Admittedly this post has taken me a while to write. I start. I stop. Then I have to rewrite parts because they become past tense instead of present tense. New phrases of 2020. Lockdown. Isolation. "Iso" as those inclined to abbreviate everything call it. In my french class which I am struggling along with it is called 'Le confinement'. I'm not doing as well in french because the lockdown means I am not regularly doing my homework sessions with my class buddy Leigh. Other phrases include WFH (apparently this means Working From Home), SAH (Stay At Home), CAH (Children at Home) - more new acronyms. Mostly I hate acronyms because apart from the terrific WTF and FYI I can never remember half of them. The other thing about Lockdown is a growing obsession with numbers! How many news cases have we had and are these numbers stable, falling or rising? How are other countries going? How soon until we can ease restrictions? What's the mighty curve doing? Who would have thought.....
So what's been happening? Well, more Saturdays watching races on television, in what at best is described as a thoroughly grouchy mood, instead of being there photographing them and this has sucked. Today is another a case in point although usually it is Darren that travels to Adelaide not me because by the first weekend in May I'm usually only just finished a number of long stints in Sydney. Sunlight and Away Game are preparing to contest the G1 Robert Sangster Stakes and the meeting will represent more Group 1 races lost from our library. It's also supposed to be Kentucky Derby weekend. I know many of my colleagues in America are feeling this keenly and perhaps the only saving grace is that so many of us are going through this together. Usually tomorrow morning I would be setting my alarm clock and trying to find a channel that is televising the Derby whilst simultaneously scanning Twitter waiting for the photos to appear. But as we are repeatedly reminded this isn't a usual year and racing remains locked down in many parts of America and across Europe and the Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September I think.
Triple Crown champion from 2015 AMERICAN PHAROAH.
It's incredibly frustrating being sidelined but I'm trying to take a glass half full viewpoint. Snitzel (bless him) had some excellent results over the past few weeks and this enabled him to leapfrog both Pierro and I Am Invincible and jump back to the top of the General Sires Tables. I'm of course hardwired to be delighted for Snitzel however I am beginning to think poor old I Am Invincible must be wondering what the heck he has to do to win a sires championship. The stallion affectionately known "Vinnie" has had an extraordinary rise through the stallion ranks over the past 4 or so years however he's yet to crack that elusive 2 Year Old G1 winner and despite breaking all sorts of records during 2018-2019 his great rival Snitzel remains as formidable as ever. Not only did Snitzel hold Vinnie off during that memorable 2018-2019 season but after a slow start to the season he now looks like a genuine chance to win his 4th successive Champion Sires title. He'd be the first stallion to do this since his grandsire Danehill.
While Snitzel hasn't sired the winner of a 2 year old Group 1 race (yet!!) this year, he is the sire of
brilliant filly Away Game who won the Magic Millions 2 Year Old Classic so empathically in January.
AWAY GAME (Snitzel) who just doesn't know how to give up or how to run a bad race.
She's running in today's Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes at Morphetville.
DANEHILL. Sire of Redoute's Choice. Grandsire of Snitzel.
And the last stallion to win 4 successive Champion Sire titles.
The late great Redoute's Choice sired King's Legacy (Champagne Stakes and Sires Produce), which when added to Tagaloa's win in the Blue Diamond and Farnan's victory in the Golden Slipper and gave Arrowfield Stud a remarkable clean sweep of all of the Two Year Old Group 1 races to be held this season with only the G1 JJ Atkins Stakes remaining in 2020.
FARNAN. This gorgeous colt capped off a briliant career for his now retired sire
NOT A SINGLE DOUBT
THE LEGEND. REDOUTE'S CHOICE. These are two of my favourite
images of the great stallion, in particular the one where he closed his eyes.
School holidays finished and we were headlong into home schooling for my two kids. The first week got very tricky straight away when we realised our NBN had stopped working completely. It took a further 24 hours to figure out that the home phone was also out so we called our provider Aussie Broadband (who incidentally have always been super and our NBN is usually pretty reliable and lovely and fast compared to the trainwreck that was ADSL with Telstra). They booked a service call and the NBN dude duly turned late on the Friday afternoon but when he cheerfully informed us someone else would have to come out to finish the fix and that would probably take another 4 days it felt like even more utterly bloody bad news, however much to our delight they came out the following day (on a Saturday no less!) and all of a sudden it was fixed and working again! We are so much happier on the NBN! We also discovered when trying to log in to the Google Classroom and Google Meet that my son's school laptop was hopelessly out of date in terms of its software which meant we couldn't install Google Meet, and we couldn't do any updates remotely because of the way it was configured. And then of course the school portal Compass kept crashing. However last week ran really smoothly and that was excellent and so far so good this morning! While I stress that I am 100% behind the Victorian Chief Medical Officer, I don't envy the parents of primary school kids who are trying to navigate this whole home school thing AND trying to work as well. We are some of the lucky ones.
