MYER CLASSIC
Nanjing Night Net

MICHAEL Rodd has been the big group 1 player this spring but by mid-afternoon on Saturday he was starting to wonder whether his carnival was jinxed.

Remarkably, Rodd had ridden placegetters in eight of the 12 group 1 races in Melbourne so far this spring and his last hope for a win at Flemington on Saturday was the $41 chance Appearance in the Myer Classic.

”I really can’t believe it,” the 30-year-old jockey said, shaking his head after the race. ”To have gone so close on so many good horses and then to win on an outsider.”

After earlier group 1 placings on Jolie Bay (second) in the Coolmore Stud Stakes and then on Super Cool (second) in the Victoria Derby, Rodd was legged aboard Appearance in the Myer Stakes by Sydney trainer Guy Walter.

She was rated some lengths inferior to stablemate Streama, who was sent out the $3 favourite, but by the time the field had turned for the run home, Rodd was starting to think that a boilover was on the cards.

”I knew they had gone pretty hard up in front and I got my mare to the outside and thought she might be able to get close, but she kept building and building and by the time we’d got to the post, she was the strongest of them all,” he said.

”She really got her momentum up and finished really well.”

Before yesterday, Rodd had ridden in eight of the nine group 1 races held in Melbourne this spring for six placings, but he said he didn’t let that statistic worry him as he prepared himself for his four group 1 rides on Saturday.

”You quickly forgot about all those things when you go to the gates,” he said. ”I knew I was riding well and had been in the finish of a lot of big races so it was just a matter of time before it went my way and who’d have thought it would be on this mare. But I’ll take it.”

For Rodd, it was his second win in the Myer after his victory for Flemington trainer Mark Kavanagh aboard Divine Madonna five years ago. His only unplaced runner in the group 1s on Saturday’s program was the Kavanagh-trained December Draw, who showed none of his zip when well beaten in the Mackinnon Stakes.

Appearance was backed late from $51 to start at $41 and outgunned another fast finisher in Soft Sand ($10) to win by a long neck, with a head to Secret Admirer ($8) in third place.

Walter was as surprised as his rider with how the race panned out. ”I thought Michael rode a fantastic race – it was not the result I expected – but all praise for Michael and the way he handled this mare,” Walter said.

Walter explained that Appearance was not comfortable at Caulfield at her previous start.

”They went too slowly and she couldn’t get into the race but with the pace on here and with the big track, she was able to unleash her sprint,” he said.

As for Streama, Walter said she raced as though she was flat and may have come to the end of her campaign. Streama led into the home straight but was quickly swamped and tired badly to finish eighth.

Fellow Sydney mare Red Tracer shadowed Streama for the entire trip but she too knocked up badly.

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Dunaden’s trainer Mikel Delzangles warmed up for Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup when he celebrated Breeders’ Cup success with two-year-old filly Flotilla at Santa Anita on Friday.
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The French trainer will return to Melbourne for the third time this month as Dunaden defends his Melbourne Cup crown.

”This is great, absolutely great,” he said. ”It was a good preliminary for Australia.”

Flotilla settled midfield before bursting through the field as she powered home for a 1?-length victory.

”I was surprised how well she settled here,” Delzangles said.

”I was not confident she would win but thought she would run a good race.

”Hopefully she will be a classic filly in Europe next year.”Jewel on mend

Australia’s unbeaten star Atlantic Jewel has pleased vets and remains on track to return to racing in the autumn.

She was the one-time favourite for the Cox Plate before a leg injury forced her out of the spring carnival in August.

”That was disappointing but we got some good news this week,” part-owner Laurie Macri said.

”The vets were happy with the way her leg has come along and there was enough positives there for us to start to think about her racing again. There is still a long way to go though.”

The vet report said Atlantic Jewel was a 60 per cent chance of racing again. She will continue her rehabilitation at Mark Kavanagh’s property and be checked again in two months.Fawkner rises

Fawkner is likely to rise to group 1 level for his next start after collecting a fourth consecutive win and his eighth from just 14 starts in the group 3 TAB南京夜网.au Stakes on Saturday. Part-owner Nick Williams said next Saturday’s $1 million Emirates Stakes beckoned for the son of Reset but another $1 million race was also on the cards – the group 1 Railway Stakes in Perth later this month.

Williams said the stable had always held a high opinion of Fawkner, despite buying him as a potential stayer but finding he could not run beyond 1600 metres.

”Eddie Cassar, who does a lot of the riding up on the [Mt Macedon] farm, keeps saying that he might be the best we’ve had,” Williams said.Not Dun yet

Murray Baker shrugged off his Victoria Derby disappointment with It’s A Dundeel, immediately declaring his intention to come back across the Tasman for the Australian Derby.

”He got a long way back but we always knew that,” Baker said after It’s A Dundeel ($2.70) failed to make an impression when seventh behind Fiveandahalfstar. ”The leaders just kept kicking. He’s done a lot in a short time and we’ll take him for a little spell and bring him back for the AJC Derby.

