Black Stump Bungler
Horse Racing and other Sports by Darcy “Dingo” McPhee
Stone the bloody crows, you wouldn’t believe who I ran into after the races last week, none other than me old mate Ted “Two Heads” Penny. Now you may think he got his moniker from that old traditional Aussie game of Two Up*, but most of us believe it is because he is Tasmanian, and rumour has it he married his 1st cousin. Anyway, whatever the reason ol’ Two Heads is a top bloke and after catching up with him over a few post races beers at his local, he invited me down to his home State for the annual Turf Invaders Stakes being run this Sunday. So here I am even colder than last week spending a week at Ted’s “palatial 3 bedroom home in suburban Hobart where I get to share the 2nd bedroom with his brother in law and also cousin Merv “The Tout”. (it was that or share the main bedroom with Ted and his Missus or the 3rd bedroom with his 5 tin lids **). Now Merv insists he knows all there is to know about horse racing especially in his home town and he has offered to take me on a guided tour of the track and stables before the big race on Sunday. I figured that a little local knowledge and colour can’t hurt, so we are off to the races on the Saturday to see what we can learn. Oh, and I know you as my avid readers must be very concerned about my feathered mate Clarence. Well as you know he was most unimpressed with last week’s arrangements and temperature, so I thought it best not to bring him down here to Tassie. Being the concerned mate I am, I got him a first class ticket in a Qantas hosties handbag back to Brissie where Harry will pick him up and get him back to the “Stump”.
Well, Merv and I got back from the races an hour or so back, and after a few thank you mate beers, here I am sitting on the thunder box*** out back with my laptop typing up my preview for Sunday’s race. It was the only quiet place in the house, seems Saturday Night is games night in the Penny household, no not a quiet game of Monopoly with the kids, but full on World Championship Wrestling, a tag team match between the 5 kids and Ted’s missus vs. Ted and Merv. I was volunteered to be the ref, but managed to claim I needed to write my article.
|Turf Invaders Stakes|
Grade II / Group 2*CPU – Purse : $375,000
|Restricted to 3 Year Olds and Older|
|9 Furlongs | ~1800 Meters | One Mile and and One Eighth||Firm Turf|
|1||Chordata||Owner: gcliffo24||Trainer: Gcliffo||Jockey: T Brewer||10/1|
| We went looking for Cliffo, the trainer this striking 5 year Old Bay horse out of Raven’s Pass, unfortunately he was nowhere to be found. We did however, stumble across (literally as he was asleep on the floor of Chordata’s stall) Cliffo’s traveling foreman Woolongong Wally. He told us that the boss went straight home to his base in Thailand after Chordata’s last run in Japan, citing that the boss was totally disillusioned with the 11 length 8th of 9 runners in the Grade 2 Yasuda Mile. Wally went on to say that Chordata hasn’t made enough to cover his feed bill this year after 4 wins and a third last year (including a Grade 3 win in the Marit Paulsen’s Memorial over 1800 m). Wally said the boss’s last words to him before they left Japan were either you or the horse are going to be gelded if he doesn’t run a drum on Sunday.
|2||Shampagne for All||Owner: chix||Trainer: Jakematt
||Jockey: J Wilson
| Shared the plane with Chordata from Japan after also running in the Yasuda Mile last start, where he finished 4 lengths back in 3rd place. Again Merv (with all his so called local knowledge) couldn’t locate trainer Jakematt, but he did luck out and we found the proud owner chix at the hamburger stand. I was about to order a burger for myself when Merv gave me a nudge and whispered that the burgers were often supplemented with meats other than beef. (after which he gave a loud whinney and a laugh). So we didn’t mention this to chix who was happy to have a chat and tell us how Shampers (as he called his horse) last win 12 months ago in the German Grade 2 Bayside Triumph over 2000 m was the highlight of his time owning thoroughbreds. It was about now that I realised Merv wasn’t the sharpest knife in the block, when he said we had seen Shampers and what thoroughbreds was chix talking about. I ducked and made a hurried retreat around the corner of the burger stand as Merv wore chix’s burger between his eyes.
