1 races on the calendar.

Winning a Group 1 used to be hard and getting a start in a Group 1 used to be a privilege, not a right.

Of course, there have always been harder and more prestigious Group 1 races, but these days it’s almost like under-eights football where every good horse gets a trophy.

Racing’s biggest problem is that it has very few grand final races where you see the best of the best go head to head.

The Melbourne Cup is a grand final. The Cox Plate is usually a grand final, and you might find a good horse bound for the Melbourne Cup lining up in the race on occasion. The Golden Slipper is a grand final and The Everest is certainly a grand final.

Apart from that, there are very few races that the best horses target at the same time.

The best way to create more great races is to limit the elite prize money and amount of Group 1 races. If you have a nice horse and want to win a Group 1 then you have to beat other good horses.

We have been blessed in the last 15 years with the likes of Black Caviar and Winx, but a horse like Hay List would have just knocked up wins in this current era.

The fact that Santa Ana Lane is our top rated sprinter says it all. He’s a nice horse but he’s no star.

Santa Ana Lane made his rivals look legless in the TJ Smith, but had he tried to chase down Hay List, he would have had a heavyweight fight on his hands.

I’m not trying to take away Group 1 races from Brisbane and Adelaide. Those jurisdictions deserve elite races.

But those fat cats in Melbourne and Sydney – no doubt influenced by major breeders and owners – have ruined it by continually upgrading races.

Why would you target a Goodwood or a Stradbroke when you can just stay in Melbourne or Sydney and win a weak Group 1 there?

It’s great news for connections of The Bostonian or Tyzone, who will get their chance to win a $1.5 million race on Saturday, but it’s bad news if you’re heading to Eagle Farm and want to see a champion in the flesh.

You’ll go home disappointed.

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Bob Hawke was nonplussed. He’d just gotten off a typically eloquent speech in front of a claque of media, and no-one had a question for him.

It was pin-drop stuff. Borderline uncomfortable. So I put up my hand.

It was the Sydney Olympics of 2000 and we were in a giant marquee tent building that sat out on a jetty in Walsh Bay, just outside the casino.

It was a huge media zone though less about sports as tourism, business and publicity.

I’d been a journalist – or more to the point, had been calling myself one – for a total of six months. I’d had one yarn published in Inside Sport another in Men’s Health.

But such were the times pre-9/11 that I could sign in and call myself a journo.

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And so each day of the Games I’d rock up to this giant marquee tent thing, and see what was on.

One day the American sprinters turned up. Maurice Greene and Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago. And the US press flocked like Oscar night.

Another time our Hawkey showed up. He was there to make a speech for Sydney Tourism about the joys of Sydney tourism.

And so in an auditorium in front of maybe 30 journos from around the world – people from Italy and Africa, dudes in colourful dress, one man wore a fez – our Bob held court.

He talked for maybe ten minutes, what he loved about Sydney. There was Randwick race track and the Sydney Cricket Ground.

He said he loved to fish for flathead off his jetty and have his lovely wife Blanche cook him up the catch. All washed down with a bottle of Hunter Valley Semillon.

He talked of his mateship with John Singleton – the great Singo – and their ownership of Belle du Jour, which had won that year’s Golden Slipper. Hawkey insinuated it had got him out of financial strife. Singo shouted the race track. It was peak Australia.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

And a cracker of a speech. But outside of myself and a couple camera operators, wasted on the audience.

For afterwards, nothing. Pin-drop stuff. These were travel writers, in the main, and while they knew Bob Hawke had been Australia’s prime minister, their knowledge of the bloke, the man, and why he should be spruiking Sydney was effectively nix.

And the silence drew out into the uncomfortable.

“No questions?” drawled Bob in that distinctive voice Max Gillies made famous just as Billy Birmingham did Richie Benaud’s.

“Jeez,” added Bob, nonplussed. “First group of journos I’ve fronted that didn’t want to ask me a question.”

He looked around, and his minders looked around, and Blanche looked around. And they were about to move the Hawkey roadshow on when I thought, ‘Stuff it – I’ll ask one’.

“I got one,” I said, raising my arm.

The microphone was gratefully handed my way. And all eyes were on me, including those of the great man with the silver mane.

“G’day Bob,” I said. “Who do reckon is going to win the Epsom at Randwick this weekend?”

