WHAT an extraordinary night’s racing at Sandown on Thursday! Has there ever been seven heats for a group 1 distance race before? Anywhere? I can’t recall one. The next question is whether there are even seven dogs capable of running out such a trip in reasonable time? That’s doubtful, too.
In total, 55 dogs competed across the heats. Of those, almost exactly half had no distance qualifications at all. Presumably they were lured by the attractive prize money for the heats – $8,000, $2,500, $1,250 – or much better than standard provincial money. However, one of those – Zipping Kane – not only had no 700m-plus form but won its heat in a nippy 41.83. And I have grave doubts about No Donuts backing up for the final, mainly because it has never been able to do that previously. The trainer has also said he is now very wary of overloading it in distance events. But it ran a BON of 41.78 anyway.
So how quick were they all? Sandown’s record time is 41.17 (Miata). The all-in average winning time is 42.19, a bit shorter if you count only feature events. Three heat winners failed to get under that mark, and would presumably be no hope in the final. They are Luna Jinx (one of the most erratic performers racing), Bells Are Ringin and Who Dey. In total, five winners failed get under the 42.00 mark, which is a reasonable standard for week to week racing.
What about their lead-up races? Amazingly, three quarters of all starters had raced in the previous eight days – six of them within the last four days. But, of the seven winners, only two fell into that category – Zipping Kane and Dublin Bull. The other five had breaks of between 12 and 28 days. The odds always favour runners with more time to recover but that will not apply to any of them in the final in a week’s time.
Zipping Kane’s recent form has been extraordinary. It has had five runs now in the last 25 days, winning over 595m at Sandown and running a very slippery 37.28 over Sale’s 650m only last Sunday. That would almost certainly have won the Sale Cup last Christmas. Now, with a 41.83 heat win, it will be a heroic performance if it can get up in the Cup final. Indeed, it is the sort of dog that authorities should be analysing in order to clarify just how big an impact regular racing has on its metabolism. (Unfortunately, you would need before and after studies to do that).
Of the others, Lithgow Panther just plodded, Cardiology failed to jump and looked lost, Lioness Lulu could not lead, Seeking Justice and Come On Fantasy are not in top form and the interstate visitors were not really competitive (albeit Luna Jinx won in slow time). The much-touted Burn One Down from the Pringle camp is going to be a nightmare for punters. He ended up only 5th in his heat after a horrible but not unusual start. However, it did finish on. Backing it at $3.60 in its first distance race would be a sure way to the poorhouse. Similarly, punters were hoping for the unreachable when sending Esparza out at $2.30 in the same race. As a winner of nine from 45 it has never justified that sort of confidence.
Predictions? In the final I expect Zipping Kane and No Donuts to be at much shorter prices than I would be comfortable with in the circumstances. I doubt Dublin Bull can repeat its heat time (its lead-in form was terrible) but Wind Whistler always remains a show, given the shaky nature of the top two. Too many imponderables.
Next year? It is hard to see the value in allowing all and sundry to get into top events, even in the heats. Two heats, or four at the most, should be selected by graders on form and reasonable experience over long trips (say 650m and up). And, dare I say it again, heats and final should be two weeks apart.
Pricing? The usual favourite over-betting could be seen everywhere, which is partly why Narralee ($14) and Dundee Osprey ($24+) went out at ridiculous odds. The better sprint races are nearly always won by leaders and Narralee came into the race with a small early advantage over the field. A leader capable of 29.50 or better is seldom going to get run down. Dundee Osprey is not a natural leader but is strong and was always handy to the leading two, One For Me and Aston Bolero. Aston Bolero faded badly and may have had enough racing for the time being. Blazin Bomber messed around early while Dalgetty seems to be lacking early dash at the moment but both were heavily backed up or down from the $3.00 mark. I rated Narralee at 9/2 and Dundee Osprey at 6/1.
Incidentally, the Sapphire Crown Final attracted over $20k on the NSW Win tote, almost double the usual amount. Much of that would have been lost on the two favourites – Folio Bale and Shared Equity.
Cannington gains mixed experience
A pawnote on the new Cannington track. They have been running into strife with mucky surfaces which eventually led to race cancellations last Monday. No doubt they will find something suitable before long but it is mystifying that a dash of science could not be applied to pre-determining the make-up of loam in use. Surely there must be masses of evidence around the country about what works and what does not. Naturally there will be variations here and there but the basic chemical mixes should certainly be known. On this and many other matters you wonder if the states talk to each other.
As for the circuit itself – and barring the 600m start – the running appears to be reasonably clean but I am not sure it is a good compromise. Wide runners are not well served and railing leaders heavily dominate the results.
Much of the race is coloured by unsuccessful efforts from dogs out in the centre to gain ground. Instead the inside dogs get further and further away – much as occurs at The Meadows – regardless of natural ability. In this sense the new track has similar properties to the old one, which was always too heavily biased in favour of the two inside dogs.