The Mug Punter: Manangatang Cup Day



It’s that time of the year when the sports fraternity turns its collective mind to the nags. (Does anyone play club cricket anymore? And are you aware that there is a touring party of Australian cricketers – names may or may not be known to you – in India?) And we turn to the darts as well. (How good is the Grand Prix when you have to start with a double: pressure on from the outset).

The Turnbull is out of the way; it was a race which made the Cups an even bigger puzzle than they would have been anyway. Occasionally you get a Turnbull or an LKS MacKinnon like that, where the miler snags it, and everyone oohs and aahs at the runs. But Happy Trails! He’s been one of mine since I backed him in the Doncaster when he came from last and finished fifth by a length. 50/1. Should have won. Shoulda. Do you reckon I was on last Saturday? No way. Another sad tale of the punt de mug.

No, very slow out of the blocks this Spring. Well, very slow out of the blocks generally. I always have mixed feelings about Guineas Day because I was offered a share in Starspangledbanner when he was first up for syndication. A tenth of a tenth share – but that would have been enough. Of course I didn’t take it, preferring to continue racing country triers with the gentleman farmer-trainer from the Wimmera-Mallee, D.I. Dodson of Telopea Downs. That’s why we still call Turnbull Stakes Day Murtoa Cup Day (although we’ve only ever finished second – with You’re Joking) in our family, and Guineas Day is Manangatang Cup Day.

That’s on again this weekend. Manangatang, or Manang as it is affectionately known, is a feted place in Australian sporting life made famous by two phrases: ‘Couldn’t get a kick in the Manangatang thirds’ and ‘Couldn’t win a Manangatang maiden’. It’s a little town on the railway line just east of Ouyen. Great grain country – when it rains. And God’s sprinklers have been beautifully timed and reliable this season. I like the idea of Niptious having its 123rd start in the Cup. So I’ll be having a look there. It will be a festival day of fine frivolity.

As it will be at The Heath. Guineas Day has attracted the bright, young things of the southern suburbs in recent times so the new scheduling of events is going to be very interesting. The features are the last race on the card these days and, by the tenth, the revellers will still be young, but a whole lot less bright.

I always find Caulfield tough, especially working out the pattern of racing, and the way fields settle. And there’s a stack of chances in quite a few of the races. I’m looking for a few that will race handy, and will provide some value. There is no bank this year – no Geelong fan worth his hoops makes money in a Hawthorn premiership year.

So we need an early winner. In the third, I’m with the Blue Diamond winner, Miracles of Life, each-way if you like, or straight out. Drawn the rails. Good record on the track. Very good second-up. She’ll do.

The favourite, Kuroshio, looks hard to beat in the Schillaci, so I’ll be looking for the quinella horse – which might be Unpretentious for me.

Of course, we’ll pause to admire the special mare, Atlantic Jewel, in the Caulfield Stakes, although she’s no certainty. Should be a good race with the stablemate Supercool right in it. Watch the betting there. Foreteller is a little forgotten. The small field may play a role as well.

The time-honoured Herbert Power has always been one for a few Cups runners. I did my dough the year Alcopops beat Shocking, and then Shocking went on to win the Cup. Of course I’d sacked Shocking by then in a pique of mugness. There will be interest in Sea Moon to see if he can live up to a career which has a hint of the greasy pole about it. I might be on Moudre to get the run of the race.

The Toorak is a total lottery so I’m letting the heart take over. I have followed Yosei all of her career and, although there is no Michelle Payne this time, I reckon she could be weaving a fast sprint through the ruck at the finish. Might have a fun ticket on her. But I quite like Blackie, at good odds, because that’s (in the spirit of) my nickname, and that’s the kind of race this Toorak is. It’s got M. Payne on Allez Wonder written all over it.

And so to the Guineas. Many hopes. D. Tourneur rode Alcopops in that Herbert Power and he’s on a good one here, Éclair Big Bang. Although you can mount a case for about ten of them, I’m happy with the on-pace horse. He won the Prelude, he looks like the extra distance will suit, and he’s by Savabeel who was at his peak as a three year old. He’ll do me.

Looking forward to it all.

Good punting.


Shehu Shagari Mug Punter’s Special: Blackie in the Toorak

Following the lead of The People’s Elbow my $100 (with TattsBet) will go on:

Blackie $25 each way

Miracles of Life $30 win

All Up: Miracles of Life each way into Blackie each way into Eclair Big Bang each way ($2.50 units)


Please add any racing comments to the end of Crio’s Caulfield Guineas column.






About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.

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