Pandemic stalls Notting Hill Carnival, fete of Caribbean Britain


The Notting Hill Carnival, held annually this month in West London, is the second-largest carnival in the world, attracting over a million people each year. The carnival showcases Black excellence, and celebrates and empowers Black beauty, in any shape or form. And it’s deeply rooted in the community, which is manifested by the many different generations that attend, organize, participate, and celebrate the carnival.

This year, like so many community events around the globe, the Notting Hill Carnival has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers instead held a “digital carnival” this past weekend. But in recent years, the official parade has featured more than 25,000 people dressed extravagantly, from colorful bikinis with feathers to mas, or costume, gowns, while performing in steel bands and dance groups on the elaborately decorated floats.

When Halina Edwards, who was born in Jamaica and raised in the Midlands of England, moved to London in 2014, the carnival felt like a warm bath full of community love. “It felt like a nice and safe place. But it’s also a moment to remind us why we’re here and the long history we have.”

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When Josephine Julien arrived in Britain by boat from the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1956, she remembers encountering hostility from locals toward Black people. She saw written notices in the windows with slogans such as, “No Blacks, no Irish, no dogs.”

But Mrs. Julien was able to find a home in the Notting Hill neighborhood in West London, one of the few areas of the city where Black people could find apartments to rent.

So too, she says, were four young men who had formed a steel band on the same boat from Grenada. And in the 1960s, they went on to help start what was to become Britain’s largest annual Black cultural event, the Notting Hill Carnival.

Now, 54 years later, it is the second-largest carnival in the world, attracting over a million people each year. For Black Britons, even to those who aren’t of Caribbean heritage, the carnival showcases Black excellence. This is evident through the productions that take months of preparation and commitment. It also celebrates and empowers Black beauty, in any shape or form. And it’s deeply rooted in community, which is manifested by the many different generations that attend, organize, participate, and celebrate the carnival.

This year, like so many community events around the globe, the Notting Hill Carnival was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers instead held a “digital carnival” this past weekend. It was the first time Mrs. Julien, now 82, couldn’t attend the Notting Hill Carnival.

But the event remains a fixture for her children, grandchildren, and most of the close to 600,000 people of Caribbean heritage in Britain. “It’s not only a celebration of our culture,” she says, “it’s our cultural heritage.”

Costumes and rhythms

There are varying personal accounts and narratives on the origins of the Carnival. It is generally believed there were several Trinidadian bands and masqueraders who paraded the streets of Notting Hill in those years. There was also an indoor Caribbean Carnival organized by human rights activist Claudia Jones in 1959, in response to rising racial tensions in London. Major incidents included rioting by white young men in Notting Hill in August 1958, and the murder of Antiguan expat Kelso Cochrane by three white men a year later.

This led to several initiatives being organized within the British Caribbean community that eventually all merged into what is now known as the Notting Hill Carnival. It is a celebration that is important to Mrs. Julien: “We have suffered a lot. This is the one time of the year we get to be openly proud of our culture and customs.”

In recent years, over 25,000 people dress extravagantly, from colorful bikinis with feathers to “mas” (costume) gowns, while performing in steel bands and dance groups on the elaborately decorated floats that form the official parade. The diverse and hyped crowds dance along with the soca beats blasting from the floats along the 3.5-mile route. The parade itself is surrounded by sound systems at different locations. The never-ending variety of Caribbean food stalls adds a flavorful barbecue smell to the festival. The cancellation means the city of London missed out on about $130 million that the weekend would have added to its economy.

Juliana Campos poses in her carnival costume in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London, on what would have been the weekend of the Notting Hill Carnival, Aug. 30, 2020. The carnival held a “digital” version instead, which featured steel bands and dancers performing online.

But the cancellation of the parade due to COVID-19 doesn’t mean it will pass by unnoticed. Debi Gardner, who is of mixed Guyanese heritage and is a director of the carnival, says bands recorded their performances without an audience during the past month, which were broadcast during the online event.

