The Weekly A-Z


The curtain on another season will be drawn tomorrow afternoon following a match-up best described as a promoter’s dream. Adelaide superstar Erin Phillips will chase a third flag when her Crows host Daisy Pearce’s Melbourne at Adelaide Oval. The pair have been headline acts in the AFLW since its inception and it is fitting they will square off on the biggest stage of all before what is anticipated to be a huge crowd.


Mr Brightside joined some equine legends with his stirring effort to claim last Saturday’s Group 1 Doncaster Mile. It was expected that in-form mare Forbidden Love or I’m Thunderstruck would be joining the honour roll that contains the likes of Winx, Super Impose and Sunline (to name a few) going into the race and during the concluding stages. But the effort of Mr Brightside, prepared by Hayes siblings Ben and JD, surged late to take the spoils. The scenes afterwards of jubilant owners belting out The Killers’ hit song Mr Brightside were simply outstanding.


Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”, but there might not be a great deal of affection shown towards Matisse Thybulle from Philadelphia 76ers supporters. Thybulle was listed “ineligible to play” in this morning’s match against the Raptors in Toronto, where players have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter Canada. Given the Raptors and 76ers could well be crossing paths again in the play-offs, Thybulle’s reticence to be vaccinated looms as a huge issue. And we all know Philadelphia sports fans are an unforgiving bunch.


Oh how good it must have felt for WA coach Adam Voges, captain Shaun Marsh and the remainder of the players and officials driving to the WACA Ground this week for day five of the Sheffield Shield final against Victoria. A wonderful partnership on day four between Sam Whiteman and Aaron Hardie ensured the hosts could not lose the final and once the lead was extended beyond reach and only one more wicket fell on day five, it was agreed to call time early. A first-class drought that had stretched beyond 20 years was no more. Congratulations to all concerned.


As hard as it is to get your head around, the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers will be spectators during the NBA play-offs. No joke. They are out of the title race. The 121-110 loss at the hands of Western Conference heavyweights Phoenix this week ripped the post-season option out of the Lakers’ hands. They entered the campaign with an ageing group, one that was seemingly assembled at the behest of James. Poor form and injuries though proved an Achilles Heel and the next big story, aside from who will be crowned NBA champions, is what the Lakers of 2022-23 actually looks like.


All eyes have been on the skies in Sydney this week as nervous participants wonder whether day two of The Championships proceeds without incident. Considering the amount of rain that fell yesterday, it would be a huge feather in the cap of the track staff if all 10 races were run. But that seems to be the intention providing there isn’t a further deluge between now and tomorrow morning. It would be an astonishing accomplishment.


Is what Fremantle can do at Optus Stadium tomorrow night with another victory over GWS. The Dockers leapt back into the top eight with their thrashing of West Coast and provided they finish their three-game home stand with a positive result, will improve to 3-1 and be well placed in their pursuit of a finals berth. The expected return from injury and illness of Sean Darcy and David Mundy respectively is a huge plus, especially with Giants back man Nick Haynes (ankle) joining Phil Davis (hamstring) on the sidelines.


How could you not be impressed with what Nature Strip produced last weekend to clinch a third consecutive TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick? If you weren’t, you are either a flat-out hater or have no pulse whatsoever. It was the hulking sprinter at his peerless best, a positive James McDonald ride enabling him to find the front and deliver the greatest grand final trainer of all, Chris Waller, a very easy watch. Nature Strip now boasts 20 wins from 37 starts for more than $18 million in prizemoney and bonuses.


I Am Invincible has been a revelation ever since he entered the breeding barn. The powerful stallion with a runner-up finish behind Takeover Target in the Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville at his only Group 1 appearance, throws spectacular types with an ability to transfer their good looks into racetrack success. I Am Invincible’s standing in the Australian breeding space was underlined at this week’s Easter Yearling Sale in Sydney when 31 of yearlings were sold at a jaw-dropping average of $725,800. His stock continues to be all the rage in the southern hemisphere.


