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Play Master returns a winner at Flemington

December 20, 2014
Homebred gelding Play Master continues to repay Benalla horseman Peter Smith, returning to racing with a dominant win at Flemington.

The Smith-trained Play Master is a son of unheralded stallion Masterprint, who Smith owns, and notched his eighth victory from 16 starts with his three-quarter length win in Saturday's Red Tempo Handicap (1000m).

"I love this horse," Smith said.

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Fawkner on target for Cox Plate

October 12, 2014
Fawkner returned to the scene of his greatest triumph when taking out the Caulfield Stakes on Saturday.

It was 51 weeks ago that Fawkner provided owner Lloyd Williams with his first Caulfield Cup and a year on it might be the same horse to provide the owner with a first Cox Plate.

Ridden by Nick Hall, who won the Caulfield Cup aboard the gelding last year, Fawkner ($5.50) scored by a long-head over Criterion (Hugh Bowman, $16) with last year's Mackinnon Stakes winner Side Glance (Jamie Spencer, $26) a length-and-three-quarters away third.

The $4 favourite, Dissident, finished sixth after racing handy to the speed but bled, incurring an automatic three-month ban from racing.

Nick Williams said Fawkner was clearly the best horse in their Mt Macedon stable having made the step up from being a handicapper to a weight-for-age horse.

"Its 51 weeks since he won the Caulfield Cup," Williams said.

"He's come back here and beaten the majority of what he's going to have to beat at Moonee Valley.

"I think he has shown that necessary rise in grade from being a handicapper to a weight-for-age horse and it's very exciting to have one of them in your stable as they are very hard to find."

Williams praised the ride of Hall.

"It was a wonderful ride," Williams said.

"I wasn't saying it was a wonderful ride when they were coming around the side.

"I could see him sitting there on the rail and I thought he could have ended up last by the time he got out, but Nick knew what he was doing."

Hugh Bowman was buoyed by the performance of runner-up Criterion saying it was a great run while Jamie Spencer on Side Glance also said his charge ran well.

"He's not getting any younger," Spencer said.

"As usual he gave it his all and went down fighting.

"He set a good pace, a bit different to the Mackinnon last year where he went slow.

"I just hope like last year that after a run he'll be better for it."

Zac Purton, a fast-finishing fourth aboard Sacred Falls, said the draw cost him victory.

"It was always going to be hard from that gate.

"Unfortunately I had to go all the way back. Had I drawn barrier one or two I probably win it today.

"The Cox Plate, we'll be right there."

Derby-winner Australia retires

October 12, 2014
Leading race horse Australia, which won both this year's English Derby and the Irish Derby, has been retired just a week before the colt was due to bow out at the British Champions Day meet at Ascot, it was announced Saturday.

According to a UK representative of the Ireland-based Coolmore Stud, where Australia was trained by Aidan O'Brien, the colt has suffered a hoof problem which means racing next Saturday is no longer an option.

"Unfortunately Australia developed a problem in his right-hind hoof during the week." Kevin Buckley, UK representative for Coolmore, told Channel 4 Racing,

"Following consultation between the resident farrier at Ballydoyle, our vet, John Halley, and the respective owners, the decision was made yesterday to retire him to Coolmore."

The three-year-old won five races, with his career yielding more than STG2 million ($A3.65 million) in prize money, but his last appearance ended in defeat being beaten by French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby in the Irish Champion Stakes last month.

Rare footage of Phar Lap unearthed

September 17, 2014
Historians believe a nitrate film unearthed in Sydney could be the original version of the only documentary of Phar Lap filmed while the horse was still alive.

The rare footage of the champion racehorse was recently given to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) by the Australian Turf Club after it was discovered in a canister by Sydney racing personality Max Presnell.

The 10-minute film includes vision of Phar Lap at trackwork and interviews with his trainer Harry Telford and regular jockey Jim Pike.

It also features his 1930 Melbourne Cup win and the only known footage of his Randwick Plate victory a year later, the last time Phar Lap competed in Sydney.

The NFSA already held prints of the film `The Mighty Conqueror but they were safety copies and the location of the original nitrate was unknown.

"The acquisition of this 35mm nitrate film print of The Mighty Conqueror is of particular significance to our sporting film holdings as it is unique to any collection, both in Australia or abroad," said NFSA chief executive Michael Loebenstein.

Australian Turf Club Heritage Society officer Margaret Helback has described the film as "one of the more rare pieces of racing history we have ever come across".

The footage will be shown during Saturday's George Main Stakes meeting at Randwick.

Cassidy teams up with Waller for Cup bid

September 17, 2014
Twenty-five years since the last of his two Newcastle Gold Cup wins, veteran jockey Jim Cassidy is poised to help leading trainer Chris Waller claim his first.

Cassidy will be reunited with Multilateral for the first time in 12 months in the $175,000 race at Broadmeadow on Thursday and his timing couldn't be better.