Australia's numbers have turned around for the better so overall I think the short term pain is definitely worth it as we try to bring the numbers under control. But I still hate the changes COVID-BLOODY-19 is bringing to our social fabric. The school is usually a really friendly place. I've always been on first name basis with many staff at the front desk because a child with special needs means you get to be in and out of the school all the time. The receptionist at school barked at us sharply for putting a foot over the blue bloody line when she couldn't hear my son's password. This made me curse the virus under my breath, as did the presence of yet another security guard at our local supermarket on Anzac Day. Stepping around other customers is another reminder, as is the red webbing tape around the entire cash register at the post office, chemist, supermarket and produce store. So there are days when I walk out feeling thoroughly depressed and anxious about the state of the world and a desperate longing for it to all go away and be back to the way it was. And at times it makes me cross at non-locals who flout the stay-at-home orders by coming down to the Peninsula, as evidenced by the (quite pleasant) guy behind me in the checkout line at the IGA on Anzac Day when he'd cheerfully proclaimed that he wasn't from around here.
There's been a string of sad news. The beloved Tim Brooke-Taylor, aka Tim of The Goodies, died aged 79 because of utterly bloody COVID-19. Tim was famous for turning in to a teapot when he panicked. I loved this about him. I grew up on a strict diet of The Goodies then Doctor Who and this was like a punch in the stomach. It seems profoundly unfair to me that the virus takes a person who was talented and beloved like Tim while other hideous people (like the tangerine tinted baboon) get off scott free. In response I got my Goodies DVD out that evening.
We lost Might and Power to colic at 26 years of age. When he was racing my heart still belonged to Saintly and Octagonal and I probably didn't get as close to 'Mighty' as I otherwise would have while he was on the track however through my work with Living Legends I grew very fond of 'Bob' as they affectionately called him. The photos of my son, then aged 4, with the horse in the paddock formed a strong part of his identity as the gentle giant at Living Legends. I'm close to Andrew Clarke as well, and watching him breakdown on the news was pretty awful.
And staying true to the saying that bad news comes in 3's, the thoroughbred industry lost champion Darley stallion Shamardal (or Shammy as I liked to call him) who died at only 18 years old which came as a surprise to me. I'd only photographed him a handful of times at Kelvinside Stud during the years that he shuttled here. He was a 4 time Group 1 winner in Europe, winning the Dewhurst Stakes at 2 years, the Prix du Jockey Club, Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Derby and Guineas) as well as the St James' Palace Stakes at 3 years. He was also beautifully bred being sired by "The Iron Horse" Giant's Causeway and out of the mare Helsinki who was a full sister to the mighty Street Cry. Shamardal then became a wonderful sire and we are incredibly lucky here in Australia as one of his newly champion sons Blue Point is due to stand the 2020 breeding season at Darley's beautiful Northwood Park stud here in Victoria and you'd like to think that Pinatubo may shuttle to Australia when he retires.
Vale SHAMARDAL (Giant's Causeway x Helsinki)
Sire of Lope de Vega, Blue Point and Pinabuto to name but a few
The late STREET CRY (Machiavellian x Helen Street).
Champion stallion. Sire of the immortal WINX and ZENYATTA.
The 2nd frame is effectively his last portrait, taken Aug '14
The frame of his rearing is one of handler Steve Toole's favourites,
he was just playing that day, everyone adored him.
The immortal WINX. Winner of 4 Cox Plates. Pictured after the 3rd.
Aside from all of the above we've popped down to the beach a couple of times in between the passing cold fronts. There's a wicked one upon us now and we have Freelance back in her winter clothes. I've been busy updating my website which was pretty out of date, trying to get all my paperwork to the accountant, archiving and backing up images from ages ago. This has become pressing because the old hard drives are fragile and a number of them have failed altogether so I'm trying to get a proper backup done. I've been editing a lot of pictures and getting them uploaded into the photo database. This is often fun because frequently I am way too busy and spend so much time driving that there are invariable loads of photos that I take which I never look at properly, much less edit, so this process is uncovering a number of hidden gems and plenty of photos I don't even remember taking!
Oh, and for those of you interested or inclined to buy pretty photos of pretty horses, I'm currently running a COVID-BLOODY-19 Special, 30% off all orders over $150 - enjoy! The code is COVID-19