Posted by: jkirkby8712 | December 31, 2011

Saturday, 31st December 2011 [Blog 1] – significant Sporting/Racing events of 2011

One of the many ‘betting’ organisations floating around Australia these days, with which I occasionally do a small amount of ‘investing’ have come up with their list of the top 10 Sporting Moments from 2011, and the Top 10 [Horse] Racing Moments for 2011.  ‘Betchoice’ listed their choices in reverse order [10 down to 1], but I’m going to place them in order from first choice down.  Incidentally, I agree totally with 1 & 2 in both categories.   Now admittedly, ‘most’ of these choices are from an Australian perspective [particularly the horse racing section] and one could no doubt find many examples around the world that might outplace these events. Also a bit too much emphasise, to my mind, on football codes, but then for a betting organisation, that is a part of their ‘bread and butter’ from an earnings point of view.  But that’s okay, recognition is still credible, and I guess if this was an American organisation, we would have ten selections of baseball, basketball and gridiron dominating the scene.  From the Australian perspective, I can immediately see a couple of glaring omissions, which deserve to be up in the No. 3 & 4 positions of sporting achievements –  Samantha Stoser winning the US Open Tennis Championship, and Australia’s Women’s Soccer team, winning the Asian Cup Final, and going down to Sweden in the Womens’ World Cup [eventually won by Japan for the first time, which is probably a significant on it’s own]…….and so the list could go on.

The first name mentioned below – Cadel Evans, winner of the 2011 Tour de France – was the subject of a book given to me for Christmas by daughter, Susan – ‘Cadel Evans: The Long Road To Paris’. More or less a ‘coffee table’ book, it was more in the form of an ‘illustrated’ history of his cycling career, from 1994 until this year. So in pictures mainly, with selections of prose throughout the book, it was an easy read accompanied by some inspiring pictures, some of which revealed the magnificent scenery that the road cyclist travels through on his races, but seldom actually appreciates at the time. As described, the book provided ‘A rare and revealing look at the way a top rider races both mentally and physically’. A couple of the quotations from Cadel Evans, I’ve noted, and repeat below.

  • “I like to promote our sport, and sport in general. It’s great that because of my results, people in Australia who had never watched cycling saw every night of the Tour and loved every minute of it. People are discovering cycling and I’m excited about that”.
  • “When you have success it breeds motivation, confidence, everything. I just rode more and more because I could, for a start, but also because I liked it. I got better and better so I rode more and more. As much time as I had, I rode. Any spare time was spent on the bike. That’s all my training was. I didn’t mean to be a bike rider; it was like, ‘Oh, this is good; I like this. You can make a profession out of this?!’ And from that point onwards, I wanted to be a bike rider”.
  • “A major part of Lance Armstrong’s success in the Tour de France was his strong team. Our success was thanks to a strong team bond…………………………….  Every day the team delivered me to where I really needed to be, and that left me fresh and ready to finish off the job”.

10 Top Sporting Moments [according to ‘Betchoice]  in 2011.

No. 1 – Cadel rides into History.   Cadel Evans became the first Australian ever to win the Tour de France. To put this victory in perspective, it is widely regarded as being the best achievement by an Australian sportsperson in history. Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck were expected to fight out this year’s event, with Evans being posted as a $15 chance prior to the start. Right up to the last race at Champs Elysees the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, along with Evans, remained as possible winners of the Tour.

No. 2 – Sally Pearson winning the 100m Hurdles at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Sally Pearson became a national heroine when she took home World Championship gold in Daegu. Her time of 12.28 seconds was the fastest in 19 years and was not only quite possibly the most dazzling display at this year’s world championships – outshining even the great Usain Bolt – but it stamped her as the best 100m hurdler of her generation. This saw her named Female International Association of Athletics Federation Athlete of the Year.

No. 3 – Warriors v Storm NRL Preliminary Final.   The Warriors went to Melbourne as big outsiders to qualify for the 2011 NRL Grand Final, despite having an enviable winning record over the Storm in games played in the southern capital. After giving up a soft early try to Sika Manu, one of the more physical confrontations of the finals series ensued and the Warriors were able to contain the attacking triumvirate of Smith, Cronk and Slater. They were looking like the better side in the first 40 minutes and going to the break 14-12 ahead. The second half was an arm wrestle with both teams having chances to blow the game open and, despite their apparent dominance, the Warriors’ two point lead felt like it was never going to be enough – enter Shaun Johnson. The rookie half came up with the signature play of the finals to finally put the Warriors over the top as he turned Kevin Proctor inside out and made Cooper Cronk a spectator in sending Lewis Brown to the line. James Maloney’s sideline conversion pushed the margin to eight with two minutes to play and the Warriors were through to their second Grand Final.

No. 4 – First 0-0 blockbuster, excites the A league fans The A-League Grand Final for season 2010/11 will go down as one of the most exciting games of soccer ever in held in Australia. The game ended in a 0-0 draw in regular time. extra time, the Central Coast scored twice and appeared to be certain victors; however three minutes from time, the Roar scored twice and forced a penalty shootout. Brisbane won the game 4-2 on penalties to take out the title and, in doing so, extended their unbeaten run to 27 games.

