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, he’d ridden placegetters in eight of the 12 group 1 races in Melbourne so far this spring and his last chance yesterday was the $41 chance Appearance in the Myer Classic.
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”I really can’t believe it,” the 30-year-old jockey said after the race. ”To have gone so close on so many good horses and then to win on an outsider …”

After 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 for the Myer by Sydney trainer Guy Walter. She was rated lengths inferior to stablemate Streama, which was sent out the $3 favourite, but by the time the field had turned for home, Rodd began to think 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 Saturday, Rodd had ridden in eight of the nine group 1 races in Melbourne this spring for six placings, but he said he did not let that statistic worry him as he prepared for his four group 1 rides.

”You quickly forget 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 … who’d have thought it would be on this mare. But I’ll take it.”

It was his second win in the Myer, having won for Flemington trainer Mark Kavanagh aboard Divine Madonna five years ago. His only unplaced runner in group 1s on the day was the Kavanagh-trained December Draw, which showed none of his usual zip when well beaten in the Mackinnon Stakes.

After riding Appearance in second-last spot, Rodd sent her to the outside in the straight and the mare, which was backed from $41 to $51 late, did the rest as she outgunned another fast finisher, 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,” he said.

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Finishing burst … Christian Reith drives Nechita to the line at Flemington.PATINACK Farm trainer John Thompson went for the sunglasses as he shifted through the interviews after Nechita won the Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
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”Can I put these [sunglasses] on?” he said before speaking with the on-course broadcaster. ”This [crying] has happened to me before.”

Nechita proved herself the fastest three-year-old in training and gave rider Christian Reith his first group 1 as she drew away to score by three-quarters of a length from Jolie Bay and Shamexpress.

The troubled Patinack operation had clearance sales of racing stock and broodmares on the Gold Coast this week and its head, Nathan Tinkler, said he wanted to get out of racing. ”When they mentioned the boss [Tinkler] I was gone [and starting crying],” Thompson said. ”We have been having a tough time but he loves his racing and deserved that.

”It had been a good spring for him with All Too Hard winning the [Caulfield] Guineas and running second in the Cox Plate but I was just waiting for my turn.

”It is just something you can’t explain to win here on this day and it is one for the whole operation because [Nechita] has been everywhere. She spelled in Queensland and went into work up there, then Sydney and finally got down here and did the job.”

It was a maiden group 1 for Reith, who had a harmless tumble as he pulled up on Real Stolle in the first.

”John wanted me to have a look at the track in the first, but when I came back he said to me that he did not want me to see it that closely,” he said.

Reith handled the pressure of the Coolmore as he waited until the 250-metre mark to ask the Fastnet Rock filly for her winning charge.

”We knew she was going well and I was more nervous because it is the best we have had her,” Reith said. ”I just had to do my job because everyone else had done theirs. Everything went to plan and I just had to bide my time because I know how explosive her turn of foot is when she goes.”

Thompson said she was ”probably the fastest horse I have trained”.

”You need to get it right with horses like her and we have,” he said. ”It is our first real big group 1 and the hard work is starting to pay off. Before this we have had group wins but they have been in Western Australia, Adelaide and Brisbane.”

Jolie Bay, another daughter of Fastnet Rock, had been alongside Nechita at the furlong pole but could not match her acceleration as the fillies quinellaed the group 1.

”She went outstanding and on the line she was getting a bit back from the other filly,” Jolie Bay’s jockey, Michael Rodd, said. ”She is going to be a very good filly over further and I think there is a group 1 in her down the track.”

Co-trainer Michael Hawkes said: ”She has done a mighty job to come from a Hawkesbury class 1 to get to a group 1 and won a group 2 along the way. I can’t wait to get her back in the autumn. She is still six months away and I can’t wait to get her back in the autumn.”

Favourite Snitzerland ran fifth.

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Rivalry … the Heart and Wanderers square up on Friday night.The scenario with the two Melbourne clubs, and until recently the Western Sydney Wanderers, is very interesting from many perspectives. Mainly because it tests people’s true beliefs about football.
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Losing has a funny way of doing that, separating people into distinct camps where everyone has a view one way or the other but, often, short-term results are not a true reflection of the quality of work being done which is the only true barometer or guide to future performance outcomes.

Sport, and football in particular, has a unique way of engaging emotional triggers as well, at which time all objectivity is lost and, additionally, people often feel a need to stand by their position and seek justification, not truth. Human nature being what it is, and all. It would have been difficult to predict the slow start of Melbourne Victory, given a high-quality playing staff and dual title winning coach, Ange Postecoglou.