Mrs. Gardner, who has a full-time job as a housing associate manager, gives her entire life to the carnival and the community that goes with it. She plays with the famous Mangrove Steel Band, named after the West London restaurant known for its fight against racial injustice in the 1970s. She’s been a steel band player since the early 1990s and is also a part of their management team.

The band practices twice a week throughout the year and, pre-pandemic, used to travel all over to perform. “We also do a lot of activities throughout the year for young people, and within the creative arts,” Mrs. Gardner explains. “So not being able to do that has been disappointing.”

“It’s a moment to remind us why we’re here”

The pandemic may have put a temporary stop to the carnival, but it is not the only challenge that the event has been facing. Since its launch, media narratives around the carnival weekend have focused on crime and arrests. Organizers, participants, and attendees feel it is an unfair portrayal. Data shows incidents are comparable to festivals attended by a more white audience, such as the famous Glastonbury Festival. And Notting Hill is shifting toward a largely white and affluent demographic, one that is less keen about having the parade at their front doors.

Halina Edwards, who was born in Jamaica and raised in the Midlands of England, hopes that education can help remedy that. “In my school, we only had one lesson on Black history,” she says, “and they put on the movie Roots. I don’t think they realized how insensitive that was.”

This year, Ms. Edwards joined the social enterprise The Black Curriculum as a researcher, and hopes to contribute to changing the way Black people are represented and spoken about. The project focuses on delivering Black history programs for young people, and has created a magazine focusing on the Notting Hill Carnival.

When she moved to London in 2014, the carnival felt like a warm bath full of community love. “It felt like a nice and safe place. But it’s also a moment to remind us why we’re here and the long history we have,” she says. “If people had a better understanding of the context and the history of why it started there, they might understand there is a reason why we go onto the streets and celebrate this.”

It’s still too early to say if there will be a lasting impact on the carnival now that it’s not happening for the first time in its history. But change is inevitable, according to Mrs. Gardner, who has seen the carnival become a more diverse and inclusive event in the 25 years she’s actively been involved.

One thing is certain: The community cannot wait for 2021. Mrs. Julien walked around Notting Hill this past weekend to pay tribute to the long history of the carnival. “It’s not only us losing out when it’s not happening. The carnival has always been a bridge between different communities.”

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Spring carnival over for Melody Belle, mare going back to New Zealand


“She’s a six-year-old mare now and she hasn’t had a lot of luck in her first couple of runs back. The syndicate group are keen to get back to the races and watch her, with most of them located in New Zealand, so there were a couple of things there that made sense to bring her home.”

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Richards said he wasn’t too disappointed with Melody Belle’s two Sydney runs, but being stuck in New Zealand had made it difficult to train her.

“I still think that she’s actually going quite well, she just hasn’t had a lot of luck,” he said.

“Her form suggests she probably wants a mile or 2000 metres but if you take everything into context she’s been a very good mare. She’s won 10 group 1s, nine of them in New Zealand and then she won a fillies and mares group 1 at the carnival.

“We’re just going to err on the side of caution and bring her home.

“It’s just hard with COVID; I can’t get over there and see her. Although I’ve got full trust in the team over there, I just thought it was the right thing to do to bring her home and try and get her back in form and maybe get back to Australia in the autumn if we can.

Melody Belle, winner of last year's Empire Rose, is returning home to New Zealand.

Melody Belle, winner of last year’s Empire Rose, is returning home to New Zealand.Credit:Getty Images

“She’s going to have a little bit of a break, a little bit of a freshen up and then we’ll have her ready to go around Christmas time.”

Richards, who also trains four-year-old star Probabeel, said a trip to Melbourne was becoming difficult for his team.

“We’ve got five or six horses in Sydney but I don’t know about Melbourne,” he said.

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“We’ve got plans for our horses to race in Sydney and if everything was going well the plan would be to come down for the Cox Plate, but we’re just taking it one step at a time at the moment. I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do to be sending our staff down there at this stage, but that’s changing daily.”

However, Richards said he was rapt with Probabeel’s return in the Show County on Saturday and was optimistic about her spring chances in Australia. She remains in the Cox Plate mix.

“I thought she ran terrific,” he said.

“She’s going very well and appreciated getting back onto a better surface.

“I’m just not sure which way she goes at this stage.

“We’ll probably have to train around the weather a little bit for her, she appreciates the better ground, so we’ll probably have a look at the Tramway and if it’s wet we could wait for the Bill Ritchie.”

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Ben Melham hearing scheduled for eve of spring carnival


Melham, 32, is facing a mandatory minimum penalty of two years if found guilty of betting on races he was directly involved in.

Melham also requested on Tuesday that the three-day hearing be closed to the media and the public. Judge John Bowman said he would decide on that application in a directions hearing to be set in mid to late August.

Stewards on Tuesday morning requested that Melham’s legal team file all statements relating to the case by 4pm on Wednesday, which they would then respond to by August 5. Barrister Albert Dinelli, representing Racing Victoria, said stewards wanted the case to be heard “as early as convenient”.

However, Judge Bowman said a backlog of cases at the County Court meant three days in a row were not available until September 21.

Before then, another directions hearing will be scheduled for the tribunal to hear arguments on questions of law, which were submitted by Melham and Dales’ legal team on Tuesday morning. That directions hearing is likely to be scheduled in mid to late August.



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Glen Boss shifts focus to Sydney as COVID-19 threatens to scuttle Melbourne spring carnival plans


Hall of Fame jockey Glen Boss concedes his chances of a record-equalling fourth Melbourne Cup win this spring could be thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic.

With a spike in the COVID-19 infection rate in Melbourne in recent days and fears of a second wave in Victoria, there are growing concerns about the potential impact on major sporting events later this year including the AFL Grand Final and the Melbourne spring carnival.

There is even talk of the AFL Grand Final being switched interstate rather than risk playing the match before an empty MCG.

The Form: Complete NSW Racing thoroughbred form, including video replays and all you need to know about every horse, jockey and trainer. Find a winner here!

The Melbourne spring carnival is going ahead as scheduled but Boss understands there are logistic issues that will make it difficult for interstate jockeys to compete in the big Victorian races.

Boss famously rode Makybe Diva to her Melbourne Cup three-peat in 2003-04-05 and is still hopeful of getting an opportunity to join Bobbie Lewis and Harry White as the only four-time winners of the great race.

“I’m not sure if we will be able to ride in Melbourne during the spring the way this (pandemic) is going,’’ Boss said. “I know that is probably putting the cart before the horse but I have a feeling this is how it is possibly going to be.

“Maybe the jockeys will need to go into quarantine for a couple of weeks, I don’t know, but it looks like we might have to stay in Sydney.

“At this stage, I’m planning on not being able to go to Melbourne for the spring so I need to go hard in Sydney.’’

The champion jockey’s immediate focus is to prepare for the new racing season starting on August 1 and the Sydney spring carnival.

Boss said he is training harder than ever during the winter months so he is ready to “hit the ground running” in the spring.

The champion jockey had a memorable 2019 Sydney spring carnival winning The Everest on Yes Yes Yes and the Epsom Handicap-Golden Eagle double on Kolding, and wants to have a similar impact this year.

“I’m concentrating on my fitness, I’m working out and training really hard,’’ Boss said.

“I had a big spring last year and I want to back it up this year. I think that is very important, I don’t want people thinking that 2019 was a flash in the pan.

“The competition is so strong in Sydney, you can’t rest on your laurels and that’s why I’m doing a lot of fitness work. I’m preparing myself and getting the body right so if I can get a good ride in the spring then I really want to capitalise on it.’’

Boss also rode three Group 1 winners in the autumn – Bivouac (Newmarket Handicap), Collette (ATC Australian Oaks), Etah James (Sydney Cup) – to cap a memorable 2019-20 season.

He is keen to keep that momentum going over the winter months and has a strong book of rides at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, including crack colt Time To Reign in the De Bortoli Wines Handicap (1100m), Primitivo in the WJ McKell Cup (2000m) and Loveseat in the Stayer’s Cup (3200m).



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Barry Lockwood happy to help carnival visitors chase success


For luxury horse accommodation in Brisbane over the past month, Barry Lockwood’s infield stables at Eagle Farm have rolled out the five-star treatment for visitors, with outstanding results.

Group 2 Victory Stakes champion Victorem called Lockwood’s yard home for his stay and so did Tracey Bartley’s upset Listed winner In Good Time.

“I used to travel a lot myself once, it’s nice when you know you can send a horse somewhere and it will be fine. That’s so important,” Lockwood said.

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Ozark has been a resident the past few weeks and provided the track doesn’t come up heavy, he will be a leading chance in the last event on the card at Doomben on Saturday.

Lockwood said if not, he would be saved for another race next week.

“He came up a couple of weeks before his first run,’’ he said. “I’ve known his trainer Cody (Morgan) and his brother Luke since they were young boys.

“They used to ride my horses in Tamworth.”

Lockwood, who soon turns 67, is well versed with visiting horses, having accommodated 16 during last year’s carnival when The Bostonian came out of his former stable near the old raceday stalls to win dual Group 1 races.

“Tony (Pike) had a full team of staff looking after them and we only provided the accommodation,” Lockwood said. “This year it’s been different because of the rules around trainers not being able to travel. So it’s been more like a full-time job.

“I had five visiting horses at one stage and I spent more time ringing the trainers than my own owners! But it’s good when they win. When Victorem won, that was marvellous.

“Jenny Graham and I have been great friends for many years.

“It’s just a shame he got a (bone) chip when he ran in the Stradbroke.”

This year Lockwood has moved to the Eagle Farm infield, where he has 22 boxes and also uses others when available from Brian Smith and Chris Meagher.

“It took me a while to adjust, because it’s a bigger area and I don’t walk as well as I used to,’’ he said. “I used to get cranky when I had to walk from one end to the other when I had forgotten something, but I’m used to it now and it’s very good in there.”

Lockwood saddles Fiery Heights in the same race as Ozark on Saturday.

“He’s probably still short a run, but he will give a good bit of cheek anyway,” he said.

■ Former trainer Ben Moore died this week aged 89.

Originally from NSW, Moore transferred to the Gold Coast in the 1970s and his best horses included the 1986 Queensland Guineas winner Persian World.

Stewart stacks up under pressure

Which Queensland jockeys have been most profitable for punters during this season?

It’s important to note profit or loss does not correlate to ability. James McDonald and Hugh Bowman rank in the top few jockeys in Australia, yet both have shown an 11 per cent loss this season on rides up to $10 in the market.

For a start, they are competing in a tougher market, but also, their popularity with punters inevitably leads to many of their mounts being “over-bet”.

So rather than trying to make a case for one jockey being better than another, what we are looking at here is a simple equation of which jockeys have given punters the best returns in Queensland racing.

The state riding premiership tells you Baylee Nothdurft is on top and Ryan Maloney has the best strike rate (among the top 20). The same two hold the same spots when the metropolitan premiership is isolated.

But what happens when you look beyond the raw numbers? When we look at jockey records on favourites and those up to $10 in the market?

The standout combining both measures is Brad Stewart.

He has a 46 per cent strike rate (34 from 74) on favourites, where you would have made 20 per cent profit on turnover backing every one of them (flat staking). It’s a long-term theme with Stewart; the last three seasons, he has a 42 per cent strike rate on favourites (108/258).

Looking beyond Stewart’s rides to include when he is on the first or second favourite, the strike rate is 37 per cent (48 from 131) and an 18 per cent profit. If we include all Stewart ridden runners up to $10 in the market, the strike rate is 27 per cent for a near 12 per cent profit.

Jim Byrne can’t match Stewart for rides up to $10 (25 per cent strike rate and 10 per cent loss), but he’s been deadly this season on fancied runners, with a 46 per cent strike rate on favourites (29 of 63).

Elyce Smith has an even healthier strike rate at 50 per cent since August 1 last year on the public elect. Nothdurft (40%/+2.5 profit) and Maloney (42%/+1.8) rank highly on this measure too, given they ride more favourites than anyone bar Robbie Fradd (40%/-9.9).

When we look further afield and include all rides up to $10 in the market, Taylor Marshall (41 per cent profit) has been a standout, as has North Queensland-based Frank Edwards, who is returning punters a 49.5 per cent profit from his 62 rides at $10 or shorter this season.



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Carnival loses $4.4 billion, as cruise lines see little reopening relief in sight


As the pandemic and its near-total shutdown of leisure travel continues to ravage the cruise industry, the world’s largest cruise company is leaking floods of cash.

Carnival Corp. lost $4.4 billion in the quarter ended May 31, including a $2 billion loss from selling off some of its cruise ships, the Panama-based company said Thursday. With almost all of its operations on hold since March, the company eked out $700 million in revenue—an 85% plummet from $4.8 billion a year earlier.

But the pain is far from over: Even as the company plans to accelerate the sales of more of its enormous floating hotels, Carnival says it expects to burn an average of $650 million per month for the rest of 2020. It previously was burning about $500 million every month, according to analyst estimates.

Cruise companies were some of the earliest businesses to feel the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic—and to draw widespread criticism for their lumbering response to it. Carnival, which operates Princess Cruises as well as Holland America and its eponymous brand, was at the center of early COVID-19 outbreaks on its Grand Princess and Diamond Princess ships. Now the company is facing passenger lawsuits and a U.S. House of Representatives probe into its handling of the early crisis.

Compounding their financial pain, Carnival and its top competitors were also left out of the U.S. federal stimulus package designed to throw American businesses a lifeline. While the major cruise operators all have headquarters in Miami, they are technically incorporated overseas, in a longstanding arrangement that allows them to avoid paying U.S. federal income tax on most of their profits.

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald in April reaffirmed his company’s intention to remain incorporated abroad. But now he is scrambling for other financing: His company has raised $6.6 billion in debt and stock, completely tapped its $3 billion revolving credit facility, deferred other debt payments, and is selling off assets. Carnival said Thursday that it has preliminary agreements to sell another six ships in the next 90 days, and is working to sell more ships and non-ship assets. The company says it had $7.6 billion of available liquidity by the end of May.

Carnival had 104 ships in its fleet at the end of its 2019 fiscal year, with 17 additional ships, including planned replacements for existing vessels, on order through 2025. (The company said Thursday that it  expects delays in the delivery of four of those ships, which previously had been scheduled to be constructed before October.)

Those measures may help Carnival stay afloat until passengers are able to reboard its ships–although it has become increasingly unclear when that will be. While the company had previously said it might resume some cruises on August 1, Donald has backed away from that hope in recent days.

“I wish I could give you a date, but we can’t, because it’s a regulatory matter,” Donald told travel website The Points Guy in an interview this week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April extended a “no-sail” order for cruise ships through at least July 24. But industry members seem to anticipate further regulatory delays; this week, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said it would not resume cruise operations before October.

On Thursday, Carnival did not specifically address its previous August 1 prediction, but said it “is unable to definitively predict when it will return to normal operations.”

In the meantime, Carnival ships aren’t entirely without passengers, however unwilling they may be. The pandemic-related shutdown of cruising stranded more than 80,000 Carnival employees at sea, onboard ships, until they could be repatriated to their home countries.

