Let’s see the last of the non-penalty races

VICTORIA’S recent decision to dump the use of Non-Penalty racing at Melbourne’s secondary meetings each week may be returning dividends. At the very least it shows up the oddball nature of the decade old NP habit.

A better class of runners showed up at on Sunday. The slowest of seven graded 515m races was won in 29.81. Easily the best was a sparkling 29.41 from the in-form Noosa Rocket, coming to town after winning six in a row at provincial tracks. It led all the way from box 7, recording an equally sparkling 5.02 to the first marker.

Only one dog (My Bro Fabio) bettered that overall time at the main meeting last Thursday..

Some Non-Penalty races are still hanging around at the provincials for reasons that are impossible to fathom. What is wrong with the (recently expanded) grading system that justifies this policy? Get rid of them all.

Sectionals – Not a luxury but an essential

An unannounced change, but a good one, has occurred at many NSW provincial tracks. They have finally started publishing sectional times for all runners, not just for the leader. Previously, you also had to guess which dog was actually the leader because the time was not assigned to any particular one.

Newish TAB-clubs like Wagga and Dubbo are still lagging and none of the non-TAB clubs have taken up the new practice. But the important ones are there and providing valuable form data for punters.

Sadly, Tasmanians still live in another world. Despite constant reminders they persist in assigning the sectional time (one only) to whatever dog won the race – irrespective of whether it led or not. Career histories are therefore distorted for evermore.

To compound the felony, out two major form producers, (Ozchase) and , continue to copy the erroneous information into their own guides, thereby misleading punters across the nation. It would be a straightforward matter for their experts to tell their computers to ignore anything arriving from the three Tasmanian tracks, but they have not done that.

A recent classic was the smart time of 5.11 allocated to Above All in a heat of the Thousand and later copied in GRV’s subsequent guide for the Silver Chief series. The same mob had already called for its nomination as a run of the year (with poor judgement, in my view) because the dog walked out of the boxes, fought its way through the field and eventually caught the leaders in a modest 26.16. Unfortunately, whatever ran the 5.11 will never get the credit but it certainly was not Above All.

The same dog’s record-breaking win in the final was a different matter altogether.

But there is more. If you wade through the Tasracing website you will eventually find a jumbled mixture of videos, form, tips and sectional histories and predictions for local races. The latter includes “Best this Box” and “Average” sectionals, but where does this information come from? Are there other sectionals nobody has heard about?

Well, there have to be, otherwise how could they calculate an average?

Apparently, there is one set of data for locals and another for the rest of Australia. The latter are mostly lies, so it’s best to ignore the lot.

On the same subject but more generally, steward’s trials sometimes include sectional times, sometimes they don’t. Surely it should be mandatory to put them all in. It cannot be that hard. Even without Finishlynx, all you have to do is to look up at the semaphore board.

What money can’t buy

The Lismore club, which now races at somebody’s park, put on a special distance race – the “Distance Challenge” over 635m – yesterday and, following the incentive policy now in place and with some help from the park’s proprietor, offered a $3,000 first prize which is not to be sneezed at. So far, so good.

However, it got only seven nominations but three of those scratched, leaving just the four starters to battle it out. All were well known local dogs of average quality. A similar event on the previous got only five starters.

Short fields are standard fare for longer races at the provincials in both NSW and , despite all the incentives. That’s a pity because the fans generally like longer races and it often gives the slower beginners a better chance in life.

Clearly, the formula is not proving out in practice. Do we need a Royal Commission to work out why this is happening? There must be a better way to spend all the spare cash.

Distance logic

Back in town, Double Rinse put some perspective into recent results when picking up a standard Grade 5 720m at Wentworth Park in a solid 42.25. This is only fractionally different to the times ran in heat and final of the Distance Plate worth $40,000-to-the-winner.

Certainly, Space Star has done better than that previously, but by far its better and faster runs have been over the middle distances at , and The Meadows. That’s where its real talent lies, although prize money may not be as good in that area. Like many others, such dogs can pull out all the stops over the longer trip on occasions, but not if they are asked to do it every week. Irma Bale would be a similar example.

That’s why heats and finals in successive weeks over the 700s are a hassle for many dogs.

Of course, luck in running plays a part, too.

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