Sometimes, you have to admire the courage of punters. The faithful who took the $2.20 about Sweet It Is in the Sydney Cup at Wentworth Park must be the most dedicated group around. And they must have deep pockets.
Certainly it was a fine win but it was the first time the bitch has greeted the judge since it won the National Championship in Perth back in August. In between it had chalked up five consecutive placings, including one in its heat last week. Logically, the fans should have been broke by now.
The 41.84 time was easily its fastest since Cannington and was largely due to having an uninterrupted run – apart from one slight hold-up which was its own fault. It is not neat in a field but it has two mighty advantages over the others – it is a genuine stayer and it puts out consistently.
The race looked spectacular, as they always do when Sweet It Is flashes home. That belies the fact that not one other dog in the field could produce one of its best times. Zipping Maggie and Space Star faded from the home turn while Zipping Rory (the fastest heat winner) and Dusty Moonshine were gone before that.
The two placegetters were four to five lengths off their best while Zipping Rory ran nine lengths slower than in its heat win, even though none of them met with any real interference. It’s hard to know how Dusty Moonshine was affected as it jumped quite well but could not get across towards the lead and so virtually gave it away (it ended up running 42.54). Now before anyone points out that you can’t expect dogs to be robots, let’s note that these shortcomings applied to every runner except Sweet It Is. They had plenty of chances.
In other words, Sweet It Is was able to back up while the others were not. Barring injury, the other failures are therefore due to a shortcoming in their system – ie either a mental or a physiological factor. That should not be a surprise as the vast majority of dogs would be feeling the pinch after a hard run over 720m or so, more so when they have led clearly and more so again after several such runs with only seven day gaps.
A further example is that Xylia Allen has never been able to overcome this problem, as it repeatedly runs worse time when backing up too quickly. But, having been given a two week break after ten distance runs at virtually seven day intervals since mid-July, it then turned up in a sprint at Sandown last Thursday. There, it plodded around like a refugee from the old folk’s home, finishing 10 lengths behind the winner. It showed no zip whatsoever at any stage. Very sad. Surely, something is missing.
Looking at the facts objectively, all these performances make up a long series of form reversals – Sweet It Is excepted. In such cases you might expect stewards to call for swabs or at least ask questions but that never happens. In any event, they would be unlikely to reveal much. On the other hand, blood tests might be a different matter altogether as they would show up internal variations which would affect performance.
It might be a big ask to expect authorities to go to the time and expense of doing those tests as a matter of routine, even though a trainer will do so in some circumstances. Even so, the constant offering of “less fit” dogs in the above situations does warrant at least launching a sample project to establish just what effects a dog can suffer when it is over-raced, especially in distance events.
The results could well throw light on welfare, training and race programming issues. It would not do punters any harm to know more either. Knowledge will always beat guesswork.
Finally, it is necessary to comment on a matter raised by Dusty Moonshine’s trainer prior to the Chairman’s Cup. In an interview with Rob Sheeley on this website she commented that the “bitch could earn herself a trip to Victoria to pursue further spoils if she manages to prove her worth against quality opposition on Saturday night”. Following that came the claim that “The Victorian stayers are just miles ahead at the moment,”
Hello! Are we on the same planet? Dusty Moonshine has run around 41.90 in three successive weeks at Wenty, followed by a record breaking run over the Dapto 729m trip. Her basic capabilities are quite clear. No Victorian dog is capable of that consistency, including those competing in the Chairman’s Cup. Still, that is where the consistency ended. Its subsequent form has been erratic, notwithstanding a rise in class.
The issue is not its basic ability but the nature of the bitch and its training and placement policies. But we can’t be sure which contributes what.
One of the big advances (maybe the only one) in this industry in recent times has been the general availability of race videos the day after the meeting. They are of huge value to anyone who could not see a live picture and to punters generally.
Sadly, more than 48 hours after the race we are still unable to see how Allen Deed, arguably the best sprinter in the country at the moment, was able to win the Adelaide Cup on Friday. Did GRSA take the weekend off?