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Monthly Archives: February 2019

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Commuters hit as wild weather lashes the south

The damage: A car is crushed under a fallen tree as a man pushes a bicycle nearby following a storm, in Hornsey, north London. Photo: Yui MokA major storm is battering southern Britain, with winds of almost 160km/h tearing through property and causing flooding and major travel disruption.

The wild weather closed down a major British port, causing two ferries carrying more than 450 passengers to be stranded in stormy seas off Dover, according to French authorities.

‘‘Two ferries are blocked due to the closure of Dover port, one carrying 398 passengers and the other 65,’’ said the harbour master’s office at the French port of Calais on Monday.

The situation was said to be under control.

On the mainland, more than 7000 homes in the Bristol and Bath area have reportedly been left without power, flights and rail services across the country have been cancelled or delayed and there is widespread flooding in southern England as rain and hurricane-force winds arrived from the southwest.

Trees have been brought down by high winds, damaging property, and a number of roads left impassable by floodwater.

The rough conditions led to rescuers standing down the search for a 14-year-old boy who was washed out to sea from a beach in Newhaven, East Sussex, on England’s south coast on Sunday afternoon.

In northwest France 30,000 homes were without electricity early on Monday, said the ERDF distribution network, after wind gusts reached 133km/h in some areas knocking down power lines but no major damage or injury were reported.

Britain’s Met Office said wind reached more than 160km/h on the Isle of Wight at 5am and the Environment Agency has issued 14 flood warnings for the southwest, as well as 146 flood alerts for the rest of England and Wales.

Commuters and travellers were warned to expect major disruptions to services.

About 60 flights were cancelled at London’s Heathrow Airport on Monday, while ferry journeys have also been disrupted.

Robin Gisby from line operator Network Rail said: ‘‘If we get through this in the morning, restore the service during the afternoon and are able to start up a good service on Tuesday morning, in the circumstances I’ll be pretty pleased.’’

Cross-channel train service Eurostar said it would not be running trains on Monday until 7.00am, meaning delays to early services.

Several ferry operators said they had cancelled some cross-Channel services and Irish Sea crossings.

The so-called St Jude Storm hit the southwest late on Sunday night before tracking north eastwards across England and southern Wales throughout Monday morning.

The Met Office issued an ‘‘amber’’ wind warning for the region, the third highest in a four-level scale, and urged people to delay their Monday morning journeys to work to avoid the worst of the bad weather.


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Dami Im races to number one in the charts after X Factor win

Dami Im during her finals performance. Happy tears: When Dami was declared X-Factor champion. Photo: Channel Seven

Ratings: X Factor smashes recordsDami Im: Australia’s pop star

Newly-crowned X Factor winner Dami Im has made an immediate impact, going straight to the top of the iTunes charts with her winner’s single, Alive.

Im, who fulfilled her favouritism to beat Taylor Henderson and Jai Waetford to the fifth X Factor title, performed the song at the end of Monday night’s finale.

While an iTunes number one is somewhat predictable for a reality talent show winner, the fact it came within 12 hours of her victory is a sign of popular she has become.

There is also considerable competition in the charts at present. One Direction is at number two in the iTunes charts, Guy Sebastian at three and Katy Perry at four, with the year’s longest-running number one (in the ARIA singles charts), Roar.

Im also has the number five song in the iTunes charts, And I’m Telling You, the song which most likely won her the title. She delivered a stunning version of Jennifer Hudson’s song during the grand final performance show on Sunday night.

In the final act of a glitzy two-hour finale on Monday, Queenslander Im, 24, was named X Factor champion, after 24 hours of public voting. Im placed her hand over her mouth and sank to her knees when the result was announced by host Luke Jacobz.

Momentarily unable to get up, she recovered, thanking God and said she wanted to use the win to “help daggy losers like me”.

Redfoo, one of the show’s judge’s said Im was “too good” and another, Natalie Bassingthwaite, said “no matter what you do it’s flawless”.

Victoria’s Taylor Henderson, 20, came second and NSW’s Jai Waetford, just 14, was third.

While Waetford and especially Henderson were affected by nerves at the business end of the competition, on Sunday night the polished Im stamped her authority on the show she’d been tipped to win by most pundits. She sang a powerhouse version of Jennifer Hudson’s And I Am Telling You, Mariah Carey’s Hero and the song written as her “winner’s single”, Alive.

Henderson, 20, forgot his lyrics on Sunday in one of his three songs, Damien Rice’s Blowers’ Daughter while Waetford, 14, became the first ever finalist to sing an original song and was solid. But he messed up mid-song the previous week.

The public voted after Sunday’s show.

Im’s win is the latest chapter in an inspiring journey. Her family settled in Brisbane from South Korea when she was just nine and Im, who taught herself to sing by copying her pop idols, admitted she had been teased over her accent when she first arrived in Australia and still suffers from severe shyness.

