OK, my preview said Dyna Nalin could not win, but it also said “barring accidents” and they were there in spades.
Three things upset the applecart. First, Ernie Bung Arrow botched the jump for the only time in its short history, thereby changing the nature of the run to the turn, and also giving Dyna Nalin extra room. Mind you, by his own standards Ernie also went moderately in its week-earlier trial at The Meadows, running 5.15 early, so perhaps we need to consider the nature of those Victorian boxes, which are more of the “stand-up” type by comparison with other states. This is definitely an area where standardisation would be a good idea.
Then Spud Regis also started somewhat worse than it usually does, unlike its Australian Cup win, but was still with them at the judge the first time when the big squeeze occurred. That’s the luck of the game (or perhaps the fact that it had not raced for a month).
Third, half the field came together, line abreast, at the first turn. I had suggested that Tomac Bale (3) might lean on Punch One Out (2) but in fact the latter came out like a drunken sailor and 3, 4, 5 and 6 leant on each other just as they approached the judge, slowing them all down and ruining their chances. On top of that, Ernie was burrowing in to trying to make up for its tardy start.
As they slowed a fraction, the winner grabbed its opportunity and rounded the turn in second spot with a good look at the leader, Peter Rocket, which is not a noted beginner but a very handy race dog from the inside.
Dyna Nalin ended up running a pretty average 29.89 (average for this class), which is in its normal range. This is a very good dog in a field and it was untouched this time. More credit to it. However, there were several faster dogs in the field which failed to get a crack at them.
Perhaps luck dominated. But a problem is that The Meadows, like many other major tracks, has a way of creating its own hassles as they run to and around that first turn. The leader disappears around that corner while others are still trying to avoid clashes. In this case, the favourite was not there anyway. (It was slow out but, as I mentioned in the preview, it’s not normally brilliant at box rise but it then puts its foot on the accelerator to be close at the first turn. But not this time)..
The lesson is that Albion Park, Wentworth Park, Sandown Park, Launceston and Cannington, as well as The Meadows, all have design features which generate bias or early interference, or both. Indeed, the moderate beginning Dyna Nalin has itself won races at Cannington by wandering out and then cutting to the rail and whizzing around the corner while the field drifts off.
Some other tracks – like Dapto, Richmond and Ipswich – are even worse, although the latter two are easily fixable.
What precisely does that mean? I have no idea, other than that cutaway sections at the first turn, or their equivalent at The Meadows, are not the answer. Fiddling here and there is not going to help much either. From memory, The Meadows has already done that three times, with no obvious improvement. It’s one of the two or three most heavily biased tracks in the country. Both Wentworth Park and Cannington were adjusted a decade ago, but are still messy (which is why Paul Wheeler for years refused to let his dogs race at Wenty). It requires a lengthy, detailed, scientific study of the art to establish desirable principles. Nothing less will do – especially for Cannington, which is facing a multi-million dollar outlay for a new track.
If we paid the same attention to track details as we do to drug detection most of these hassles would disappear.
Meantime, the only circle track where dogs seem to get around the corner consistently and in one piece is the lowly Northam in WA. Whether the lower class of dogs helps that happen, I am not sure, but it works. Why is this so? And what should be done to keep dogs reasonably separate, as occurs at Northam, Mandurah and Hobart?
But I would rather not see any more races like the 2013 TOPGUN.
Sectional Time Comparisons
|Average Last Ten||Actual In Topgun||Difference|
|1. Peter Rocket||5.15||5.13||-0.02|
|2. Punch One Out||5.09||5.21||+0.12|
|4. Spud Regis||5.04||5.14||+1.01|
|5. Xylia Allen||5.14||5.14||0|
|6. Glen Gallon||5.14||5.14||0|
|7. Ernie Bung Arrow||5.04||5.18||+0.14|
|8. Dyna Nalin||5.20||5.13||-0.07|
Note 1: You can normally expect the box 1 dog to come out a little quicker than its average.
Note 2: Dyna Nalin recorded 5.13, 5.29 and 5.17 at its previous three starts at The Meadows
Note 3: Times at other tracks are converted to a Meadows equivalent after analysing hundreds of performances by the same dog at both tracks.
And so on to the SHOOTOUT. Two really fast dogs are up against two strong finishers. If Dyna Nalin can win that I will give the game away. It is not the fourth best dog in Australia. And I imagine Xylia Allen might put on another big finish to gain a place. But it is also Banjo Boy’s best track.