There followed a nervous titter among the assembled press. Partly because I’d called the former prime minister “Bob” – are all Australians so familiar with their head of state? – and partly because they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

Bobby knew, though. Too right he did. Of course he did. He smiled and said: “Well, I had a yarn this week with my mate [the trainer] Bobby Thomsen, and he told me Shogun Lodge is in good fettle and will give a very good account of himself. So there you go, mate. I’m tipping Shogun Lodge.”

I smiled and said, “Thanks, mate,” into the microphone, and Bobby smiled back in that Bobby way of his, eyes twinkling, and said: “Good luck, son.”

And it was like being a kid having your hair ruffled by The Don.

Soon enough the camera operators were spreading the mail around their comrades.

“Hawkey’s just tipped Shogun Lodge in the Epsom,” one told a mate on the phone.

And Blanche turned around and looked at me, and beamed the biggest, brightest smile you’ve ever seen. Never forget it.

I met Bob again, years later, at the Jack Newton Celebrity Classic, the three-day golf palooza in the Hunter Valley. And I asked him did he remember that presser in 2000. He said he did.

I asked him did he remember someone asking him to tip the winner of the Epsom. He said he did.

“And I tipped Shogun Lodge and it won,” he said.

I told him I didn’t get on. And his eyes twinkled and he smiled, and he said: “You bloody mug.”

What a bloke. What an Australian.

(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Bob was patron of Jack Newton’s now 40-year-old golf event called The Jack.

Jack was Bob’s kinda guy, and vice versa. Big laughs, no bullshit, fair dinkum Aussies. Good hearts. Great blokes. Can’t ask more.

Most years Bobby would sing Waltzing Matilda at the function on the Saturday night. First year he did it, entire audience stood up and just about wept. He’d sing the verse, we’d all belt out the chorus. It was magnificent.

He’d tell this joke about a canoe. He’d sing Solidarity Forever, the old trade union anthem. In a crowd of relatively wealthy people, he’d rip it off through pure charisma.

It was only a couple years ago he played golf in 45-degree heat. Our foursome was inside drinking schooners, Bobby was out there whacking away, doing his best.

It was dangerous, really. But he’d have known he was coming to the end of a top innings, and just wanted to get another few holes in with his mate. Beautiful stuff.

Loved sport, Bob. Cricket and golf, all brands of footy.

He brought back the Prime Minister’s XI in 1983. You grow up in Canberra, and the West Indies come to town, well, they sold out Manuka Oval and another 2000 people came in under the fence.

There’s a classic video of Bob’s glasses being smashed at Kingston Oval in Canberra in a pollies vs media cricket match. He was ripping off a pull shot and copped one between the eyes. In no other country would it happen – the head of state bowled bouncers by the press.

There’s that lairy Australian flag jacket, of course, from the America’s Cup – a yacht race no-one really gave a stuff about until Bobby made us proud.

He wanted Australians to be proud of our place, to stand up on the world’s stage. He made us give us a stuff about John Bertrand and Ben Lexcen, who invented an incredible keel that beat the dastardly Yanks for the first time in 143 years.

They were heady days. People didn’t turn up to work and called their bosses bums if they got the sack. It was more peak Australia. Peak Bob.

And now he’s gone, the great man. And you think: How about him for an Australian?

He could tell a gag, skoll a schooner and set the big dog free off the tee.

He was a great Australian, equal parts larrikin and legend.

Pretty good tipster, too.

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Racing this Saturday comes from Flemington where some there are some good races and good horses involved; as per usual I will be taking you through my thoughts on the quaddie.

First leg – Who Shot Thebarman handicap (1200 metres)
2 Halvorsen backs up here after finishing strongly to win second up, has won third up in the past and should show some natural improvement as well as some fitness, Hawkshot form is good.

3 Fine Dane is also on the back up from last week where he finished third behind Halvorsen at Caulfield, he pushed forward on that occasion and stuck on okay, has been running solid races since winning first up.

4 Lady Pluck is a Tasmanian filly who covered ground and found enough to win at Caulfield, has a good record over in Tasmania and is ready for this step up in class, has a third placing behind Smart Melody and Music Bay at Flemington.

5 Poised to Strike was much better last time out where he settled off the speed and got into some trouble when coming out and making his run, he finished second on that occasion and he is a big chance to go one better here.

7 Morrissy covered ground just off the pace third up but found enough to score nicely, was a handy race with some good horses behind him, should run a bold race.

Suggestions: 2-3-4-5-7

Second leg – Brew handicap (2600 metres)
3 Steel Prince,this bloke is just flying and has a pretty handy overall record, won three on the trot this preparation the first two were by narrow margins up in trip last start and won well, should be winning again here.

