Thursday, November 16, 2006

Land of the Delta Blues

Of course, the land of the Delta Blues is Japan, but he made this lovely country his own with his outstanding win in the Melbourne Cup. Being there to see it was a real thrill, made even more special by the sneak previews we had had of the lovely horse (pictured), and the other international runners, in our pre-Cup Day visits to Sandown, where the overseas contenders were prepared. All showed up in great condition - even though one had to nominate the winner as primus inter pares even in advance, because of his superb appearance allied to his evident joie de vivre and total serenity - but that shows the competitiveness of the race. At the very highest level, many are called, but only few are chosen.

Derby Day was actually even better than Cup day, which is the way it always is. The fact that Derby Day was very warm and sunny, while Cup Day was anything but, merely accentuated Derby Day's margin of superiority. Interesingly, Derby Day has now attracted a bigger crowd than Cup Day for the past two years, which might be a lesson to racing administrators in the UK who believe that they can just rely on a fixture's traditional popularity, and feel that diluting the quality of the racing won't matter.

This isn't going to be a long blog - I'm on a public internet terminal at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island, offshore from Brisbane, so I don't have unlimited time to waffle - so what little time I have I will use just mainly to thank most of those who have made this tour so special.

On arrival in Melbourne, we were greeted by the familiar double act of Richard and Robert Sims. Amazingly, they weren't bickering, and even more surprisingly Richard introduced Robert to Emma using his real name. That, sadly, was the last we saw of Hector - sorry, Robert - and funnily enough we didn't see much more of Richard for the next few days, because the next day he headed north to a wedding in Townsville. This trip took five days. Funnily enough, while we - Emma and myself, Michael, Sarah and Finn Tidmarsh - are here offshore from Brisbane, Richard is also in Queensland, but at Beaudesert. So it's not only God who moves in mysterious ways.

Anyway, we had one night chez Dickie, and thereafter Joff was our host for the time we were in Melbourne. And a superb and typically generous host he was too. The next week included a trip to Werribee to see the Empire's galloper Stoneage Romeo run (last - but it was, to my eyes, a very good trial for races over approximately twice the distance; or farther), and then a trip to the High Country to see the youngest of the bloodstock empire (pictured), where we stayed at the historic and idyllic Delatite Station, and were welcomed wonderfully by Mark and Fenella Ritchie, and given a grand tour by Mark's mother. As always, a pleasure to visit a special place. Calling in at Benalla to visit the Empire's latest training recruit, Anne Taylor, was another pleasure.

Paringa Park - a tour and lunch provided by Tim Breadmore - with resident stallions Undoubtedly and Delzao, followed by a tour of Darley Vic, courtesy of Dean Harvey, made a great pre-Cup Day, and post-Cup Day was, thanks to Richard's patronage of the stable, made up of a viewing of Lee Freedman's Markdel property, followed by the Grand Tour of Victoria's whitest elephant, Doxa Lodge. And it's a mighty property indeed, with the grass in the paddocks sown along the very same grid pattern as Melbourne's streets. That's all part of Dickie's grand design.

So many people were so kind to us in Victoria, and special mention must also be made of Chris Aarons, who very kindly included us in a dinner party at the Flower Drum, regarded by many as Melbourne's best restaurant; Delta Blues' connections evidently think so, as they celebrated there on Cup night.

In NSW, Bronwyn Farr was our principal benefactor, as she made us very welcome at her home in Scone, plus teed up a Saturday morning visit to Arrowfield, where Peter Keating showed us the stars, including Falbrav, Starcraft and the great Redoute's Choice. Patting him was a real thrill. Hussonet was also there, so it was a real thrill to see him sire his first Australian winner a couple of hours later, chosing none other than the Marybyrnong Plate to get off the mark in style. He's a sure-fire future star.

Coolmore had also been great hosts, particularly as they accomodated us overnight. A close-up view of Galileo was the main event, but all their stallions are lovely, and it was great to see them all. Danehill Dancer now looks like Charles Atlas, and Fastnet Rock and Choisir are even more magnificent than when they were racing. A very special place.

The other NSW stud we visited was Darley, where Alastair Pulford was an outstanding tour guide. It's a great property and is sure to flourish.

Sydney was fun, and now we are with the Tidmarsh family, being given a wonderful holiday. Seeing our horse Somewhere Safer was a special moment, but really every moment here is special because we are being spoilt rotten. We'll be heading home early next week, but it will be unwillingly.

No comments: