Everyone's favourite Armchair Punter has manoeuvred off his couch for an overseas sojourn and in his absence has thrown the trusty remote my way.
3KG CLAIM FOR A REASON
Social media went into a frenzy when 3kg apprentice Brandon Stockdale was beaten on $2.15 pop Kiwia and $3.40 favourite Revolving Door in the fourth and sixth races respectively at Caulfield on Saturday.
Stockdale didn't have much luck on either mount. Kiwia was bottled-up with nowhere to go after taking time to hit top gear and in defence of the kid, senior hoop Dwayne Dunn caused plenty of interference in the straight – earning an 18-meeting suspension.
A tricky gate turned into a horror draw for Revolving Door, Stockdale intent on going forward only to be posted four deep around the tight Caulfield circuit.
He was outridden by his fellow riders and on face value if you backed Revolving Door – you were stiff. But that is why apprentices claim.
They are learning their trade and will improve with experience.
It will be a day which makes Stockdale a better jockey in the future.
If you back a 3kg apprentice – don't expect a perfect ride.
Even plenty of senior hoops won't deliver on that front.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Craig Williams has narrowed the gap to one in his quest to pinch the Melbourne Jockeys Premiership from apprentice Beau Mertens.
A winning double at Caulfield aboard Orient Line and Moonlite's Choice squared the leger momentarily, but a plucky Mertens edged ahead when Schism took out the final race on the card.
Punters seem to think the more experienced Williams will get over the line with TAB betting $1.75 Williams and $2.05 Mertens.
Meanwhile in the Sydney jockeys' race, Hugh Bowman's momentum stalled at Rosehill, now heading into the final four city meetings with only half a win more than the tiring Brenton Avdulla. But with Avdulla due back from a suspension on Wednesday, the latest betting market appears to already have Bowman's name etched into the history books.
Bowman is $1.20 whilst Avdulla is a generous $4.60.
Traders must love betting into this market – it almost has as many peaks and troughs as a Big Bash match.
PANDERING TO OVERSEAS GALLOPERS OR SIMPLY BEING GOOD HOSTS
When an Australian trainer takes a horse overseas for a tilt at an International Group I they usually come back with glowing reports about how they and their horses were treated.
Whether Ascot in the UK, Dubai or Hong Kong – the hosts always look after the visiting foreigners superbly, with the intention of getting them back in the future.
An outcry during the week from local Sydney trainers and other participants surrounding an announcement that Canterbury is to be the recipient of a $3 million synthetic training track is an interesting one.
If overseas runners are going to be based at Canterbury due to quarantine restrictions then why shouldn't Racing NSW and the ATC provide them with the red carpet treatment?
It's a long way to come for one race and whether punters like it or not – racing is now a global sport.
If we want to be looked after to the nines when we travel overseas – shouldn't we provide the same for our guests?
But the trainers are also entitled to ask questions.
Why has this development been given such a hasty green light when improvements at Warwick Farm, Rosehill and Randwick are still on the table?
Surely there is enough cash to improve the facilities for the bread and butter stables as well as the foreign headline acts.
Caravaggio may have suffered his first career defeat in Sunday morning's Group I July Cup at Newmarket, but he would still add plenty of oomph to the Sydney spring carnival if Coolmore venture down for a shot at the inaugural $10m The Everest.
NO CANBERRA BYPASS ON MY PUNTING HIGHWAY
The Highway Handicaps have been a runaway success since introduced almost two years ago by Racing NSW.
They are attractive betting affairs with large fields, and with most being run under handicap conditions, competitive betting races.
So talk of kicking the Canberra trainers out of future Highway races has me concerned.
Whilst aware that Canberra is strictly not a country region within NSW they have been involved from the outset and have had plenty of success.
At Rosehill on Saturday, five of the 11 runners came from Canberra. Classing Canberra as provincial seems ridiculous.
Canberra is 222km away from the nearest provincial racetrack.
Compare that with Saturday's winner Buddy Honest. The win provided a great racing story for Cessnock-based Aleacia Bennett, who bagged her first Highway win.
But Cessnock is only 49km from Newcastle and 64.7km from Wyong – yet there is no talk of regarding Cessnock as provincial.
And if the reasoning behind shelving Canberra stables is because rival country trainers believe the Canberra crowd are doing too well – harden-up – you are supposed to be tough country folk.
Canberra help provide depth to the Highway fields in regards to horses and trainers, and I fear without their contribution the roaring success of the weekly Highways will lose plenty of its lustre.
If we really want to block a group based in the nation's capital from attending Saturday metropolitan race meetings – let's start with politicians.
HONG KONG ON A BREAK – THAT OLD CHESTNUT
Sunday afternoons are synonymous with trying to hit a big payday on the Hong Kong circuit.
But after this Sunday's meeting at Sha Tin, Hong Kong racing takes a spell during the wet season and won't be back until early September.
The question of whether Australian racing should follow suit by giving participants a 'holiday' usually raises its head around this time – so I'll put it out there again.
My opinion is that if participants want a winter holiday – take one.
It might not be easy for small trainers to cover their workload, but that is the case for most small business owners. You need to find a way.
For every trainer that says they would love an enforced break, there will be three other trainers that tell you it makes no difference – they still muck boxes, feed and work their horses every day regardless.
Horses don't take holidays.
As for jockeys, they seem to find a way whilst administrators and the media certainly know their way to the International Departure lounge.
If I see another topless picture of the TAB's Glenn Munsie enjoying his current European vacation – I may go an enforced holiday of my own – from all social media.
Even 'The Armchair Punter' has found his way to a warmer climate for the next few weeks – please no topless tweets Stephen.
I am open to the idea of taking some extra Saturday races away from Sydney's metropolitan tracks, similar to what is done post-autumn with Hawkesbury and Scone.
Give Randwick a let-up and utilise tracks like Goulburn and Kembla.
But for all the talk, it won't happen in Australia. So if you really need a holiday, plan ahead and delegate your workload.
I'm giving Hetty Heights away for good after another flop at Rosehill.
This mare won five of her first 11 starts and possessed a sharp turn of foot which was supposed to see her rocket through the grades.
But with only one placing from her subsequent six outings – she appears to have flatlined.
Put into the race by Tim Clark on Saturday, the tempo wasn't strong and she was entitled to find much more than she did when a fading eighth behind Insensata.
Following the Jason Coyle stable is proving a profitable business over the past few months and if you stick with Insensata – you should fill the pockets.
Made it five wins from her past eight starts when overcoming a slowly run affair to storm over top of her rivals.
She's a chunky three-year-old filly and is holding her condition well.
Coyle is waiting for a sponsor to get her into The Everest on October 14 – but just in case that doesn't come off – keep backing her in easier races as she works through the grades.
And if you were on the losing end of a bet on Revolving Door at Caulfield – I'd be giving it another spin around when he next gets to the races.
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