Caro Kann improve on trial form at Randwick, says jockey Josh Parr

Derby hopeful: Nash Rawiller tastes success on Bachman in April. Photo: Anthony Johnson Derby hopeful: Nash Rawiller tastes success on Bachman in April. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Derby hopeful: Nash Rawiller tastes success on Bachman in April. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Derby hopeful: Nash Rawiller tastes success on Bachman in April. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Josh Parr is expecting a big improvement from Caro Kann from his official barrier trials in Saturday’s Breeders’ Plate at Randwick. The Denman two-year-old, trained by Peter and Paul Snowden, was beaten 5 lengths into fourth by Brooklyn  as he wanted to get off the track. “He did everything wrong in that trial. He was wanted to run off the track but he showed me enough,” Parr said. “I worked him in winkers on Tuesday and he was great. They are going on in the Breeders and it wouldn’t surprise me if [he can] match a couple of the better ones.” Parr also has a great hope in the Flight Stakes after picking up the ride on the unbeaten Thinking Of You. “I saw her last run at Caulfield and waited a couple of days and rang Peter [Moody] to find out if she was coming up here for the Flight. She looks a really nice filly,” Parr said.

Bachman hits high note

The Victoria Derby preparation for Bachman is about to reach a crucial phase in the Dulcify Stakes at Randwick. The group3 winner as a two-year-old will be on a seven-day back-up over the mile after running fourth to Shooting To Win in the Stan Fox Stakes last week. “It is the right time for the back-up and he is ready for it,” trainer Gerald Ryan said. “He probably should have ran a place last week. If he stayed to the fence he would have followed the winner and I think he runs second, instead he came around them and ran fourth. He is looking for this trip now and getting towards his peak. We are mindful that the grand final is still a month away but I think you will see more improvement this week.”

She’s got the look

Ratings suggest I’ve Got The Looks might be up against it in the Premiere Stakes, but co-trainer Peter Snowden remains bullish about the mare’s chances in the group2. I’ve Got The Looks was bottled up well down the straight last time in The Shorts before rattling home for fifth. “She won’t be out of place in that race on Saturday, albeit at weight-for-age is probably not quite her right conditions,” Snowden said. “But she’s going really well. I want to desperately get her to the Nivison and she desperately needs this race to get her to the next one. A month between runs would have just been too long for her, but in saying that I still think she’s got a good hope on Saturday. She looks enormous and is very genuine.”

You’ve got to look

The Racing NSW website is now carrying video form for all races in the state for the past two years. Punters have long complained about not having access to free vision. “We understand that seeing is believing and video form is essential to driving wagering,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said.”in the deal we did also mean that races are up on our site 30 minutes after they have been run.”

Have a look on Saturday

Royal Randwick racegoers will be afforded a rare treat when the only documentary made of Australia’s legendary galloper Phar Lap is shown in full on Saturday. Titled The Mighty Conqueror, the film lasts for 10 minutes and will be played on the infield screen before the first race. The footage was found by the Herald’s Max Presnell and will be a feature of the day. It will be shown for a second time in two five-minute instalments before and after the Epsom Handicap. The film features rare footage of Phar Lap with strapper Tommy Woodcock, vision of Randwick and Centennial Park and interviews with jockey Jim Pike as well as trainer and co-owner Harry Telford. There is also vision of Phar Lap winning the 1930 Melbourne Cup in the film.

Help from his friends

The racing community is set to rally behind trainer Brett Partelle at a fundraiser in the Newmarket Room at the Inglis complex following Tuesday’s Ready2Run sale. Partelle was crushed by a horse in the tie-up stalls in October 2010 and has not been able to train since. He spent more than 40 days in hospital. “Brett’s life has fallen into chaos through no fault of his own and we are attempting to help him out with some of the enormous expenses he has had in the past couple of years,” NSW Trainers Association chief executive Steven McMahon said. “There will be a raffle and a few auction items, including corporate boxes at the races and footy.”

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Long weekend offers plenty

Terry Simpson has been on the road for the past few years, but has made the Parkes Country Music Festival a must for the past three years.And it has worked well for him – winning the best busker in 2012 and 2013.Terry Simpson performed in Clarinda Street yesterday, joined by his No. 1 fan, his wife, Maree. Photo: Roel ten Cate. This October long weekend will bring many visitors to Parkes Shire which has a fantastic line up of events scheduled over the four days.

This October long weekend will bring many visitors to Parkes Shire which has a fantastic line up of events scheduled over the four days.

They include the annual Country Music Festival, Parkes Antique Motor Club’s (PAMC) annual vintage motorcycle rally and the inaugural Wiradjuri Festival in Peak Hill.

