New staying star possible – but watch this space

A GLIMMER of light in the staying stakes! Porrentruy’s near all the way victory in 42.06 on Saturday at Wentworth Park represented the first decent time run in Sydney and Melbourne (sorry, but the others don’t rate) for many a moon.

The intriguing thing is that the dog has never run a place in its 13-race career. It has eight wins from 14 starts, mostly over middle distances, and that’s it. Notably, all its wins, including this one, have come when it led or got away well.

Porrentruy is by Bekim Bale which has been producing lots of starters in distance races in Victoria. Its dam Zarbo has had several litters (some not permissible under the new rules) but by far its best one produced Group winner Mogambo (by Where’s Pedro) in 2006. A subsequent Where’s Pedro litter included a useful stayer in Lady Arko. Zarbo itself had solid staying performances.

Mogambo was never a stayer himself but has produced starters in current staying races. However, at one stage he held the record for the old Ballarat 550m trip.

My only worry is that Porrentruy has done this just once. All its previous wins have been in moderate times. Perhaps it is a turning point? Let’s hope so.

The last word on the Sale heat query

A review of the finalists in the heat-affected Sale Cup (December 26) shows that seven of the eight starters ran slower times between heat and final while the four which have raced since then have run even slower. That last lot includes poor runs at The Meadows from Come on Fantasy, Ring The Bell and Bourbski Fever.

The single exception is Lithgow Panther which ran a fair 34.37 over 600m on a slowish track at The Meadows last Saturday.

Yet we still don’t know for sure if these dogs were inconvenienced by the high temperatures surrounding the Sale Cup series. Clearly, it is important to identify what happened at the moment, but also to differentiate that from the medium term effect on the dogs.

It brings to mind that the Working Dog Alliance report suggested a few areas where the industry could well commission further studies from PHD vet students. An in-depth review of heat effects on a range of greyhounds would be a worthwhile start.

Similarly, bearing in mind an investigation of that sort would overlap with stresses resulting from quick back-ups, it is disappointing to see a gap of only four days between the heats and final of the Cranbourne Cup. This is a demanding trip at any time but it will be much tougher on finalists. The Cranbourne 520m is arguably the most strenuous of all the 500s around the country (yes, I know a couple are even longer than 520m but they appear to be a little easier to handle). Our PHD sharpshooters could take a look at that, too.

Greyhound “culture” problems widespread

A regular reader was not enthusiastic about the prospects of an independent consultant helping with track design issues in NSW because “they” (ie the administration) already know exactly what the problems are”.

Sad to say, the evidence is the opposite. Millions have been spent on a number of NSW tracks without achieving any improvement at all. For example, Dapto and Richmond attracted over half a million each in their last re-building process only to end up with almost exactly what they had before – ie design faults which cause disruptions, especially on the first turns for their main distances. Gosford and The Gardens (GBOTA and NCA resp.), funded and approved by GRNSW, both launched new tracks with poorly located 400m or 413m boxes only to be forced to move them a few months later to reduce interference problems. Both first turns over 515m have design faults which create interference. Both have bend starts for 600m races – Gosford is not too bad but The Gardens is disruptive. The home turn for The Gardens 515m is too flat, causing many dogs to wander off to the outside – a basic engineering-design fault. And so it goes on.

The evidence across the country is that administrations are either in denial about track problems or they simply don’t bother to check. It is a worry that these shortcomings amount to the same problem that the WDA study revealed with live baiting processes – a continuation of bygone practices, regardless of the advances in science and technology. It’s the three blind mice syndrome!

Here’s a sample solution to some problems; if your bend start is hard up against the fence, knock the fence down and shift the boxes. There is no reason on earth why boxes have to be on top of the track proper.

Not an exact science

Last week’s meeting cancellations in Victoria were based on Bureau forecasts of maximum temperatures, town by town. Likely scores of 38 degrees now cause a meeting to be scrubbed.

In practice, the three cancelled meetings on Thursday rated maximums of 39.7 at Sandown, 38.6 at Shepparton and 37.7 at Warragul. The Warrnambool meeting went ahead, based on a lower forecast, but its maximum was actually 39.4. On Friday, Bendigo was cancelled but scored 37.3. Geelong, also on Friday, operated normally but rated only 26.3, a huge drop on the inland Bendigo, but it was much hotter on the previous day.

On balance, the 38 degree policy may be fair enough even though, strictly speaking, three of the five actions were wrong, but not by much. Of course, we don’t know what the evening temperatures were (presumably cooler) but we also can’t be sure how many dogs had to travel in the heat of the day to get to the meeting, or for how long. In any event, daily minimums at all the above tracks were below 20 degrees, some significantly so.

Two things seem evident; first, any forecast in the 35-40 degree range should be suspect (which is partly covered in the new rules) and, second, forecasts are needed for the whole day, through to midnight, to better equip decision makers.

Of passing interest is that the Sheiks are busy racing greyhounds and other dogs in Dubai at temperatures way above ours and over a straight 1000m or so. No tote there, of course, as it’s just a sport. The lure is a (dead) deer slung over the side of a ute. Spectators chase the field, yelling and cheering from their Mercedes SUVs.