|3||The Darkest Demon||Owner: lopo87||Trainer: Given
||Jockey: B Ball
| After Merv made a pit stop to clean up the dead horse and fried onions from his face, we headed to where he said he was sure that Demon’s trainer Given would be. For once he was correct Given was quietly sitting in the trainers lounge nursing a ginger ale in deep conversation with couple of very shady looking gents. Before we went over Merv grabbed my elbow and hissed a quick, “I will wait for you outside” and he was gone! I wandered over introduced myself and asked if anyone would like a drink. (one thing about being in Australia, buy a drink for a stranger and you have a friend for life). Oh, so you are the Great Dingo McPhee are you? You and your town have cost me a small fortune on Melbourne Cup Day the past 3 years. (Seems these 2 shady gents are Melbourne Bookies and Clarence and I have caused them no end of financial losses). Luckily, they didn’t hold any grudges and offered to meet me after the last race behind the stables, they then said their goodbyes to Given and headed over to another part of the trainers lounge. Given raised their glass asking if I was wanting to do an interview about The Demon. Without even waiting for my response Given rattled off his stats 19 starts 8 wins (only 1 at listed level) nearly 300k in prize money. Barely taking a breath they continued with how they were pleased with the Demon’s progression and times, but this was his toughest test heading into Graded Company for the 1st time. Holding up their empty glass and commenting that it was a dry argument I ordered them another ginger ale and wished The Demon well for tomorrow’s race.
|4||Bigger Fish to Fry||Owner: mtk76||Trainer: Mtk76
||Jockey: P Harzheim
| As I came out of the trainers lounge I looked around for Merv, I heard a sound similar to a car tyre deflating ….. psssst psssst over here dingo. Looking around I see Merv hiding behind rubbish bin beckoning to me to come over. Hey mate how did you go in there, he seemed to be quite worried about something. No problem I said got my info for the article and met a couple of nice Melbourne Bookies. Nice Bookies are you mad they were Lennie “Leg Breaker” Muldoon and Norm “The Noose” Bartlett 2 of the nastiest pieces of work to hold a Bookies license on the mainland. While you were drinking with a couple of maniacs I did find out that Mtk76 the owner/trainer of the Number 4 horse is still in Melbourne, so I organised his strapper Cheryl to chat with you. He looked over his shoulder and yelled .. “Hey Cheryl get yourself over here and meet the famous Dingo McPhee.” This cute young blonde girl looking like she was right out of the National Velvet movie shyly walked over and said “Hi Mr McPhee” Hello Cheryl call me Dingo, what can you tell me about your horse Bigger Fish to Fry’s chances tomorrow. Oh Wow Mr Mc.. I mean Mr Dingo, he will run them all into the ground, like he is always way back early but he finishes like so fast you know. It is totally awwwweeesome how he can run so fast at the end of his races. Like ever since they cut off his ba.. you know took away his manhood, he has been amazeballs (even she laughed at her unintended pun). I thanked Cheryl and offered to tell her boss what a great job she is doing next time I met him.
|5||Dutch Haze||Owner: mikeramsey4||Trainer: Bbaffert
||Jockey: T Small
|After we left Cheryl attending to her amazeballs horse, Merv suddenly turned to me and said “Hey Mate can you loan an old pal a lobster **** I have a cert in the next (no wonder the call him The Tout) It’s going off at 20/1 so we can cash in for sure. I thought why not he has been giving me a hand, so I flicked him a pineapple **** and ok mate put half on for me as well (fully expecting to have seen the last of my money). Thanks bloke and off he trotted to spend my money. Just then this gentleman wandered over and chuckled as he said, I see the Tout hit you up, Bbaffert’s my name, the word around the stables is you are doing an article on the Big Race tomorrow. Yeah mate you train Dutch Haze don’t you? What chance do you give him tomorrow? Well Dingo, I reckon he’s definitely a big chance to finish with a paycheck, you know he won The Hardcourt Grade 2, three starts back over 2000 m when we took him over to Europe. Unfortunately his 2 subsequent races were a bit of a disappointment, especially his last run in the Grade 1 Prince of Whales. His 5th placing there was below our expectations, we think the warm northern summer didnt sit to well with him, so back home here in the cold we are fairly confident. (with that he gave me a knowing wink and nod and wandered off)|
|6||Old Time Kash||Owner: kashbarn||Trainer: Kashbarn
||Jockey: H Harzheim
| Just then ol Merv reappeared, hey Dingo mate I see you met my brother Bill, I told him you were looking for him. Your brother? Yeah mate he is the pride of the Baffert household. Well you could have given a bloke a heads up not just sent him over (No wonder Bill laughed at how easily I handed my hard earned over to Merv). It was right then ol’ Merv pulled a wad of pineapples from his sky rocket, and with a grin said hold your hand out mate we made a killing, passing over a wad of cash big enough to choke a horse. Now that could be an omen because the next horse on my list was Old Time Kash, who from what we had heard always arrives at the track the morning of his races. So there was no-one we could ask about his chances, but what an omen for this multiple Graded winner. Although his last start was less than impressive his previous form puts him right in tomorrow’s race. With a Grade 2 win and a 3rd in the Grade 1 Sydney Cup at his previous 2 runs. I may just have to invest some of my New Cash on Old Kash.