“Locals and visitors to Parkes Shire can expect another jam-packed October long weekend of events with something for everyone,” Council’s Events Development Officer, Chia Barlow said yesterday.

“With great weather forecast and the variety of entertainment planned, it’s the perfect opportunity to get out and about and see the array of events the Shire has on offer.”

Once again the annual 2PK Parkes Country Music Festival will take place (starting yesterday) and continuing until Monday.

A large number of visitors and locals will enjoy the fun, competitions and quality entertainment that make the Festival the highlight of the weekend (full details appeared in Wednesday’s edition).

The Festival includes the Central West Country Music Awards (trophies and prizemoney for all sections), a family muster and walk-up talent quest, busking competition, and the Festival Country Concert featuring special guest artists Justin Standley, Melissa Bajric, and the Wayne Rider Band, as well as a gospel service on Sunday and Last Round-up Breakfast on Monday morning.

There’s also something new this long weekend.

The Peak Hill Aboriginal Community Working Party, The Bulgandramine Traditional Owners and Red Dust Creations (together) are inviting everyone to the inaugural Peak Hill Wiradjuri Festival 2014 which will be celebrating Wiradjuri Aboriginal culture.

The activities will include grass root performances, dancers, singers, painters, carvers, story tellers, bush tucker experts and language exponents.

It all starts this evening, and goes through until Sunday afternoon.

The event will be held at the old Bulgandramine Mission.

Also this weekend is PAMC’s 38th annual rally for vintage and classic motorcycles made up until 1984.

Members of the public are invited to view the machines which will be on display at the Henry Parkes Centre from 9am to 1:30pm tomorrow.

For more 2014 motorbike rally information, the contact is Bob Steel on 6863 4349.

And if you’re looking for something else for the kids to do, a reminder the Parkes Pool has already opened.

Of course, key attractions such as ‘The Dish’, the Henry Parkes Centre and Peak Hill Open Cut Experience are also open.

The Parkes Visitor Information Centre will be open all long weekend from 10am – 4pm or telephone 6862 6000.

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Finding Vivian Maier documentary, exhibition shine light on a late-developing photographer

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She was a strange one, Vivian Maier. Looking at an exhibition selected from the 150,000-odd photographs she left behind when she died, you soon grow to know her long, solemn face reflected in the plate glass windows and chrome hubcaps of Chicago and New York, those mannish hands around the Rolleiflex camera held against her waist and, in the vast majority of the photographs where she is not part of the subject, the steely eye she brings to passers-by, defiant children, market workers, street-dwellers and tourists in Bermuda shorts: the whole panoply of post-war American urban life.

Nobody saw her that way, however, when she was alive.

Vivian Maier was born in New York in 1926 and spent her whole working life as a nanny. Nobody knew she took pictures: she always kept her rooms locked, stuffed full of hoarded newspapers and old tins along with the pictures, and was apparently a determined solitary. She took the pictures during the afternoons, when she took her charges on long walks; her employers just thought she believed in exercise.

It was only after her death in 2009 that her work came to light, when John Maloof, a real-estate agent and local history buff, bid at auction for one of several job lots of photographs of Chicago he hoped he might be able to use as illustrations in a book he was writing. Once home, he remembers, he realised they wouldn’t be relevant and put them in the wardrobe. Six months later he looked at them again and was somehow inspired; he bought a camera. “And it was in becoming more of a photographer that I realised the work was better than I had realised,” he says.

So enthused was he, in fact, that he pursued the other buyers at the original auction, recovered almost all of her work and began putting selections online. To his surprise, Vivian Maier went viral. “And ever since, the media has come to me. I couldn’t put a lid on it if I wanted to.”

It is a process documented in the invigorating documentary Finding Vivian Maier, directed at Maloof’s invitation by Charlie Siskel, who cut his documentary teeth working for Michael Moore.

“I thought it could be a great film, but to do it as a kind of detective story,” says Siskel.

A call from a former employer led Maloof to two stuffed storage units full of her hoarded chattels and personal papers, including numerous business cards. He and Siskel started calling every number they could find.

Meanwhile, the pictures can speak for themselves. I see about 200 of them in a beautiful old cathedral cloister in Ghent, Belgium, which gives a contemplative edge to their skyscraper modernism. The oldest dates from 1952, when poor Americans looked stunted rather than bloated, when a drugstore hoarding could promise “vaccines and biologicals” and a poster could suggest that Budweiser is the ideal complement “to fine food”. Shining surfaces and rich textures caught her eye: she liked the smoothness of balloons and the plush of a fur coat, especially if there was a dead fox head hanging from it somewhere.

