Sport


Punters again the losers, on and off the track

"We are as mad as hell and we are not going to take this any more," ranted television personality Howard Beale, portrayed by Peter Finch in the film Network. He was treated considerably better than Australian punters today.

Finch, English bred but Aussie educated, trod the same boards in the 1930s as I did 20 years later. We were copy boys at The Sun, the afternoon daily newspaper produced in Elizabeth Street, Sydney.

Of course he graduated to the Journalist's Club, stationed at O'Connell Street just down the road from The Sun but by the time I was eligible to breast the bar, the waterhole had moved to Chalmers Street, near Central railway station.

In those days horse players had less but enjoyed it more than their modern counterparts. Still, administrators had a better feel for the turf, emphasised by the latest impertinence of a half-hour gap between Melbourne events imposed by Racing Victoria, showing little consideration for the industry, now boosted by the off-course punters.

Also track bias is under the microscope at Caulfield and Royal Randwick on Saturday. Fast lanes after rain are tolerated, but on ground rated good are a blight on the turf.

Both racing surfaces have had brilliant recent weather and surely must produce the best betting conditions. Alas this was not the case in Melbourne last spring, particularly Cox Plate day at Moonee Valley and Flemington's Victoria Derby meeting producing factors for attention today.

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Outstanding Winx, resuming in the Apollo Stakes at Randwick, scouted the much faster rails in the Cox Plate. Sure the mare gave the impression she could have gone around the outside and scored, but the question is raised to what degree did the conditions contribute to the finishing margin?

On the same program the talented New Zealander Turn Me Loose triumphed in the Crystal Mile, again on the fence, while a major rival on Saturday in the Orr Stakes at Caulfield, Lucky Hussler, made a long run "five and six deep" before being downed by 2.6 lengths.

Certainly the effort of three-year-old Stay With Me, one of the strong fancies in the Light Fingers at Randwick, was jeopardised by the bias last start in the group 1 Meyer Classic at Flemington on October 31.

Stay With Me drew 15 and was off the course before being beaten only 2.6 lengths. The filly has a benchmark of 104, vastly superior to her rivals in the level weights sprint today.

However the talented Kangarilla Joy (76) has the benefit of a recent race. At this stage of their preparation, seeing the horses and gauging their fitness is significant.

Obviously Winx has put on weight and should be examined before the Apollo by those at Randwick. Hopefully off-course punters get worthwhile time and vision regarding her.

Again there is only five minutes between the Apollo and the Orr Stakes, with similar interest being the condition of Turn Me Loose and Bow Street, both highly promising and resuming.

Glen Boss, rider of Lucky Hussler, considers Turn Me Loose the better horse but I'm going for Lucky Hussler due to a possible fitness edge.

I fancy Stay With Me but that could end in the enclosure. While I won't take the price about Winx she should win but Hauraki, back after a spell, appeals for the exotics. That also could change before the race. This is what makes Saturday's racing so enthralling. Viewers should get the best possible picture, time to absorb it and have a bet.

Going on the betting barometer, the half-hour gap flopped last Saturday. Perhaps the ploy has merit but not on Orr Stakes day. Racing Victoria and Racing New South Wales had a meeting over the issue on Friday, which comes under the heading of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. 

Down south last Saturday's drop in turnover was attributed to TAB Corp and Sky Channel. The court of public opinion on Racenet was mixed, but more against Racing Victoria.

"The 30-minute break is for midweeks and not the serious race fans," wrote Sydeston.

"I was betting at my local TAB where myself and other punters missed betting on races at Caulfield because of the clash. The feeling amongst the punters was anger and frustration," wrote Muppet.

Back to Finch and Howard Beale, who was "the first instance of a man being killed because of lousy ratings".

Play the exotics

Two-state parlay: Randwick Race 3 – (1) Stay With Me, Caulfield Race 4 – (10) Weatherly, Randwick Race 5 – (2) Generalife, Caulfield Race 9 – (1) Azkadellia.

Randwick quadrella: Race 6 – (2) Moral Victory, (4) Duibio, (8) Muraqaba, Race 7 – (5) Hauraki, (8) Winx, Race 8 – (2) Slightly Sweet, (6) Sultry Feeling, Race 9 – (5) War Jet, (7) Le Cordon Bleu, (15) Metallic Crown.

Best box trifecta: Randwick Race 7 – (5) Hauraki, (7) Centre Pivot, (8) Winx.

Best quinella: Caulfield Race 4 – (2) Star Turn, (10) Weatherly.

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