Employees across all cruise companies have reported grim and sometimes COVID-infected conditions while they have been trapped at sea. By mid-May, more than 578 crew members had contracted COVID-19 at sea, and seven had died, the Miami Herald reported; others have reportedly died by suicide.

On Thursday, Carnival said it had repatriated approximately 60,000 cruise-ship employees to more than 130 countries, either by sailing them home or by chartering flights. Another 21,000 employees will be repatriated by the end of June, according to Carnival, which added that it is “focusing on the physical and mental health” of employees “experiencing extended stays onboard.”

That includes giving employees access to “fresh air and other areas of the ship,” as well as movies, internet, and counseling services. The company also said it is “providing most shipboard team members with single occupancy cabin accommodations, many with a window or balcony.”

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Dawn Passage wins Hawkesbury Guineas; Gai Waterhouse eyes Brisbane winter carnival


Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott were the leading Group 1 trainers during the Sydney autumn carnival and they continued their big-race winning spree at Rosehill Gardens.

They were the leading Group 1 trainers during the Sydney autumn carnival and their big-race winning spree continued when Dawn Passage destroyed his rivals in the Group 3 $160,000 Blacktown Workers Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens.

Their autumn carnival to remember isn’t confined to Sydney either as 15 minutes after Dawn Passage’s win, stablemate Sacramento won the Listed $160,000 VRC St Leger at Flemington.

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Camera IconDawn Passage was too good for the opposition in the Hawkesbury Guineas. Credit: AAP

“We are not finished yet, either,’’ Waterhouse said. “Dawn Passage will go to the Inglis 3YO Guineas next (Rosehill, May 16) then we will look at Brisbane.

“He could be a Stradbroke Handicap horse but I have a feeling he might be looking for further. I will talk it over with Adrian and see what he thinks. But we have always had a big opinion of Dawn Passage and he was absolutely dynamic today.’’

Waterhouse was watching from home as Dawn Passage ($8) zoomed away to win by nearly three lengths from St Covet’s Spirit ($11) with Icebath ($8.50) a close third.

Bandersnatch, who would have run as $5 favourite, was scratched at the barriers just moments before the start when it was discovered he had a wound to a hind leg.

Dawn Passage gave Waterhouse a record fourth win in the Hawkesbury Guineas after previous wins with Roadagain (2004), Royal Discretion (2008) and Najoom (2015).

But it was her first Hawkesbury Guineas since forming a training partnership with Bott and continued their extraordinary autumn that yielded four Group 1 wins with Farnan (Golden Slipper), Con Te Partiro (Coolmore Classic, Coolmore Legacy Stakes) and Shout The Bar (Vinery Stud Stakes).

Bott said Dawn Passage appreciated getting back on top of the ground.

“He has a devastating turn of foot and we were able to see that today,’’ Bott said. “Being able to step up to the 1400m meant Adam (Hyeronimus) was able to have him that little bit closer in the run whereas over the 1100m-1200m, he has been taken too far out of his ground.

“He travelled well today. I’m not sure if Adam was able to get cover down the back there at all, if he hasn’t it has been a very impressive victory.”

Hyeronimus, who has had a breakout autumn carnival after winning his first Group 1 on Shout The Bar last month, said Dawn Passage was trapped three-deep which added even more merit to the win.

Adam Hyeronimus steered Dawn Passage to a dominant victory.
Camera IconAdam Hyeronimus steered Dawn Passage to a dominant victory. Credit: AAP

“It was touch and go early on, pulling off the perfect ride, but James McDonald’s horse got a little bit keen and I wasn’t able to coax him to the fence so I was left three-deep,’’ Hyeronimus said.

“But he is such a relaxed colt, he got into a rhythm and, once I clicked him up before the turn, he really picked up the bridle and I felt like the winner from there onwards. Hopefully, he can knock off a few more of these races and then progress on to something more down the track.