The question of whether knowing about her life – or even how little it is possible to know of her, given her secrecy – affects the way we look at this work is a thorny one. Louise Neri is the creative associate for visual arts for the Melbourne Festival, which will show an expanded version of the Ghent exhibition alongside a separate exhibition of other photographers’ responses to her work at the Centre for Contemporary Photography. She readily acknowledges that the current overwhelming interest in biography, often of the most banal kind, has meant that artists have seen their work turned into narrative. “Maier in a way is a dream come true, because these days there is very little that is undiscovered,” says Neri.

For the film, Siskel and Maloof collected a bizarrely contradictory collection of stories, rumours and reminiscences, including the story of a middle-aged woman who remembers Maier physically abusing her. There were certainly a good many pictures among her street shots of children in tears. Even Charlie Siskel, however, says there are aspects of Maier’s life he is content not to understand. “In some way the film explores this need we feel as storytellers to pin down our subject. At some point I think it was liberating to stand over this mountain of material and say, ‘Maybe we don’t have to call every number’. Because we weren’t making an exhaustive biopic of Vivian Maier we didn’t have to shine a light into every dark corner of Vivian Maier’s life.”

Such attention raises the question of her legacy. Neri says the work has been so recently circulated that it hasn’t had time to leave anything behind. “But I’m interested in her as an inspirational figure for the ordinary person,” she says. “Digital photography is virtually without cost and many, many people have enormous stored archives of images and are swapping then on social media all the time. I think she is a kind of analogue precedent for this potential, and if she had been born into our time, perhaps she would be a more socialised person. She would have Facebook friends. She might have a huge following, in fact. It’s a real then-and-now story.”

“You can’t separate the art from the artist,” says Siskel. “They come together as one package. Her work is even more incredible in that she made sacrifices that show really what it takes to be an artist. Sure, there are artists with trust funds, but it’s not so incredible that Vivian would have had to earn her living as a nanny. What is surprising is that she would be able to make her work for decades without the benefit of a patron, without the benefit of a collaborator, without being part of any kind of artistic community and getting feedback from friends – or indeed any feedback from the public.”

The big question about Maier is why she kept her work secret. Siskel, who grew up in the well-heeled Chicago suburbs where Maier worked, suspects that the former employers who remember her as “a very private person” may simply not have taken much notice of her: she was “the help”.

“When they say that Vivian would have hated this, that she would not have wanted her work on display, I’m not sure they are the most reliable narrators. She did have her work printed in France as landscape postcards and I think she made other attempts to get work printed.”

She didn’t have a dark room, he says.Sometimes she just left the film in the canisters, but she never stopped taking pictures.

“That for me is what is ultimately heroic – and more heroic and more romantic than the fairytale version of her story as a tortured outsider artist, which is a label I hate,” Siskel says. “Because I think when you look at the work, there is nothing ‘outside’ about it: for me, it is canonical 20th-century photography.

“So it’s not that she was too good for an audience, but that she was so committed to the work she continued to do it without the benefit of an audience of any kind. And of course that is what makes it a story with a redemptive ending, although sadly that did not come in her lifetime. The work has found its audience now.”

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Banks, statistics and the business of surprises

Banks should have a good handle on how the economy is travelling. Banks should have a good handle on how the economy is travelling.

Banks should have a good handle on how the economy is travelling.

Banks should have a good handle on how the economy is travelling.

There was bemusement to be had on two fronts yesterday concerning Australia’s banks: the “surprise” of their share prices bouncing; and the “surprise” of lower than expected retail sales numbers.

In the latter case, if the big banks’ chief information officers are worth their large salaries, there should have been no surprise at all in the August sales figures.

Or the Australian Bureau of Statistics has had another bad month, seasonally adjusted.

In the former, the game of selling off bank shares after they reach record highs as various analysts talk them down, only to see a subsequent bounce, is becoming as seasonally reliable as “killer toys” stories a couple of months out from Christmas and a pick-up in interest in horse racing in early November.

The commentariat and bank analysts’ cycle goes something like this: talk up bank stocks until they reach record highs, then talk down bank stocks as being over-priced, then, after they have a little correction, start talking them up again until they reach another record high. Repeat.

The supposed problems with the major banks since they released their results – alleged poor growth prospects, alleged poor bad debt outlooks given the low level of bad debts, alleged debilitating new capital requirements as regulations tighten and the alleged end of yield-chasing – are all rather relative.

Knock a few percentage points off the record share prices and suddenly those problems aren’t so bad.

