Joe Agresta: Track Work Rider: My Life With Bart

  Joe Agresta

  TRACK WORK RIDER
  My Life With Bart

 
  ALM

Few have captured Australia’s imagination as vividly as racehorse trainer Bart Cummings. Winning an unprecedented dozen Melbourne Cups in a career that spanned seven decades, his was a household name unequalled in racing.

But few know the name of Bart’s secret weapon — the man he entrusted to ride his best thoroughbreds every morning before dawn, as they worked towards the biggest races on the Australian turf.

For more than thirty years, Joe Agresta was the track work rider who told the trainer how his horses were feeling, physically and mentally. Saintly, Let’s Elope, So You Think, Shaftsbury Avenue, he knew them all. He rode them all. He might have failed in a short, 15-race career as a professional jockey, yet his innate horsemanship helped shape one of the world’s most influential stables. Without him, even the Cummings’ genius could not have trained the horses that shone through decades of Spring Carnivals.

Joe Agresta and Bart Cummings, at the races.

This is the story of an ordinary man who started life in the country, then moved to Melbourne to grow up between two racetracks and years later, worked the long-gone, national quarter-horse circuit. Eventually, he settled back in Melbourne — and almost didn’t take the job with the man he would refer to as ‘Boss’ for the next three decades. Joe Agresta: Track Work Rider: My Life With Bart is not just the inside story of Australian racing’s iconic trainer. It’s also an ode to one of the enduring partnerships in Australian sport.

THE MARE IN THE WRONG RACE

Nigel Blackiston was foreman at the time and Bart told him to make sure she could gallop on the course proper, the main part of the track, at least three times before the race. His theory was that the Moonee Valley track would suit Dane Ripper, because she had bad joints and it was a soft surface.

From the start, Joe saw something in Dane Ripper. He always had a great sense of a horse and this was long before he became foreman at the Melbourne stable.

Finally, it came time for the mare’s all-important third gallop, when it was hoped she would put it all together and prove she was ready to race a few days later. But this wasn’t the same quiet, almost private affair. It took place in the middle of the Breakfast With the Best track work session, part of the build up to that year’s Cox Plate Day. Thousands of people were there that morning, watching some of the best horses in the Southern Hemisphere complete their final preparations ahead of one of the country’s major race days.


It was a big deal and I wasn’t even supposed to be on
Dane Ripper that morning. Jockey Darren Beadman was slotted to ride her, but Bart told him to leave her to me. He must have trusted my judgement with regards to this mare, which is very reassuring, if a little intimidating. Then again, I trusted my judgement, and I was confident the mare was going well, without being a champion.

But my opinion was about to alter.

At the 600m on the outside of the Moonee Valley track, I gave Dane Ripper a little ‘squeeze’, urging her forward. She was cruising through her work, so I gave her just a little encouragement. Well, didn’t she take off! She accelerated as fast as almost any horse I have ever sat on. I remember thinking to myself ‘Shit, Joe. Hold on!’

Then I got to the 400m, and I gave her another little ‘squeeze’. Well, she just went faster again. She found another gear, and this is after I thought she was well and truly at full speed. When I got to the 200m, I thought that there was no way she could kick again, but sure enough she did.

She had sped up at the 600m like a good horse could, and then accelerated again at the 400m like a top horse. But only champions can find a third burst of speed like she did at the 200m this particular morning. Dane Ripper might not have been quite up to that grade, but this was the work of a gun who was at the top of her game. She’d certainly surprised me!

From the moment I came in from this work, I was raving to anyone who would listen about this mare and how well she had just galloped. From Reg, to blokes I didn’t really know, I was telling them what had just happened. It wasn’t really like me, or anyone in the stable to be so forthcoming about a horse, but I was just so excited. I’d just received a front row seat to something pretty amazing.

Naturally, Bart was there on such an important Spring morning and came downstairs to talk to me when I came back to the mounting yard. The following 45 seconds went something like this…

Bart – What did you make of that, Joey?
Me – Yeah, Bart, she went unbelievably well. What race are you running her in?
Bart – The 1600m race on Saturday — the Waterford Crystal Mile.
Me – What! No Boss, she will win that by 100 yards, you have got her in the wrong race. Bart, she should be in the Cox Plate.
Bart – The wrong race, hey? Well, that’s easily fixed!

Then he yelled out to a bloke who worked with us, who wasn’t far away.

‘Hey Doc, get in the ute and go home and get me the cheque book. But hurry, we only have three-quarters of an hour before the acceptances close.’

