These days, the glorious inconsistency of racing is never better illustrated than in the running of long distance events. It’s hard to fathom why some record times are so difficult to approach while others are frequently threatened.
For example, several dogs have got within striking distance of the Wentworth Park record – Fancy Liza, Cawbourne Looney, Dyna Willow, Smart Valentino, Lucy Wires, etc – yet have never looked like doing the same at other tracks. The best of them would have been Smart Valentino, sadly no longer with us, which also went within a whisker of the top time at The Gardens (not a heavily travelled trip), yet never looked like doing the same at the Melbourne tracks.
Only the great Miata has been consistent, now holding distance records at Cannington, Wentworth Park and Sandown Park, as well as 530m and 642m records at Cannington, and the 647m at Mandurah.
Albion Park champ Dashing Corsair won all over the place, over all distances, but at Wentworth Park it won four times, the best in 42.10, yet failed badly in seven others. Similarly, while Dyna Willow has put in some good runs there, the other four mentioned above have been horribly inconsistent at the track.
Perhaps more illustrative of recent distance performances, Destini Fireball won four Group races at two different tracks earlier in 2013, but none of them was in really top time. The best would have been a 42.58 at The Meadows, which is 0.55 or eight lengths outside the record. In the last few months it has been unable to get anywhere near that level, including at last Saturday’s meeting.
Other Group races have been won in moderate times by dogs that are really not in the top bracket – Mimicking (Angle Park), Bagget Bale (Sandown) and Cheetah Zorro (Sandown).
The table below summarises performances at major tracks, and points out the differences between current times and track records. We also show the average time run by all winners at those tracks.
DISTANCE RACE TIMES – 2013 – POPULAR TRACKS
|Track||Record Holder||Record||Speed. m/sec||Group||Gap||Av.||Gap|
|Sandown Park 715m||Miata||41.17||17.4||41.91||0.74||42.24||1.07|
|Dapto 729m||Forty Twenty||42.24||17.3||n/a||n/a||43.45||1.21|
|Angle Park 731m||Arvos Athena||42.50||17.2||43.08||0.58||43.71||1.21|
|The Meadows 725m||Nellie Noodles||42.03||17.2||42.72||0.69||42.94||0.91|
|Richmond 717m||Blue Lorian||41.66||17.2||n/a||n/a||42.32||0.66|
|Wentworth P. 720m||Miata||41.81||17.2||41.92||0.11||42.56||0.75|
|Albion Park 710m||Dashing Corsair||41.44||17.1||41.89||0.45||42.26||0.82|
|The Gardens 715m||Zipping Lad||41.82||17.1||41.83||0.01||42.32||0.50|
|Cranbourne 699m||Yaroun Express||41.33||16.9||n/a||n/a||42.28||0.95|
Grp = Best Group/Listed race time in 2013
Av = Average time of last 200 races, where available
Note that there is only a modest difference between the speeds achieved at each track. The above rates compare with 17.7 m/sec up to 17.9 m/sec over sprint distances. What this says is that although there are known differences from one track to another, it is the overall abilities of the dogs to cover the long trip that are more relevant.
However, there are mostly big gaps between those records and the winning Group times being posted recently – typically six to ten lengths.
What is the cause of those large variations? Fitness, beginning ability, breeding, age, travel, over-racing, track peculiarities? It’s hard to tell. Some cases are obvious, though. Former record-holder Chinatown Lad definitely had too much racing and it showed during the last few months of its career, albeit that period included a modest injury. Nellie Noodles apparently just got sick of racing. Blue Lorian ran top time at Richmond but not anywhere else, although it was otherwise very consistent.
Generally, the question of stayers backing up in seven days must always be suspect, especially if it happens more than once in a row, and also when extensive travel is involved. Different dogs will have different physiological capabilities.
For example, during the Temlee-Rookie Rebel-Zoom Top meeting at The Meadows half of the 24 runners were coming back from interstate racing but only two did any good – Zelemar Fever and Jordan Allen, both sprinters. In the staying race, seven of the eight runners were coming back from interstate. They included the winner, Cheetah Zorro, which ran an ordinary 42.90, but it had had a two week break, compared to one week for five of the others. The only exception was the favourite, Dyna Kayla, which had stayed at home but could not quite get into the race from box 8 but ran 2nd. But consider this: it was racing for the sixth time in six weeks over longer trips. Too much of a good thing?
We do know that Irma Bale, a dual Group winner, never really ran top times in those events or any others over the long trip, but that was because it has never been a genuine stayer and won only by setting up big leads and just hanging on. All the other Group winners were of the solid type, whether they were top class or just honest triers. 19 Group and Listed races were conducted during the year.
Apparently, there is some official recognition of declining standards in longer races – meaning anything beyond 650m – as most states are now offering extra incentives to competitors. Even so, many such races are starting with a short field and the quality is hardly thrilling. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, not even with more cash.
Anyway, where it comes out in the wash is a function of whether or not punters can bet on these races with any confidence. Unfortunately, to all the above queries we have to add the further confusion of track-induced disruptions or bias. For example, an outside box at The Meadows is just as tough for stayers as for sprinters, and it is a pretty hard track for wide runners – both are design problems.
That came to the fore last Saturday in the Super Stayers heats when all three hot favourites went down, two because of slow starts and en route interference, and the other because another dog got up inside it in the back straight and it threw the toys out of the cot. All three heat winners ran a bit under or over The Meadows long term average of 42.94. Very ho-hum.
In a previous life, I wrote for a now defunct magazine and every year I worked out which were the 10 fastest sprinters in the country. Shortly I will have another try at that with stayers and see if that throws any light on the situation.
WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET
While on The Meadows last Saturday, I am finding my eyes must be deceiving me again. According to the stewards, Paw Licking caused all sorts of trouble in race 6. Here is what they said: “Rozehill Sanya, Dark Warrior and Paw Licking collided soon after the start. Paw Licking crossed to the rail on the first turn checking Rozehill Sanya, Bazza’s Gift, Musquin Bale, Ride The Rails and Dark Warrior, causing Gold Town to race wide”.
My poor old eyes told me Paw Licking (7) never touched another dog and never caused any interference. The trouble inside it was all their own doing, possibly starting after the in-form Rozehill Sanya (5) had jumped awkwardly and was hassling with inside dogs all the way to the corner. Paw Licking was well clear of other runners at the start and all the way round the corner. Damien Oliver could not have guided it any better.
These are the reports that the anti-racing Greyhound Freedom mob use to get their information on injuries and the like. No wonder they get a mixed picture.