Dyna Willow started racing at 20 months of age and has just finished at 40 months. During that time she won quite a few good races but also lost many she might have won.
The bitch had two periods of highlights. The first was in November/December 2013 when she won three in succession at Sandown and Wentworth Park, the last two in very good time. Following that she put in two good runs over the 650m trip at Sale. The second batch of three in a row occurred in March/April 2014, all at Wentworth Park, also in good times.
Those aside, she won a few but lost a lot, never running quick times.
The saddest part of her career was the last bit – the 11 runs since (apparently) an enforced layoff between April and July this year. For the most part these were disappointing performances, save a single win at The Meadows in 42.58, itself an ordinary time. There was little spark in those runs, which no doubt indicated that retirement might be the best option. And so it has happened.
The major characteristic of her entire staying career (from August 2013 onwards) was that she was continually backing up at seven day intervals or close to it.
For a bitch of undoubted ability, it is strange that she did not win more often and was often beaten by big margins. What can we put this down to? Niggling injuries? Bad luck? Boredom? Physiologically spent?
Each may have played some part but the evidence strongly suggests the last is the dominant factor, not just because of her own experience but also because of similar careers of other stayers. Of all the stayers racing over the last 18 months only one can be said to have put in well in every race they competed in – Sweet It Is. Even then, Sweet It Is has improved somewhat since moving to a new kennel earlier this year. Every other stayer has been erratic, including Xylia Allen. Many previously good winners have followed up by just plodding around with the pack. That has to be due to the way they are built and the way they are placed in races.
Of course, the question that is impossible to answer is whether Dyna Willow would have been more successful had she raced less often? I would suggest most probably yes. That is sometimes hard to manage due the habit of authorities of scheduling heats and finals seven days apart yet it is something that impacts on both welfare issues as well as punters’ fortunes. Some also claim that over-racing affects breeding capability.
Now, for punters looking into the upcoming four heats of the Bold Trease over 715m at Sandown, consider these starting points. Of the 32 dogs drawn, 20 have raced in the last 8 days, 11 of those raced only 5 days ago. The other 12 last raced 10 or more days ago. The lucky finalists, if you can use that term, will have to do it again in another seven days. As for tips? No chance – too many imponderables and too many ordinary performers.
Fortunately, Sandown fans have got eight heats of the Melbourne Cup to spend time studying. They are full of classy dogs and will not be easy but at least you know the dogs will be raring to go.
BETTER TRACKS – OR MORE OF THE SAME?
Pictures are now available of works under way to build a replacement track at Traralgon, together with a new multi-facility building. The old premises looked out on a tri-code circuit, including a harness track which has now been deleted.
While no detailed plans have been published (why not?) club manager Hec Caruana comments that “It will be a big beautiful two turn track with plenty of versatility with its use. There will be five race distances (i.e. five sets of boxes), ranging from approximately 315 metres to 660 metres”.
Already, that offers two traditional suspects. First, the continuation of short course racing (ie 315m, which replaces the old 298m trip) panders to the wishes of trainers with crook dogs rather than to customers who invariably prefer longer races. Second, the 660m number appears to copy the middle distance trips constructed in recent times at Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and Warrnambool, all with biased and disruptive bend starts. Neither is a good move.
It would be a saving grace if the 660m start were to be located in a shute off the track proper so as to reduce early interference – just as the gallops do. Limited examples of that approach are available at Canberra 600m and Northam 588m, seemingly with better outcomes. Anyway, that remains to be confirmed.
As for racing over the “shorts”, I hardly know what to suggest. They are a test of jumping ability alone and therefore add little to the sustainability of the breed. Customers, even mug punters, feel cheated when one comes up (many barely look at the distance to be covered) and want more bang for their buck. Yes, I realise many trainers ask for them. But why? Surely those dogs can be reasonably competitive over a 400m trip.
The flood of such events at Traralgon and nearby Cranbourne, as well as at Dapto, Grafton, Albion Park and even Wentworth Park is not helping the industry. Ditto for the awful 311m at the old Olympic Park. Note that Horsham and Warrnambool both got rid of their ultra-short trips – extending them to 410m and 390m respectively and getting plenty of starters – and I have not heard any great complaints about the changes. It’s up to GRV to lower the boom here.