It sounds like a modern day Banjo Paterson yarn. But Doc didn’t have to get on the back of his horse and travel across Queensland. He just had to ‘jump in the ute’ and go and find Bart’s cheque book. Now, it costs many tens of thousands of dollars to accept for the Cox Plate, and based almost solely on my assessment, Bart was willing to do it. At least, I think it was on my assessment. You never know. Bart might have just as easily been having a lend of me and known exactly how good this mare was all along.

But this time, I think he had underestimated her and I was right.

While we waited for the cheque book to arrive, I gave my mate Greg Childs the thumbs up to go and try and get the ride on the mare for the Cox Plate. A top jockey’s always keen for a chance in such a big race, and he ran over and asked Bart if the mare was running. As he made his case to be considered for the ride, Bart just kept nodding along and saying things like ‘That’s good’ or ‘Yep, no worries.’ After he left, Bart turned to Nigel Blackiston, and half whispered ‘Give Damien Oliver’s manager a call, will you?’ Bart wanted Damien to take the mount.

To this day, I have no idea what he had against Greg Childs, if anything at all. Luckily, Greg would only have to wait two years before he won back-to-back Cox Plate’s aboard that mighty mare Sunline.

Happily, the cheque book arrived in time and Dane Ripper was ‘paid up’ as an official acceptor in the 1997 Cox Plate. Still, not many thought she was up to the task, despite her trainer’s record — and four days later, she took her place in the field as a forty-to-one chance. That year, the Cox Plate was worth $1.5 million in prize money to the winner, the Waterford Crystal Mile – the race the mare was originally aimed at – was worth a measly $125,000.
 

Grace Tobin: Deal with the Devil

  Grace Tobin

  Deal with the the Devil
 

 
  ALM

Deal with the Devil. Cover image.

After Matt Leveson disappeared in September 2007, his parents Mark and Faye spent ten years searching bushiand for his body.They also pursued Matt’s older boyfriend, Michael Atkins, who denied involvement with their son’s disappearance. Atkins was a serial liar, but to expose his deceit and find Matt’s body, in late 2016 the Levesons made a deal with the devil: Atkins received immunity from prosecution in exchange for revealing where he had buried Matt. He claimed that Matt had died of a drug overdose and wasn’t murdered.

Deal with the Devil
is the story of the Leveson family from the journalist who was closest to them throughout the four-year police reinvestigation of Matt’s case.There is an unnerving insight into Atkins’ past from exclusive interviews with his exboyfriends, lovers and former friends. Above all, what emerges is a portrait of two parents bound by their public quest to achieve justice for their son.
 

2018 ALM brochure for 2018 Sydney Writers Festival

  Australian Literary Management

  2018 Sydney Writers Festival Brochure
 

 
 

Sydney Opera House: Steps.
2018 Sydney Writers Festival Brochure
Australian Literary Management
2-A Booth Street, Balmain New South Wales 2041, Australia
Proprietor: Mrs Lyn Tranter       [lynalm8@gmail.com]

 

Jennifer Spence: The Lost Girls

Having previously written young adult books and a crime novel, Jenny has now completed a truly high concept commercial women’s fiction novel.
        The core of this work is the question she poses on how can we change events if we travel back in time. Can we change outcomes? Can we prevent tragedies from occurring? At what length will anyone go to ensure that something so dramatic as the death of a child can be stopped?
        The main character, Stella, journeys twenty years back in time. She moves into her house under the guise of a close relative who went missing when she was a teenager and has now turned up as an adult. Her mission is to try and change events that she knows will occur in the future.
        This is a carefully structured novel, full of suspense and twists. The voice is consistent and convincing and the writing is understated and elegant. It is a novel that would sit beside The Woman in the Window, Girl on a Train and more closely with the crime / time travel novel The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes.
        Rights have been sold to Fiona Henderson at Simon & Schuster. However any expression of interest can be forwarded to me, Lyn Tranter, at ALM. [lynalm8@gmail.com]

Author Jenny Spence.