“At the moment, I think it’s important for him to find the right races, on the right tracks, and have things fall into place for him. If we can keep winning with him, he is going to keep building confidence. He is a nice colt and he’s going the right way.”

St Covet’s Spirit, trained by Jason Coyle, continues to improve every start and is getting close to winning a feature race.

“Her run was full of merit,’’ he said. “We will take her home and see how she comes through it. We’ve obviously got the Scone meeting but I hadn’t looked past these three runs.

“With Queensland a little bit harder to do now, at this stage it may take that out of the equation but I’m leaving most doors ajar at the moment and we will see how she comes through today.”

HAWKESBURY CROWN

NO TIME FOR SWEET EXIT

Sweet Scandal’s sensational finish secured an elusive stakes success and denied In Her Time a farewell win.

It’s becoming a recurring theme in Sydney this autumn, the glamour horse retiring with a narrow loss as In Her Time was collared right on the line by Sweet Scandal in the Group 3 $140,000 Killahy Equine Hawkesbury Crown (1300m) at Rosehill Gardens.

Trainer Chris Waller said Sweet Scandal had been overdue for a change of luck.

“Well-deserved (win), it’s as simple as that,’’ he said. “If you go through her ­career and particularly this preparation, she has just had bad barriers one after another.

“Even today wasn’t much better but good jockey, good horse and a good result. Glen Boss never panicked and that’s true to his style. He saved a bit for a very eye-catching finish.”

Boss timed his finishing run superbly as Sweet Scandal ($14) burst through the pack to deny the retiring dual Group 1 winner In Her Time ($3.40 favourite) a fairytale win by a neck with Dyslexic ($9) a long head away third.

Sweet Scandal scored her seventh success and her first at Group level after a string of stakes placings. Boss said Sweet Scandal “has been desperate to win a (good) race’’.

“She has just been one of those horses that has been ­unlucky,’’ he said.

“But she trialled up really good on Monday. I got the opportunity to be on her in the trial and I was just begging to be on her (Saturday).

“I wouldn’t say I was confident of winning but I was confident of her running very well and saying ‘oh, gee the draw has cost her again’. But she really wanted that. I felt that over the last quarter, I could just feel her wanting the line.’’

A week after Pierata was run down in the final stride by Tofane in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes, In Her Time ended her career with a brave loss under topweight of 60kg.

“She has run super,’’ trainer Kris Lees said.

“But today’s race proves it is the right time to retire her.

“I think 12 months ago, she would have found the length she needed to win.

“She tried hard but couldn’t quite get it done. At least she goes out on a good performance. She has been a wonderful mare.’’

NUMBERS STACK UP FOR SPIRITUAL CREW

Since Adam Carney’s father passed away, there has been a constant in his life – the number 11. “Anything significant that happens to me, 11 seems to come up,’’ Carney said. “It’s a spiritual number, a guiding number. But it’s hard to talk about it because people might think you are nuts.’’

In numerology, the number 11 is a “master number” which signifies intuition, insight and enlightenment. When paired together, 11 11 is said to be a “clear message from your spirit guides and the universe to become conscious and aware”.

There is another essential element to this story and it began 30 years ago.

Greg Hickman had been training a small team in the bush at the time when he was offered an opportunity to work for a big city stable at Warwick Farm.

Eleven Eleven chased home Alligator Blood in the Magic Millions Guineas in January.
Camera IconEleven Eleven chased home Alligator Blood in the Magic Millions Guineas in January. Credit: AAP

Hickman accepted the job, knowing his life was changing forever. As he watched his hometown of Gunnedah disappearing in his rearview mirror, Hickman glanced at his clock on the car dashboard. It read 11.11am.

As fate would have it, these two men were lunching on the Gold Coast two years ago, the day before the Hickman-trained Pierata, part-owned by Carney, was due to contest the rich Magic Millions 3YO Guineas.