Amid the uncertainty of some fans and the unavoidable tension that comes with adverse results at a big club, there are also good lessons for young coaches and the game about how to maintain a sense of purpose as well as how the broad understanding has progressed and people are now looking at different things in their football experience.

Many have correctly identified the excellent structural work being done at the Victory in a way that will make it difficult to achieve short-term results, but is more likely to produce positive outcomes by the season’s middle and end, as well as beyond. If I were a Victory fan, I would be delighted by what is under way and the way Postecoglou is changing the face of their football from the inside out, oblivious to the storm that accompanies the impostor of short-term results.

Many do the opposite, forever living game to game and short-changing the players’ development through a lack of tactical progress as well as the game via the spectacle. In fairness to many coaches, of course, blame for this lies squarely at the feet of the club executives and directors, many of whom remain unschooled in the game and, as such, unable to remain steadfast in their convictions and appointments when pressure starts to rise.

Should the reconstruction of the Victory brand and playing style take longer than expected, this may well become a very good test of both a club’s commitment to football strategy under pressure and of the fan base’s understanding of football and willingness to create something powerful in the long term.

For my money, in the Victory’s first game against the Heart which they lost, there were already clear signs of excellent work being done at both ends of the park, with the way Marcos Flores was used and the penetrating runs of Marco Rojas and Archie Thompson.

John Aloisi has different challenges at the Heart. As a first-time coach, he is now learning on the job about how to shield his players from pressure, maintain composure despite results and manage media and fan expectations, all important parts of a professional coach’s role.

While from the inside it must feel as though the world is coming down if results continue on their present trend, from our perspective the issue is simple: Aloisi need only look at his former teammate Tony Popovic and the immense difference just two results can make.

No goals, no wins, pressure building. Two wins in succession, the sun comes out, players start to play more freely without pressure and the world is a different place.

Aloisi has the benefit of an outstanding football director in John Didulica who is as steadfast as they come, as well as a club with a strong culture of the long term. He will be given the proper freedom and environment to develop and ride the peaks and troughs, as every coach must endure. He will overcome them with great success.

All three coaches are high-quality, educated people at three very different stages of their professional journey, and demonstrate in three distinct ways why short-term results should be the last factor to consider in football, not the first.

If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. A good test for fans, administrators and players, and the very essence of a coach’s lot.

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Cup bound: Kelinni earns a start in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup with a game win in the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.LEXUS STAKES
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HE’S gone through the doors of the last chance saloon, but that won’t worry the connections of lightweight Kelinni, who has kept the Cup dream alive for Sydney’s premier trainer Chris Waller by taking out the Lexus Stakes and winning his way into the field for Tuesday’s $6 million spectacular.

The five-year-old, yet another English import bidding for glory in Australia’s greatest race, started at $9.50 and narrowly denied Bart Cummings’ Dare To Dream ($8), with game mare Exceptionally ($10) third. Luca Cumani’s Ibicenco finished fourth in the 2500-metre ”final eliminator” for the big race

The door on Cups glory thus slams on the beaten brigade, most of whom will now back up either in the Queen Elizabeth next Saturday or the Sandown Cup in a fortnight.

Sentimentalists may perhaps mourn the fact that the Cups King’s galloper, partnered by young Kiwi jockey James McDonald, didn’t quite make it.

But the once-a-year punters who latch on to anything prepared by JB Cummings can content themselves that they still have two possibilities on Tuesday – Sanagas and Precedence – while for the lightly raced Dare To Dream, yet another stayer whose origins are English, rich staying targets later in the season and perhaps a Cups tilt next year lie on the horizon.

For Waller and Kelinni’s owners, who include Black Caviar syndicate manager Neil Werrett, the future is now. Or, more precisely, in 48 hours.

Kelinni has made steady improvement since arriving in Australia in the middle of 2011 as one of a tranche of gallopers with stamina that Waller has bought in Britain in recent years.

He showed enough toe to win over 1250 metres at Canterbury last November, and he has come on in leaps and bounds as the distances increased.

He showed plenty of courage on Saturday when Nash Rawiller blended into the race down the straight, hitting the lead inside the last 200 metres to hold off Dare to Dream. The winner was eighth at the 400 metres, the runner-up 11th in a race run at a decent clip thanks to front-running mare Dame Claire, who held on to finish fifth.

