Nelly’s dream run not over yet

How was that? Neil Werrett with Black Caviar after her win in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last June. Photo: Julian AndrewsSaturday has been a couple of years in the making for Black Caviar’s managing co-owner, Neil Werrett, and he can’t wait for her return to Randwick.

The man who put the unbeaten mare’s ownership group together has had a great ride, but having her in his home town is special.

“I have been waiting two years to get her back here, and to have her arrive safe and sound, and for Peter [Moody] to be so happy with her is a great plus.

“Let’s hope she can go out and do her thing again.”

Black Caviar’s remarkable career amounts to 24 wins, with 14 coming at group 1 level. She will become the Australian record holder for group 1 wins if she is successful in the $1 million T.J. Smith Stakes (1200 metres) at Randwick on Saturday.

Black Caviar, or Nelly, ceased to be a betting proposition for most punters a couple of years ago, since she proved so superior to her rivals that she starts about $1.10 or less in her races.

Werrett marvels that she has become part of common language for excellence in Australia.

“That is funny thing with her, that you will be watching the football and they will be talking about a team that has won a few in a row and her name will come up,” he said. “It’s hard to describe when things like that happen, you sit there and think, ‘Wow, is this real?’

“It not just that but how she has become so well known … people who would never have watched racing are interested in her.”

Most of the public would have thought they had seen the last of Black Caviar when she just won the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot last year but she has come back as strong as ever.

She broke a track record in her return in the Lightning Stakes at Flemington in February and a month later took care of business in the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley under lights three weeks ago.

Werrett put together the owners, a syndicate of friends, on a houseboat trip on the Murray River and has never regretted it. They have grown into an extended family. “You wouldn’t want to be in this alone, it wouldn’t be as much fun” he said. “We get together for every start and catch up with people we would only see once a year more regularly.”

Werrett said the future for Black Caviar would be decided next week.

“Everything is still on the table. We want to get through Saturday and then sit down together. We’ll talk it over and Ascot, Brisbane and Adelaide are options.”

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Kent takes double shot at Derby glory

Mick Kent has two runners in the Australian Derby, one by the all-conquering High Chaparral and the other, second favourite Philippi, by the lesser-known Host.

Both are bred to be there because they will stay, but as Kent put in his understated way, “They’ve run into a champion.”

It’s A Dundeel is a $1.25 favourite for the blue ribbon after taking the first two legs of the triple crown. In the Randwick Guineas he was dominant, in the Rosehill Guineas comprehensive.

He is one of four sons of High Chaparral to make the Derby field, including Kent’s immature High Shot, and a repeat of the trifecta for the stallion of three years ago when Shoot Out beat Descarado and Monaco Consul is on the cards.

“High Chaparral has taken over from Zabeel as the sire of stayers in this part of the world,” Kent said. “He just works here because he had the turn of foot we need in our horses. He showed that by … winning the Breeders Cup Turf, which is on firm ground, and won it twice. There is no doubt Galileo is best stallion of stayers in the world but [his stock] doesn’t work under our conditions [of racing]. You need a turn of foot because we stop and start.”

It’s A Dundeel’s breeding reads perfectly for a Derby, given he is by High Chaparral out of a Zabeel mare in Stareel. Kent’s part of the dynasty, High Shot, draws on the same line, being out of Sir Tristram mare Queen Caelia. He gets to 2400 metres where he should be most comfortable but it might have come too soon for the colt. “I will put the blinkers on him but he is very coltish and has just been switching on and off in his races,” Kent said. “He might be a preparation away but this is the trip he is bred for.”

High Shot won a Cranbourne maiden in October, and Kent opted to miss the spring to concentrate on the autumn.

He has run in four group races, including the Australian Guineas and last week’s Tulloch Stakes, and been about a half-dozen lengths off the winner each time.

“He has been a little backwards, and I have ran him short of his best a couple of times just to try to get him to settle, but has got pulling,” Kent said. “He is the sort of horse which could put it together at this trip, and we have put the blinkers on him to make a difference.”

Philippi comes from a winning platform in the spring when he started his career with three on end. He was sixth in the Australian Guineas and runner-up in the Alister Clark before proving too smart for his rivals in last week’s group 2 Tulloch Stakes.

“I don’t think [breeder-owner Rick Jamieson] was thinking an Australian Derby when he did the mating but the breeding suggests 10 furlongs [2000m], and he won very well at that trip last week,” Kent said. “The mile-and-a-half is still a mystery with him but he is a very nice horse and will go a good race.”

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Internationals skyrocket Inglis sales results

British bloodstock agent Angus Gold roves the world for blueblooded yearlings for his main client, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stud, and summed up this week’s unprecedented Inglis sales: “There are more international buyers here than I have ever seen.”

Sheikh Hamdan, who raced Melbourne Cup winners At Talaq and Jeune, has been a supporter of the Hayes family, firstly with the late patriarch Colin then Peter and now David.

