A Maiden thoroughbred named Cane Smoke was photographed last Sunday at Grafton with race jockey Matthew Dracos. This equine version of Cane Smoke needs to win just 123 races to equal the feat of a great pacer from Mackay. (Photo Dan Costello)
I rarely look at mid-week or Sunday race fields, as apart from being generally busier than a Beirut bricklayer, I think in racing one can get information overload, however last Sunday my attention was drawn to a Maiden thoroughbred starter in Race 2 at Grafton, as it was named Cane Smoke - and I thought to myself “gee I hope you can run or you will be a disgrace to the fine name of Cane Smoke”. The Grafton thoroughbred race was a 1400-metre Maiden and I didn’t watch the race, but I see in the results that Cane Smoke ran second, beaten in a photo at 14/1 for a trainer named Peter Richards and jockey Matthew Dracos, so maybe one day the horse will ring up number one. The thoroughbred Cane Smoke is by a stallion called Felix The Cat, so let’s hope he doesn’t just inherit the “Cat” part of his father’s name. Hopefully he will throw more to his mother’s side, as her owners happened upon the positive name of Swift Lass and trained out of the John Shelton yard at Grafton, Swift Lass, a mare by Danzig’s American born son Monongahela, won 10 races from 32 starts and retired to the breeding barn with earnings of $42,680. In another amazing statistic I found out when studying the racetrack performance of Swift Lass in all her 10 wins she was partnered by only one jockey - Stephen Tracey - even though numerous other jockeys had ridden her during her career, including Glen Colless, Dan Wheeler, Anthony Merritt, David Crossland, Matt Bennett, Stephen Treweek and Michael Ahearn.
However the thoroughbred with the name Cane Smoke sure has a long way to go to catch up to one of the greatest pacers that Queensland ever got to see - the Mackay based Cane Smoke. I went to the bible of harness racing to find out all about Cane Smoke for readers - to a wonderful book by author Raymond Lowndes called “From Kedron To Albion Park – A Pictorial of Trotting in Queensland, Book 2, 1950-1968” and this is what Raymond Lowndes wrote of the Mackay champ:
“In 1981, Brian (Manzelmann) was in Sydney with mate Charlie Pearce, they’d gone to Rooty Hill to have a look at some horses and his attention was taken by one particular animal which Charlie described as a $250 ‘dogger’. This ‘dogger’ was owned at the time by Charlie and Tod Sloan. The unnamed 5-year-old had been broken in, gaited, but never raced and Brian asked him if he could give him a go. So ‘Smokey’ as Charlie’s son Shawn had him named, went north to Mackay. Brian recalled “We had to give him a proper name and I kept thinking about all the smoke from the fires on the cane farms for six months of the year, so I decided to name him Cane Smoke.” Brian’s wife Marlene said, ‘he had a few lurks and perks at the start; if he didn’t like work any day he would put on a turn and you’d have to wait until he was ready to train.’ The bookies quoted Cane Smoke at 100/1 for his first race and (he) stood flat-footed at the noise of the strands flying back, but he didn’t disgrace himself at the business end of the race as at his next start he was 5/2.
“Cane Smoke (Smart Lobell-Hondo Marie), finished racing in 1992 and in a career which spanned 11 years he won one in every three races he contested. His amazing record shows he won 123 races, was second 73 times and third on 74 occasions. He also holds the record for the number of wins in the season, 34. He broke two minutes in Townsville on the 14th December, 1985 when he ran 1.59.46, where he held the track and class records for three seasons. He also held records in Mackay and Rockhampton. In his career, the gelding only raced on four tracks, those previously mentioned and Albion Park where he won and ran second in two starts. He was nominated for the Inter Dominion, paid up and breezed through the first and second calls but was stopped at the third as he hadn’t raced at Brisbane by this time. Cane Smoke also broke Paleface Adios’ record of 109 wins, and his total of 123 is an Australian Record which still stands to this day. Cane Smoke (born in September 1976) died on the 2nd August, 1995”.