So the game resets and away we go again.

Yesterday’s action reportedly was led by foreign buying interest that was helped by the Australian dollar’s fall.

That could be an interesting factor – some big foreign players punting that the $A could be stabilising soon – but mainly it’s a reflection of the international quality of our banks’ earnings.

I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve heard the story about Australia’s banks not having much of an outlook.

The banks power along regardless while the fundamentals of the economy remain reasonably sound. Looking good

As the Reserve Bank’s financial system review made clear, we’re actually looking pretty good.

(There is a sub-set to the banking analysts’ game: with just four major subjects, you go over-weight on two of them, wait for them to rise a bit, then switch your recommendation to the other two as representing under-priced value. It seems you can go on doing this for many years.)

Meanwhile, back at the August retail sales numbers that became an excuse for a bit of a kerfuffling because the ABS seasonally adjusted result came in lower than “expectations” (0.1 per cent growth compared with a prediction of 0.4 per cent growth), there’s more than a little nonsense involved in the building of those “expectations” in the first place and the continued emphasis on seasonally adjusted numbers that the market knows are, well, variable.

The Bloomberg economists’ survey of “expectations” generally includes a bunch of people taking a wild guess and four big banks who really should know the answer before the ABS.

The CBA, ANZ, NAB and Westpac have spent untold fortunes building flash computer systems that are supposed to be capable of making use of the “big data” that the banks capture. Five possibilities

Each of the Big Four has a large enough slice of the market to know what consumers are really up to – if their glorified abacuses are performing as they should.

Thus there are five possibilities: the banks’ CIOs haven’t delivered the systems they are forever promising;the CIOs don’t trust the economists with the numbers;the bank economists all play dumb in their forecasts so as not to give away perceived internal big data advantages;the ABS seasonally adjusted series is rather random and should not be taken too seriously; ora bit of all of the above.

Anyone remember the last couple of monthly labour market figures? So why would you think seasonally adjusted retail sales would be any more reliable?

There was nothing surprising about the trend series retail sales numbers – a gain of 0.2 per cent following a gain of 0.2 per cent.

On the ABS “Key Features” page the trend figures are printed ahead of the seasonally adjusted and there’s a graph of the trend series but not of the seasonally adjusted. Maybe the ABS is trying to tell us something.

And as for what the retailers are quietly saying, the minutes of the Reserve Bank September 2 board meeting included this line:

“Information from liaison with firms suggested that the value of retail sales had increased over July and August.”

That ABS trend series graph shows retails sales growth improved from a weak April and May to be steady at 0.2 per cent for the next three months.

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Wilcox fundraiser goes above and beyond

FIGHTING FAMILY: Jennie’s family were among the many people who turned up on Saturday night to support Paul, including (from back left) Callum Baker, Margaret Poulton, Jennie Wilcox, Paul Wilcox, Bill Poulton, and (front) Olivia Lloyd and Alison Poulton.COMMUNITY spirit was in force at the Cootamundra Ex-Service’s Club on Saturday night to raise money for former police officer Paul Wilcox.

Diagnosed earlier this year with a rare, inoperable form of cancer, Paul’s pancoast tumour did not respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

He and wife Jennie has been given a beacon of hope though in the form of radiowave therapy, which is currently only offered in Germany and Perth, WA, and is not covered by Medicare.

Needing $12,000 for treatment, Jennie and Paul are happy to announce the Saturday night fundraiser brought in $13,500, which will also help them with the cost of travel and accommodation.

“We are overwhelmed and humbled by the support we’ve received,” Jennie said.

The couple left for Perth on Tuesday and will spent 31 days there, which includes three weeks of treatment for two hours every Monday to Friday.

“We’re hoping for a marked improvement in his pain levels, and about halfway through we’ll know if it’s working on his tumour,” Jennie explained.

“It could be tiring but there’s no nausea like you get with other treatment, so depending on Paul’s health we’ll hopefully be able to enjoy Perth as well.”

Jennie and Paul would like to thank everyone who turned up on the night to support them, including many women Paul helped in his years as the Cootamundra LAC domestic violence officer.

Jennifer Lukins, Rachael Braham, Kamahl Bennett, Jacki Boxall and Scott Sanders were all mentioned in particular for their help in organising fundraisers and assisting the Wilcox’s on their farm and personally.

Jennifer’s aunty was able to supply many of the most popular items in the silent auction, including a signed 2014 Roosters jersey and signed boots from players such as Sonny Bill Williams and Anthony Minichiello.

Paul and Jennie would also like to extend big thanks to CAN Assist for all their help during the initial rounds of treatment.

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