Plenty of hoops to jump through in jockeys’ game of thrones

Once in a Green Moon: Brett Prebble salutes in last year’s Melbourne Cup. Photo: Justin McManusThe strength at the top of Australia’s riding ranks is as strong as ever and, in the next couple of months, names like Rodd, Boss, Bowman, Cassidy and Rawiller will be linked with the best horseflesh around.
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That is not to mention Dunn, Williams, Nolen, McEvoy and Berry – names punters would love to see to atop any charge they back.

History shows these are the names that will win the majority of the spring group 1s.

There is not that much between top jockeys, so finding and keeping a group 1 ride is important. One thing is clear about big races – they are usually won by big stables and top jockeys.

There are the exceptions like Miracles Of Life in the Blue Diamond. The filly, trained by Daniel Clarken and ridden by apprentice Lauren Stojakovic, is a great story because it is a rarity.

Jockeys work their way to the top of the game by earning their stripes over many years. Consistency counts when it comes to getting group 1 rides.

It makes the emergence of Tom Berry in the past season even more incredible.

Berry, whose twin brother Nathan is also a regular on the Sydney scene, made the most of his opportunities but achieved a unique treble.

He won group 1s for Darley’s Peter Snowden on Epaulette in the Golden Rose, Gai Waterhouse on Overreach in the Golden Slipper, and Chris Waller when he booted home Sacred Falls in the Doncaster. Jockeys have long careers without winning those races.

It is remarkable that he could ride group 1 winners for Sydney’s three biggest stables in one season, especially as he hadn’t won a group 1 at the start of the 2011-12 season.

Amazingly, he went to Hong Kong, the toughest of riding schools, and continued his run by winning the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on Military Attack and rode successfully for the last couple of months of their season.

Where he sits on the jockey scale will be tested during the spring, but success breeds better opportunities and Berry will get his share of chances.

Top riders fall into two categories. Those with stables connections – Kerrin McEvoy and Darley, Nash Rawiller and Berry with Waterhouse. Michael Rodd with Mark Kavanagh, and Luke Nolen and Peter Moody.

Add to that mix last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Brett Prebble, who will ride for Lloyd Williams and put on hold a return to Hong Kong where he has battled for premierships in the past decade.

Interestingly the Waller stable, which won the most group 1s last season, shares its rides around. Hugh Bowman is near the top of the list, alongside names like Glyn Schofield, Jim Cassidy and, when he is available, Nash Rawiller.

The second lot of jockeys freelance their services. Names like Glen Boss and James McDonald have tied up rides on Puissance De Lune and, in the young Kiwi’s case, It’s a Dundeel and Cauthen. These are rides a carnival campaign can be built around.

Cassidy will continue to find group 1 rides and showed he was as good as his younger rivals, winning five times at the top level last season.

Who will emerge as the top jockey comes down to getting on the right horse at the right time, but planning and alliance play a big role in that.

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Brooding about All Blacks no solution for Wallabies

To half of Ewen McKenzie’s new dressing room, the complaints about New Zealand cynically killing the ball will have had a familiar ring to them. As Reds coach, he accused them of doing the same thing for the Brumbies when Queensland hosted them in Brisbane in April. Innocents are hard to find in the professional game, regardless of whether they wear black, gold, red or white.
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Finding the appropriate moment to park those complaints and move forwards can also be elusive but we are at that stage (if not already beyond it). The Wallabies have 10 more Tests this year and just two of those are at home. Seven wins are needed from those 10 just to finish the year with a positive winning percentage. The year has ceased to be about the All Blacks.

Confirmation of the Wallabies’ spring tour came over the weekend and it is a schedule that will only please the bank manager. Over five consecutive weekends in November, the Wallabies will face England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In years gone by, you might have wagered on two of the home unions being in some form of self-inflicted disarray while expecting a limited challenge from the Italians, who were obsessed with simply keeping down the score until they parted with Nick Mallett.

But while it appears Scotland might not secure the services of Kiwi coach Vern Cotter in time for their Murrayfield clash, Ireland’s appointment of his compatriots Joe Schmidt and John Plumtree (recently of the Sharks) signals a very tough game in Dublin and the Italians have a different, and more dangerous, outlook under Jacques Brunel.

England, and particularly Alex Corbisiero, would play their game tomorrow if asked and the Welsh have apparently placed some decent coin into Bill Pulver’s paws to ensure they get a chance at the southern hemisphere scalp they need as hard evidence they belong at the top table. For the Wallabies to go through that month unbeaten would be a heroic achievement and dropping just one game would be no calamity. The lack of a banker game in that itinerary is a reminder, once again, that Super Rugby and Tests are planets apart.