Eileen Ormsby: The Darkest Web

The author Eileen Ormsby has spent the past five years exploring every corner of the dark web. This book will take you into the murkiest depths of the web’s dark underbelly: a place of hitmen for hire, red rooms, hurtcore sites and markets that will sell anything a person is willing to pay for — including another person.
        Not for the faint-hearted, this work explores the stories of a kingpin willing to murder to protect his dark web drug empire; a corrupt government official determined to avoid exposure; the death of a dark web drugs czar who dies in mysterious circumstances in a Bangkok jail. It explores who is willing to sell poisons and weapons, identities and bank accounts to anyone with a wallet full of Bitcoin.
        Allen & Unwin have recently published this provocative truecrime work and enquires can be made to Maggie Thompson at [maggiet@allenandunwin.com]

Cover image, The Darkest Web

Jonathon Shannon: The First Snow

This debut novel is from a copywriter who works in advertising. I always believe if you have to know how to sell toothpaste then you know the value of words. Such is the case with this young author.
        The story is set in two countries — Iceland and Japan. It follows the lives of brother and sister Svana and Brynleifur. They were separated as young children when their parents divorced, and although siblings, they hardly know each other. Now in their early twenties they decide to embark on an adventure and spend a month travelling in Japan.
        On their arrival in Okinawa they meet Tristan, a young Australian man who is travelling in Japan, to further his studies in Japanese, before he begins university. He speaks the language and Svan and Bryn warm to him and realise what a great travel guide he would make. Tristan in turn is fascinated by the beautiful Svana. They fall in love.
        The work takes them on their month-long journey through Japan and its major cities culminating in Svana and Tristan climbing Mount Fuji. However Svana knows that she must return to Reykjavik, and Tristan, who is still recovering from a relationship breakup in Australia, decides that they must go their separate ways, but will write to each other.
        Arriving back in Iceland, Bryn discovers through seeing her passport that Svana has chosen to not take on the family name, but instead the surname of her mother. One interesting factor in Icelandic culture is the widespread use of the patronymic surname, that is, the tradition of children always taking on the “family” name, the name of the father. Svana and Bryn have an enormous row and separate.
        Unknown to Svana her brother is dying and when his will is read, he asks that she return to Mount Fuji and scatter his ashes there. She does so, and Tristan comes with her. We are left knowing that their relationship will flourish.
        The manuscript is still in draft form but will be submitted to publishers by July 2018. All enquiries to Lyn Tranter at ALM: [lynalm8@gmail.com]

Geisha2

Sarah Hopkins: Beta Boy

When a new computer game or app comes out, people queue to be considered as “beta testers”. This mean that they get to use the game or app for free — before it goes public. They have to note bugs or glitches in the product and make the developers aware of these.
        Beta testing comes after Alpha testing. Alpha testing is done internally by the engineers, and Beta is done by a select group of members of the public. The reason for this is that the developers want to wait for the product to be tested on real people.
        This is Sarah Hopkins’ third book, and is a haunting work that blends speculative fiction and science fiction, and looks at incarceration, social engineering and the crimes adults can commit against children.
        The premise of the book is that a group of children who have had troubled lives are “rescued” from the legal system for crimes they have committed and placed in a school to deal with their specific needs. Daniel, the main character, has been dealing drugs and when he is due for sentencing, the likely jail term is dismissed on the provision that he attends this new school. When he arrives he is faced with a number of other children, mainly teenagers who have committed various crimes or come from disturbed homes. It is not an ordinary school, and lessons are conducted in an unconventional manner; and although Daniel believes he can leave at any time, the place is very isolated.
        The insight into why this school is here, and what it is for, is slowly revealed. In many ways it reminded me of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. In that novel we gradually find out that the school is designed to breed children for body parts, in Beta Boy we learn that Big Pharma are not bothering to test new drugs or medicines on animals (it is far too slow a process) but on children, and these schools are scattered around the globe.
        A fascinating and disturbing hypothesis written by a natural storyteller. All enquires to Lyn Tranter at ALM. [lynalm8@gmail.com]

Human Brain

Barry Maitland: The Promised Land

There have been twelve Brock and Kolla novels published so far in Australia, the USA, the UK and in translation. They feature two central characters, DCI David Brock and DI Kathy Kolla, homicide detectives in London’s Metropolitan Police.
        Now Barry has written his thirteenth novel in this series titled The Promised Land. Central to the plot of this brilliant crime novel is the discovery of a lost manuscript by the British writer George Orwell. Extensive tests are done and it becomes clear that this is in fact a work by Orwell.
        The manuscript is delivered to Charles Pettigew, the owner of a floundering publishing house that he inherited from his father. He knows that if this is in fact a genuine Orwell novel, his business will be saved.
        Australian and New Zealand rights have been sold to Allen & Unwin who have previously published all Barry’s Brock & Kolla books. The editor there, Ali Lavau, in her closing remarks on this work said:

It’s been an absolute pleasure to engage with your work again. It’s the promise of intricate plotting, ingenious twists, a strong sense of place and natural, fluent prose. And, oh boy does The Promised Land deliver. There are the murders in Hampstead, framed judges, psychopaths and most startling of all, Brock in prison. I am absolutely hooked.