No. 5 – Last Day of the MLB Regular Season considered the best ever day in baseball.   After a 162 game regular season, you would be surprised that a marathon could finish by a nose and a nose. But that’s exactly what happened this year, which baseball fans are calling the best single day ever. Let’s start with the Tampa Bay Rays who were down 8 games at the start of the month, and down 7-0 in this game (they would have been about 80-1 just to win the game at this stage, as the NY Yankees still had Riveria to play, who is easily considered the best closer in history). The Rays had to win to force a one-game playoff with the Boston Red Sox. So, after scoring six runs in the 8th and another run in the 9th, it was Evan Longaria’s homer in the 12th which saw them make the playoffs with the final at bat for the season. Whilst this was being played out, over in Baltimore, the Red Sox were leading 3-2 going into the 9th innings and trying to save their season, as they were in the midsts of an all-time historic collapse. Unfortunately for the Red Sox coach and General Manager, the Orioles scored two in the 9th and both ended up getting sacked in the off season. 96 secs saw jobs lost and tears of joy in Tampa. If that’s not enough, the National League had their own historic collapse in the form of the Atlanta Braves! The Cardinals who were 10½ games behind the Wild Card spot on August the 25th, and trading at well over 150-1 to win the World Series, went 23 from 31 games and were sitting pretty, winning 8-0 over Houston and expecting to play the Atlanta Braves for a one-game playoff. Yet Atlanta who lead 3-1 going to the 7th innings, allowed the Phillies to score in the 7th, 9th and then the 13th innings which saw Atlanta not make the playoffs and St Louis, who ended up being eventual World Series winners, make one of the greatest season comebacks, on simply the most exciting days baseball has ever seen.

No. 6 – Brisbane bites all Aussie Football codes and roars to longest unbeaten streak.   Ange Postecoglou’s chargers created history when they broke the all-time longest unbeaten streak in any Australian football code, which had stood for 74 years. Their 4-nil win over Perth Glory in November was their 36th consecutive game without a loss, an outstanding achievement on the back of their Grand Final win earlier in the year. The win saw them surpass the mighty Eastern Suburbs Roosters team of the 1930s.

No. 7 – Paul Gallen State of Origin 2.   Paul Gallen’s effort in State of Origin 2 will go down as one of the best individual performances of all time. Playing with injury and out of position in the front row, Gallen’s heroics gained the Blues an 18-8 win and kept them alive in the series. The Blues opening price in Origin 2 went up to $2.30 and was crunched by the punters, eventually starting at $2.10 by kick off.

No. 8 – Queensland Reds Super 15 Victory.   In a sport which cops its fair share of criticism for dull, boring play, the Queensland Reds were a breath of fresh air in the 2011 Super 15 season. The Reds running rugby style, led by their halves Quade Cooper and Will Genia, paved the way to victory in the Final against the Crusaders. The result could have gone either way right up to the end but the Reds held on 18-13. This game was played at break-neck speed throughout and the skills shown confirmed that both of these teams were deserving finalists. Despite the home ground advantage, the Reds were $2.45 outsiders.

No. 9 – Darren Clarke wins British Open. Without doubt, the most inspirational story of the year was Darren Clarke winning the claret jug at Royal St George’s, giving the 23 year tour veteran his first major championship. The win was made even more special following the loss of his wife, Heather, in 2006 to breast cancer. Clarke led the tournament from go to woe, fending off challenges from Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. The courage the Northern Irelander showed on and off the course made him the most popular winner of the Open championship.

No. 10 – Tiger ‘out of the’ Woods.  After a 749 day drought, Eldrick won his own tournament – the Chevron World Challenge in California. Having had to endure the public humiliation of his break up with the Mrs, and being called a black a*hole by his former caddie, Tiger Woods finally won a tournament. Most in the golfing world hope this will bring back the fans and the money that follows Tiger Woods.

10 Top Horse Racing Moments [according to ‘Betchoice]  in 2011.

No. 1 – Black Caviar bringing people to the races to witness her brilliance, she has captivated the nation It has been quite amazing this year seeing this once in a lifetime racehorse captivate the attention of not only horse racing fans, punters and sports lovers but the general public and people right around the world. Black Caviar and her connections; who have been so willing to share this wonderful journey with everyone are racing in Australia’s greatest asset at the moment. In terms of talent, the fact that she has been raced in different states and at the top level there is no horse anywhere near her and, in 2012, we get to see her take on the world. People turning up to the track in masks, queuing up for interviews, autographs, pictures and free to air media coverage is something only this horse and very few have done before; they are Champions of the Australian Turf.