A return to the winners’ circle against the Springboks in two weeks (the Wallabies have not lost four consecutive Tests since 2009) is within the reach of this current squad. Too much can be read into frailties on show against the All Blacks: the Wallabies will not play another side this year that feasts so routinely on errors.

But there is work to do at the selection table to find the answers to a few fundamental questions. Have the Wallabies picked the right players – at the right stages of their Test careers – and have they picked the right players but in the wrong positions? The names start falling into place when you work that out.

Jesse Mogg was nowhere near as bad in Wellington as some have suggested. Some of his first-half work was good (and his second-half determination to kick away possession was merely following the same script as others). But he might not have been ready in the first place.

At No.8, Ben Mowen would be the first to admit he didn’t have a good game in Wellington but it is no reason to drop him. Blindside would seem to be his best position.

There have been a few bruises collected over the past few weeks – the pugnacious coach included. It comes with the territory but the All Blacks are gone – for now. There is no point getting bogged down in it. There are others, from Buenos Aires to Cardiff, lining up to have a crack at the member of Sanzar’s big three they think is the most vulnerable.

Twitter @whiskeycully

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DVD REVIEW: Olympus has Fallen

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (MA)
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Millennium Films, 119 minutes

WELL-ARMED: Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart in Olympus Has Fallen.

DON’T tell anyone, but all you need to overrun the White House and take the president of the United States hostage is a converted C-130 transport plane, 40 commandos, garbage trucks and an inside man or two. If that sounds a little easy, then Olympus Has Fallen would also have you believe that a single belligerent Secret Service agent can save the day.

That dedicated, somewhat impervious, man of action is Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning, a flinty fellow who generally proves he is fluent in McClane, the language introduced by five Die Hard movies.

Banning is first seen as the head of the presidential security detail, which apparently makes him a well-armed friend of president Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his wife, Margaret (Ashley Judd), as well as an avuncular presence to first son Connor (Finley Jacobsen).

That is, until a car accident at a wintry Camp David forces Banning to choose between saving the man he is sworn to protect or his wife. Banning does his job, and is banished by the grieving president. He winds up in the Treasury building, at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, another in a long line of gruff, emotionally withered Secret Service veterans.

Banning is the sole law-enforcement officer in all Washington, DC, to get inside the White House after a ground assault by fanatical North Korean agents begins, and director Antoine Fuqua stages the sequence with tumultuous bravado.

Rating: ★★

– Craig Mathieson

CHEERFUL WEATHER FOR THE WEDDING (MA)

Goldcrest Pictures, 93 minutes

BASED on an obscure novella by the Bloomsbury Group acolyte Julia Strachey, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is a very minor entry in the British heritage stakes, poorly directed by newcomer Donald Rice (son of the lyricist Tim Rice).

The story takes place over a day in 1932 at a country house in Devon where the spirited Dolly Thatchum (Felicity Jones) is preparing to marry the stuffed shirt Owen Bigham (James Norton).

Some comic turns are faintly amusing, but against such a backdrop it’s not surprising the central romance never comes to life.

Technically the film is a mess, filled with clumsily handled flashbacks, fussy close-ups and floating post-dubbed lines of dialogue.

Rating: ★

– Jake Wilson

TIME OF OUR LIVES (M)

ABC (Roadshow), 730 minutes

I APPLAUD the production of Australian drama, be it for the big screen or the small screen. There’s never enough of it and quality comes from experience: the more we make, the better we get.

This program is loaded with a talented cast, from the elegant Claudia Karvan to the hard-working Justine Clarke, from the enigmatic William McInnes to the everyman Shane Jacobson, to chameleon Stephen Curry and gentle beauty Michelle Vegara Moore.

Set in Melbourne, the scene covers family in motion during the prime nesting period of their lives. It is complicated: Clarke and Jacobson have a blended family, with two kids of their own and part-responsibility for Jacobson’s daughter; Karvan and McInnes have one toddler son, but soon break up; Curry and Moore have an attraction, but never make the connection.

Although there are good times, you quickly get conditioned to brace for conflict. The split of Karvan and McInnes is particularly rattling, with Karvan mad as hell that her husband has cheated on her. McInnes feels no pain from the separation for weeks before the penny drops that there are going to be long-term ramifications to his decision.

I’m hopeful if the show gets a second season and a chance to grow that the characters will be allowed to grow, too. Because frankly, this show is a downer.