Third leg – Australian Trainers’ Association handicap (1800 metres)
1 Boom Time needed the run when first up, won well second up here last May, up to the 1800 metres helps. Gets the near side blinkers on again and the blinkers off again.

3 Pacodali had a chance but was a sound return at Caulfield where he finished sixth on that occasion behind Mahamedis, ran down two smart ones when winning second up last preparation.

(AAP Image/Mark Dadswell)

4 Call Me Handsome did plenty of work early and fought on well to run fourth at Caulfield he then went to Flemington where he was very good up on the pace where he finished third behind Dark Eyes and Spunlago, just such a genuine horse.

5 Mortons Fork will be included if he runs here, he was much better last start when bouncing back to his best form at Caulfield where he finished third behind Plein Ciel who has plenty of talent and Furrion who just won the Warrnambool Cup. His form prior to that looked bad on paper but he was quite sound at Bendigo where he didn’t finish that far off the placings.

6 Mantastic hit the line well at Bendigo when flashing home for second just behind Haripour, he then had no excuse here behind Dark Eyes on Anzac Day but was in a bunched finish, this might be the furthest distance he wants.

10 Spunlago will be included if he runs here, has had two runs in Melbourne since his Canberra Cup run and has been sound in both of those runs, last start he finished second behind Dark Eyes here on Anzac Day, I’m assuming he has pulled up well from his last start to be backing up again.

14 Kings Full looks a promising horse in the making here, is only a lightly raced four-year-old gelding so does have plenty of upside, won well at Cranbourne last start and can take the step up here, this trip suits!

Suggestions: 1-3-4-5-6-10-14

Last leg – Efficient handicap (1200 metres)
5 Bel Sonic ran okay last week but others were better, has been disappointing as of late but the quick back up could spark him up, gets the blinkers off near side first time, blinkers back on and tongue tie on for the first time.

6 Galaxy Raider always had a decent opinion of this horse and I believe he has plenty of ability, ran a blinding last 200 metres after being held up badly here fresh last year, was a big chance to win last time out here but unfortunately there was a fall, has trialled pretty well leading into this.

8 Spirit of Aquada was backed fresh and won quite well at Moonee Valley and has ran second twice since then behind a couple of nice horses, form has been franked since then also!

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10 Highland Beat covered ground at Bendigo but was never a winning chance, much better last start at Pakenham behind a handy horse from the Matt Cumani yard, can run a nice race here!

12 Indian Thunder is a pretty consistent horse who fought on nicely at Bendigo behind Mandela Effect who is a horse with plenty of ability, he then went to Terang where he got a much-deserved win and did it well!

14 Petrelle is a lightly raced four-year-old mare who has plenty of upside and talent to go with it! She was too strong and too tough fresh, ran well second-up last preparation and was lame here before she was tipped out for a spell, can get the job done here.

Suggestions: 5-6-8-10-12-14

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How bloody good is The Bool?

I’m running on empty on the morning of the third day of this carnival, but I’m sure I’ll be up and about by the time the Grand Annual jumps this afternoon.

Yesterday we saw a ten out of ten ride in the Wangoom Handicap (1200m) by Dean Holland, who gave I Am Someone a saloon passage along the fence to claim victory in the Listed race.

Not a bad effort for a horse that drew near the car park.

The four-year-old gelding, who was tipped to win here, is likely to head off to The Goodwood in Adelaide later this month for a crack at Group 1 glory.

“Full credit to Dean (Holland), things didn’t go to plan and he came out with one of the better rides,” trainer Paul Preusker said.

“He is starting to settle a little bit too good in his trackwork and now we’re dealing with a different horse.

“If he stood up today he’s good enough for there (Adelaide) so that’s now the plan.”

The other big winner on the day was Big Blue for the Maher/Eustace stable.

The former French galloper was given a peach of a ride by John Allen to win the Galleywood Hurdle (3200m).

“Ciaron (Maher) was pretty confident beforehand and just told me to have faith in his toughness, his fitness and told me not to be afraid to make use of him if he was travelling well,” Allen said.

“He rode a nice gallop without them going overly quick and then jumped his way into it down the side when Gai’s (Goodwood Zodiac) was jumping out.

“Down the back, I took it up and made it a true test. These Galileos, that’s their forte – their toughness – and he showed that.”
The Australian Hurdle at Sandown is Big Blue’s likely next target.

