RECENTLY, I promised to dig up some evidence from vets about the dangers of over-racing, specifically backing up inside a seven day period. That effort will continue but meanwhile here is a quote from Dr John Kohnke, noted vet and author, about post-race stress in general.
This addresses the principle but also could be relevant to a performance last Saturday at The Meadows – of which more in a moment.
Post-Race Stress Related Problems – a review
“Many stress related conditions, such as subclinical cramping, post-race urinary shutdown and respiratory distress can occur with obvious external physical signs within 1-6 hours after a hard race. However, a number of less common metabolic and other conditions related to extreme physical exertion, often without visible symptoms, can also affect greyhounds over the 6-72 hours during the post-race recovery period.
These conditions are not always relative to the fitness level of the greyhound, although well-conditioned and prepared greyhounds are less likely to develop signs of metabolic stress. In many cases, these conditions are caused by over-exertion on a particular day, the influence of the weather, as well as interference or checking in a race where a keen greyhound attempts to make up lost ground and exceeds its physical limit. As most of these conditions can have severe physical metabolic or life threatening consequences, prompt recognition is paramount to avoid long term complications.” (Published by Star Greyhound Products, UK).
Separately, Dr Kohnke has used the term “gutbuster” to describe the high level of energy going into an all-the-way win by a greyhound. In other words, any dog out in front on its own is going to extract all the power it has available to pursue the lure – sometimes too much. The corollary is that a dog coming from mid-field will tend to use less energy and still have something left in the tank. Obviously, the distance of the race is critical, hence events of 700m-plus involve greater risks.
Which takes us back to the Superstayers final where Space Star went to the boxes well into the red following a brilliant run in its heat a week earlier. Actually, more than brilliant. The previous record time by Nellie Noodles, an erratic but hugely talented bitch, had not only stood for several years but no other dog had got close to it. To bust the record, Space Star had not only to run well but also to exceed any previous performance in its own career. So it did, but was there a cost? And don’t forget, it had also run ultra-fast time in the Zoom Top a week earlier again.
In Saturday’s final, Space Star (box 6) did not come out of the boxes very well but had made up plenty of ground by the time they hit the first marker, recording 5.07, the same as Lady Toy. Thereafter, it more or less maintained its position, well off the rails, but did finish on reasonably to post 42.57, or around 9 lengths slower than in its heat.
Lady Toy ran exactly the same race and time in both heat and final so, by any measure, should have won the race. It has been very consistent but note that it does pace itself in the early part of a race.
Alas, Luna Jinx had other ideas, jumping much better than usual and recording its fastest ever win. It simply outstayed the others. (At great cost to this writer and many others). Although it will run all day, no-one thought it had any real chance which is why it started at 30/1, which was being kind to it on the figures.
But back to the key point. Space Star was running its third 725m race in three weeks, the first two being “gutbusters”, as emphasised by the quick times. Third time was not so lucky. Even after allowing for some early bustling, this was a sub-par run by its standards. The evidence is circumstantial (what else have you got?) but it seems plain it had not replenished its petrol tank sufficiently after the two “gutbusters”. That was why I bet against it, correctly as it turned out.
Space Star is not alone. The equally talented Xylia Allen broke the Wentworth Park record last April and then ran six lengths slower, fading from the home turn, in the final a week later. It did the same thing in September, running 41.76 in a heat and 42.13 in the final, also six lengths slower.
So there are two of the best distance dogs in the business in recent times and neither could hack the demands of the system. It’s not only disappointing for them but also for the thousands of punters who supported them.
The solution is simple: do not schedule distance race heats and finals a week apart. Such a policy is just as much a matter of the dogs’ welfare as any other of the issues being debated today. And while we are at it, there is a strong argument in favour of stopping any dog from racing twice within seven days, regardless of distance.
Yes, of course, there are exceptions to the rule. But sometimes you know that and sometimes you don’t. It is not worth the risk.