The 31 starters (one was a late scratching) mostly had plenty of recent racing. They included Xylia Allen’s record run a week ago over the Traralgon 658m trip. The gaps between last night’s run and their previous starts were:
4 days 1
5 days 10
7 days 15
14-plus days 4
As it turned out, three of the four heats were won by “7-day” dogs, but all in moderate time. The other (Tarks Nemesis) was coming off a 5-day break but had been racing only over middle distances. Overall, favourites had dismal experiences.
Heat 1: Early favourite Allen Deed, with no experience over the long trip, and at a silly price, led up but faded on the home turn. Tarks Nemesis got to the lead, lost it and then gained it again in an ordinary 42.41. The highly fancied Heaps of Ability, which ended up favourite, was having its fourth 700 run in three weeks, and again faded badly on the home turn.
Heat 2: Punters made Hailstorm Billy favourite despite its poor staying form since a fast win at Wentworth Park four starts ago. Having its fifth start in just over four weeks, it ran poorly again. The winner, Know Class, eventually found its way through the crowd and ran down the bolter (Supersonic Hawk) which had led to the post. The time was a miserable 42.62.
Heat 3: Rocky Bale, a heavily backed $2.50 second favourite coming out of box 1, and having raced 5 days ago at Bendigo, failed to run out the trip and was unplaced. It is normally a strong finisher. Sweet It Is, off a two week break, was always at odds-on, and should have won the race but was checked on the home turn and just missed out. That’s always a risk for slow starters coming from back in the field. The winner ran 42.71.
Heat 4: Another classic case of over-racing. History was repeated when Xylia Allen broke the track record last week at Traralgon (658m) and was expected to run away with this race, too. It was always well into the red, was prominent for a good while but then faded on the home turn. The winning time was again ordinary (42.46) and the next two best credentialled dogs, Mepunga Tiara and Break O’Day, ran the Quinella.
On the question of times, the track was only a little on the slow side but, considering times run in other races on the program (29.49, 29.50) more could be expected from the stayers. Most average distance races at Sandown are won in 42 sec, give or take a bit, yet no dog got within six lengths of that mark on the night. In every heat the field bunched on the home turn as some were coming on and some were falling back. Put simply, it was an awful exhibition of distance racing.
Brisbane also had a 710m distance event on the same night. It included all the usual suspects bar Wag Tail, which may not have been eligible as it was a 5th grade race and Wag Tail has now won five such races. The starters’ recent gaps between races were:
4 days 1
5 days 1
7 days 6
The race was a bit messy as the favourite, Set Her Again, took a while to get to the front and ended up recording a moderate 42.45. Amazingly, punters refused to believe their eyes or their formguide and sent out Late Angel Lee a well-backed $3.70 second favourite. It had every chance but never looked likely and faded into a distant fourth spot, six lengths away. The dog was having its third 710m race in 15 days, having paddled to a win in the first and failed badly in the second. Placings were in the lap of the dogs anyway as the field almost pulled up on the home turn to have a chat to each other.
At least it reinforced an old racing adage to “back the favourite in the distance race”. That worked in Brisbane but scored 0 for 4 in Melbourne.
If there is one conclusion that can be drawn from all the recent distance racing it is that good quality dogs can sometimes win well over the trip on one occasion, but they have great difficulty repeating the effort, particularly if they don’t have time to refill the petrol tank (which was the case for 90% or more of the above runners). It now remains a mystery as to how Xylia Allen massacred the Wentworth Park track record with a brilliant 41.53 run yet at no time before or since has it got near that level. It can manage the 650m/680m, certainly, as records at Geelong and Traralgon demonstrate, but apart from that single effort is Sydney, it has failed in every other distance attempt.
To one degree or another you might, say the same about Hailstorm Billy, Heaps of Ability and maybe others. On all the repeat occasions, the betting market and the industry have over-estimated the ability of these sorts of dogs to maintain a high standard over distances which do not really optimise their ability.
This is should not be a surprise as we are not trying to breed stayers in the first place. The really good ones that emerge are no more than accidents, including Miata which had virtually no genuine staying capacity in its background.
If it’s any consolation, the horses have the same problem. Seldom can one get a good 3200m, which is why visitors from Japan, France, USA and the UK more often pick up the spoils and authorities are regularly asked to reduce the distance for other classic events. Makybe Diva was the exception to prove the rule.
For the greyhound industry, stronger and more reliable competition would come from enhancing the value of middle distances trips but with one major proviso – first get rid of all the horrible bend starts. In that vein, it is horrifying to note that WA is actually planning to insert a bend start into its multi-million dollar development to replace Cannington in 2015. How can this be possible?