Anyone with a keen interest in WA racing knows the Amelia’s Jewel story. From how Peter Walsh purchased her dam to how the filly ended up in the stable of Simon Miller. And we saw how devastating the two-year-old was when the plan came together in last Saturday’s Group 2 Karrakatta Plate (1200m) at Ascot. But perhaps the best news story out of the celebrated victory came in the aftermath when Walsh declared Amelia’s Jewel would continue to do her racing in the stable of Miller for the foreseeable future. You can bet your bottom dollar (and the one you “loaned” off your housemate) that her first-up run next campaign will be one of the most eagerly anticipated in all of Australia.


It would take a very optimistic person to suggest Ken Hinkley will negotiate all of the 2022 home-and-away season. Make no mistake, we are not death riding him here. Rather, posing the question over his future. Hinkley has been a very successful coach over a long period of time at Alberton, but there comes a time when a fresh voice is required. Having coughed up two home preliminary finals in the past two years and starting a fresh season 0-4 doesn’t scream contract extension. How Port, who are missing some proven performers through injury, respond to a rocky opening month will be watched with a great deal of interest.


Cam Smith boasts a brilliant record at the US Masters, making the cut in all five appearances and finishing runner-up in 2020. Therefore it was little surprise to see him near the head of the markets to become the second Australian behind Adam Scott to don the green jacket. The Queenslander did his chances no harm in a rollercoaster of an opening round, carding a four-under-par 68 to be the leading Aussie. WA young gun Min Woo Lee and Marc Leishman fired 71s, Adam Scott and Lucas Herbert 72s, while Cam Davis signed for a 73.


Journey into the southern part of the USA and you will encounter a fistful of Magnolia Lanes. But there is one that stands head and shoulders above all others … the one that is the is the pathway into Augusta National Golf Club, the venue each April for the US Masters. There is the Open Championship in the UK, but for all its rich history, it doesn’t boast the mystique of the year’s opening major in a town that has precious little going for it other than this time of the year when hundreds of thousands of people arrive for a glimpse of something very special.


How good did that sound following last month’s F1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia? Well, it is even better now that the “circus” has arrived in Melbourne ahead of the weekend’s race. It has been three years since we have witnessed a F1 Down Under, with the events surrounding the cancellation of the 2020 race shambolic to say the least. Let’s hope that Daniel Ricciardo and his McLaren team can come up with a competitive car for Sunday.


Hitotsu produced his latest “Hold My Beer” moment at Randwick last Saturday, overcoming a heavy track and the odds that suggested a second-up Group 1 appearance over 2400m were too great, to snare the Australian Derby. It was a stunning display by a colt who has won his past three starts at the elite level — the Victoria Derby (2500m), Australian Guineas (1600m) and Australian Derby. It was as if the son of Maurice turned his head in the direction of Anamoe and said “the floor is yours”. We await the response of Anamoe as he endeavours to prove he is the best colt in the country in tomorrow’s $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).


That is what Brisbane Broncos enforcer Payne Haas has become. There can be no two ways about it. Vision of him scuffling with teammate Albert Kelly earlier this year outside a hotel surfaced this week, casting doubt on whether Haas actually understands the responsibility that comes with being a headline act in the NRL. While this latest incident isn’t a hanging offence, the fact the league is looking to suspend him once the police have finalised their investigation suggests their patience is wearing thin.


Fittingly, it comes from Godolphin Australia head trainer James Cummings regarding Anamoe ahead of his role in the best race we have seen in 2022 — the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick. “I was very pleased with his training this morning. I am regularly quite pleased with his lead-in, but I would have to say … I don’t want to put pressure on the horse … but I would have to say I was even more pleased than I was leading into the Cox Plate.” How good!!!


The Perth Wildcats asked the question. It was the one everybody expected would be asked. Would the NBL be willing to allow them to recruit John Brown in the back end of the regular season to assist their championship push? The league came back with a flat no, leaving coach Scott Morrison and his banged-up squad to soldier on without the American, who had been training with the club after leaving his club in Russia in the hope of pulling on the red singlet.