Im was even sent home early in the X Factor series after forgetting the words during a ‘boot camp’ performance, but was brought back after another contestant quit.

Now many industry experts give her a fighting chance of becoming the first Asian-Australian pop superstar and going on to a long-term career, a rare thing for reality talent show winners. While most previous reality show winner’s singles have topped the iTunes and ARIA singles charts, most have faded quickly from the spotlight.

Im is also the second woman in a row to win the show, after Samantha Jade in 2012.

The finale also featured live songs by two major American pop acts (current ARIA singles chart-topper, Katy Perry, and rock band Fallout Boy), a joint song by the three finalists and another by the most successful Australian reality show winner, Guy Sebastian. Im also repeated one of her best performances, her cover of Prince’s Purple Rain.

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Gai Waterhouse’s Melbourne Cup dream comes at a price

As you drive from Melbourne Airport towards the city, there’s an enormous billboard stretching across the Tullamarine Freeway that cannot be missed.

It invites you to join the Gai Waterhouse Club so you, too, can be “living the dream”.

As Waterhouse entices the good people of Melbourne to buy a piece of her inner-sanctum – for an upfront payment of $3500 – she is ever so close to buying her way to a maiden Melbourne Cup.

Fiorente is the $5 favourite. After his brave run into third place in the Cox Plate on Saturday, it is difficult to fathom any other horse, with a Cup specialist in Damien Oliver aboard, getting past him.

Waterhouse made a late appearance in the Flemington enclosure on Monday morning for the official launch of the carnival. Some had prematurely declared she snubbed the event because Myer is a major sponsor of the Victorian Racing Club, and she’s a David Jones ambassador.

Shortly after her fashionably late arrival she was mobbed, and asked what it would mean to have the Cup sitting on her mantelpiece.

“There’s a lot of trophies there, but it’s the one that’s missing,” she smiled. “It would be nice to have it if we could.”

If she did, it would be the completion of a four-year plan to win the race. While others, such as millionaire property tycoon Lloyd Williams, have long obsessed about the two-mile event, Waterhouse became serious the year she did not have a runner.

That’s when she ordered husband and bookmaker Robbie to “go find me one”. In other words, find a European stayer that can win the Melbourne Cup.

“I was sitting here four years ago, and I didn’t have a runner, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to change things,’ ” Waterhouse said. “I went home that afternoon and I said to Rob, ‘You’ve got to do something about it.’ He said, ‘What about some tried horses?’ So he started to source them, and he’s been sourcing them since.”

Robbie went and sourced Descarado (which won the Caulfield Cup) and Glencadam Gold (which won the Metropolitan) but Fiorente is the superstar.

The Waterhouses threw the bank – OK, about $1 million, so a fraction of it – to buy the Irish-bred stallion after watching him win at Newmarket in England in July last year.

Robbie had jogged the track that morning, for about 7 kilometres, along the inside rail.

Fiorente won a group 2 race later that day on the outside, where the going was much heavier.

That convinced them to go after Fiorente. It took three months of negotiations, but they finally got the expensive pound of horseflesh they desired.

Waterhouse loved what she saw from her horse in the Cox Plate, along with everyone else, when he hung on courageously despite a long journey from an ugly barrier.

“Such a sustained run,” she said of his third placing behind Shamus Award.

“Working from 1200m out from the winning post, it wasn’t a short jab or stab, it was something working up as a crescendo.”

Subsequently, she’s never been in the box seat like this before. She’s never been in the same suburb as the box seat.

When Te Akau Nick finished second to Vintage Crop in 1993, he was rated a 160-1 shot. When Nothin Leica Dane finished second to Doriemus two years later, he was 16-1. Last year, Fiorente finished second to Green Moon at 40-1.

“I’ve never had a short-priced favourite in the Cup,” Waterhouse said. “I’ve never had a favourite. They’ve all been in double-figure or triple-figure odds. It’s nice to have one that’s right in the betting.”

Her legion of critics will often point to her lack of success in Melbourne in spring, and while she brushes such barbs aside, others – including her husband – know the Cup is the race she covets the most.

Asked if that brought any added pressure, she laughs. “No, not really,” she said. “I’m used to pressure. I’ve had favourites in lots of big races. You need to cope with that or you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Should she win the Melbourne Cup, she will finally join The Club that houses Bart and Lloyd and even her late father, T.J. Smith, who won the race with Toparoa (1955) and Just a Dash (1981).

And that is a rare club that costs more than $3500 up front to join.

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Floros works towards shield spot

He’s played in back-to-back national one-day titles and Jason Floros hopes the experience gained from his first English summer will help him force his way into the powerful Queensland Sheffield Shield team.

The Canberra junior shared in the celebrations as the Bulls claimed a stunning five-wicket win in Sunday’s Ryobi Cup final against NSW at North Sydney Oval.

