On Saturday, Australia witnessed one of the true rites of passage to the Southern Hemisphere Spring when Melbourne went head-to-head with Sydney for the start of their respective Spring racing carnivals; Rosehill had all the prize money but Caulfield had all the class.

The two feature races on offer were the Group 1 Golden Rose at Rosehill and the Group 2 Memsie Stakes at Caulfield. Both were run over 1400m (seven furlongs) and were weight for age for horses three-year-old or better. That’s where the similarities end.

Do you ever ken where a bonnie name like Memsie comes from? Well they have been running the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield for so long now (110 years to be precise) that a lot of people at the Melbourne Racing Club seem a little unsure of its origins.

Some thought it might be the name of a famous mare or filly; someone’s mother or a broodmare (if that’s not the same thing). But no, it is just a pile of rocks.

The memsie

It is a very fine pile of rocks, mind. And it dates back from the 2nd millennium BC. It is the burial cairn of Memsie, which is in a little village in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

In 1833, John Catto left his native Scotland to seek his fortune in the new colony of New South Wales (which is what we called Australia before we got television). He settled as a squatter on a substantial spread on the Loddon River in the Port Phillip District of NSW (which is what we called Victoria before we got reading glasses).

Naturally, he called his new home on Catto’s run “Memsie” after the village from where he had come. He was blessed twice more when gold was discovered on his property; and he sired a fine strong boy, who was also called John Catto.

This John Catto went on to become Scotch College’s finest all-rounder in the 19th century — even taking out the school’s dancing prize in 1869. He subsequently followed his father into both pastoral and mining pursuits and was equally successful. John was also greatly interested in horse racing and raced a number of them with considerable success at Caulfield.

The Memsie Stakes was named in his honour and first run in 1899. Past winners have included Phar Lap, Rising Fast, Comic Court, Galilee, Ajax, Lord and Manikato. The horses running in this year’s Memsie included the last two Melbourne Cup winners and the last Cox Plate winner.

By comparison, the Golden Rose is but a pup. It began life in 2003 (previously the Peter Pan Stakes) and had to be run twice last year as they missed 2007 entirely because of Equine Influenza. The last (Autumn) winner was Forensics. You can forget the rest.

But like a skinny rat with a gold tooth, the Golden Rose is worth $1 million compared to the more modest Memsie purse of $200,000. Perhaps the Melbourne Lord Mayor is right when he describes Sydney as a city with a wallet but not a heart.

THE HORSES

Denman, the winner at Rosehill, is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, one of the world’s richest men, Absolute Ruler of Dubai and the owner of many things and many people. Darley is Maktoum’s global breeding operation which currently stands stallions in six countries. Godolphin is the global racing stable he set up in 1994.

Mic Mac, the winner at Caulfield, comes from the other side of the breeding tracks. Both his grandfather, Storm Cat, and his father, Statue of Liberty, originally hail from the rival Coolmore Stud in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. His mum was Amandine (by Tartian). He is a 4YO black gelding (he’s been snipped) and is trained by Greg Eurell at Cranbourne.

THE JOCKEYS

Outside of — but not excluding the use of whips — the jockey cat fight between Nikita Beriman and Stacey Rawiller, sister of top jockeys Brad and Nash Rawiller, after the sixth race at Echuca last Monday, is the major talking point among, and about, the hoops; without whom, horseracing would be, well just … horseracing.

Racing Victoria stewards have charged Beriman with misconduct in that she pushed then struck apprentice Stacey Rawiller three times with a clenched fist in the female jockeys’ room on August 24. The matter has rightly been referred to the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board where Beriman will defend the charge.

Head steward, Heidi Lester, said she had witnessed the incident: “I entered the room and witnessed Beriman strike Rawiller three times in the head with a clenched fist.” Beriman said: “Stacey threw her whip at me and, in the heat of the moment, I did lose the plot. I’d been pushed to my limit and I’m not 100 per cent sure what I did and how.”

The altercation allegedly started when Rawiller entered the female jockeys’ room after the sixth race and Beriman abused her riding tactics: “I’d only taken two steps in the door when Nikita said ‘what the f-ck were you thinking out there’,” Rawiller told the inquiry.

“Nikita went from sitting down to getting up and coming towards me in a threatening way. She pushed me. I felt threatened. I could see by the look on her face she wasn’t going to stop at that. That’s why I raised my whip. Nikita said I threw it at her, but I raised it to protect myself.” Rawiller said she dropped the whip rather than throw it at Beriman.

Beriman says she may have struck out at Rawiller after having the whip thrown at her: “When she raised the whip and threw it at me, my retaliation might have been to hit her to protect myself, but I don’t recall actually hitting her,” she said. No action has been taken against Rawiller, who allegedly sustained bruising to her face and a fat lip.

Beriman is the girlfriend of the brother of Jarrod McLean, who is the trainer of TP Maher’s new favourite racehorse, Nicastro (by Testa Rossa). She shot to prominence winning the Group 1 Emirates Stakes on rank outsider Tears I Cry at Flemington in the spring of 2007. She is my kind of gal but in need of some anger management.

Dan Nikolic won at Caulfield and Kerrin McEvoy won at Rosehill but hey, who cares.

THE RECKONING

Wagering and gambling are, by their very nature, delusional. Both winners were favourites at roughly $3 on TAB Sportsbet and your correspondent would have doubled his money if he had had the good sense to back both horses straight out to win. But, no, the foolish old man knew better than to employ common sense and so plunked his hard earned on a hunch that exotic betting combinations (a standout first 4 in Sydney and a flexi trifecta in Melbourne) would ultimately bring better returns than the low hanging fruit on offer at the tote. He did his dough, once again. The idiot plans to get it all back next weekend at the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington. Q.E.D.

Peter Fray

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