The bloke who claimed that nobody ever reads this column might have been partly right. (Maybe nobody reads it except him?). Here’s what I wrote a week ago about the Chairman’s Cup: “Based on its history, Xylia Allen will not be able to repeat its heat time with the final only seven short days away. Whether it can still win is the hard question. Odds-on, look on!”
Well, very few of you took any notice. In the final, Xylia Allen started at $1.80, ran the same style of race it did in the heat, and ran second in 42.11, which was five lengths slower than in its heat and a similar amount behind this week’s winner. There was nothing unusual about this. Its petrol tank was not refilled. The bitch has done this repeatedly when forced to back up within seven days of an earlier distance race. It simply cannot manage the two. Sweet It Is also ran as it normally does, messing around early and finishing on late in its normal time.
Zipping Maggie recorded its fifth win in a row, running a spritely 41.78 on the pace all the way and leading from the judge the first time around. It never looked like losing while the other two never looked like winning. Noteworthy is that throughout its career it has moved up steadily through the distances, from 500 to 600 to 660 and then to the 700-plus category, always improving as it went on. The Wenty victory was certainly its best.
I had made it 3/1 each of the three of them, give or take a bit, which was pretty right in the circumstances. Odds-on for Xylia Allen never made any sense.
I am now demanding that my tipping license be returned immediately.
AND AROUND THE TRAPS
Elsewhere, against moderate opposition at Dapto, Dusty Moonshine returned to its former glory when it streeted the field in 43.16, busting Forty Twenty’s five year old track record. It was coming off two mysterious failures at Wenty when it did not look like a fit enough dog. Perhaps they have got it right now? Its next run might tell more.
Just prior to the Chairman’s Cup, another provincial record breaker, Space Star, trounced a 5th grade field at Wenty in a smart 41.97. Not a flash beginner, it will be interesting to see how it progresses with more experience and in better class. The interesting thing about Space Star and Dusty Moonshine is they both race like stayers. Not many do that.
The Space Age performances further emphasise a trend I noted earlier (see August 29 article) as its sire is the dynamic Bekim Bale. That connection was underscored last Thursday at Sandown where five of the eight entries (two were later scratched) in a 5th Grade 715m event were sired by the same Bekim Bale, all with different mums. No world beaters amongst them but one of them bowled home to victory (Starc) in nice time and another ran third. Similarly on Saturday at The Meadows, Bekim Bale provided two of the eight runners over 725m, including the winner Shot To Bits. In recent times, it’s hard to recall a more prominent sire of distance dogs than this one, perhaps excepting Bombastic Shiraz.
It’s interesting to note that some thoroughbred buffs have pointed out that sires with a short racing career do much better at stud than those with lots of races under their belt. Bekim Bale’s racing career was cut short quite early through injury, but not before recording a track record over Sandown 515m. Likewise for Brett Lee and others.
Shot To Bits also adds to the mysteries. A noted hard finisher, the 725m handicap at The Meadows on Saturday was its first attempt at the long distance following top middle distance form, including a track record at Bendigo 660m. It won nicely but in very slow time. Corrected for the handicap (which GRV formguides fail to show) it ran the equivalent of 43.31which is one of the three worst times recorded this year. That’s surprising, notwithstanding its normal slow start. More information needed.
Still at The Meadows, last Saturday’s meeting may have been a sign of the times. It had a slowly run handicap over the long trip, a Maiden Final over 600m, which generally indicates only that the dogs are not much good at shorter trips, and Novice dogs scattered through the program – five actually raced and four more were listed as reserves. There was a time when Novices could not dream of getting a run at major city meetings.
More signs. Albion Park’s Sunday meeting contained nothing but 331m races. Usually it has a mix of distances. This is a reflection of the quality of dogs on offer in that state and often elsewhere. Indeed, the first law of racing now is that nominations will always gravitate to the shortest trip on offer. Unfortunately, they are also the least predictable. Inquiries reveal that these policies are there to keep trainers happy, but punters will have a different view (meaning punters, not gamblers).
However, please don’t tell me these races pull in good money, therefore they are worthwhile. Observation at the TAB over many years tells me that the majority of mug gamblers have no idea what the upcoming race distance is. They are often disappointed when it finishes so quickly, which is also why serious punters don’t like them.
THE BIGGER QUESTION
All this to and fro about the quality of the staying ranks, or individual dogs, amounts more to a stab in the dark than anything else. It brings to mind ongoing studies into thoroughbred breeding where scientists have been trying to identify which genes produce sprinters and which stayers – and some claiming success.
But should the vets and the scientists be doing more to delve into greyhound genetics? The apparent shortage of genuine stayers is not helpful to the breed or to the way we put races together. I have already mentioned that programming heat and final events over successive weeks poses significant doubts (see above). Equally, there are both economic and welfare factors involved in that overstressing a dog does no-one any good – the dog, the connections, the punters or the public.