Ex-New Zealander Waller has made an enormous mark on Sydney racing in recent years since setting up at Rosehill and is now the premier Sydney trainer. But his record in the Melbourne Cup is poor, his first runner, Warringah, finished last, and his others rarely figuring.

This time it could be different. Kelinni goes into Tuesday’s race without a penalty – handicapper Greg Carpenter opting not to increase his impost of 51 kilograms – and is a fit and in-form galloper who will handle the track, the going and, almost certainly, the rise in distance to 3200 metres.

”It’s a dream come true, it’s just great to be a part of these big days, and the owners have been fortunate to win a few races along the way,” Waller said. ”It’s a dream to have a runner in the race and whatever happens on Tuesday is a bonus.

”He’s been a model of consistency right from his early days and this preparation he has gone to the next level. He has shown today that he is up with the better ones.

”It will be very interesting, they are handicap races and you need to try and get in the most favourable way, and I would say we are the best-suited horse in the race.”

One man who is no stranger to big races is Werrett – Black Caviar’s managing owner – and he is relishing the chance to win Australia’s greatest distance event, having monopolised all its famous short-course races with his wonder mare.

He was asked: ”Was that better than Royal Ascot?”

”No,” he said with a laugh. ”But it might be as good on Tuesday. I think he’s got a bit of a chance now. I backed him at 200-1, so I’m pretty happy.”

But not even having a chance in the Melbourne Cup can come close to matching the thrills Black Caviar has brought Werrett and his friends over the years.

”No, you can’t compare, not really. Black Caviar’s way up there,” he declares as he points high into the air, ”but this is a good second.”

Rawiller can’t make the weight on Tuesday, but he said Kelinni would be a chance.

”He will run the trip on his ear … whether he can do it as fast as any of the others, time will tell,” he said.

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A potential Origin headache … Israel Folau.WHILE the majority of the league world is keen to welcome Israel Folau back to the fold, you could understand if Laurie Daley wasn’t doing cartwheels.
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The NSW coach already faced an enormous task to prevent Queensland from claiming yet another series – and now Folau’s imminent NRL return has just made it tougher. While Brent Tate and Darius Boyd did a sound job on the flanks for the Maroons, the former GWS Giant is likely to slot straight back in to the three-quarter line.

”It’s just another obstacle we will have to face,” Daley said. ”It’s still an exciting challenge. He’s no certain walk-up because Tate and Boyd did such a good job this year, they’ve got a bit of depth. That just makes our task all that more exciting knowing we’ll be taking them on with all of their best players available.”

During his retirement announcement, Folau admitted it was difficult watching the interstate series during his AFL stint. ”When I first left it was hard to watch,” Folau said. ”Obviously before I made a decision to come across those were the type of things I was thinking about. In the end I was still watching the boys and supporting the boys but I had to do what I had to do with … the AFL.”

The NSWRL is already preparing for the 2013 series off the field by setting up True Blues, an old-boy network of NSW players to support the squad. The new entity has trademarked the name and is about to release a logo. The move further distances the organisation from the NSW Origin Legends run by Chris Anderson and Max Krilich following claims the ex-Blues body didn’t supply its financial records for scrutiny. ”We’ve made it clear we have no association with the Legends,” NSWRL chief executive Geoff Carr said. ”We’ve never had any control over where their money goes. We felt we needed an entity inside the league to make a contribution back to grassroots and to Origin. To be fair, we don’t know where the Legends give their money to because they are a separate corporate entity and have their own board.

”The reason we decided to sever ties is we had very little association with what they did and what they are about. There was a perception they were a part of us and we were involved in everything they did, but the reality is we weren’t. The board decided to have [its] own corporate identity and our own association with ex-players, including those who played for NSW pre-Origin.”

The new organisation will hold a series of fund-raisers in regional areas to help revive the game in the country. ”We’ll bring past players and the whole show to town and the profits will stay there,” said corporate events manager Paul Langmack.

”We won’t be making any money out of it but we’ll be improving the brand and helping the grassroots, which has been neglected.”

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Sleight of hand … Benji Marshall keeps his options open against the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval earlier this year.BENJI MARSHALL has told incoming Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter that he wants to reclaim his No.6 jersey next season.
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Marshall met Potter – who will be the Kiwi international’s second club coach, having replaced Tim Sheens – on Monday, and the Tigers playmaker told Fairfax that his new boss asked him during that meeting where he wanted to play next season.

