Staying Programs – Time To Grasp The Nettle

After Dusty Moonshine crashed out of the NSW final of the National Distance Championships I may have to hand in my tipping license. Still, I may have an excuse. This was the first time the bitch had backed up over a longer trip inside seven days. Previously, her runs have been very well spaced.

It’s always been an awkward process when authorities schedule heat and final series with quick turnarounds and it is fraught with danger. A few dogs can manage it but the majority can’t. And mostly they run slower time anyway, which makes betting difficult.

It was a great shame as the bitch is miles better than the opposition when in top form. Winner Queen Marina is honest enough but 42.29 while leading all the way is only a moderate time for a top class race. Dusty Moonshine began well enough and had every chance but looked to have no real zip at all and finished six lengths behind the winner – or about 11 lengths slower than each of its previous three runs at the track.

We cannot expect dogs to be machines but that comparison is ridiculous. No doubt all the people who took the $1.60 price thought so, too.

Let’s give this subject some perspective. The average greyhound reaches peak speed at around 440m. After that they are slowing down, some more than others. Many winners over the 500s are flat out getting that trip, even including top notchers (eg El Galo and El Grand Senor). In Victoria, many winners over the 500s in town cannot get the 480m at Horsham with its long and demanding home straight. Many good sprint winners at Angle Park cannot run out the same distance when coming over to Sandown – the distance might be the same but the effort needed is greater because of the longer straights. At the other end of the scale, the industry now seems to have dismissed marathons of 800m-900m from all programs, although I have yet to see any official announcement. That’s been a sensible policy because almost no dogs can run that trip out and they pose extreme dangers to most of them. Statistically, career performances show that the majority of marathon competitors never regained their earlier form afterwards, or not unless they were born and raised in Kenya.

In other words, while no two are the same, the big picture indicates that 700m events may take more out of a dog than it has available to give, especially when it is trying to lead all the way. When coupled with all the available dog by dog experience we have seen, the conclusion is inescapable – for the vast majority, it is too tough to handle.

In that context, why should we expect 700m dogs to reproduce their best with only seven days to recover? Repeatedly, the evidence is that they can’t. Xylia Allen, which is as good as we have even though she is not a true stayer, has shown time and again that she can’t.

So don’t make them do it.

For another important viewpoint, see here comments by vet Dr John Kohnke (my emphasis added).

Post-Race Stress Related Problems- a review
Many stress related conditions, such as subclinical cramping, post-race urinary shutdown and respiratory distress can occur with obvious external physical signs within 1-6 hours after a hard race. However, a number of less common metabolic and other conditions related to extreme physical exertion, often without visible symptoms, can also affect greyhounds over the 6-72 hours during the post-race recovery period.
These conditions are not always relative to the fitness level of the greyhound, although well-conditioned and prepared greyhounds are less likely to develop signs of metabolic stress. In many cases, these conditions are caused by over-exertion on a particular day, the influence of the weather, as well as interference or checking in a race where a keen greyhound attempts to make up lost ground and exceeds its physical limit. As most of these conditions can have severe physical metabolic or life threatening consequences, prompt recognition is paramount to avoid long term complications. (Published by Star Greyhound Products, UK).

Essentially, these comments address severe cases, yet obviously there will be a range of effects from none to a lot. The difficulty is that no-one, including the trainer, can be sure how far along that line a particular dog lies without conducting lengthy and expensive tests. But even reducing a dog from 100% to 90% efficiency can obviously decide the outcome of a race.

To ignore these impacts makes a mockery of widespread publicity being given to welfare issues, to say nothing of the damage to punters’ wallets. Both are critical to the industry’s future.

Fortunately, the National Championship itself is a one-off affair so the race should be a fair one, depending only on how hard trainers work their dogs prior to the event. But it is the exception to the rule. That aside, Australian staying ranks are such that the winner will probably be battling to get within half a second of the track record. Xylia Allen might do better than that, but only if she draws near the inside and does not get hassled.

BEAUTIFUL ONE DAY, DIRECTIONLESS THE NEXT

Following a judicial review and a call for more independence, the Queensland Racing Minister has acted in his own peculiar way.

Current Racing Queensland chairman Kevin Dixon has resigned his position as head of the thoroughbred board but retains his position as the chairman of the overarching RQ board. Therefore he is now independent, says the Minister. Some will believe that, thousands may not.

Members of the three code boards, all insiders proposed by other insiders, have little power as all major decisions have to go to the main board for approval. The greyhound board is comprised of two former or current club officials (albeit one is a QC) and one broadcaster

Playing musical chairs on the Titanic comes to mind. Since the new structure arrived, no marketing initiatives and no reform packages have been seen and so the decline of the last 10 or 20 years is certain to continue. Indeed, the only marketing effort seen at all since the restructure is WeRunAsOne – a program designed to convince participants to be nice to one another. Its dedicated website is notable for the massive lack of interest from the industry, and for its disregard for those few queries which are voiced by participants.

Past Discussion