No. 2 – Black Caviar winning the T.J Smith stakes at Royal Randwick.   We regard this as her best win in 2011. She had to run down a horse that was absolutely flying at the time in Hay List and Black Caviar was out of her comfort zone. It was the first time she had raced the clockwise direction and met Hay List when he was fully fit. When they turned for home, Hay List looked off and gone with the Group One; however, Black Caviar not only picked him up but ended up winning in style. The margin to the rest of the field put in perspective how good these horses were and further emphasised the quality of Black Caviar. It is no surprise that she has gone on to equal and break so many records after this win and there is no doubt more will come.

No. 3 – Dunaden winning the Melbourne Cup.   Much has been made this year of the imports and international raiders coming to Australia for ‘The race that stops a nation’ but we have to take check and realise these horses are better stayers and, if we want to start to develop quality distance horses, changes in scheduling, breeding and prize money will need to be addressed in Australia. The Cup was as close as you will get to a dead heat, it brought back memories of Viewed and Bauer only a few years ago and the theatre on the track post race with both excitement and disappointment there for everyone to see shows how great this race is.

No. 4 – Sepoy winning the Golden Slipper.   This colt dominated the 2yo races in 2011 and, along with his trainer, Peter Snowden, they put the icing on the cake in the world’s richest juvenile event, the Golden Slipper. He destroyed his rivals in emphatic style in the Slipper and then to come back as a 3yo later in the year and continue his brilliance by beating the older horses in the Manikato Stakes stamped him as one of our best horses. It will be a shame to see him head to Dubai but at least Snowden has the opportunity to train him for further Group One glory along with his son Paul, who has been a major factor in the horse’s success.

No. 5 – Helmet winning the Caulfield Guineas.   A war is the best way to describe this time honoured race in 2011. Helmet, owned by the all powerful Darley operation, fought out a great struggle with Manawanui, owned by a group of mates from Warwick Farm that kept knocking back big offers for their horse. The race was run flat out and was a great spectacle. Helmet had been the medium of a massive betting plunge in the 24 hours leading up to the race and Kerrin McEvoy took no prisoners from the outset. Manawanui never shirked the task and kept coming to only just be defeated in a race that revived memories of past Caulfield Guineas when Redoute’s Choice and Testa Rossa fought out an epic battle. Helmet’s win in the Guineas was one to remember.

No. 6 – Craig Williams winning the Caulfield Cup and WS Cox Plate with ground saving 10/10 rides Group One races are hard to win at the best of times and plenty must go your way in the race to get the result – the jockey plays a very big part and this Spring we saw some unbelievably good rides that definitely won their horse the big race. In the Caulfield Cup, Craig Williams rode Southern Speed along the fence saving ground the whole way and from the 800m mark you pretty much knew this horse would be winning the Cup. Who would have thought that seven days later Williams could produce an even better ride in the W.S Cox Plate aboard Pinker Pinker around the tight Moonee Valley track to win another of the big Spring features? Whilst unlucky to get suspended and miss the ride aboard Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup, Williams was lucky enough to win aboard the French galloper in Hong Kong in December to cap off a career best year for the hoop.

No. 7 – Manawanui winning the Golden Rose.   This race had it all with the star colts trained by high profile stables dominating the betting and headlines all week yet come race day the great story of Ron Leemon and his faithful owners out at Warwick Farm got their biggest thrill when Manawanui took out the Golden Rose. Helmet and Smart Missile got caught up at the back of field trying to beat each other with interference and hard luck stories the order of the day but it was Glyn Schofield who was off and gone with the prize, his celebration showed the emotion of what the win meant to him.

No. 8 – Atlantic Jewel emerging as a potential superstar.   Plenty has been stated about how good Black Caviar is and it is very premature and a touch reckless to suggest that we could be seeing another horse as good as her, but Atlantic Jewel sure does look a special galloper. Her incredible turn of foot is something special and the Thousand Guineas win amongst others just showed how far superior she was to any of the 3yo fillies running around in Australia. It will be great to see her in 2012 take on her own age but if she can step up and maybe challenge a More Joyous in the Coolmore or Queen of The Turf that would be a sight to see. Let’s hope the Atlantic Jewel star continues to rise.

No. 9 – Cup week at Flemington again showing how good racing can be both on and off the track.   It is extremely hard to be negative towards the Melbourne Spring Carnival, in particular Cup Week at Flemington that continues to get big crowds, great horses and good betting year in and year out. Why is it that this Carnival seems so much better than anything else around Australia? We might not have the answers but those in charge particularly in NSW need to probably work out why. The coverage between free to air and Pay TV providers could be done better but, overall, the massive attendances, great racing and big betting turnover are a highlight each year on the racing calendar.

No. 10 – Karuta Queen wining the Magic Millions.   This horse has developed some sort of cult following in 2011. After winning the Magic Millions on the Gold Coast as a 2yo, many race goers loved the story of old bush Trainer Neville Layt’s flying filly from Queanbeyan and young jockey Tommy Berry. One of the great stories was when she took on Black Caviar at Caulfield during the Spring in the Schillaci Stakes, whilst not winning her connections were that excited about running second behind the champion they were going to get a photo for their wall showing how close they came to the great mare.

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