Gold was an absentee at last year’s Inglis sales but bought 19 yearlings in the first two sessions for $7.1 million, including four by Lonhro and More Than Ready and three by Redoute’s Choice. David Hayes will get most of the yearlings to train but so, too, will Mike de Kock, the champion South African who also has a great strike rate in Dubai. De Kock was involved with Gold during the sales and alongside him for several of his buys.

The internationals were busy at the Inglis complex with three sheikhs present – Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, who bought four lots for $1.57 million, as well as linking up with Sheikh Nasser Lootah to buy half of the $4 million Fastnet Rock x River Dove colt on Wednesday.

Dunaden’s owner Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani made his first trip to the Easter sales, buying seven fillies for $1.97 million.

Darley was also buying for Sheikh Mohammed, adding four yearlings to his huge number of home-breds for $1.27 million. They were by Darley stallions, two by Lonhro and one each by Street Cry and Shamardal.

The big newcomer was China’s Teo Ah Khing, who linked up with Coolmore to spend $2 million-plus on yearlings by Fastnet Rock for the China Horse Club.

The Queen’s racing manager, John Warren, selected Khing’s buys, and they will remain in Australia; Gai Waterhouse is likely to prepare several of them.

Khing is behind the establishment of the Tianjin Equine Culture City, and Coolmore is a partner with Khing along with the leading French breeding operation Arqana.

Tianjin will train 8000 equestrian professionals, breed 1000 stud horses, hold auctions and international and domestic professional races.

The Hong Kong buyers were on hand but the Jockey Club was restricted to five lots at the first two sessions for $1,465,000; George Moore bought four yearlings for $1.42 million. Anton Koolman was also buying for HK owners, and his five yearlings cost $1.07 million in conjunction with Hermitage Bloodstock. They will race in NSW.

The turnover on the first two days was staggering. A total of $75,310,000 (up 32 per cent) was spent and the average went up 36 per cent from $221,734 last year to $302,450.

The two stallions generating the huge dollars were naturally Coolmore’s Fastnet Rock and Arrowfield’s Redoute’s Choice, which are serving phenomenal broodmare bands in Ireland and France respectively.

Fastnet Rock had 33 sell for $21,240,000 (average of $643,636), and four of his yearlings were among the eight to fetch $1 million-plus.

Redoute’s Choice had the top-priced lot, Black Caviar’s half-brother from Helsinge, which brought $5 million. He was one of 20 yearlings by the latter which accumulated sales of $13,105,000, averaging $655,250.

Snitzel had his first $1 million yearling when Dr Edward Bateman and wife Belinda took a fancy to a colt. Snitzel’s average for nine yearlings was $352,222.

Breeders to excel included Bruce Neill’s Cressfield stud, near Scone, and Kia Ora Stud, which is owned by Malaysian billionaire Ananda Krishnan and also in the Hunter.

Cressfield had three yearlings sell for seven figures, highlighted by the River Dove colt, which sold to Emirates Park’s Trevor Lobb for $4 million. Kia Ora sold the Fastnet Rock x Dream Play colt for $1.5 million to Coolmore and the China Horse Club, and then James Bester went to $1.55 million for the filly by Fastnet Rock from Mani Bhavan.

Peter Moody signed for five lots for $2.2 million, while John Hawkes, who is in line to train the two top colts, spent $1.94 million on five lots.

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Champions deserve only recognition

Back at Royal Randwick and with a champion’s presence on Saturday, does it get any better?

Headquarters is the field of scintillating memories, and Black Caviar, in the T.J. Smith, promises to add to them if Peter Moody deems to get her hooves wet should the circumstances arrive.

Black Caviar carries the title champion but that doesn’t satisfy many. ”Better than Tulloch and Kingston Town” has been mentioned but how can a sprinter, untested beyond 1400 metres, be compared to the two most effective over considerably longer journeys?

“Obviously Black Caviar is a champion. But as a racing fan I am left with a slightly sour taste with the way she is constantly and unnecessarily mollycoddled, and protected from possible defeat and injury,” emailed Jason Keegan.

“Moody has stated if the track is wet this Saturday he may scratch. I understand the desire to protect her unbeaten record but as I am sure you would agree a true champion does not skirt the strongest competition nor the most difficult conditions against such.

“So what if she lost? It will not diminish her memory. Allan Border is remembered as a true champion because he performed so gallantly against the mighty West Indies and the great and most fearsome fast attack of all time. There are many more similar sporting analogies. Her finest victories are when she defeated Hay List in the T.J. Smith and the Newmarket when we had a real contest. I do not remember many of her other victories.”

However, Moody, on Racenet, was defensive regarding the depth of performances from her 24 straight wins for which the trainer has been the catalyst: she has rarely been out of the comfort zone in distance, track condition and well-being. This is more credit than criticism.