Allen & Unwin—Aust and NZ rights. All other enquiries to Lyn Tranter at ALM, [lynalm8@gmail.com]

British Author George Orwell (Eric Blair)

 

Eileen Ormsby: Silk Road / and / The Darkest Web

Eileen Ormsby: Silk Road

silk-road-cvr-ormsby It was the ‘eBay of drugs’.
A BILLION DOLLAR EMPIRE.
Behind it, an FBI Most Wanted Man, the enigmatic crime czar DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS.

SILK ROAD lay at the heart of the ‘Dark Web’ — a parallel internet of porn, guns, assassins and drugs. Lots of drugs. With the click of a button LSD, heroin, meth, coke, any illegal drug imaginable, would wing its way by regular post from any dealer to any user in the world. How was this online drug cartel even possible? And who was the charismatic mastermind all its low roads led to?

The incredible true story!

Silk Road’s riseand fall, told with unparalleled insight into the main players — including alleged founder and kingpin Dread Pirate Roberts himself — by lawyer and investigative journalist Eileen Ormsby. A stunning crime story with a truth that explodes off the page.


Eileen Ormsby: The Darkest Web
Eileen Ormsby: The Darkest Web (cover image)

DARK: A kingpin willing to murder to protect his dark web drug empire. A corrupt government official determined to avoid exposure. The death of a dark web drugs czar in mysterious circumstances in a Bangkok jail cell, just as the author arrives there. Who’s behind the online markets that came after Silk Road, willing to sell poisons and weapons, identities and bank accounts, malware and life-ruining services online to anyone with a wallet full of Bitcoin?

DARKER: A death in Minnesota leads detectives into the world of dark web murder-for-hire where hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin is paid to arrange killings, beatings and rapes. Meanwhile, the owner of the most successful hitman website in history is threatening the journalists who investigate his business with a visit from his operatives — and the author is at the top of his list.

DARKEST… People with the most depraved perversions gather to share their obscene materials in an almost inaccessible corner of the dark web. A video circulates, and the pursuit of the monsters responsible for ‘Daisy’s Destruction’ leads detectives into the unimaginable horror of the world of hurtcore.

Eileen Ormsby has spent the past five years exploring every corner of the dark web. This book will take you into the murkiest depths of the web’s dark underbelly: a place of hitmen for hire, red rooms, hurtcore sites and markets that will sell anything a person is willing to pay for — including another person. Enter the darkest web…

Glenda Guest: A Week in the Life of Cassandra Aberline

Glenda Guest: A Week in the Life of Cassandra Aberline
Life of Casandra Aberline, cover image
The train races along its rails,
a silver and blue streak
trying to make up time
spent dallying in the dust…

After forty-five years in Sydney, Cassandra Aberline returns home to Western Australia in the same way she left: on the Indian Pacific. As they cross the emptiness of the vast Australian inland, Cassie travels back through her memories, too, frightened that she’s about to lose them forever — and with them, her last chance to answer the question that has held her to ransom almost all her life.

By the author of Siddon Rock, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first book.

This story is about the complexities of memory, and the loss of memory. It is also about guilt, trust, and the breaking of trust. Primarily, it is about identity and how that changes in various circumstances.

Cassandra Aberline left her home in the wheatlands of Western Australia for Sydney in 1970. She is now sixty-four, lives in Surrey Hills, Sydney, and is teaching theatre skills after a long and distinguished career as an actor in Shakespearean and classical works.

Cassie has been given a diagnosis of early onset Altzheimers disease, and she is now returning to the west the same way as she left: by train on the Indian-Pacific. On this return journey she expects to work out what in her early life led to the specific event that made her leave. She cannot remember the specifics of that moment, if she pushed, or she left by choice.

“In the literary world there is a propensity for prize-winning authors to be elevated – or to elevate themselves – onto a special pedestal, complete with pretentious black-and-white profile photographs designed to make the subject appear as erudite and aloof as possible. Glenda Guest is not one such writer. She is approachable and refreshingly frank…” You may read more of this fascinating interview in the pages of Verity La.

Sarah Bailey

Dark Lake cover image

‘There had been a few minutes when I was alone with her in the autopsy room. I ’d felt wild. Absent. Before I could stop myself I was leaning close to her, telling her everything. The words draining out of me as she lay there. Her long damp hair hanging off the back of the steel table. Glassy eyes fixed blindly on the ceiling. She was still so beautiful, even in death.

‘Our secrets circled madly around the bright white room that morning. Rocking back and forth on my heels as I stood there next to her, I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me. I looked at Rosalind Ryan properly for the last time before breathing deeply, readying myself, letting her pull me back into her world, and I sank down, further and further until I was completely, utterly under.’

