Not long ago Geelong stewards cautioned Jenny Hunt, trainer of Dyna Malaise, about its high frequency efforts over sprint trips. Last Friday, they might well have tried again as Gracas King, the upcoming boom sprinter, now in the care of Jason Thompson, nicked out in front of the field in a Grade 5 over 460-metres. Sadly, as a $2.30 favourite, it gradually faded into 3rd place, over two lengths behind the winner in a fairly average 25.86.
Following a brilliant start to its career at Maitland, Gracas King moved to Victoria and had previously won over the Ballarat and Shepparton 450-metres trips in really smart times, leading all the way, so the favouritism was reasonable.
Was there a problem this time? Maybe. It had raced only four days earlier at Shepparton and five days before that at Ballarat. Too much of a good thing? Going on its Geelong run, that looked to be the case, but we may never know.
However, that episode was nothing compared with the unbelievable effort by Greyhound Racing Victoria, the Sandown club and 16 trainers to run a heat and final of a 5th Grade 715-metres series on the 12th and 16th of April – only four days apart.
Commonly, most of these dogs cannot handle a seven day break, let alone four days, as we have demonstrated repeatedly over the last year or so. It matters little whether they are 5th Graders or top class stayers.
So what happened in the final? Well, two of them were involved in a fight but were well back at the time. One improved – Destini Shadow – but it was not a fair comparison as it had come out very badly in the heat and barely managed to get into 4th spot to qualify for the final. The others ran between one and eight lengths slower time except for Mo Town San, which improved by one length. The $2.20 favourite, Why Not Wayne, ran 0.39s or six lengths slower although it led clearly in both heat and final, fading in the latter. The final winner, Feikuai Polly, ran two lengths slower.
There was nothing wrong with the track, quite the reverse, judging by Fernando Bale’s great 29.10 run and other very smart times.
All in all, it was a dog’s breakfast for punters and a big risk for the dogs involved.
More importantly, what on earth were all these people thinking in the current industry climate? To play Russian Roulette with their dogs’ health when the name of greyhound racing is under threat must be the dumbest practice seen in decades. And what of the supervision of the racing authority? It makes a mockery of the all the waffle about welfare.
Going further afield, what can we expect when Space Star and company step out next Saturday in the final of the 720-metres Gold Cup at Wenty? Will it be a repeat of the heat and final a few weeks ago when it ran 41.71 in the heat and 42.09 in the final – a six lengths drop? Probably. The trick will be whether Sweet It Is can avoid trouble for once and put some real pressure on it. Sweet It Is is one of those rare exceptions to the rule in that it is able to back up well after a seven day break.
There is an answer to this conundrum, as well as other challenges such as designing better racetracks. That is to commission genuine studies, done by independent professionals, to establish the real facts and the likely reasons for better or worse outcomes. The age-old practice of relying on trial and error, “the trainer knows best” or a wet finger can no longer be tolerated in the modern age.
Incidentally, going back to the Geelong track mentioned above, please note the high number of occasions when the stewards report includes the phrase “ran wide in the home straight”. There is nothing new about this as it has been going on ever since the new track was built. The logical conclusion is that the camber is wrong, which should be easy to fix.
Just by the way, recently I paid one of my infrequent visits to a track (who needs to do that these days?). At Gosford, a walk-around suggested it has quite a good camber everywhere, especially around the home turn where flattening often occurs.. The first turn is no good and the 400-metres and 600-metres boxes are badly sited, but the camber is excellent. Viewing is hampered by the lack of height and the absence of a grandstand, making it hard to pick out runners in the back straight. So, like many, I found it easier to use one of the many monitors inside the trainers’ lounge. Members of the public were noticeably in short supply, perhaps because the club never advertises and it now takes you an extra few minutes to locate the track entrance. (Note: I live 15 minutes’ walk from the track).
Back to the big picture, the inference is that both authorities and clubs are paying little attention to the cause and effect of race interference. Some of that is due to wayward, or even over-raced, dogs but a great deal is a direct result of poorly laid out tracks and is controllable. To pretend it is not happening likens the problem to previous attitudes to live baiting.
More Stewards Errors
The Meadows, Race 3, 19 April.
“Earl Bale (8) crossed to the inside soon after the start checking Zipping Eastwood (7), Ride The Rails (6), Gunmetal Rebel (5), Quicker Than Al (4) and Satsuki Bale (3).”
Checking five dogs? Rubbish! It never happened. All the “checked” dogs did their own checking. Earl Bale whizzed around the lot of them.
Speaking of recording errors, as we did a few days ago, the Wentworth Park dividends posted on the Ozchase (GRNSW) website for last Saturday were wrong – every single one of them.