It could have been a big day for followers as I Am Someone was tipped, but the horse I also suggested backing ran second at much big bigger odds. I hope someone took the quinella, which paid $50.

The track is still racing well at Warrnambool so here’s a look at today’s feature races, followed by some quaddie numbers. Good luck.

Warrnambool (VIC)
Track: Soft 6 at time of writing.
Rail: Out 4m 1200m – 300m, True Remainder.

Race 7 at 2.30pm – $350,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m)
Only four winning hopes in this race, but in reality, there should only be one if Zed Em brings his best.

The Patrick Payne-trained veteran ran second in this race last year and was flawless at Oakbank over Easter, winning the Von Doussa and the Great Eastern Steeplechase.

Provided he’s in good order today, he should be winning.

Gold Medals was slightly disappointing on Tuesday and needs to bounce back, while Bit of a Lad is good enough, but a query over the 5500 metres.

Keep an eye on Slowpoke Rodriguez, a stablemate of Zed Em, but reasonably unknown in this company. He could be the one to put in all of your exotics.

Suggested bet: Zed Em to win.

Race 9 at 3.55pm – $250,000 Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m)
The topweight Furrion should win the race based on class as he’s been racing in better company than this with success.

He wins 50 per cent of his races so you don’t have to worry about him squibbing it in the finish, either.

The best value in the race could be the Tony McEvoy-trained Light The Waves. This up-and-coming mare has been in superb form in Adelaide and this might be the perfect race for her to get a Listed race under her belt.

The other horse I’d consider is Sheezdashing from the Ellerton/Zahra stable. She’s had four runs this preparation and is ready to peak.

Suggested bet: Box quinella (1-4-12). $20 pays 6.66 x dividend.

The Quaddie (Races 7-10)
Race 7: 1-2-3-6
Race 8: 8-9-10-11
Race 9: 1-4-12
Race 10: 5-7-10-11-20
$50 to pay 20.83% of dividend

Results to date
Total spend in 2019: $520
Total return in 2019: $650

Total spend in 2018: $1000
Total return in 2018: $1445

* Based on $20 per selection and $50 per quaddie

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Things sure started to heat up at Warrnambool yesterday and if you followed the quaddie numbers you would have made a small profit – not a bad result considering the favourite won in three of the four legs.

We’ll have another crack at the quaddie today, but first, a reflection on yesterday’s main race, the Brierly Steeplechase.

It was a thrilling finish between Bit Of A Lad and Golde Medals down the straight, even though they were on opposite sides of the track, but the master jumps jockey Steven Pateman got the job done for trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

But there was some added theatre when the connections of Gold Medals fired in a protest.

Clayton Douglas, who rode Gold Medals, said there was interference from Bit Of A Lad at both the 800 and 450-metre marks.

Gold Medals’ trainer, Symon Wilde, said Pateman was to blame.

“He’s nearly put him over the fence,” Wilde said in the stewards’ room.

“I mean that’s improper riding. That interference there has cost him three lengths.”

Chief steward James Hitchcock said stewards felt Gold Medals was momentarily tightened at the 800-metre mark and again at the 450-metre mark but considering several factors, including the length-and-a-half margin, the protest was dismissed.

Pateman accepted a proportion of blame but said most of it was because of the race leader, Newbury.

“They (stewards) called it mid-range (interference), but I would call it low range,” Pateman said.

“Newbury came across both of us after the second last and I ended up getting suspended for that. But, look, it’s part of cross-country racing.

“Newbury was coming across quite fast and Clayton (Douglas) was entitled to be there and there was some interference.

“It was definitely a bit nerve-wracking in the stewards’ room but my horse definitely deserved to win it.”

Personally, I thought the protest could have gone either way and would have liked to see the stewards uphold it, but in 2019 they tend to be ultra-conservative when it comes to changing a race result.

The action doesn’t stop there, though, because there’s another ten-race card on today and again tomorrow.

I’ve previewed today’s two feature races, as well as thrown up some quaddie numbers to keep you interested in the office on a Wednesday afternoon.

Warrnambool (VIC)

Track: Soft 7 at the time of writing.
Rail: true position entire circuit.

Race 6 at 2:05pm – $150,000 Galleywood Hurdle (3200m)
In reality, this is a two-horse race, but I suspect there’s only one winning chance if Self Sense jumps cleanly.

