Following our recent mentions of the risks involved in stayers backing up within seven days it was interesting to note some comments by Phil Purser, who runs the Queensland website justracing.com and is long experienced in all three codes as an owner/trainer.
Given the recent rains all down the eastern seaboard Phil made a point of examining the performances of horses in the three big cities, including their likely handling of soft tracks. Also, heading into spring, many were coming back from lengthy spells. Here is part of what he said.
“So this half fit and somewhat overweight thoroughbred – that is resuming from a spell and has had to be pushed out to the line in slow or more particularly “heavy” going – may well have had a gutbuster without the trainer even subsequently knowing that the horse isn’t quite right. The horse may eat up okay, be as bright as a button at trackwork, yet run below par at its next start. I’ve seen that scenario unfold a thousand times in my lifetime of following racehorses. And it’s probably a fact of life that with the drug laws as they are today in thoroughbred racing, in particular to the way that bi-carb use is targeted, that it’s probably harder for the modern day trainer to legally get a horse over a hard run quickly”.
This more or less parallels our observations about greyhounds in staying races. Xylia Allen has several times done poorly the week after a top win. Dusty Moonshine did likewise at Wentworth Park seven days after a series of well-spaced wins. In contrast, Sweet It Is has rarely backed up too quickly so it is no coincidence that it has generally put in very consistent runs. As it happens, it was just awarded Run of the Year by AGRA for its last to first win at Wentworth Park in April in 41.78. However, as suggested here previously, the track was lightning fast over that period – including when Xylia Allen broke the track record (but faded from the home turn a week later).
It was also notable that at least one distance runner was trialled over the full Cannington 715m trip only days before the National race. It ran poorly.
There cannot be much doubt that neither horses nor dogs can be relied upon to put in top runs a week apart over long trips. The odd exception to that rule does not invalidate the principle. Or, as vet Dr John Kohnke warned (see our article on 11 August), be extra careful about “over-exertion on a particular day” or when a greyhound “exceeds its physical limit”.
WRONG FORM A HASSLE
The shortcomings of the Ozchase form system came to the fore again in the Nationals at Cannington, this time due also to our sloppy friends down in Tasmania. Here’s what the Tasracing tipster said about the local hope prior to the distance race:
“Painted Dotty also is suited to box one and should be (sic) begin like she has at her recent starts she will make her presence felt at the business end of proceedings. The Mick Stringer-trained bitch has been arcing (sic) in peal (sic) form of late over the 720-metre trip in Sydney and in Tasmania and will go into the race in great condition”.
Ozchase more or less backed up that claim by printing (ex the Tasmanian race results) sectionals allegedly run by Painted Dotty at its last two starts – ie 5.17 and 5.11 – over the Launceston 720m trip. Luckily the former time was correct as it led all the way. The second is completely wrong as she had to come from well back and ran to the lead only in the home straight. That 5.11 time was the property of another dog altogether, not Painted Dotty.
For reasons which are impossible to understand, all Tasmanian sectional times – but only one per race – are assigned to the winner, not necessarily the dog that led, thereby corrupting career records for large numbers of dogs.
In the event, Painted Dotty got away well from its rails box in Perth, led for a while and then disappeared off the map when it got to “the business end”.
This sort of problem is compounded by the absence of sectional times for the majority of runners in provincial races in NSW and Queensland, as well as for all races in Tasmania.
The point is that if you have no integrity and consistency in the system, then all sorts of predictions can go wrong and people will be misled. Deliberately giving the wrong dog a fast sectional time is a disgraceful practice yet it has been going on for months, despite constant reminders from this column. Even the Tassie tipster was so frantic to get out the comments that he did not bother to fix all his typos. Not a good look.
PROFESSIONAL OR AMATEUR?
While on the subject of formguides, what a pity that authorities can’t make life a bit easier for fans. Here are a few examples of track codes dreamed up by each of the three main producers. “DFS” is the Daily Form Service contracted by Tabcorp to prepare wall sheets for some 2,000 outlets in NSW.
In addition, DFS readers have to get used to the most recent race being put first when the normal practice is to put it last. GRV still inserts sectional and overall times for handicap runs without noting what those handicaps were. For anyone reading Ozchase form guides, first make sure you have a magnifying glass handy, especially in bad light. The font is far too small. And avoid TAB outlets which feature the new touchscreens prepared by someone called FLEXICOST – mostly they contain only the last three runs and do not show any times or margins unless the dog won. Where installed, these screens have replaced the DFS wall sheets, which mostly offer only three runs, too.
All of which indicates a complete lack of national supervision in greyhound racing. Standards don’t matter, consistency is out the window, just bung it out for the mugs. Well, for no-one, really, because the mugs don’t read formguides anyway.
AND SO IT GOES ON
From the stewards report for race 9 at Ballarat (Aug27).
“Jessie Small crossed to the rail soon after the start, checking Plantinum (sic) Shen, Dyna Zerg and Lagoon Mytye”.
The first bit is right but five viewings of the video cannot uncover the truth of the rest of the sentence. Those three dogs were well behind the fast-beginning Jessie Small at all stages. And “Plantinum Shen” should be Platinum Shen. Are these guys getting paid by the word?