THIS Friday night we will likely see the last racetrack appearance of the great Fernando Bale. In what has been a dreadful year for the sport (admittedly one it has brought upon itself in so many ways), Fernando Bale has proven somewhat of a saviour, albeit you wouldn't know it outside of greyhound racing circles. The public relations failings have been startling, but that's a story for another time.
As regular readers will be aware, I have often made comparisons between the mighty Rapid Journey and Fernando Bale. While Rapid Journey ended his career in the what-was-then Group 2 Topgun, Fernando Bale will be ending his in a Melbourne Cup, a race Rapid Journey took out at his second-last start, in 1998.
In that 1998 Melbourne Cup, the NSW champion drew box six, the same alley Fernando Bale will exit on Friday night. There was a ton of pace drawn around Rapid Journey, and the general consensus was that he would be caught deep and unable to cross the field, and therefore looked a risk. No one mentioned this to Rapid Journey, who simply began like a rocket and led all the way.
Fernando Bale, of course, has almost faultless box manners. He has a Bradman-like concentration once he enters the traps and if gets into the lead on Friday then it's going to take a mighty effort for anything to run him down.
Nonetheless, he's going to be faced with a very strong historical bias against box six. Consider this: since the sprint distance was converted to 515 metres there have been 19 runnings of the Melbourne Cup and only twice has a greyhound exited box six and scored. The first was the aforementioned Rapid Journey, in 1998. The second was Shanlyn Prince, in 2007.
To be fair, box three has not supplied a single winner in that same time frame, and box five has scored just once.
In the period from 1986 to 1995 inclusive, when it was run over 511 metres, there was just the single winner of the prestigious event to come out of box six, and that was the NSW sprinter Legendary Kid.
From 1973 until 1985 inclusive, the Melbourne Cup was contested over 513 metres and, again, there was no winner to emerge from box six.
The Melbourne Cup was a handicap event from its inception until 1965, so it would be unfair to look at the box numbers during that early period (although, suffice to say, there was no winner to wear the six rug).
In 1966, the race was run over 507 metres and from then until 1972, just one greyhound managed to snare the race from box six, and that was NSW contender Chris' Dandy, in 1970.
So, in 50 runnings of the Melbourne Cup as a non-handicap, box six has scored just four times, or eight percent of the time (and three of those were from NSW). Statistically, Fernando Bale is no value at all at his current price; but then champions like him only come along once or twice in a lifetime, so the ‘rules' just don't apply.
It will be no surprise I'm sure that box one has supplied the most winners in the same time frame, 13 out of 50. Box two is next best, with eight while box five is the absolute worst, with just two winners.
2015 Group 1 Melbourne Cup market
Box One – Bearville Azza – $21
Box Two – Dyna Double One – $2.90
Box Three – Dyna Tiber – $19
Box Four – Zipping Meg – $23
Box Five – Black Illusion – $41
Box Six – Fernando Bale – $1.50 with William Hill
Box Seven – Lamia Bale – $34
Box Eight – Secret Spell – $13
1st Reserve – Sacremento Sal – $31
2nd Reserve – Blue Revolver $26