While the all-rounder missed out on the team for Wednesday’s shield season opener with South Australia at the Adelaide Oval, his former ACT under-19s teammate Ryan Carters will don the gloves in a star-studded NSW team featuring Australian captain Michael Clarke.

The wicketkeeper will make his first shield appearance for the Blues in the four-day match with Tasmania at Blacktown, also starting on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old played 11 shield games for Victoria before moving to NSW on a rookie contract.

Floros, 22, has made four first-class appearances for Queensland, but is earning a reputation as a short-form specialist.

His hard-hitting batting in the middle order along with his improving off-spin bowling make him a valuable proposition in the 50-over and Twenty20 formats.

Floros is coming off an enjoyable first stint in England as the import for club side Bishop’s Stortford.

”Being an overseas player over there they put a lot of pressure on you to perform and I guess playing professional cricket that’s what you want,” Floros said.

”You want to have that sort of pressure on you all the time so you get used to it.

”Being over there in an Ashes year was pretty daunting, especially when we’re losing.”

Floros will continue to press his claims for shield selection through the Brisbane grade competition.

He will then turn his focus to the Big Bash League where he has retained his spot with the Sydney Thunder.

Floros missed out with the bat in the Ryobi Cup final, making just two, to go with a handy five overs for just 25 runs with the ball.

He was on the edge of his seat as Chris Lynn plonked the first ball of the final over over the fence to make the most of Usman Khawaja’s chanceless innings of 104, which laid the platform for the victory.

”We’re in the box and when Lynny hit that last six, Usman jumped over the top of me and basically squashed me,” Floros laughed. ”It was amazing.”

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Gala still reigns supreme in a long history of Cup battlers

Epic underdog: Frank Reys pilots Gala Supreme, centre, to victory in 1973. Photo: Fairfax ArchiveWhen it comes to the Melbourne Cup dream, Gala Supreme, featuring jockey Frank Reys and a strong supporting cast, is hard to beat.

The turf in Australia was more the playground of the people, rather than the sport of kings and aristocracy of Britain.

Certainly the rich and famous always had a role here but no greater than rags to riches.

Now with the internationalisation, the Big One is getting away from the battlers, described as those with determination but from a restricted financial background.

Invaders and meeting the qualifying clauses, albeit seeking an improved standard, have taken much of the Aussie and New Zealand flavour out of the 3200 metre staying test at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.

Gala Supreme was an epic underdog in 1973.

Owner Pat Curtain described himself as a “battler”, trainer Ray Hutchins was very capable but a lesser light, but no man or horse overcame Struggle St like Reys.

Yet Reys, one of 14 children with a Filipino father, a corn farmer in Cairns, graced the microphone after the Gala Supreme triumph with special brand of fair-dinkum more dignity. It was later divulged that Reys descended from the Djiribul people.

“I kept picking myself up off the ground and hoping I would win a Melbourne Cup,” he said. “It’s something every Australian jockey dreams about. It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I thank the Lord, my family and my trainer.”

He’d been down for a long count.

“Last July when I started to feel well again I pleaded with my wife Noeline for just one more crack,” he related.

According to Maurice Cavanagh’s Melbourne Cup, Reys was known as “Autumn Leaves” because of his falls.

In 1969, he fell at Kyneton, suffering a broken shoulder and concussion, three months later a Geelong spill put him out for six months with a fractured pelvis.

It was fractured again when a horse reared over him. Two months later a heavy fall left the jockey with a broken nose and cheekbone.

“I suppose I had broken every bone in my body,” he maintained. ”I got so damn sick I almost gave it away. My limbs just wouldn’t function properly.”

But then on ground level or in a vehicle he also struck trouble.

A horse was entangled in a barbed wire fence at a friend’s property, and the jockey attempted to free it. Reys became entwined, too, landing in Healesville Hospital.

Perhaps Curtain acquired Huntly Lodge Stud, near Sunbury in Victoria, but he made his name as a horse barber, an expert at equine clipping, subsidising his dairy farming.

He bred Gala Supreme, which was sold to Mario Giretti, a former service station owner, for $2500. Giretti had the colt gelded but discovered Gala Supreme “did not have a good heart score”.

Curtain took him back because, “if he’s not 100 per cent I don’t want to sell him to anyone”.

Thus Curtain set out to prove there was nothing amiss with Gala Supremes’ ticker.

After being broken in by John Patterson he was sent to Phil Burke but the trainer died and the gelding went to Ray Hutchins.

Hutchins made a key move for the Melbourne Cup. Gala Supreme was runner-up in the Caulfield Cup and the fashion of the day was another race was needed before the Big One.

“He does not need more racing, a hard race will knock him out,” Hutchins decreed.

Gala Supreme drew the outside, 24, but after the field had gone about 500m Reys had him near the rails.

With 50m to go the jockey sent Gala Supreme between two rivals in a race-winning move and scored by a neck from Glengowan with Daneson a half-length further back.

Obviously one of the great rides driven by adversity and stimulated by a dream time.

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