More Of Too Much Of A Good Thing

I have no idea how best to train stayers, but I know what I like to bet on.

More and more it seems that dogs are being asked to do too much. Not necessarily all of them but most. To see what I mean, here are a few examples amongst many.

At Park:

Hala Belle on 24 Apr ran 41.82, followed by 42.30 on 1 May, difference +0.48 or 7 lengths.
Sisco Rage on 24 Apr ran 41.98, followed by 42.47 on 1 May, difference +0.49 or 7 lengths.
Rocky Bale, on 24 Apr ran 41.98, followed by 41.73 on 1 May, difference -0.32 or 4.5 lengths.

At :

on 12 Apr ran 41.53, followed by 41.98 on 19 Apr, difference +0.45 or 6.5 lengths.
… then at Sandown 1 May ran 42.13, equivalent to 42.43 at Wenty, 13 lengths worse than its Wenty record.

Of these four cases, all involving successful dogs, three faded when they raced again 7 days later. The exception is Rocky Bale which is a much different sort of racer. He always comes from the back of the field while the others are essentially leaders. That means Rocky Bale pulls out all the stops only in the run home. Or, to put it another way, it ends up going hard while the others are slowing down. Those other three are leaders and performed like that in all the above races, meeting with little or no interference.

The obvious conclusion is that leaders, with the bunny right in front of them, use up more petrol early in the race. Their chasing DNA then starts to overpower their physical capacity. Once they go past 600m or so they are effectively running on empty, or nearly so. In turn, before they can race successfully again, they need to replenish their juices (vets will tell you the correct names for those). Obviously, in most cases 7 days is not enough time for that to happen. Indeed, many vets have been quoted as saying the same thing for any dog, regardless of the distance covered. Some trainers, too.

Other influences may be the stresses of long travel or the dog’s racing frequency over time. One example was record breaker which was just a shadow of its former self for the last few months of its career. Previously it had raced week-in, week-out for long periods in several states, with short spells only for injuries.

A related question is the raw ability of the dog (or bitch) itself. Xylia Allen has always been a brilliant galloper but until the Wenty experience it was a bit of a dud over the long trip. Consequently, you have to assume that the amazing Wenty run of 41.53 was one out of the box – a reflection of its class and maturity rather than of innate staying prowess. But it clearly took a lot out of the bitch – too much as it turns out. (Amazingly, owner expected it to run even better in that second run at Wenty, which shows you that even the experts can get it wrong).

Some will talk about the “second-up” syndrome which affects most but not all dogs. Arguably, that will depend on the dog’s metabolism and perhaps its training schedule, although I doubt many trainers will trial a dog over the 700s, perhaps reasoning that they may as well try it in a race in the hope of getting a reward for the effort. Whatever they do, it is the exception for a dog to succeed when it first moves up from 600m to 700m.

Coincidentally, a sprinter with a thundering finish, Late Angel Lee, won its first and only attempt over the distance at Albion Park last week. While it had done well over 520m and 600m, it still tip-toed over the line in the longer race in a moderate 42.41. The opposition was not great, of course, and tended to mess up their own chances anyway. But I would not be taking Late Angel Lee to the races for another couple of weeks at least. That same trip, by the way, was also the site of Boomeroo’s near death experience after winning the Championship. It had demanded too much of its body and ended up on a drip for several days. And that was an experienced, well-conditioned dog. It was never the same again.

A conundrum for both officials and trainers is the fact that stayers are often asked to compete in heat and final events in successive weeks. In fact, even when that is not compulsory, they often ask them to race again with only a 7 day break. This practice must be an underlying reason for inconsistent results in staying races, doubly so when lesser dogs are involved.

It all suggests that gaps between races should be at least 7 days for sprinters and 14 days for stayers, and that racing should be re-written accordingly. Anything less and it is just another nail in the punter’s coffin.

What seems to be forgotten is that the average greyhound reaches its peak speed at around 440m. After that, they are all slowing down, some more than others. There are exceptions, of course, but by the time they get to 600m and then 700m it is natural that most would be dropping out of contention. More so when the Australian breed has been dominated for years by sprinting sires – as emphasised by the modern trend to make shorter races a bigger part of today’s programs. These serve only to distribute cash more widely amongst the greyhound fraternity rather than to improve the breed or attract more customers (even the mug gamblers prefer a longer run for their money). Curiously, they then run counter to the universal trend to offer bonuses for longer races – a practice which is intended to encourage distance racing but has no hope of succeeding with the existing dog population.

Currently, stayers appear only by accident, not by design. If you want more stayers, the obvious plot would be to offer those bonuses to sires and dams with proven staying ability. Surely this is not rocket science.

Meanwhile, why not adopt a different pattern for major staying events where many competitors come from interstate? Since conducting heats and finals with a 7 day gap is a burden on the dogs, a more sensible process would be to run the heat in the local state in week 1 and move to the location of the final in week 3, thereby providing plenty of time for recovery. It’s done now for the Distance Championship, so why not do it for all big races? The only added requirement would be to select the finalists on the basis of relative times at each local track. It would not be hard to devise a formula to calculate those times.

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