On the flat he has class on his rivals, having won the Mornington Cup in March and finishing fifth at Group 2 level in Sydney four weeks ago. Last year, he had three starts over the sticks for two wins and a second. If he brings his A-game today, he’s the winner.

The only horse that has a chance to beat him is Goodwood Zodiac, but realistically he’s competing for second, despite a 30-length win in his maiden hurdle win.

This race is much tougher than that race at Pakenham, although we are going to see a lot more of Goodwood Zodiac in the future.

Suggested bet: Self Sense to win.

Race 8 at 3:20pm – $175,000 Listed Wangoom Handicap (1200m)
Always a highlight of the Warrnambool calendar, the Wangoom has been won by some good horses over the years.

It feels like the 2019 edition is lacking a little bit of class, but on paper, it looks wide open.

I’m leaning towards the bush galloper I Am Someone, trained out of Horsham by Paul Preusker.

This talented gelding was beaten by Miss Leonidas in a Listed race at Caulfield three weeks ago and she was brave in defeat in a big race in town on Saturday.

I Am Someone has drawn a wide gate, so expect Dean Holland to fire out of the gates and look for an early position on the speed. If he can do that and not burn too much fuel in the process, his mount wins the Wangoom.

In a race that has plenty of speed, look for a horse like Malibu Style to be finishing over the top of them late. This Perth galloper doesn’t see many soft tracks, but likes the cut out of the ground and has been competitive at Group 1 level before.

Suggested bet: Half stake on both I Am Someone and Malibu Style to win.

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The quaddie (Races 7-10)
Race 7: 3-4-6
Race 8: 1-2-7-10-11
Race 9: 5-8-12-17
Race 10: 8-9-10-14
$50 to pay 20.83 per cent of dividend

Results to date
Total spend in 2019: $410
Total return in 2019: $542
Total spend in 2018: $1000
Total return in 2018: $1445
(Based on $20 spend per selection or $50 quaddies.)

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Forget Melbourne Cup week, forget The Championships – the best racing carnival in the country is this week and it’s at Warrnambool.

It’s been about 15 years since my first trip to the Bool and there have been many journeys since.

The people in attendance are there for the racing. It’s not like the spring carnival, where inner-city types dress up for a party, the Bool is all about jeans, a warm jacket, and a cold beer in your hand.

If you don’t know how the carnival is structured, here is a quick explanation: three days of racing, with a mixture of jumps and flat events, culminating in the Grand Annual Steeplechase and Warrnambool Cup on Thursday.

The carnival is always held in the first week of May, based around the Grand Annual being held on the first Thursday in May (it’s April 30 today, for example).

This week, I’m going to preview the main races on each card and throw up some quaddie numbers. After some good results on Saturday, I’m hoping to keep the momentum rolling.

Make sure you follow me on Twitter @mattnicholls29 for some live updates throughout the day, but there’ll be another preview here tomorrow.

Warrnambool (VIC)
Track: Soft 7 at the time of writing.
Rail: True position entire circuit.

Race 6 at 2:20pm – $150,000 Brierly Steeplechase (3450m): Topweight Gold Medals is the class runner of this race, having won the same event last year before going on to back-up successfully in the Grand Annual.

Last year, he was given three runs on the flat and two trials over the sticks before heading to the Brierly. This year, he’s had three jumping trials and two flat runs.

I’m keen to take him on today because he’s been up for a reasonably long time. He ran dead last in the Jericho Cup in December and something looked off.

You can’t read too much into his flat runs, but is he the same horse as last year? I suspect not.

There was money in the market for him, so perhaps I’m wrong, but I am reluctant to back him at the $3.30 mark.

This looks an even race on paper and the veteran galloper I’ll’ava’alf could be the value. The ten-year-old would probably prefer there to be more sting out of the ground, but he’s had three trials since March 1 for three wins and looks to be in excellent condition. He was fourth in this race last year and appears to be going better. He looks the best value in the race.

Suggested bet: I’ll’ava’alf each-way.

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The quaddie (Races 7-10)
Each day of the carnival I’m going to throw up my numbers for the quaddie as they usually pay well. The idea is to spend $50 and see if we can get a collect.

Race 7: 2-3-7-8
Race 8: 5-7-8
Race 9: 1-3-5-8-13
Race 10: 4-5-12-14
$50 to pay 20.83% of dividend

Results to date
Total spend in 2019: $340
Total return in 2019: $478
Total spend in 2018: $1000
Total return in 2018: $1445
(Based on $20 spend per selection.)

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