Talking of thoroughbred racing from last weekend and I couldn’t help but think what forgiving souls punters and tipsters are – and truly it’s no wonder that all big bookies are multi-millionaires, as let me review some of the stupid short prices punters took about horses that couldn’t win last Saturday at the Eagle Farm meeting. I’ll also put up publicly what I told my Saturday Morning Mail clients about these horses on race morning, in their 9am report, so as not to be wise after the event. In Race 1 at Eagle Farm War Charm raced in bar plates, meaning you could virtually put a line straight through his name, yet started at just 2/1. “They” are still looking for the horse. Saturday Morning Mail clients got told: “Is in an astute stable and has some worthwhile Sydney form, but has a gear change of bar plates going on today, so I couldn’t have him on top here resuming after 11 weeks off”.
In Race 2 Contract Caterer was heavily backed from $4.80 into $3.80. He got beaten half a furlong – well 22.75 lengths to be exact. Before the race Saturday Morning Mail clients were told: “In very well at the weights here as he has 56kgs yet he was handicapped with 55.5kgs in an Open Handicap two starts before spelling. His negative is he’s first up at 1805 metres after an 11 weeks spell and that’s a tall order, so prefer to watch. Very few Saturday city class horses win first up at 1400 inclusive or further, except for ones out of the box like say Mawingo first up at Flemington this year at 1600, but he had classes on them that day as we now know”.
In Race 4 the whole world wanted to tell you that Discreet at her previous start had been seen by “every video watcher from Singapore to Brisbane”. Therefore naturally the bushfire of support gets behind her and she ran at $2.70. She wilted like a rose in the desert in the last 150 and got beaten easily. After the run that all the video watchers liked, I told my Brisbane Sectional Times clients of the run “Overraced at various stages. Stewards report says this filly couldn’t get a run all the way up the straight – that’s garbage. She wasn’t travelling well enough to take the gaps”, and Saturday at 9am, Saturday Morning Mail clients got told: ““They” all thought she was desperately unlucky last start behind the ordinary Hoss Amor, but I didn’t, as I think she is just a tease. (Next comment with-held, considered confidential to clients) and she has run only one placing in six starts since 31/12/11, so is overrated by most and she’s too short here to back”.
So the upshot of all that - is that punters really need to be on the ball when taking advice from urgers who work at TAB owned radio stations or television stations and who are primarily there to talk up both race meetings and horses to stimulate betting turnover for their employer.
Talking about poor quality horses, I’ve penned a story on just how bad an entire meeting of horses from earlier this week were and that story which I’m sure will amaze most readers, will go up here next week, as this week is already full up due to an explosive story regarding Tattsbet that will go up here tomorrow.
Today is Ramornie Handicap day at Grafton and tomorrow is Grafton Cup day and the Clarence River Jockey Club should be very unhappy with the primarily dreadful fields that have been assembled for their two feature races of their year. If Racing New South Wales hierarchy has any idea what they are doing, they need to move swiftly to switch the Ramornie and Grafton Cup meetings to become the main races run at a standalone Saturday meeting as a) a much classier line up of horses would partake in each race and b) it would give Sydney metropolitan tracks another Saturday off in their busy annual schedule and c) moving Grafton to a standalone Saturday would serve to complement other already approved and popular standalone Saturday meetings in New South Wales at Hawkesbury and Scone. The Ramornie and Grafton Cup fields of 2012 are so bad - they are what I’d call “shockers”, as Grafton Cup topweight Hume has won just one race in the last 36 months and is coming off a 29.5 lengths defeat at Eagle Farm last Saturday in the Queen’s Cup, whilst Ramornie topweight Youthful Jack has won just one mainland race along the eastern seaboard of this country since 30/5/09 - and that’s 37 months, meaning cumulatively in 73 months Hume and Youthful Jack have won just two mainland races. It’s clearly time for a change – and there is no time like the present to embrace that change.
Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there is the first of two montages of photos from last Saturday, on www.sydneyracing.com.au I look back on the history of Grafton’s top sprint, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls catches up with apprentice B for Ben Knobel.