Like I said, the cast is talented. But they’ve been handed basket-case personalities. There’s got to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Rating: ★★

– Jim Kellar

Police officer wakes up to find colleague sexually assaulting her, court hears

Accused: Timothy John Snow. Photo: Sahlan HayesA Sydney police officer says she woke up to find a senior colleague half naked and sexually assaulting her “with a grin on his face” after an office party, a court has heard.
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Timothy John Snow is accused of getting into bed with the woman, who cannot be identified, and touching her genitals, after she earlier rejected his advances during the party to farewell a colleague in February 2011.

Mr Snow, who held the rank of sergeant at the time, has pleaded not guilty to having sexual intercourse with the woman without her consent and to the alternative charge of indecent assault.

On the opening day of Mr Snow’s trial, Crown prosecutor Frank Veltro said members of a Sydney police squad stayed in a rented apartment on the night of February 17, after a day of golf, drinks and a meal.

“During the course of the speeches a few of the officers moved outside and the complainant found herself sitting next to the accused,” Mr Veltro told the jury at Downing Centre District Court on Monday.

“It’s then the accused placed his hand on her thigh. The complainant picked it up and took it off, but he replaced it.

“The complainant became upset … and even angry and got up and walked away.”

Later that night several colleagues went back to their accommodation and, after lying on the couch with Mr Snow during a group conversation, the woman took a sleeping tablet and got into the bed she was sharing with a female colleague.

Mr Veltro said the colleague will give evidence she heard Mr Snow say “I love you” to the woman, who said, “You can’t, you just need to forget me.”

The trial will be told Mr Snow later returned to the room and got into the bed, before the female colleague left the pair alone, Mr Veltro said.

The alleged victim will give evidence she was asleep and woke up to find her pyjama pants were missing and Mr Snow, who was wearing boxer shorts, was touching her.

“She opened her eyes and saw it was the accused with a grin on his face,” Mr Veltro said.

Mr Veltro said Mr Snow knew the woman was not consenting because she was asleep and he knew she had taken a sleeping tablet and drunk alcohol that night.

Defence barrister Raymond Hood urged the jury to use their common sense when considering the evidence.

Mr Hood said the woman had laid her head in Mr Snow’s lap while they were on the couch before the alleged incident and allowed him to stroke her hair.

There would be evidence the woman also called Mr Snow the next morning, Mr Hood said.

He said the jury would have to consider whether the woman’s evidence, which will be heavily relied on by the Crown, was accurate.

“The lady well knew what was taking place that particular time and she was consenting to what was taking place at that particular time.”

The trial continues before Judge Brian Knox.

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Liberal left sizzling as journalist devours bacon

Not since Richard Torbay’s referral to the Independent Commission Against Corruption has political fundraising in Armidale caused such a fuss.
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On Monday morning, the president of the Liberal party’s Northern Tablelands state electorate conference, James Ellis, hosted a breakfast at the Armidale Bowling Club.

The star attraction was NSW energy minister Chris Hartcher. Attendees were charged the modest ticket price of $40 per head, with breakfast thrown in.

The event was significant enough for the local paper, the Armidale Express, to send cadet reporter Samantha-Jo Harris to cover.

But things turned decidedly ugly when Harris made the fateful decision to devour a plate of bacon, eggs, sausage and tomato placed in front of her while listening to Mr Hartcher’s speech on regional energy and resource policy.

Harris says no-one took umbrage at the time but clearly Mr Ellis was not impressed, firing off a terse email to her boss, Express editor Lydia Roberts.

“I had guaranteed that you would not be invoiced for the cost of the ticket to the breakfast for your journalist attending, on the condition that she would be there to get the story,” Mr Ellis wrote.

“She was the only journalist in attendance. I don’t think you relayed this to Samantha as she was served breakfast and did not refuse it.”

The problem, Mr Ellis explained, was that the Liberals “had paid for strictly 40 seats at this event. Everyone paid – including senior cabinet ministers who were present (as this was a fundraiser). This meant that I forwent a meal so that somebody else wouldn’t”.

In an apparent attempt to extract some benefit for his foregone breakfast, Mr Ellis concluded: “I trust that this breakfast will get a good write up in Wednesday’s edition of the Express?”

Mr Ellis – who last year ran unsuccessfully for a spot on Armidale Dumaresq council and rejoices in the Twitter handle @jamesdoesitbeta – told Fairfax Media the email was “done in a tongue in cheek way” and wasn’t a serious complaint.

“I went and had some breakfast at home when I left,” he explained. “So that was good”.

For her part, Harris said the breakfast was simply too enormous to manage: “I think I left about half on the plate”.

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