“I asked Greg if Pierata would win when he said, ‘I have something to tell you, I’ve got a thing with number 11’,’’ Carney said. “My wife, Tayla, thought this was a gee-up and she said, ‘You two have spoken about this before’.

“I told Tayla I swear we haven’t and then I told Greg I had the same issue with number 11.’’

When Pierata won his first race, he was rated an $11 chance. When he won his first Group-class race, he came out of barrier 11. When he won his final race, the Redzel Stakes, his starting position was gate 11.

And when Pierata ran away with his only Group 1 win, the 2019 All Aged Stakes, it was 11 years after Carney’s father, Phil, had died from a heart attack, aged just 61.

Carney recalled that “everything seemed in synch” going into the Magic Millions Guineas two years ago.

“It was like nothing could go wrong that week,’’ Carney said.

“I remember we were staying at this hotel and they let me park in the same spot each morning because we were going to trackwork at 4am.

“Then I would drive back to the hotel at 5.30am but one morning there was a car in my spot with the number plates ELVN ELVN – abbreviations for Eleven Eleven.’’

Earlier that same week, Carney and Hickman had purchased a Fastnet Rock yearling at the Magic Million Sale.

With everything that was happening in Carney’s life – and Hickman’s – when it came to naming their yearling purchase, there was an obvious choice – Eleven Eleven.

There was even a certain synchronicity about the purchase of the yearling.

“I was the under bidder for the horse but he wasn’t sold on the day,’’ Carney said.

“As the day progressed I hadn’t bought a horse and when I got back to my hotel, Tayla asked what happened and I said I haven’t bought anything. I opened the catalogue and came to the page with the Fastnet Rock yearling and I kept saying to myself I should have bought it.

Adam Carney (right) says 11 is his guiding number.
Camera IconAdam Carney (right) says 11 is his guiding number. Credit: News Corp Australia, Adam Head

“Tayla said to ring Greg back and tell him I wanted to buy the horse. I rang Greg and asked if he could contact the breeder and tell him I’m happy to pay $250,000 for his yearling.

“Greg said, ‘no, we are not paying $250,000’ but I said, ‘Greg, please do it for me’.

“Then a little later Greg rang back and said you owe me $10,000 as I got it for you at $240,000. We had to name the horse, Eleven Eleven.’’

In the week that Pierata was retired to stud, Hickman and Carney are hoping Eleven Eleven might be their next top-class galloper.

“When you train a horse as good as Pierata, it only makes you hungrier to find the next one,’’ Hickman said. “Eleven Eleven is no Pierata but he keeps improving.’’

Hickman admitted he is still “hurting” after Pierata was narrowly beaten by Tofane in his farewell race, the All Aged Stakes at Randwick last Saturday.

“I knew I had done everything to the best of my ability to get Pierata there a winner,’’ Hickman said. “I couldn’t have done anymore. His work in the two weeks leading up to the race had been unbelievable.

“The other horse just got a softer run from the better barrier and got us late. Pierata was a wonderful horse, always tried his best.’’

Carney said Pierata provided proof, if any was needed, that Hickman is “a magnificent trainer.”

“I’ve known Greg since I was a kid and my Dad always had a big opinion of him,’’ Carney said. “When Dad passed away, I rang Greg and said we have a few horses for you to train. Greg said: ‘About time you found my number!’

“But Greg did a great job with Pierata and the horse ran out of his skin last week. He gave it his all, did everything he could.

“He left it all on the track, typical Pierata – he has never run a bad race. It wasn’t the fairytale ending but he went down swinging.’’

Pierata has provided Carney with memories to last a lifetime and now the owner is hoping Eleven Eleven can continue to improve after his seventh in the Hawkesbury Guineas.

My interview with the owner lasted nearly half an hour before I thanked him for his time and wished him the best of luck.

Carney then sent me a text with a screen shot. The call had ended at precisely 11am!



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