”I told him I’d like to be back at five-eighth,” Marshall said. ”That’s where I want to play. He asked me that, where I wanted to play, what I thought was my best position, and I told him. I was just honest with him. I want to play five-eighth.”

Sheens had tried several times to switch Marshall to halfback and it appeared his latest attempt this year might be long-term. The Kiwis captain had publicly accepted the move and even relished it, but clearly, behind the scenes, Marshall still coveted the No.6 jumper that he had worn through most of his career with the club. His latest comments prove that.

Potter is yet to publicly declare where he wants his key player, but the fact he is willing to ask Marshall suggests that a return to the position is a strong possibility.

The Tigers unearthed Curtis Sironen at five-eighth this year, and bought Sydney Roosters captain Braith Anasta to play in the halves, but both could just as easily be forwards. The question of who might play halfback if it’s not Marshall also seems clearer. Jacob Miller, the Tigers’ premiership-winning Toyota Cup captain, seemed destined to leave the club while Sheens was coach, but now Potter has taken over is set to reject overtures from Hull FC to stay. Marshall rates him as a halfback.

Marshall left his first meeting with Potter impressed, even if he previously did not know what the former Bradford coach looked like until he saw a newspaper picture of him. ”He seems like a hard man,” said Marshall. ”You can tell he’s very disciplined, just the way he was talking. I know how tough the pre-season’s going to be. I think he’ll be good for the place.”

Since Sheens’ sacking, Marshall has been the focus of suggestions that the senior players – notably he and captain Robbie Farah – wield too much power at the Tigers.

Marshall, though, rejected that. ”Most of the people who know me wouldn’t have that perception,” he said. ”Perceptions don’t bother me anyway. I know what I’m about. If I had too much power at the club, Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington wouldn’t have left.”

He said Potter would have no issues with player power. ”He’s the one who lives and dies by what he does,” he said. ”I’m a good listener, a good learner, and whatever he’s got to teach me, I’m looking forward to taking on board.”

Marshall will return to training on Monday after a break following the October Test match, and was excited about starting his first pre-season under Potter. ”It’s a bit of a change for me,” he said. ”I’ve been coached by Tim for so long, and it will feel a bit weird hearing a different voice at training. But I’m looking forward to it. There’s a bit of fresh air around the place.”

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Kerrin McEvoy guides Zydeco home in the Wakeful Stakes.WAKEFUL STAKES
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ANTHONY Freedman knows all about potential, he has seen far too many horses fail to deliver on their promise, and so he was relieved as much as pleased when Victoria Oaks favourite Zydeco stormed to victory in the Wakeful Stakes on Saturday.

Eye-catching runs in the Edward Manifold Stakes and then the Thousand Guineas, when third behind Commanding Jewel, had stamped Zydeco as a filly with immense potential, but Freedman wanted proof that she was indeed as good as he had hoped.

”That’s what I hoped for, I think she’s very good,” he said. ”It didn’t surprise me, but you still like to see it.

”She only does what she is asked to do, and I think if it got tough she would dig in. She came on very late in spring and she was thereabouts, but we liked her.

”Her first run was solid, she went to a maiden and won that, and she has just kept lifting each time. Hopefully, she can do it again.”

In a race that was billed as a clash between the Clarry Connors-trained Dear Demi and Zydeco, Freedman was uncomplicated when instructing jockey Kerrin McEvoy and made a point of emphasising the filly’s stout bloodlines to the in-form jockey. By Zabeel out of Thousand Guineas winner All Time High, Zydeco is bred for strength.

”I said to Kerrin, ‘You’ve got natural stamina on your side, don’t be afraid to sit wider when the runs come’. He rode it perfectly and she should enjoy the mile and a half [2500 metres] on Thursday,” Freedman said.

And McEvoy did just that, keeping Zydeco widest of all off the home turn so that the filly could build speed with an uninterrupted run down the straight.

But for Dear Demi, the home straight resembled a traffic-packed Epsom Road on race day, with jockey Jim Cassidy unable to find clear running, eventually running into fourth place.

Zydeco’s two-length margin to runner-up Maraatib and third-placed Transonic impressed McEvoy and the in-form jockey is looking forward to adding to his spring carnival tally on Thursday in the $1 million Crown Oaks.

”She stays well and she has got that turn of foot, which is exactly what you need to cover them up when you are giving them a start like that,” he said. ”She was able to lob into a spot and get a nice rhythm and she will settle and run the Oaks trip no worries. I’m looking forward to it.”

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