”He’s only had the six runs but travelling … has probably caught up with him a little bit.”

It’s A Dundeel won his first five starts and tasted defeat for the first time in the Vase at Moonee Valley eight days ago.

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Justin Sheman doesn’t regret moving to the Bulldogs and feels well prepared now should he find a third club or should things not work out.JUSTIN Sherman can still remember his first trade period. It wasn’t too long ago. In fact it was just two years back that Sherman decided to leave the Brisbane Lions, considered an offer from Sydney then waited anxiously for his move to the Western Bulldogs to go through.
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”It was a big decision for me to leave Brisbane, then waiting for the trade to happen was a pretty nervous time,” he said. ”At the time I can remember thinking that I didn’t want to go through something like that again. It feels like yesterday that I got there. It’s gone by pretty quickly.”

Sherman knew by the end of last season that he wouldn’t play for the Bulldogs again, despite having a year to run on his contract. He realised after a long chat with Brendan McCartney midway through the year that he needed to become a more consistent person and player to get a run in the new coach’s team and, despite finishing in what he felt was much stronger form, suspected his time was up before a second conversation when the season ended. This time there were no nibbles during trade month, making it an entirely different experience.

”I was hoping something would happen, but there wasn’t really any interest out there. I think clubs were set in their ways and knew what they wanted, and that’s fine. It was a different sort of thing to go through this year but I made sure I was concentrating on other things and I’m looking forward to the pre-season draft now,” Sherman said. ”I haven’t counted myself out. I’m hopeful, I think that’s the right word. I know that I still have a lot more to offer.”

Sherman was 23 when he became a Bulldog, bringing some pace and flair to a team that had just played off in the finals and lost Jarrod Harbrow to the Gold Coast.

He played 14 games last year, a season interrupted by a suspension for racial abuse that his new teammates helped him confront, move on and learn from, but just 10 this season as McCartney asked him to work on the defensive side of his game and his day-to-day consistency.

”We had a good heart-to-heart in the middle of the year and I understood where I needed to get better,” he said. ”I knew I hadn’t lived up to the club’s expectations and my expectations, but I kept plodding away at Williamstown and in the last four or five games I felt I started to string together some good, consistent performances. I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and have some confidence in myself again. I’ve always prided myself on my professionalism, but I had a lot to learn about how to be a professional footy player day in, day out.

”You’ve got to do everything that’s asked and even go beyond that now. I know what I put out there wasn’t good enough. I deserved a kick in the backside and that’s what’s made me see the bigger picture.

”I know what went wrong. I’ve learnt to be a more consistent footy player and that’s what I want to keep learning to be.”

Sherman was disappointed that, after working his way into some better form, his time was considered up anyway.

But he doesn’t regret moving to the Bulldogs and feels well prepared now should he find a third club or should things not work out. He has been back training for about a month and will start working with Williamstown in the next week or two. If an AFL club doesn’t draft him he wants to play VFL next year, ”because I think a lot of clubs want to see me play consistently for a whole year”, and have another go this time next year.

He has plans to launch a personal training business soon and is well settled in Melbourne, where his parents have moved in the past year. ”It hasn’t worked out at the Bulldogs but I’m grateful to the club and everyone there. I’m disappointed with what I dished up, but there’s no point beating myself up about it now. Hopefully another club will see something in me, but if that’s meant to be it will happen, I can’t control that now,” he said.

”I’d love to have another go and give it one last crack. I’m fit and healthy and motivated to keep playing, but if it doesn’t happen then I’m ready for the next phase of my life. I’ve got some qualifications, it’s time to use them and the main thing is I’m happy. I have something to fall back on, I’ve set myself up in the past five or six weeks and I’m at ease about that, but I know that if I’m lucky enough to get another opportunity, I’m good to go and ready to make the most of it.”

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SO MUCH energy, so much newsprint and so many hours of airtime have been expended on the subject of Mick Malthouse as coach of Carlton that it somehow seems hard to believe it’s a marriage that will only be consummated officially on Monday.
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Certainly, if words were the measure of a coaching stint, Malthouse would already seem like a veteran of Visy Park.

His appointment two months ago followed several months of intense speculation the job would be his sooner rather than later. Since that debate was settled, there has been much more musing on the Blues’ future under his command.

Yet it’s only on Monday that Malthouse and the Carlton players will together start the core business of preparing in a meaningful fashion for a new AFL season.

The Blues’ first to third-year players arrived back at the club from their holiday break on Wednesday. For the rest of the list, Monday is the first day of school, with not just the students welcome.

Carlton will hold an open training session for its supporters at Visy Park at 2.45pm, with a free barbecue. It might not attract the same incredible numbers that poured into Punt Road one December afternoon the day Ben Cousins started with Richmond a few years ago but plenty of faithful are expected to turn up for a peek at the new boss and the beginning of a new era.

