There was something for everyone at Ballarat last night for the heats of the Ballarat Cup. Thrills and spills abounded as a lot of good dogs vied for the right to get into the final next week. So many good dogs, though, that they effectively downgraded the fields at tonight’s prime Sandown meeting.
Notably, Allen Deed and Agent Jack easily outpointed their oppositions with runs of 25.06 and 25.14 respectively. Both ran around the centre of the track and avoided any interference. Note those times because the other six heat winners could do no better than 25.33 to 25.47, which is just OK but not great.
Two dogs probably better suited over the 400m trip got run down – Magic Diva and El Grand Seal – although both have had success over the 450m trip previously. Luca Neveelk and Secret Spell won nicely after just ordinary jumps, particularly the former. Blue Giant in the last heat came from nowhere at all to catch El Grand Seal on the line. It was many lengths back on the turn.
Jason Thompson’s pair returning from injury had mixed fortunes. Innocent Lil was not doing a lot and then fell while the versatile Whodat Knockin ran well from the outside box but could manage only second in 25.40 to the nippy Secret Spell.
Luca Neveelk belied its poor start in the Melbourne Cup but still only got away on level terms at Ballarat. But it was impressive in getting to the lead on the home turn and winning nicely in 25.47.
However, the big story remains with Allen Deed. After being bumped out of the SHOOTOUT at Sandown it put in two awful runs on November 13 and 21 at the same track, recording sectionals of 5.24 and 5.31 to leave it at the rear of the field. Its running numbers were 68777 and 87776 which is a fair reflection of how it raced. It did not seem to be interested. Nor were stewards who made no comment at all.
Now, here we are six days later and Allen Deed bounces out from box 5, matches motors down the back and then runs away from them to win by over 6 lengths in very smart time. This is a dog we all know and love but how can you explain that? Punters would not be able to because they sent it out at a longish $9.70 in a race where it might once have been a hot favourite.
Such a massive reversal is something that stewards might normally look into. After all, that is their job. But not this time. Not a word, not a question, just as they failed to query the poor runs at Sandown. That amounts to an appalling disregard for the public interest, to say the least. Totally unacceptable.
There was another notable occurrence, curiously also in Allen Deed’s race. The NSW Win tote (assuming it is not a misprint) amounted to an unbelievable $33,893, some 70% higher than that in Victoria. The average pool in NSW in the other seven heats was a very modest $8,446, which is not unusual for Wednesday night meetings these days. Other bet types were all at normal levels so it was only the Win pool that was attacked.
There are only two possible sources for the extra cash; big professional punters trying to manipulate the market or bookies laying off. Allen Deed’s long-priced win may have dudded them both anyway. But what were they seeking? The two favourites, Scenic Shot and Beckenbauer, were both sent out at unders by my reckoning (also the Watchdog’s) and did not fire a shot. And, on form, they could not justify backing Allen Deed which was at about its right price.
More likely, one of the online bookies had taken one or more big bets and was trying to limit its liability. Either way, investing $20k or so is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, particularly on what looked like an unpredictable greyhound race. I suspect a proper bookie would have just taken them on. GRV has just employed a betting expert so perhaps he will be able to sort something out?
On that note, let me confess that I have never taken well to the new Ballarat layout, at least for the 450m trip. Perhaps it is my imagination but far too many races are subject to excessive amounts of shuffling prior to and on the turn. Consequently, it is one of my least favourite betting options. Maybe others have more profitable ideas but they would have been flat out succeeding last night as only two of eight favourites won their heats. Three First Fours paid over $1,000 and another two over $500.
As for next week’s final, Luca Neveelk is going to be very hard to beat from the rails box, regardless of what Allen Deed does.
One In A Million
Given the Phil Hughes tragedy, it is interesting to note that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that cricket ranks very low on the scale of injuries requiring hospital treatment. Easily the big leaders are AFL, both Rugby codes and Soccer which incur between 15 and 18 injuries per 100,000 people involved.
That comes from a 2011/12 survey conducted by Flinders University on behalf of the government.
Also of interest is that greyhound racing – based on figures from GRNSW – experiences injuries, mostly minor, to 2.8% of all starters. That’s not a big figure, considering the hell for leather nature of the sport.
But, back to the main game, half a lifetime of opening the batting and dodging thousands of bouncers – all in pre-helmet days – leads me to support Dean Jones view that helmeted batsmen have become far more adventurous in hooking short balls. And not as good at it – have there been any better than Ian Chappell or Keith Stackpole?
Presumably modern players no longer realise they are still at risk, never mind how good the helmet is. But, then, so is crossing the road.