On what we have read and heard, the simple one for the Hawthorn Football Club would be to go to president Jeff Kennett and ask that he walk away. It would bring an earlier than expected end to his second stint at the helm of the Hawks. It is certainly what Cyril Rioli and his wife Shannyn would like as we learn about they what perceive to be a racist attitude existent at the club. But Kennett hasn’t got to where he is without having more front than Myer … the former Victorian Premier would rather stand his ground than walk away. But the Rioli issue is messy, sad and at this stage, not possessing an end date. Nobody wins if there is a status quo.


We haven’t quite got there yet, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock if Trix Of The Trade assumed favouritism by the time the field jumps for tomorrow’s Group 2 WATC Derby (2400m) at Ascot. There was a mountain of money for the Colin Webster-trained gelding in the Listed Melvista Stakes (2200m) a fortnight ago and he ran out of his skin, grabbing second behind Alaskan God, currently heading up the market for the classic. It looks like a match race between the two and one where the supporters of both could well make their presence felt in the bookmakers’ ring.


Brenton Avdulla loves his life as a hoop. We have heard him speak regularly about how he thrives on competing with his good mates inside the jockeys’ room, all the while relishing the camaraderie. We know also that he can add so much to the sport with his unbridled delight at a big-race win. That was the case last Saturday with his “come with me” gesture to Tommy Berry aboard She’s Extreme as Fireburn gave that filly windburn in the Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m). His bow on Lasqueti Spirit in the VRC Oaks (2500m) in 2016 is also the stuff of legend. Stewards take a dim view of such actions (and that is understandable), but it certainly provides great theatre.


To see how the market for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes shakes out. Verry Elleegant was beaten by Montefilia as a $1.24 favourite in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill last month. Granted, she meets a field dripping in class in the $4 million Queen Elizabeth, but is $3.20 with TABtouch. It is a juicy quote for a mare with proven wet-track form, is prepared by the best trainer in this country and has the services of her regular rider James McDonald.


Actions speak louder than words. If we have heard that saying once, we have heard it a million times. So, even taking into account the wretched run with personnel West Coast have battled because of injury and COVID-19, the footballing public is ready for the Eagles to play with more freedom. The chip-mark, possession-based game that served them well became inefficient in 2021 and despite promises of an overhaul, we haven’t seen it thus far this year. There are going to be times when sides need to switch the ball, but West Coast’s reticence to take the western derby on was extremely disappointing. The response against Collingwood will be fascinating.


In what has been a mediocre season for North Melbourne, the form of Tristan Xerri has been a shining light. So much so that his output has dwarfed that of Todd Goldstein and is setting the foundation for him to assume the No.1 ruck role at the Kangaroos for years to come. In three matches this year, Xerri has averaged 14 disposals, 22 hit-outs, four clearances, three marks and four tackles. He is also averaging 10 contested possessions a match, numbers which have flowed off the back of an outstanding pre-season.


Are Richmond that? Or are they just yellow and black? It depends on which side of the divide you sit. There are those who were bullish about the prospects of the Tigers in 2022. A more traditional pre-season and returning to the MCG on a regular basis were viewed as big ticks. But the ageing group with serious miles on the clock and injury concerns to key veterans were considered a red flag to others. The losses to Carlton and St Kilda this year have been alarming and raised the stakes for tomorrow night’s showdown with the Western Bulldogs at the MCG. A 1-3 start would be worrying.


A lazy $3 million. That is what a Zoustar x Solar Charged colt made on Wednesday, topping the pops at the Easter Yearling Sale. A full brother to multiple Group 1 winner Sunlight, who was purchased by Coolmore as a broodmare for $4.2 million in 2020, the colt was bought by Tom Magnier. All in all, it was a super sale for Zoustar, with his yearlings average nearly $600,000.