|7||Salt of the Turf||Owner: durkastan5||Trainer: Durkastan
||Jockey: R Whisper
| Merv and I wandered along the line of stables until we arrived at Salt of the Turf’s stall, to find a bloke who looked more closely related to a silverback gorilla than a normal man sitting outside, quietly picking his teeth with a knife bigger than Mick Dundee’s. Ah now I remember this horse is owned by the Eastern European conglomerate Durkistan Racing, Not wanting to be swimming with the fishes I politely asked the gorilla if his boss was available for comment on tomorrow’s races. His only response was a very deep grunt as he produced a piece of stained crumpled paper from his hip pocket, You that writer fella Dingo McFool, I nodded, (I may be McFool but I am no idiot, no way I was disagreeing with man gorilla). Then the boss said to give you this, as he handed over the scrap of paper. On unfolding it it read as follows and I quote it exactly as written (as advised it would be best that I did)
“Mr McPhee, it is in your best interests to make the following comments only about Durkistan Racing’s Salt of the Turf. He has not been set for this race, it is just a step out for him. His 2 previous Grade 1 wins were a mystery to all of us in Durkistan, and it was only by accident we had put $100k on him to win in each of those races and none on his other starts. If his odds should shorten between now and the race -You would do well to remember that the ocean is just on the other side of the racecourse. Intimidatingly yours Durkistan.”
|8||King of Awesome||Owner: mattress||Trainer: Beisbol
||Jockey: GD Mate
| Even Merv was a little shaken by our visit to Salt of the Turf’s stall, so we were need of a more friendly face and very quickly we were in luck as we rounded the corner of the stables to literally run right into Trainer Beisbol walking King of Awesome around the exercise yard. He’s looking a treat I called out, just like the race favorite should was the reply. Walking over marveling at this huge mountain of thoroughbred flesh I was told he stands over 17 hands. Beisbol was only too pleased to share the stables enthusiasm for his chances of backing up on his last start Grade 3 win in the Diolated Stakes over 1700 m. and how they knew he was on then and again this weekend. It seems when he is in the mood to run hard the King will lean against his stall to sleep, and Beisbol said he has been doing that for the past week.
|9||Mama’s Cross||Owner: danzigmoon||Trainer: Danzigmoon
||Jockey: W Yann
| Merv was adamant we shouldn’t waste time looking for an interview from anyone involved with Mama’s Cross, heck mate it is just a one man show and his owner / trainer is known to be a total eccentric. It seems Danzigmoon keeps more horses on the farm than in training, and those he has in training are yet to win the stables first race, managing only 4 runs ITM out of 21 starts. Merv old mate remember everyone has to start at the beginning and it takes time to learn the trade of training racehorses. True, Mama’s Cross will more than likely finish closer to the winner of the race after the Turf Invaders than the winner of it, but it is still a thrill for his connections to have a runner in a Graded Stakes. It looks as though Mama’s Cross was picked up at the auctions last month unfortunately he seems way past his prime and would be lucky to win a $2k claimer these days. But we can still wish his trainer the best of luck cheering him on, one thing is for sure he will be cheering Mama’s Cross a lot longer than any other horse in the race will be.
