Of the four runners, only one performed roughly as you would expect – Dyna Nalin – although its overall time was quicker than normal, no doubt helped by the small field. Its sectional of 5.21 was within its range but considerably slower than in the TopGun (its 5.13 at The Meadows would convert to a Sandown equivalent of about 5.09).
Xylia Bale gets the plaudits, all due to an uncharacteristic and unpredictable quick start. At every other run in its 46-race career, bar one, it has not got within two lengths of its 4.97 sectional. And two lengths is a huge differential on the way to the first marker. The single exception was tucked away over the Bass Strait at Launceston, when it broke the track record back in February against much weaker competitors. And, since Tasmanian timing systems are very unreliable, we can’t even be sure of that. Still, I guess every dog has its day.
It is also noteworthy that Xylia Allen was heavily backed into a close third favouritism at $3.40 in NSW and outright favouritism in Victoria at $2.50 in a much larger pool. In either case those odds were arguably “unders”, considering the form of the opposition and Xylia Allen’s normal habits. They were also considerably less than pre-race Fixed Odds purveyors were offering (that includes the Watchdog). And not only in early markets. Xylia Allen’s final Fixed Odds on Tabcorp was $3.00, or well above the Victorian SP of $2.50, created in a pool of $39,132. Consequently, it’s hard to guess whether the big push was due to smart money or just a late flood of cash from all over the state. Really strange.
Another way of looking at all that is that Xylia Allen started off at a speed it achieves just over 4% of the time but its Victorian tote price assumed it had a 40% chance of winning. Certainly, the small field suited its running habits but, theoretically, it was faced with running down two highly qualified leaders. That did not happen, of course.
But what of the other two? The record-equalling Banjo Boy was, by its standards, moderate all the way while Punch One Out ran like a stampeding buffalo – every which way. Its jump, and the one in the TopGun, were appalling to say the least, and then it ran like a mad thing back and forth across the track. Never before have I seen the dog do that, or anything like it, including in its previous runs at Sandown. Remember this is the same dog that recently got under The Meadows track record in a solo trial, and (allegedly) did the same over Lismore 420m on the previous Friday. Neither of those would have been possible with a slow start and erratic running.
The stewards say they did pre-race testing but, post-race, only the first two dogs were called in for a swab. Why on earth would you ignore the two that ran poorly?
The way Punch One Out performed, the least you might expect is a swab and a very thorough vet examination. Who knows what niggles it may have picked up during its lengthy travels back and forth to Melbourne? Punters who sent it out a close second favourite (including me) would expect no less. It put in a shocker and we are entitled to answers.
This is yet another example where the stewards appear to have little interest in form assessments. The race created serious questions, but none were asked.
Incidentally, those commentators who wondered about Xylia Allen’s relatively modest finishing effort are asking a bit much. This was not Damien Oliver holding up Fiorente for a late run to the line. Dogs cannot do it a both ends of the trip.
As for the concept of a four-dog Shootout, it makes no sense to judge its fortunes on the basis of one poor race. It adds variety and interest to the mix. However, there is probably value in making sure the competitors also have to put their own money on the line. There is nothing like self-interest.
JUSTICE NOT SEEN TO BE DONE
Last month I suggested that dogs caught fighting should never be entitled to collect prize money.
Just before the running of the Shootout, a maiden at Warrnambool fought the leader all the way down the home straight, eventually worrying it out of the race. This resulted in a 30/1 bolter getting up to win, which did not please a couple of punters around me.
The fighter, which happened to be the favourite, copped a 28 day suspension but still ended up running second and collecting $285 which, by rights, should be passed on to the trainer of the victim, Darren Brown.
Better yet, change the rules so that offenders are disqualified from the race, as would occur in the gallops and harness codes, to say nothing of human sporting contests. In that event this victim would have moved up from 4th to 3rd, which would have been some consolation.
INFORMATION FOR ALL
It was interesting to read that the Australian Veterinary Association submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry highlighted the need to create a “nationally accessible database” of all things greyhound, including injury information.
It underlines the nonsense being created when you see Greyhounds Australasia, GRNSW (Ozchase) and GRV (Fasttrack) all build different versions of the same thing, and all have difficulty talking to each other. Of course, varying grading patterns and different reporting rules in each state do not help either. It is also confusing for private systems from National Tabform on down to lowly punters in the bush.
One difficult task is to chase down the race performances of the progeny of your favourite sire. For example, the otherwise very smart website, Greyhound-Data, has a marvellous presentation of Australian and worldwide breeding information but its race figures are hopelessly inaccurate.
Notably, the absence of any means of public access, and the inability to consider form and breeding in a single or related database, are factors which hold back the development of greyhound racing as well as making it more expensive to manage. Some things are worth competing for, but hard information is not one of them.