Good to hear some comments from readers about my review of the TOPGUN. But, no, I was not talking from my back pocket as I did not have a bet in the race. Big race finals are always hard and overcoming all the hassles I mentioned was too big an ask.
Yes, I did have a leaning towards Buckle Up Wes because I have done nicely with him on similar occasions before. He actually likes starting from a middle box and could be expected to lead this field. But the 10-week break due to injury scared me off. Or, as the trainer told GRV, “if he didn’t lead he wouldn’t have won because he probably didn’t have enough race fitness to come from behind and win.”
He followed up with… “He has only had four trials since he injured himself in August, so he’s still a couple of runs off his peak.” Yes, as I feared, he was not at his best but still won, which also tells you a lot about the opposition.
All of which serves to emphasise the points I made about the ordinary race time and the policy of selecting out-of–form dogs. And rare is the trainer who allows his charge to sit on the sidelines for a month or two unless it has a genuine health problem.
Here is some more information about that field.
SECTIONAL COMPARISONS – WHY YOUR DOG LOST
|1. Chica Destacada||5.12||5.26||+0.14||4|
|3. Oakvale Destiny||5.22||5.37||+0.15||2|
|4. Mepunga Hayley||5.16||5.27||+0.11||2|
|5. Buckle Up Wes||5.02||5.05||+0.03||10|
|6. Awesome Project||5.09||5.29||+0.20||1|
|7. Allen Deed||5.17||5.37||+0.20||2|
|8. Zipping Willow||5.09||5.21||+0.12||2|
Average = Average of last 10 recorded sectionals.
Weeks = Gap to previous race start
Note = Any sectionals recorded in Tasmania are ignored as the official recording process is faulty (which includes time posted in Victorian and NSW formguides).
All those sectional differences can be put down to either a shortage of recent form or awkward boxes. Both factors were skipped over by punters. Only two in the field started at double figures – Oakvale Destiny, which ran 2nd in moderate time, and Mepunga Hayley which came into the race with ordinary form and ran nowhere, so a huge amount of money was wasted on dogs priced wrongly, or at “unders”.
On the subject of prices, it is worth mentioning here the way authorities make up their own race selections.
Typically, the Watchdog’s formguide has three bites at the apple: it selects the first four in order and then suggests a bet; it puts up an actual price for each runner; and it lists their rankings in that peculiar 100-99-98 process. Normally, these three measures never agree with each other.
First, Awesome Project was selected on top, even though it was priced at $10.00 and ranked third at 95.
Second, the shortest price was for Allen Deed at $2.60, followed by Keybow at $3.50. These dogs were ranked 5th (94) and equal last (90) respectively in the oddball ranking process. In any event, prices for the eight runners added up to a book of 136%, which is well in excess of even the normal Fixed Odds rip-offs. Why would they do that when it has no relation to either their true chances (100%) or to what the tote will offer (114.5%)? For intending punters, it is truly misleading.
Third, the ranking process put on top with 100 – guess who – reserve My Bro Fabio, which failed to get a start. Next best was Zipping Willow at 99, followed by Buckle Up Wes at 97. So, neither the favourite or the Watchdog’s pick made it through there.
Punters would be well advised to make up their own mind about these things. However, what has always puzzled me is how they make up those ranking numbers and what they are supposed to mean. Everybody does it but no-one ever explains them. I have no idea about the answers there but the best policy would be to ignore them completely. They are a complete nonsense.
However, this state of confusion is yet another reason why I have suggested that racing authorities should get right out of the business of formguides. The data should all be dumped in the hands of an independent group, responsible only to customers, which can then adopt policies and procedures which are tuned to what punters need.
There is another dimension to form – or lack of it – which the selection panel chose to ignore. Buckle Up Wes may have been “a couple of runs off his peak” but very often that peak may never be reached again. History is littered with fading careers of once smart dogs that have not managed to recover their best form after injury, despite the best efforts of connections.
For example, even now top WA competitor, On Coin, is battling to get back. It led well at Cannington on Saturday but faded in the run home to run fourth, with the winner running an average 30.50, well short of the BON. Punters blissfully charged in anyway, making it a $2.10 prospect (less on Fixed Odds, bless them). Time may tell more.
I doubt that will happen with Bookkeeper. A terrific past winner, particularly over the middle distance, it has been a shadow of its former self since its return from an injury enforced break of several months. Currently, it has been getting away reasonably but has not been able to go on with it.
These events must be frustrating to connections who often put in tremendous efforts to get the dog right. But there are never any guarantees. And without match practice and showing enough dash they cannot be seen as sensible betting prospects. Just ask Michael Clarke.
In the last few months (269 races) at The Meadows 21% of all Saturday races had odds-on favourites. Half lost and half won, so an even dollar on each would see you losing money. It’s not an easy track.
At that Cannington meeting (see On Coin above) a 642m race was won by stayer Ash Flash in a fair 37.54. Last was Obama Flash which finished 110.75 lengths behind in 44.46. There was a time when results would show such a performance as T/O, DIST or FELL and they could therefore be ignored if you wish. But when you insert an actual margin and time it all goes into the career records for future use. Very misleading!
In fact, Obama Flash fell at the first turn (amazing in a field of four) but picked itself up and finished the race just in front of the ambulance, so to speak. All that has achieved is to fill in a number for First Four punters but that could well have been handled in some other way – eg reverting to the Trifecta placings, or whatever.