|10||Cheapie Weepie||Owner: patluc12||Trainer: Pato7
||Jockey: S L Ledwith
| No fuss no fanfare is what we find when we wander into the Pato7 operation, the only trainer who seems to have a permanent operation set up at the Hobart track, however. it turns out he has just leased this area for his Turf Invader starter Cheapie Weepie, and by Monday it will revert to normal track stables. Merv and I found this out when we were directed to the Stable office, to find the boss Pato7 busy going over all the things necessary that a professional training operation requires. Staff rosters, bill paying, ordering feed, booking jockeys and so on. Yet as we introduced ourselves he was most welcoming asking us to sit and offering us coffee or a beer (with the comment that he has realised to an aussie beer is like coffee to an american). It comes to light during our interview that Cheapie Weepie has had 20 of his 22 starts in the USA with his other 2 being in Brazil and Mexico. With a record off 11 wins and 10 minor placings from those 22 starts, this is by far the most consistent of all the runners in tomorrow’s race. He has only had a single listed race start for a win over 1800 m and a Grade 2 start last run for a very strong 2nd also over 1800 m in the Texas Turf Cup. Pato7 came across as quietly confident on the prospects of his charge for tomorrows race.
|11||Drakon’s End Game||Owner: pbcash||Trainer: Lenny271
||Jockey: P Jones
| Lenny as is normal wouldn’t give us an interview at his stables, he insisted we meet in the bar after the last race where I could ask him anything we wanted to know. Now for those that don’t know Lenny and his training operation is probably bigger than Godolphin, with 106 barns worldwide. When we met in the bar I asked Lenny how he managed such a big racing empire? Simple he said do what we did over the past few years although we have room for over 1000 horses we only have 375 in training and 59 on the farm. We are more into the breeding side of the industry now, with the greater majority of our horses being 2 and 3 year olds. Towards the end of their 3 year old year we cull out the pack keeping those that have shown ability as well as those with blue bloodlines who are sent off to the breeding sheds. Keeping the actual numbers down to youngsters and older horses with ability makes things much easier. Take Drakon’s End Game for instance his 3 yo form was at best average and his temperament was terrible. As a last resort it was decided to geld him, and the results were incredible he won 3 on the trot at allowance level and then has placed 3 from 3 at graded including a last start 3rd in the Grade 1 Prince of Whales.
(Note: To Cheryl if you thought your Bigger Fish to Fry is amazeballs, take a look at this guy)
|12||Easter Chocolate||Owner: playtheking||Trainer: Vkstables
||Jockey: S Kagawa
| As we were finishing up across wandered the trainer of the last horse I needed information on. Vkstables head lad Bernie had dropped in for a cooling ale before evening stables, it seems he knew Merv and they quickly got into a conversation about what I have no idea, so while Lenny and I had a traveler or 2 I asked Merv to get the good oil on Easter Chocolate. On the way home Merv related that Bernie had said that Easter’s last start failure was due to some fool in the stables forgetting to put the racing shoes on Easter Chocolate and he ran the 2000 m of the Grade 3 Awa Pooie Gold Cup in his stable shoes. Somewhat like Kip Keno trying to run a marathon in work boots. Bernie went on to say that they were lucky the stewards or the boss didnt notice or someone’s rear end would be in a sling. I must say looking at his form line of 4 straight wins (including the Grade 3 Road Rash over 1800 m) prior to his last start points to him not being without a chance tomorrow.
That was good timing the tin lids are queuing up outside the thunder box, must be their bed time! Once again without Clarence to give you all the skinny on who will run well tomorrow, I will bow to local knowledge and hand you over to Merv, for his tips, just don’t let him con you out of a lobster or 2 to pay for them
Darcy “Dingo” McPhee (wrestling must be thirsty work, there isn’t a beer left in Ted’s house)
1st Cheapie Weepie
2nd King of Awesome
3rd Salt of the Turf Writers note: Disregard this tip Merv is totally mad.
3rd Drakon’s End Game
Just for you Beisbol and Kyogle
*Two Up – is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated “spinner” throwing two coins or pennies into the air. Players bet on whether the coins will fall with both heads up or both tails up. It is traditionally played on Anzac Day (Similar to Memorial Day in USA) in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with Diggers (Term for Aussie soldiers) through the ages.
**Tin Lids – Children Australian rhyming slang for Kids
***Thunder Box (also known as a Dunny) – Australian Slang for toilet usually found in the backyard in what is known locally as the Outhouse (see Photo of Ted’s below, note at least it has heating, well I thought it was heating turns out it is just a way of migrating the stink outside).
**** Lobster – Australian Slang for a $20 note (due to its red colour) **** Pineapple – Australian Slang for a $50 note (due to its yellow colour)