One of the things to emerge from the Bendigo Cup series is that the dogs dominated the heats but the track dominated the final. Short fields and big differences in ability made the heats one-act affairs. But when the good ones all came together it was a different story, as it always is. Although you know the form well enough, big race finals are hard to pick apart.
That goes double for the 425m at Bendigo where the back straight is relatively shorter and early positions play a bigger part than usual. In the event, four of them came out close together while another one (Deadly Vane) was unobstructed in moving around the outside. All that bunching decided the outcome, almost regardless of their individual abilities. Paw Licking on the rail was able to push through and maintain the lead while others had hard work to do.
Of course, had the race been over 450m then Deadly Vane would certainly have won. Paw Licking was flat out holding it on the line. But this was Bendigo, not 450m-plus at Ballarat or wherever. Perhaps using Bendigo’s 500m option would be fairer for all? Even extending the 425m start a little might be worth considering. There is a significant difference between 425m and the 440m/450m bracket as some dogs can get one but not the other.
In comparison with the heats, only Paw Licking and Ronan Izmir equalled or bettered their times. The others averaged four lengths slower time, mostly due to traffic problems. Actually, Ronan Izmir seemed a little disappointing. It was in a good spot all the way into the straight but then lacked the “tiger” to push through. Still, they can’t work miracles every time they compete.
The record-equalling Black Magic Opal had its chances but also succumbed to traffic problems approaching the turn. That served only to highlight the peculiar pricing by Tabcorp’s Fixed Odds people as their odds-on rating never made any sense. In fact, in Victoria it did not even start favourite on the tote, nor was it in the red, demonstrating that punters knew better than betting operators.
Paw Licking’s time of 23.70 was good but nothing special. And there was nothing wrong with the track as an earlier winner, Tiggerlong Amigo, ran the best of the day in 23.67 in a Restricted Win race. It could also be that the shortish four day turnaround between heat and final had some impact. Whatever the effect, that is not a good policy for major races.
What was not a surprise was the relatively poor patronage of the meeting. Sunday twilight might be better left to churchgoers.
The Cup meeting averaged a miserly $7,821 on the NSW win tote, By comparison, on the previous night, Bendigo also conducted a meeting including several nondescript Novice races, up against the best the nation has to offer in the Golden Easter Egg at Wentworth Park, as well as a premium meeting at The Meadows. That averaged $10,326, or 32% more than the Sunday meeting. Its most popular race pulled in nearly $4,000 more than the Cup itself. Go back a week to Bendigo’s normal slot on Friday twilight and that averaged $13,787, or 76% more. Five races each attracted more than the Cup.
Victoria’s TAB figures were much higher but proportionally much the same as in NSW.
This continues a long line of provincial Cup meetings which have suffered from GRV’s musical dates habit. Invariably, shifting them away from their usual spots costs the industry money, but for no good reason. People get used to patronising their favourite tracks and favourite times and never like to see them changed, especially to a known dead spot like Sunday twilight.
To pour salt onto the wound, I personally got thrown out of the club I was attending at 7:30 pm because it shut down then, with four more races to go. No more betting, please! I barely managed to get a bet on the Cup. Sure, I could probably have gone elsewhere but the point is that club policies like that reflect the public’s social habits, in this case clearly taking the edge off patronage.
Whatever extra track attendances and oncourse takings were are irrelevant to the discussion. That would happen no matter what time of the week the event occurred. By any analysis it was a poor business decision, Easter or no Easter. And it effectively denied many regular fans the opportunity to see top sprinters in action.