TRAINER Anthony Cummings emerged from the illustrious shadow of his father, Bart, to win his first Victoria Derby on Saturday with a little-known stayer that he had bred and owned and was positive was destined for great things.
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A $41 chance, Fiveandahalfstar raced on the speed and after taking control of the race with 400m to go clearly outstayed his rivals to reinforce Cummings’s opinion of the three-year-old.

Cummings said moments after Fiveandahalfstar’s win that as a boy he’d seen his father win six Derbys and ”now I know how good the feeling is”.

Cummings said he’d planned a spring carnival for Fiveandahalfstar but even as late as last weekend he wasn’t sure if Fiveandahalfstar would line up in Saturday’s group 1 staying classic.

”I always knew he had ability and I was convinced he would run the distance … I knew he fitted in to the spring carnival but whether it was next Thursday or in the Derby, I knew he would be extremely hard to beat.

”And really, I’m glad it was today,” Cummings said.

Fiveandahalfstar wasn’t given the tried and true build-up events before the Derby with Cummings preferring to keep his young horse in Sydney before the four days of the Flemington Spring Carnival.

He said he’s always wanted the horses to shuttle between his Melbourne and Sydney stable believing it was important to educate them in both ways of racing.

”I think it’s important that they get the experience of being in both stables so it just rounds them off and is an important feature of their young education.

”[Fiveandahalfstar] is a nice horse and he is obviously an above average stayer, he has got a fairly bold running style, much like his old man, Hotel Grand, who was like that.

”We probably never really saw the best of Hotel Grand but he was a quality racehorse and one of the best I have trained so it’s nice to get one of his sons to come here and do the job.”

Cummings also believed that his final push to start Fiveandahalfstar came after considering the situation surrounding the favourite, It’s A Dundeel. ”I was looking at It’s A Dundeel and thought that he was going to be pretty tough to beat but seeing him beaten at Moonee Valley last Saturday just opened the door.”

Cummings said he bought Hotel Grand’s mother for $33,000 at the Sydney Yearling Sales. She eventually became a broodmare producing Hotel Grand, which was a dual group 1 winner. ”I also bought Fiveandahalfstar’s mother Cryptic Miss at a sale up in Scone and she won a maiden over 2100m and broke down in winning so it’s nice to put all of them together and come up with a winning group one combination,” he said.

The favourite starting at $2.70 was a great disappointment settling 13th in the early stages and under hard riding managed to finish seventh, but many lengths behind the winner.

”He [It’s A Dundeel] tried his guts out. He’s a very tired horse,” jockey James McDonald said. ”I pulled him up and he just stopped and paused. You know he’s a tired three-year-old after all of that. ‘Let’s bring him back in the autumn, he’s going to be a lovely colt in time.”

Fiveandahalfstar was a noted drifter in the market blowing from $25 out to $41 but after a clever ride by jockey Damien Oliver the three-year-old proved the superior stayer. ”We had a chat on Wednesday morning after working him and we came to the conclusion that we should run him (Fiveandahalfstar) because he worked well.

”With the favourite [It’s A Dundeel] getting beaten it was opened up and usually Anthony [Cummings] doesn’t need much talking to run in races but I’m glad I did with this one,” Oliver said.

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THE most deserving generally do not get a look in on Victoria Derby day, the most unforgiving of all on the racing calendar, but that all changed on Saturday when the spring’s luckless runner Alcopop snared his first group 1 win after charging home in the $1 million Mackinnon Stakes.
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Runner-up at the elite level in his past two starts in the Caulfield Stakes and Caulfield Cup, Alcopop notched a first group 1 win for his trainer, Jake Stephens, and put an end to the spring carnival curse that has plagued the horse for the past two seasons.

To assist in his quest for that group 1 win for himself and his brave horse, Stephens made the tough decision to dump regular rider Dom Tourneur and replace him with one of the world’s great big-race riders in Craig Williams. The move paid off.

”What a great ride from Craig,” Stephens said moments after the race. ”When they were coming to the turn and Ocean Park was getting out to the middle of the track, I was saying, ‘Stay on the rails’ and that’s what he did, and he was able to chase down the leader.

”I told Craig before the race that he’s freshened well and had done really well during the week and to go out and just do it.”

Williams pursued inside runs on the horse while Ocean Park went to the middle of the track.

Alcopop lifted over the final 100 metres to run down Glass Harmonium. On the line, Alcopop ($6) had a neck margin over the brave Glass Harmonium with a long neck to Ocean Park, the Cox Plate winner and the Mackinnon’s $1.70 favourite.

Alcopop was the early favourite for the Melbourne Cup two years ago but his campaign finished three days before the Cup after he performed poorly in the Lexus and was spelled. The next 12 months were ruined by knee and leg injuries. Stephens rejuvenated the eight-year-old for a spring campaign and the horse has not let him down.

Stephens is already considering his 2013 options for the veteran. ”We might give him the autumn off again and give him a nice, long build-up to [the spring] next year,” he said.

Rarely does a losing trainer smile as broadly as did Leon Corstens after the Mackinnon. His four-year-old Zabeelionaire beat only three runners home but the manner in which he found the line pleased his trainer.

”Craig [Newitt] hopped off and said that the last 50 to 100 metres was his best, and that’s what you want to see with an eye to Tuesday,” Corstens said. ”He was caught flat-footed when they sprinted – he lacks that killer sprint to win races – and he ground home gradually.

”I’ve always been a bit fearful it might be 12 months too early for him but on that run and with just 52 kilograms in the Cup – a weight he’ll never see again – we’re happy to go to Tuesday knowing he’s had a great prep.”

