Black Magic Opal’s 25.11 win in the Geelong Cup was not just in track record time. It was also an Australian, and probably world, speed record of 18.32 m/sec for mechanical hare racing on a loam track around at least one turn. That’s equivalent to a 66 km/hr average over the 460m trip.
In fact, it is also faster than anything ever recorded on grass tracks, which are normally quicker due to the greater purchase dogs obtain on the that surface.
Checks of race times in the UK and America show that nothing really gets close to Black Magic Opal’s speed, particularly over distances beyond 400m. Few overseas tracks have records much better than the 17.0 to 17.5 m/sec bracket. However, in America’s case, its tracks reputedly have very soft surfaces which would not help speed.
Sometimes public information can be selective. For example, the website answers.com lists Brett Lee’s great 28.88 run at Angle Park as the fastest ever. That was a wonderful effort, never since threatened, yet it was well short of Black Magic Opal’s run, reflecting a speed of only 17.84 m/sec.
That does give the lie to statistics, though, as track layouts, surfaces and conditions can affect times. So, too, the characteristics of the dogs involved, particularly their galloping habits and railing abilities. Brett Lee’s time was around two turns, not one, and Angle Park is a fairly tight track.
Fairly naturally, the need to negotiate two turns makes a significant difference to the average speed. So consider how fast Black Magic Opal has run over different distances since February 2013 and some comparisons with Brett Lee.
|One Turn Tracks||Black Magic Opal||Brett Lee|
|Geelong 460m||18.32 m/sec||18.01 m/sec (457m)|
|Maitland 450m||18.06 m/sec||N/A|
|Shepparton 450m||18.05 m/sec||18.17 m/sec|
|Bendigo 425m||18.05 m/sec||Trialled only|
|Ballarat 450m||17.98 m/sec||18.04 m/sec (Old track)|
|Sale 440m||17.82 m/sec||Trialled only|
|Two Turn Tracks||Black Magic Opal||Brett Lee|
|Wentworth Park 520m||17.56 m/sec||*|
|Sandown Park 515m||17.48 m/sec||*|
*The nature of these tracks has changed since a decade ago so comparisons are not valid.
During that recent period Black Magic Opal has competed around one turn on 13 occasions and won them all, which is an amazing record in itself. In the same period it has won four and lost four around two turns, the losses all occurring from outside boxes.
Certainly, the evidence over longer trips would suggest Brett Lee is well ahead overall yet speed is still speed, isn’t it?
Having said all that, it is instructive to look at record speeds achieved all over Australia. We have data for 336 different trips, some lightly used long ones, of course. The top 40 are headed by four straight tracks, followed by Geelong 460m. The next 35 trips all show record speeds of 18.00 m/sec or better and all but one are one-turn trips. The exception is Potts Park 530m (29.45 = 18.00 m/sec) which perhaps throws doubt on the timer or the precise distance. Still, it is a grass track.
The next 128 trips fall into the range 17.50-17.99 m/sec. Therefore, we can say (barring the odd correction) that effectively 60% of Australian track records are equal to or faster than almost anything in other countries.
Interim conclusions would be that …
- 1. Australian dogs are faster, or
- 2. Training and other support systems are better, or
- 3. Australian tracks are more conducive to fast times, or
- 4. Some combination of the above three.
You could also say that dogs in the current era are significantly faster than those of two or three decades ago.
How times change. As a colleague has mentioned, in 1967 that great sprinter, The Shoe, busted the record at the wonderful old Harold Park track, running 26.0 for the 457m (500 yards) trip, which was then claimed as a world record. That is a speed of only 17.57 m/sec – and on grass. What would Black Magic Opal have done there? Or any of our top gallopers today?
Even further back, I have no doubt the world 400m record would have been busted many times by a black flash from the Hunter – Travelling Lad – which routinely led top grade fields at Harold Park by six lengths up the back straight. You had to watch closely to spot it as the lighting was murky there. But, alas, he would stop dead with 50m to go and never made any record books.
For interest, here are the top speeds attained at our major circle tracks, all in the 515m-530m range.
|Angle Park||17.83 m/sec||Brett Lee|
|The Meadows||17.83 m/sec||Heston Bale|
|Sandown Park||17.78 m/sec||Bekim Bale|
|Launceston||17.70 m/sec||Xylia Allen|
|Albion Park||17.59 m/sec||Made To Size|
(It is no surprise that Albion Park is at the bottom of this list, given its dubious cambers on both the first and home turns. Angle Park’s top position is entirely due to Brett Lee’s run. Otherwise it would score around 17.60, reflecting its relatively shorter straights).
Several other animal breeds may be quicker than greyhounds but only over very short distances. The cheetah has been variously timed at 25 m/sec or more for very short bursts but its run is well and truly finished after 200m or so. African antelopes and gazelles are similarly fast early but no information is available on their performances over longer trips.
Humans are well down the scale with Usain Bolt’s 100m world record only just over half a fast as the greyhound at 9.58 m/sec.
Of course, if well publicised, the capabilities of the greyhound would be interesting to many. Here is one example; “While he is going at full tilt the dog’s heart rate can rise to 300-360 beats/minute, (which) means that the greyhound heart can contract and refill with blood five times per second during a race allowing oxygen to be transported at a phenomenal rate to supply the needs of the muscles. At maximum acceleration a greyhound can reach a speed of 72 kph within its first 6 strides from a standing start. No other animal (except the cheetah) has that degree of acceleration.” Stanley Coren PhD, FRSC in Canine Corner, 2009.
Also of interest are these comments on the breed’s physiology on The Green Collar Program (2013), “Greyhounds have a larger heart and higher blood pressure than other breeds of dog. Their blood is extra rich in oxygen-carrying red blood cells and they have about 4% more blood than other dogs. The special qualities of their blood makes greyhounds highly valued as canine blood donors. Their body weight is made up of 16% fat which is less than half the amount of other dog breeds of similar size. The high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres in their bodies aids speed, not endurance. Greyhounds run and hunt using their sight (60%), sense of small (20%) and hearing (20%). Other dogs use their senses differently depending on what they were bred to do”.
- Breeding: Magic Sprite-Awesome Opal
- Whelped: 17 May 2011
- Race Record: 30 starts, 23 wins, 4 seconds at 18 October 2013
- Owner: Black Opal Syndicate
- Trainer: Jason Thompson