Yesterday, the brilliant Up and Away, feature race star, quick beginner and winner of 18 races overall, including eight in town and one at Cranbourne over the 500s, got run down at Horsham by a rejuvenated Goldie Bale.
Up and Away led easily but, like so many others, was found out by the long Horsham straight. What worked over 450m or around the circle over the 500s failed over Horsham’s 480m.
Stamina does count.
Oddly, Up and Away must have been waiting for summer to arrive. Of its 18 wins, eight occurred in successive races in November/December 2010 and a further six in a row in November/December 2011. In between, pickings were slim indeed.
Goldie Bale had not done a lot in winning four of 23 races but one top recent run was a very smart 27.21 over the Horsham trip (which pushed it up to 4th grade at the track) and Tuesday’s field of five allowed it plenty of galloping room. Ah well, it’s easy to be wise after the event.
Horsham’s 480m compares with only two other trips in Australia.
The Mandurah 490m is not really the same as it involves a start on a bend – ie a higher proportion of the race is on a turn, rather than in a straight. Bulli’s 472m is similar, except that its peculiar design involves a disruptive cutaway first turn and a flat turn into the straight, both serious design shortcomings. Still, it is demanding.
What all this points to is that metres ain’t metres. It’s how they are put together that counts. When rating city 500s you cannot assume that a shorter win may be discounted, at least not for strength. 450m, yes, but not 472m or 480m the way they are structured at Bulli and Horsham.
Normally, there are significant stamina break points between 400m and 450m, and between 450m and 500m, and so on. Dogs which can get one often cannot get the other. Then, to complicate matters, there are dogs which gain stamina as they mature – those fine sprinters El Galo and El Grand Senor fit into that bracket.
There is also the question of galloping actions. Big striding dogs obviously prefer big open tracks. Then a classic example was top performer Lansley Bale, which always went faster at The Meadows than at Sandown. The rounder circuit at The Meadows clearly suited its action better. On the other hand, power racers like Awesome Assassin and Whisky Assassin were only a shadow of their best at The Meadows, when compared with Sandown.
This subject also embraces policy decisions by state authorities. Both Queensland and SA lack a suitable one-turn track option for better dogs. Queensland has been dudded by the state government following the enforced closure of the Gold Coast track and then the peculiar ideas of the multi-code Racing Queensland authority (which has only one greyhound representative). But SA has chosen to ignore the need for a big track and forced all the decent cash to be paid out at two circle tracks – Angle Park and Gawler. It has had the opportunity to bulldoze the poorly laid out Gawler and turn it into a horseshoe track, thereby giving SA dogs badly needed flexibility. But it opted out. That’s a pity as the relatively easy 515m trip at Angle Park favours early speed over strength.
On the other hand, Victoria has acted sensibly in canning the awful bend starts once involved in 330m-340m racing at Horsham, Shepparton and Warrnambool and replacing them with more manageable 390m-410m trips. They are still no bed of roses but they are much better. Victoria also has a much better spread of distances in the newly built tracks at Geelong (including 460m and 520m) and Warragul (400m and 460 replacing the old 424m). Mind you, I am not convinced their turns are “right” but they have made a strong attempt.
But what track builders everywhere have to recognise is that dogs ain’t dogs. What suits one does not suit another.