A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

But that ’s not all Gemma ’s trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim ’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths…

Christina Stead: The Man Who Loved Children (UK)

Christina Stead, one of Australia’s great novelists: The Man Who Loved Children
stead-the-man-uk-cvr
‘This crazy, gorgeous family novel is one of the great literary achievements of the twentieth century. I carry it in my head the way I carry childhood memories; the scenes are of such precise horror and comedy that I feel I didn’t read the book so much as lived it.’  — JONATHAN FRANZEN

All the June Saturday afternoon Sam Pollitt’s children were on the lookout for him as they skated round the dirt sidewalks and seamed old asphalt of R Street and Reservoir Road…

Sam and Henny Pollit have too many children, too little money and too much loathing for each other. As Sam uses the children’s adoration to feed his own voracious ego, Henny becomes a geyser of rage against her improvident husband. And, caught in the midst of it all, is Louisa, Sam’s watchful eleven-year-old daughter.

Published in the UK by Apollo. The Norman Rockewll painting used for the cover and for the endpapers is ‘Coming and Going’, 1947. See below.

norman-rockwell-going-and-coming

Tamora Pierce

Pierce at the Boskone science fiction convention in Boston, February 2008
Pierce at the Boskone science fiction convention in Boston, February 2008

 
Tamora Pierce is an American writer of fantasy fiction for teenagers, known best for stories featuring young heroines. She made a name for herself with her first book series, The Song of the Lioness (1983–1988), which followed the main character Alanna through the trials and triumphs of training as a knight. Many of her books have feminist themes.


Alanna, cover image
Alanna, cover image
Lioness Rampant, cover image
Lioness Rampant, cover image


Pierce won the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2013, citing her two quartets Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small (1999–2002). The annual award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature”. (Wikipedia)
Secret of the Chevalier
Secret of the Chevalier

THREE STUDENT MAGES, BOUND BY FATE… FATED FOR DANGER

Tamora Pierce, cover image for Tempests and Slaughter
Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness — and for attracting trouble. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the leftover prince, with secret ambitions.

Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. But as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

BOOK ONE Of THE NUMAIR CHRONICLES

‘Tamora Pierce’s writing is like water from the swiftest, most refreshingly clear, invigorating, and revitalizing river. I return to her books time and time again.’ — GARTH NIX, New York Times bestselling author.

Valerie Lawson: Mary Poppins, She Wrote

Valerie Lawson: Mary Poppins, She Wrote

Mary Poppins She Wrote cover image
Mary Poppins She Wrote cover image
The story of Mary Poppins, the quintessentially English and utterly magical children’s nanny, is remarkable enough. She flew into the lives of the Banks family in a children’s book that is now hailed as a classic, then became a household name when Julie Andrews stepped into the starring role in Disney’s hugely successful film. Now she is a musical sensation all over again in ‘Mary Poppins’, the musical. But the story of Mary Poppins’s creator is just as unexpected and outstanding.

The fabulous nanny was conceived by an Australian, Pamela Lyndon Travers, who in 1924 left Sydney for London, where her career as a writer blossomed.

She travelled in the elite literary circles of the time and, most famously, clashed with Walt Disney over the adaptation of her books into film. Disney accused her of vanity for ‘thinking you know more about Mary Poppins than I do’. This struggle formed the center of the recent movie “Saving Mister Banks”, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

Like her mysterious character, Travers remained inscrutable and enigmatic to the end of her ninety-six remarkable years. Valerie Lawson’s illuminating biography provides the only glimpse into the mind of a writer who fervently believed that ‘Everyday life is the miracle’.

Julienne van Loon

vanloon-portrait-2004-loresJulienne van Loon was the Winner of the 2004 Vogel Award. Her novel Road Story was released in 2005.

In 2006 she completed a new novel Backtracking, set in and around Port Hedland in the inhospitable far North of Australia. This book was published by Allen & Unwin in 2008.

Her latest novel is Harmless:

“With the right kind of mindfulness, William Blake tells us, one can behold infinity in a grain of sand. In the grainy bush tracks of the outer eastern suburbs of Perth, the whole canvas of contemporary Australian life — its ethnic diversity, its violence, its growing divisions of class and economic status, its convoluted history of linkage with South East Asia — is made vivid and visible in this remarkable novella. In sensual prose, van Loon presents a gallery of characters whose lives are as grim as they are compelling, whose small acts of resistance and resilience loom large and beautiful and heroic.”
— Janette Turner Hospital

Photo: Julienne van Loon, 2004.