There’ll be several days on the track, and of testing, before the whole class, and its teacher, head to Arizona for a two-week training camp. And even hardened veterans such as Carlton skipper Chris Judd and former premiership player and now Blues football manager Andrew McKay have conceded to some child-like tingles of expectation.

”Over the last three to four weeks players have been coming in to use the altitude room or doing work in the gym and you can just feel that bit of a buzz around the place, you can tell everyone’s up and about, which is great,” says McKay.

Not that they’ve seen much, if any, of the coach yet. Malthouse’s visits to the club have been confined to the odd half-day here or there. Sometimes Muhammad, in this case the club, has had to go to the mountain. Last Monday, McKay, football administration manager Shane O’Sullivan, fitness man Justin Cordy and new assistant coach and long-time Malthouse cohort Rob Wiley met the coach in town for a long planning session.

”We spent half the day just going through our planning of training and our scheduling, just trying to bed down what we want to do this year,” says McKay. ”Justin ran through what he wants to do fitness-wise, Rob has helped design the training stuff and we talked about even little things like with travel, when we go, when we come back.

”Arizona will be about Mick getting to know the players and vice versa, getting to know how he wants to play, the structures he wants to put in place, so even though we’ll be doing a fair bit of work at altitude, it will be a good education camp as well.”

If there is a ”back to school” feel about the weeks ahead, the Carlton players are already in little doubt about who’ll be the boss. Judd knew that when he arrived at West Coast for 2002, even a couple of years after Malthouse had left.

”He probably doesn’t go down the player empowerment model, which a lot of modern-day coaches do,” Judd said this week. ”From the stories I’ve heard, he’s a bit more into rule, govern and behaviour. That will be interesting. But his record speaks for itself and I think it’s an exciting time for our footy club.”

While the players return from the US on November 25, Malthouse and McKay will leave camp a few days early to get back for the November 22 national draft, where the Blues – after remaining inactive on the trade front save for acquiring an extra pick in return for now Magpie Jordan Russell – will have eight potential selections.

Carlton was keen on a blue-chip key forward but its genuine interest at the trade table waned once Travis Cloke recommitted to Collingwood. ”We wanted the creme de la creme and not to dabble in the rest if Cloke wasn’t available,” McKay admits. ”That’s why we weren’t active in trades or free agency.

”We’ve got a number of guys that have an opportunity to really prove themselves next year that have either been injured or haven’t had that opportunity in the past.

”We feel like we’ve got some good developing forwards in [Levi] Casboult, [Luke] Mitchell, and [Shaun] Hampson showed good signs last season, and we know ‘Waitey’ [Jarrad Waite] is a good player with that X-factor that just needs to spend more time on the ground. We think there’s enough there if we develop the younger guys and keep the rest of them fit.”

In midfield the likes of Kane Lucas can expect considerably more game time, while the revitalised Brock McLean looks set to continue that resurgence under Malthouse, with the triple premiership coach a fan of the strong-bodied clearance winner. ”I think the game almost came back to Brock a little bit this year,” McKay observes. ”I suppose, with a bit more congestion, he was able to use his strength over the ball and quick hands.”

What can be said with confidence, and is already confirmed by the coach, is Carlton in 2013 will be a lot more defence minded. ”I can categorically tell you the game plan won’t change,” Malthouse said recently, meaning, of course, his game plan. ”It will be defence first, defence second and defence third.”

Carlton slipped to being the ninth-best defensive unit in terms of points against this year, having been fifth in 2011, and it has for years now, on occasion, worn the ”downhill skiers” tag.

But the Blues believe they have the personnel to turn that around under a coach famed for his tactical stinginess, and this confidence is underlined by the clearing of the defensive decks, out-of-favour types such as Paul Bower, Bret Thornton and Russell having departed.

While McKay concedes emerging key backman Andrew McInnes, who’ll miss at least half next season with a reconstructed knee, will be a major loss, the Blues look forward to the return of Jeremy Laidler, ”a real general down there”. There’s Michael Jamison, the option of versatile Lachie Henderson and defensive rebounders such as Chris Yarran and Zach Tuohy.

Malthouse has already identified Matthew Watson as a potentially big part of the jigsaw puzzle. ”Mick’s really keen to use Matthew back there, with his penetrating and accurate kicking,” says McKay.

While Malthouse will put his own obvious imprimatur on all things Carlton, the fitness program designed by Cordy won’t change a lot. It’s the upshot of that work on the field rather than the toll in the medical room the Blues hope will be the biggest practical difference in 2013, and it’s something the coach has already noted.

”He’s certainly conscious of going too hard too early,” says McKay.

”He doesn’t want anyone breaking down in Arizona. You could turn it into a really hard and physical boot camp, or just temper it a little bit and do a bit of education, skills and also just a bit of bonding. He understands it’s a long season and you need to have everyone fit by January and ready to go in February rather than flying in November and breaking down in January.”

That, though, is the players. When it comes to the subject of the game’s most talked-about coach and the new targets of his philosophies, it’s been a pretty long pre-season already. And at least, for Carlton and Malthouse the real action has finally arrived.

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