One of three runners Waller will have in an attempt to win one of the few NSW staying races to elude his all-conquering stable, the import is back in form with two victories this campaign including the Wyong Gold Cup.

"He'll be a nice ride," Cassidy said.

"I won about three races on him last spring and I'm looking forward to getting back on because it was a nice tough win at Wyong."

Cassidy won his first Newcastle Gold Cup on Indian Raj in 1986 but he hasn't added to his collection since Hunter scored in 1989.

Newcastle trainer Kris Lees will have three runners - all outsiders - in his bid to win the race for the first time.

Lees, who has continued a family tradition of running one of Australia's best stables from a provincial setting since the death of his father Max more than a decade ago, has had his share of near-misses in the race.

He has trained four Cup placegetters and the stable will have its biggest representation yet with imports Oriental Lady and Ay No Digas joined by Taree Cup winner Slivovitz.

Lees said he had a slight preference for Oriental Lady, a Brenton Avdulla mount who won three races in a row before finishing just on the worse side of midfield in the Premier's Cup at Randwick.

"I can't really split them but perhaps Oriental Lady is my best chance," Lees said.

"The speed of the race and luck in running is going to play a major role in the outcome."

Bookmakers are using the Wyong Gold Cup as their best reference in framing a market which has Multilateral the favourite to complete the double.

The Cleaner earns Plate start with WFA win

September 7, 2014
Popular front-runner The Cleaner and his knockabout trainer Mick Burles have earned the right to a place in the Cox Plate field after a typically determined win in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes.

In a race where Melbourne Cup favourite The Offer delighted jockey Tommy Berry with his return, The Cleaner earned exemption from the Cox Plate ballot his all-the-way victory on Saturday.

Longford-based Burles, who sold shares in The Cleaner to his golf mates, was convinced The Cleaner had the ability and toughness to win the Group Two weight-for-age race at Moonee Valley and the gelding didn't let him down.

"He's a bloody champion, isn't he?" Burles said.

"Just to have a runner, let alone try to win the Cox Plate. It's not beyond him. He's got a lot of guts. And he'll show you how good he is over 2000 metres in three weeks (in the JRA Cup)."

The Cleaner was well-supported during the week and firmed again late from $4.80 to $4.40 favourite.

With a racing style that has earned him many fans, The Cleaner took up his customary front-running role but with Steven Arnold aboard for the first time his lead was kept to a minimum.

Arnold said The Cleaner travelled well through the first half of the race and was confident he could hold his rivals.

The Cleaner defeated Mourinho ($14) by three-quarters of a length with a long neck to the fast-finishing Foreteller ($7).

"He really captures the imagination of the racing people with his racing style," Arnold said.

The Offer settled back in the field and tracked into the race wide coming into the home straight before doing his best work on the line to finish fifth.

Berry, who partnered the stayer to important autumn wins including the Sydney Cup, is convinced The Offer has returned better again and is on target to be a force on the first Tuesday in November.

"I wish the Melbourne Cup was tomorrow," Berry said.

The favourite Star Rolling settled second but was disappointing in finishing sixth.

Panzer Division stakes Golden Rose claim

September 7, 2014
Panzer Division has set himself up to join stablemate Scissor Kick in the $1 million Golden Rose but trainer Paul Messara is no hurry to declare him a definite starter.

The colt's win in Saturday's Group Three Ming Dynasty (1400m) guarantees him a berth in Sydney's first Group One race of the season next Saturday.

Although the colt won convincingly, Messara said he was concerned about the seven-day back-up if the Rosehill track remained wet.

"He blundered a few times in the ground so it was a good effort," Messara said.

"I'm not sure if he is a back-up horse so we might head down to Melbourne with him.

"He's entered for the Caulfield Guineas and we'll see what happens.

"The bait is there and he had to run a place today to get into the Golden Rose but we have to let the dust settle and see what the weather does as well."

Tye Angland, who rode Scissor Kick to a narrow win over Panzer Division in the Up And Coming Stakes two weeks ago, took the ride in the Ming Dynasty.

He steered Panzer Division ($4.40) over from his wide barrier to control the race and the colt stuck to his guns although uncomfortable on some parts of the track.

But he remained in command, putting 1-1/4 lengths on Shooting To Win ($20) with the same margin to third-placed Lady Sharapaova ($14).

The well-supported Washington Heights, favourite at $2.60, finished sixth after getting back early.

Angland will discuss his options with Messara if the trainer decides to run both horses.

"It's good to be in this position, but obviously it depends on how he pulls up and everything," he said.

"I'll talk to Paul about that.

"He is a horse that will be a 10 times better horse ridden quietly.

"He just wants to follow one. He is so green.

"I didn't want to lead but I had to.

"Coming into the straight he wanted to have a look about and had a look at the big screen and everything."

Peter Snowden said Shooting To Win would back up in the Golden Rose as will the Gai Waterhouse-trained Valentia who finished fifth after tracking the winner for much of the race.
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