Progress Comes Only After Hard Decisions

It’s always hard to know what GRNSW is doing (Brent’s Blog has not been seen for the last three months, for example) but its approach to the four NSW Northern Rivers clubs has always been puzzling.

Of those, Tweed Heads is Non-Tab and will remain so because its Saturday afternoon meetings are in no-man’s land due to Tabcorp’s preferences for the gallops. However, although this club is also by far the most successful Non-Tab operation in the country, it has had its dates cut as part of what we assume to be an economy drive by GRNSW. We don’t know what the savings are but they could not be great.

It is also a mystery because that happened at a time when Queensland lacked a one-turn track following the closure of the Gold Coast. A hole was waiting to be filled. Even now, its replacement at Logan is likely to be a good two years in the making (regardless of what the publicity says). That was an opportunity to better promote Tweed Heads but it was not to be. Opportunity lost!

Elsewhere, the grass circuit at Casino celebrates its Cup meeting tonight. All the usual suspects will be going around, unlike at Tweed Heads’ lucrative Galaxy meeting where numerous dogs come from interstate to compete. But, in this day and age, Casino’s tight, no-straight track does not measure up to modern standards and, in any event, it is much too close to the nearby Lismore club to justify them both existing. If money is tight, why were their efforts not combined?

Lismore, too, needs improvements because of its bend starts but that could readily have been organised at the time of the rationalisation. It is the business, population, educational, cultural and administrative centre of the region. Casino has lots of cattle but they don’t bet much.

The relative performances of these two clubs should also be considered in the light of the fact that Casino has long enjoyed a preferred time slot – usually Friday twilight – while Lismore has been in the deadly Tuesday night position and Grafton has been jumping around all over the place, generally filling gaps here and there.

Further south, Grafton is battling along with half-money racing although it offers by far the best layout available in the area (particularly its 407m trip) and is nicely separated from the other three. In all the circumstances, some rationalisation is called for and Grafton is long overdue for promotion.

It would be no different in principle to what has already happened at Orange-Bathurst – with modest success (apart from building a horrible 450m start at Bathurst).

GOOD TIMES AHEAD?

Following his good win the week before it looked like Starc was disappointing in running second to Ruff Cut Diamond at Sandown on Thursday. Not so. He actually improved by nearly three lengths but had no hope with the winner. And the dog is not yet two years old and smallish for a male at barely 30 kg.

It was no wonder. Ruff Cut Diamond ran the fastest 715m seen in a long while – 41.52 – easily bettering anything ever done by Xylia Allen or Sweet It Is. Miata’s track record is 41.17. Ruff Cut Diamond led all the way but actually ran away from Starc in the home straight.

Both the newcomers were having only their second start over the long trip and both were sired by Bekim Bale, as were two others in the field, including the fourth placegetter, Love Affair, and Allen Wake. Dare I suggest they all could do with a break of at least a couple of weeks now.

Critically, Bekim Bale might be launching a return to glory in the staying ranks. Can it be true?

(See also other Bekim Bale comments in our 15 September article re NSW stayer Space Age etc).

HARD TO FOLLOW

At Sandown in Race 8 stewards deemed the run of Tonk (6) as “unsatisfactory” and demanded a trial before accepting future nominations. I have to feel for the connections, even though the decision is not too dramatic. Here are some excerpts from the stewards report.

“Billy Bowlegs and Tonk collided soon after the start checking Billy Bowlegs”. “Tonk checked off Stunning Ashberg on the third turn”. “Tonk and Dyna Geldof collided in the home straight”.

Observations show that Tonk, a dedicated railer and chancy beginner, came out moderately from the middle box, got barrelled on the awful 595m bend start, got to the rail around the back, and pressed on strongly to pass a couple of runners on the way to the post – still chasing hard all the way into the pen. What was the point in being nasty to it?

A more productive recommendation from the stewards would be to put the club and GRV on trial for creating such a lousy start to a race. Ditto for the 600m start at The Meadows.

By comparison, the talented Dyna Perseus (8) (about which I wrote nice things many weeks ago when it was in sparkling form around the provincials) was in Race 7 just earlier, well backed just behind the two favourites. It came out poorly and ran last all the way, not really interested. Its previous form had been up and down. Stewards said not a word. How can you work them out?

(Note: The writer had no financial interest in either of these dogs).