Neatness Counts

With all the awards being handed out, how come there is nothing for the best field dog? That’s the one that gets around the course without hitting anything or running into the backside of another dog. And does it smartly.

A reminder of this quality popped up on reading Tony McGrath’s “Eight Top Tips” to check before you buy a pup ( media release 18 August). Talking about a dog’s personality, he looks “perhaps more than anything … for one that is sensible”.

Without a psych test or a dog whisperer that would not be easy. Tony, a top Victorian breeder, likes “to study them for half an hour or so to get an idea of their personalities”. A few decades of experience probably helps, too.

Almost by definition, your good field dog is unlikely to be a flash beginner, which is why it has to be good at dodging others. Two such dogs which have been up for a while are (-Ambrosia Bale, bred by you know who) and He Knows Uno (-Honeymoon’s Over).

The former’s litter also includes Martili Bale and Stefan Bale, which have somewhat similar habits but aren’t quite as good. On the other hand, Primo Uno was noted for power rather than neatness and usually walked out of the boxes. His son is only marginally better at the jump.

It’s rare indeed to see Tonneli Bale or He Knows Uno collide with other dogs; they generally rail well but they will take another course if necessary. Consequently, they produce money-making win/place rates of 39%/70% and 47%/83% respectively.

A youngster headed the same way, and with similar qualities, is Queenslander (Flying Stanley ()-Incoherent), which has just won eight of his 11 starts. The class keeps rising but he keeps on winning. He will get his acid test in the Championship at Albion Park on Thursday, joining Tonneli Bale there, with both coming out of middle boxes.

That race poses some queries as two dogs cannot win, barring accidents (sorry and SA – in both cases there are better dogs back home), but the two inside runners are likely to dominate early positions. Pedrosa, which seldom wins away from WA, and Allen Hertz, which is not the strongest dog around, can both show plenty of early speed.

Glen Gallon (with a 29.79 on the track) and Tonneli Bale have the best overall form but must negotiate a path to the front. NSW dog Cold Fusion is unbeaten out of its 8 box and could get the run around the field if anything untoward happens.

The distance event is equally problematical due to Dashing Corsair’s mysterious back injury incurred in the state run-off last week. Given that history, Zipping Lad may well lead and overcome his 8 box – normally a difficult task over this trip (Arvos Junior could not do it). Bobby Boucheau can handle the track but his form has been mixed recently and box 7 is no help.

Note that one of the two leaders wins 66% of 710m races at Albion Park, including the big ones. A major reason for that is that the first turn is not far away and does not have a particularly good camber. It’s hard to position up from a backward spot, doubly so from an outside box.

On a different slant, is it not time to give these events a better name? While many great dogs have won these races, the overall fields are never anywhere near the best eight going around. It belies the word “Championship”.

It’s an interesting series and it is representative of all states. So why not call it a State of Origin contest. That tells the public exactly what it is. Probably more marketable, too.

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