Bad luck for punters in the final of the Victorian Distance Championship at The Meadows, when hot favourite Xylia Allen finished fourth, well beaten by Mepunga Tiara. Yes, she had an early check but it was not a big one, and it was her own fault. The winner got a much clearer passage this time and raced a length faster than in its heat. Dyna Willow was much quicker when second-up after a long break, although nowhere near its previous best.
Those who might claim that Xylia Allens’s moderate start was to blame might first ask why it did not jump better, particularly as it had box 1 and has won seven of its 73 races from there. In any case, its sectional of 5.06 was not all that bad.
Xylia Allen recorded six lengths slower time than in the heat, when it otherwise ran a very similar race. Lethal Three, Zipping Joe, Arejay Smokey and Zipping Maggie all ran two to nine lengths worse time as well.
What can you read into all this? Well, this is the third time in big distance races that Xylia Allen has failed or run much slower time in a final, after doing really well in the heat. Albion Park and Wentworth Park (a track record) were the others. Similarly, she failed badly over 715m at Sandown in May after breaking the Traralgon track record a week earlier.
Of the others, you could say that Lethal Three is not a true stayer and is better suited over 600m or so. It faded after leading well, as often happens. In the past, the others have all had some form over the long distance, but they are not terribly consistent, while Dyna Willow is obviously still not match fit.
The common denominator in all these experiences is that they have been running two 700m or so races in successive weeks. A few dogs can do that but most can’t, particularly not Xylia Allen. They simply do not have the ability to recover in such a short time. Over 500m or 600m, perhaps, but not over 700m. It is simply not in the “normal” capacity of a greyhound to do that.
So don’t make them do it.
Yes, spreading some of these series out a bit would be a hassle for travel and other reasons but what is the point of queueing dogs up to run below their best? And the bigger hassle is that you can’t be sure which dogs will be fine and which won’t. Some 90%-odd of punters did their dough when Xylia Allen failed to figure in the Win-Quinella-Exacta-Trifecta lists. Not a good advertisement.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
All the talk before the State Championship was about Xylia Allen having the chance to become Australia’s greatest ever stakes winner. I have never liked those rankings much, mainly because they are artificial and do not properly measure a dog’s ability. They are figures built up by man and media and are becoming less meaningful as each year goes by. They take no account of inflation or of club policies in allocating ever bigger prize money (which are now completely lopsided, in my view).
But you can’t rate Xylia Allen against the best stayers because she has failed too often in that category. Simply, this is a brilliant galloper but not a genuine 700m racer. Certainly, busting the Wentworth Park 720m record was a terrific effort but that and subsequent runs told us that she was a great bitch which was able to pull out all the stops on one occasion but never twice in a row. By the same token, despite her fine record, she has not quite hit the peaks over the sprints or middle distances. She has won really good races, but lost many she might have won. Even her great start in the Top Gun led to a time well outside the track record. So, too, with top 600m races, one of which she won the other day.
This is a bitch you can never back. Even when she wins, she will be under the odds. Such is fame in today’s climate. She started at around $1.50 on Saturday, yet on form I made her a 2/1 chance, even without considering the quick backup problem.
But is she a better sprinter than Rapid Journey or Brett Lee, or a better 600m racer than Paua To Burn? History says no. And the wins she has had over the long trip have been against very few top stayers, including in the race last Saturday.
More versatile, perhaps, but not in the very top league of champions.
The final irony is that had she raced in shorter events rather than in those premium races at Sandown and last Saturday at The Meadows, she would now have almost certainly bypassed the old prize money mark.
MORE FAIRY STORIES
Stewards Report, Race 7, The Meadows, Saturday 26 July.
“Gimme Fuel (3) and Tyronimo (4) collided soon after the start. Great Spartacus (5) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Tyronimo and Gimme Fuel”. (Boxes added).
Well, the first sentence is half right. In fact, Tyronimo wanted to get to the rail and shoved Gimme Fuel towards the inside. Partly because of that, the second sentence is rubbish. Great Spartacus never touched the other two, always being in front of them and headed towards the turn with Woodnear (6) hard on its heels. The dog is not a hard railer anyway, often preferring to use some of the track in the straights.
Perhaps, like football umpires, OPSM could sponsor stewards’ jerseys and throw in some technical advice on the way.
Digressing a bit, that brings up a suggestion I have always wondered about. Remembering that Ansett (RIP) used to sponsor windsocks at football grounds, why don’t raceclubs do a deal with an advertiser to do the same thing at greyhound tracks? A package of 20 or so of a modest version of those would not cost a lot and could be sited near the turn into the straight, giving them good exposure. It would be an interesting guide for racegoers, particularly at a straight track like Healesville where wind is always a key factor.