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BRETT LEE, one of cricket’s all-time fastest bowlers, has offered to help teen sensation Pat Cummins ”clean up” his action to help to prevent the injuries frustrating his burgeoning career.
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Cummins, who at just 18 took seven wickets in his Test debut against South Africa last November, will miss his second consecutive summer of cricket after scans revealed on Friday he had suffered a stress fracture in his back during the Sydney Sixers’ recent T20 Champions League triumph.

It was a devastating blow but Lee, who endured similar injury battles when he was Cummins’s age, said he had the experience to help the 19-year-old from Penrith fulfil his potential.

”I’m not saying in any way, shape or form that Pat needs to change his action,” Lee said. ”But there are some things I reckon I could help him with [such as how] to clean his action up to make it a little bit easier on his back.

”The one thing you don’t want as a fast bowler is hyper-extension and counter-rotation [like] he has [and] as I did when I was at the same age … I had that same set-up where there was a lot of twisting and turning in my action, which is where you get your pace from, but it does come at a cost.”

Lee, who retired from first-class cricket to focus his energies on T20 leagues, said he would love to share the insights the great Dennis Lillee, whose own career was affected by stress fractures, offered him years ago when he observed Lee in the nets and suggested how to relieve the forces placed on his then still-growing frame.

”This is a real blow. He’s a great fellow and I just want to see him out on the field and playing.”

Lee said it was frustrating to think Australia’s X-factor would be sidelined and confined to rehabilitation this summer in a series where ”artillery” would be needed. ”I’m shattered for Pat because someone like him bowling 155km/h to 160km/h at the Gabba would be exciting to see,” he said. ”It would be great to see him match what the South Africans have. It’s disappointing and frustrating to think we haven’t got that now, though it’s not the poor bugger’s fault. I’m 100 per cent confident he’ll be back, but I would’ve loved to have seen him bowl to Jacques Kallis who, in my opinion, is the world’s best cricketer.”

Lee added it was important that Australia tried to match the pace South Africa would unleash in this week’s opening Test at the Gabba by selecting a four-pronged pace attack.”Is it going to be a typical Gabba wicket?” he said. ”What I mean by that is if it’s going to be a traditional early part of the season wicket that we’re used to, that has a bit of grass on it. If it is, I’d certainly put my hand up and say let’s go all out for a pace barrage. That’s what South Africa brings to the table, let’s just go and do it. That’s nothing against [spin bowler Nathan] Lyon, but Michael Clarke can play that spinners option if needed.”

While Lee said Australia’s spearheads, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson, provided pace and aggression, he conceded South Africa’s Dale Steyn gave the tourists an edge. ”He bowls 150km/h out-swingers, next question please,” said Lee when asked why Steyn was regarded the world’s best. ”It is as simple as that. No one likes facing fast bowling and he has the ability to move the ball through the air and off the seam as well. When you bowl fast, the ball generally swings later, if you bowl 130km/h the ball swings from the hand. It’s harder, in my opinion, to play a ball that moves late because you’re committed to your shot, your feet are committed to where they need to be as far as the ball goes.

”So when someone like Steyn can bowl 150km/h and swing the ball away in the conditions at Brisbane, it can be very tough for the batsmen.”

Lee said he approved of Steyn’s admission that fast bowling brought his ”killer” instinct to the surface.

”I like to see bowlers with that intimidation factor.

”If someone is bowling 130km/h, he’s not going to intimidate you from a physical chance of getting hurt … he might knock you over like Glenn McGrath did day in, day out. No one likes facing a Shoaib Akhtar, a Shaun Tait or Dale Steyn.”

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Looking to pick a winner in the Melbourne Cup? Max Hitchins reckons he has a foolproof system. He can even tell you which horse came first, second and third in every Melbourne Cup for the past 100 years. He isn’t much interested in other races.
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There is so much data on the internet, he says, and you just need to do a bit of number crunching. Study the form by all means but it’s important to look at the past. Astrological influences can also play a part and bear in mind that jockey silks in gold and yellow are luckiest.

After a lot of research before Cup Day, he reduces his field to six horses. He says his system has been correct for 22 out of the past 24 years – that’s 91 per cent of the time.

He then selects a winner from the six horses. He claims he has got this right 14 of the past 24 times – that is a rate of 58 per cent. So, conversely, he is wrong 42 per cent of the time. Still, he is selling his selections on the morning of the race in a $9.95 e-book guide.

”I’m a devotee, some would say nutter,” he says.

”The reason I started doing this is that my mother-in-law said she always used to back the winner. I asked how she did it and she said she backed every horse each way. She wasted a lot of money just for the privilege of saying you picked the winner.”

At the time of Tuesday’s race, the moon is in the constellation of Cancer and in close aspect to Mercury, Saturn, and Uranus. Scorpio rules the tenth house, and contains Mercury and Mars. Is that clear?

That’s according to the astronomer Alison Moroney, whose syndicated column of predictions regularly reach more than a million Australians and New Zealanders, she says.

She dismisses detractors of astrology, saying they don’t understand the philosophy behind it.

She will make a prediction freely available on her website and has had good success at predicting usually at least two of the first three horses, she says. ”Sometimes it is difficult to predict the order they come in, which is why I sometimes suggest a quinella bet where the order doesn’t matter.”

John Croucher, a professor of statistics at Macquarie Graduate School of Management is one of the detractors. ”If there was any science in it, then all astrologers would give the same tip,” he says.

He also warns about reading too much into the odds on a horse, saying that is just a reflection of the amount of bets placed by punters and not a measure of performance.

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