I love Moonee Valley. I'd go there anytime.

It's easy to get to, as any Melburnian knows. Just get a tram from Elizabeth Street, or Swanston Street, and ask the conductor. A good run is about fifteen minutes. So you can shop in town in the morning and still get to the Valley comfortably by lunchtime.

When you are sitting in the Stand at the Valley you are virtually on top of the horses, as close as you can get. More like a trotting track, in fact, which of course it doubles up as on Saturday nights.

Everything is there in front of you. Mind you, people overlook how close everything is at Flemington, the big brother of racing, as well. But it's not as clear as the merry-go-round appeal of the tiny Moonee Valley course.

The straight at the Valley is only about 180 metres, and that's being generous as to where the actual turn ends and the straight bit starts. So one might think that a front runner has it in his keeping unless he is really weak.

This has not always been the case in recent years, and in fact with the new surface it is not the case, period. We can all recall the amazing successes of Kingston Town at this course in three successive Cox Plates, and each time he was "hopeless" just before the turn. We all recall Bill Collins' biggest ever faux-pas when he called the King as "cannot win" on one of those famous occasions.

But win the big horse did, and with the kind of sensational burst that has featured several times recently in Cox Plate finishes (though none has been as sensational as his). The end of the 1995 event would be with many readers still, and you will recall the apparently endless straight when Mahogany actually got to the lead, only to be touched off by the brilliant three year old Octagonal. The struggle in the straight seemed to go on forever, when in fact it took about ten seconds!

The new, sophisticated track surface should mean that the chances of every runner are even better accommodated.

The barriers have shown over the past five years that the track is an even one and offers most of the starters a good chance. At the minimum distance (1000m) the half-dozen inside barriers obviously have an advantage, but it's hard to say much about the barrier at 1200m except that barrier one is yet again the outstanding performer.

The 1000 is run from a chute, and it has a straight run of about 400 before they do a huge dogleg of about 180 degrees, ending up in another 90 degree turn into the straight.

There are a few barriers out of kilter at the 1200 start, and it suggests that they are not "normal" (even with five years' results) and that 10 or 20 years would straighten them out (for example the three and the twelve barrier ... unless there are potholes in front of the starts, you have to assume these are mere aberrations.)

At 1600 metres, there is again no clear guide except that everyone gets a fair go. As you can see, barriers thirteen and fourteen just outscore one, so things could not be more even. Seven is a bit low but not too low, and all in all the barriers are OK wherever you are drawn. That's odd really because they only get a run of about 300 metres before a severe turn, yet the outside barriers are all right.

At 2040 or so, they get a run of about 200 metres down the straight (past the winning post) to settle down, and jostling for spots is often a problem here. You'd say that the inside three spots were the best except that the outside draw just happens to top the lot!

There have been plenty of starters from out wide at 1600, but at 2040 there were ten times as many starters from barriers one, two and three as there were from fourteen, so I am going to dismiss fourteen and sa