”She’s now beaten 35 individual group 1 winners, and they have [yet] to beat her,” Moody said. ”We’re not talking shit saying that. She’s beaten Golden Slipper winners, Cox Plate winners, Caulfield Cup winners, she’s beaten them all. I’m respectful of that, and if they’re not respectful of her, that’s their issue.”

Saturday’s Randwick reopening after $160 million spent on a grandstand and the ”Theatre of the Horse” should be another chapter in the remarkable history of what was described by British author Nat Gould in the 19th century as “one of the finest racecourses in the world” and “a place where the secretary has succeeded in his endeavours to keep loose women off the course”.

Great past events at Randwick come to mind.

In 1879, the Australian Jockey Club gave permission for Siegfried Franck to test the first pari-mutuel (tote) at Randwick. It operated on the AJC Plate, and was won by hot favourite Chester, a champion.

Hopefully, Black Caviar backers get a better dividend. Punters who invested a pound on Chester received only 18 shillings back, and the state government barred the tote and threatened legal action against Franck.

Randwick has always brought the best out in jockeys as well as horses. Consider 1969 when George Moore won 15 of the 29 races staged at the Easter carnival, then at its rightful home.

Moore and his partner in success, Tommy Smith, would have attempted to hatch a plan, all fair and above board, to bring Black Caviar undone.

Certainly not to the degree of the most infamous Randwick ride, by Mel Schumacher on Blue Era, when he impeded Summer Fair with an iron-like grip on rival Tom Hill’s leg in the 1961 AJC Derby.

It appears unlikely any rival will get close enough for long enough to Black Caviar to get any sort of grasp, but at the worst she will fare better than Shannon in the 1946 Epsom. Shannon, too, looked unbeatable to take his second Epsom, but was left at the open barrier and beaten a head. The circumstances instigated one of the wildest Randwick demonstrations seen against Darby Munro. Later the starter admitted liability for the calamity.

Finally, in 1947, barrier stalls were installed at Randwick.

Tulloch and Kingston Town showed their greatness and durability in the Randwick autumn.

On April 5, 1958, Tulloch beat Prince Darius by 20 lengths in the St Leger (2800m). Four days later, he notched the All Aged Stakes (1600m), accounting for Doncaster winner Grenoble, and on April 12 the Queen Elizabeth (2200m).

Kingston Town followed his Tancred (2400m) triumph on March 29, 1980, with the AJC Derby on April 7 and Sydney Cup five days later. Incidentally, Kingston Town was beaten only once at Randwick when pocketed down the straight in the 1982 Chelmsford. Jockey Malcolm Johnston cried after the defeat.

When weighing up the greats, ponder on this advice: “Champions don’t deserve to be compared, just recognised.” – Bart Cummings.

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‘You’re just not Australian’: actor’s audition spoof wins audience

‘It’s Oarstraylian for beer’ … Brian Guest takes the piss, quite literally, in a fun online video aimed at Australian actors.It’s now the oldest, and least funny, joke in Hollywood: an Australian walks into the casting room… .

For almost a century – from Errol Flynn to Rod Taylor, Mel Gibson and Nicole Kidman – Australian actors have held pride of place on Hollywood’s billboards.

But 2013 sees Tinseltown under attack from an almost unprecedented Aussie invasion.

As Fairfax reported last month more than 20 Australian actors have been cast in US pilots this year.

But this week, a lone American actor struck back. Brian Guest, whose credits include small roles in Southland, Hawaii 5-0 and Torchwood, produced a short for the comedy website Funny Or Die.

In it he plays an American actor who, frustrated by the lack of American roles on American TV left for American actors, turns the tables on the Aussie invaders.

“You’re doing great work, you’re just not Australian,” his agent tells him in one scene.

It’s a gentle parody, and it even has a few Aussie actors in on the joke.

The casting assistant in the film is played former Neighbours actress (and Jason Donovan’s sister) Stephanie McIntosh.

And the Aussie actor at the audition Guest hopes to trump is played by Andrew Lees, an Australian actor best known for a starring role on Nine’s Rescue: Special Ops. He also had a role in the HBO miniseries The Pacific.

The clip has gone viral, and caught the attention of Australian media, who are bemused by the reaction of one of Hollywood’s own at the prospect of a full-scale Aussie invasion.

No less than five former Home and Away actors – Luke Mitchell, Bob Morley, Chris Egan, Lincoln Lewis and Luke Bracey – have booked gigs in US television pilots this year.

Rachel Griffiths, Rodger Corser, Dena Kaplan, Tim Pocock, Tom Green, Rachael Taylor, Miranda Otto, Bojana Novakovic, Jacki Weaver, Anthony LaPaglia, Rebel Wilson, Adelaine Kane, Toni Collette, Meegan Warner, Daniel Henshall, Rick Donald and Melissa George have also booked pilots or series.

Every January and February the US networks cast more than 70 drama and comedy pilots, from which perhaps only a few dozen will get the green light.

The successful pilots, and some that are undecided, are screened to international programmers every May at a week-long event known as the “May screenings”.

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