In a week that has seen five track records fall by the wayside, interested spectators at Ballarat last Wednesday got to witness the most significant one of them all. The special event was the main drawcard on the night and it looked to be an intriguing affair with three powerhouse sprinters locking horns. Jason Thompson had Boris Fields exiting box three and his freakish speedster Phenomenal exiting the coveted rails draw, with his main opposition coming from the Karen Leek trained Billy Rocket.
Punters confirmed their faith in the Thompson trained Phenomenal by sending him out as a $1.60 favourite and in the end they had very little to worry about. As the lids opened, the son of Collision and Tocsin stepped on terms, whilst his two main rivals hesitated and the judges only concern became times and margins. Soon after the jump, the dark brindle greyhound found his nose in front and as they entered the first turn he was a clear leader. With nothing to impede his progress, the Serge and Bill Buccilli owned dog bolted down to the line, winning by six and half lengths in new track record figures (hand timed) of 24.88. The win eclipsed Hooksy’s one month old 24.94 track record by just over a length.
The new record however is not without controversy, as traditionally hand timed track records have not been recognised. Track records have had to be recorded using the track timing, not by hand timing which is highly variable. Adding weight to that argument was the fact that the GRV Stewards did not swab Phenomenal after the race. Post race swabs are traditionally carried out on all track record running greyhounds and yet in this case those officiating elected not to swab the greyhound.
However, Phenomenal claims to a track record appear to have solidified the next day when the GRV media department wrote two sentences at the end of another piece recognising the record:
“Incidentally, Ballarat’s 450 metres track record also fell last night, with the Jason Thompson-trained Phenomenal running a time of 24.88sec. While Phenomenal’s run was hand-timed and contradicted the time on the semaphore board – which is currently experiencing technical issues – his time of 24.88sec is official as per the Judge’s ruling.”
Was this a case of the GRV marketing department acting where Stewards failed to do so?
There is some precedent for hand timed track records in Victoria. In circumstances where the time reads different to the semaphore board, racing authorities are able to use their discretion to make it official, as seen when Omar Gee set new figures for the Warrnambool 450m trip in March 2013.
Phenomenal’s career has always been closely watched. Making his race debut just 13 months ago, the talented sprinter won at The Meadows in a staggering 29.78. That speed would see him win seven of his next eight starts.
After such an emphatic start to his career, connections started to endure a frustrating run of injuries and luckless performances which in turn forced this star chaser to spend some time on the sidelines. In November of 2013, he announced his return to star status with a string of four wins on the provincial circuit, one of them in 32.08 track record time at Horsham over the 570m journey.
“Once he stepped away so cleanly and wasn’t touched for the first part of the race, we knew the time was going to be interesting. On the trial track he runs some ridiculous times, the best word to describe him is freakish, but unfortunately in some of his races he finds a lot of trouble and he doesn’t get to show what he is really made of.”
Phenomenal’s immediate racing future may prove to be very prosperous for connections.
“He is fully paid up for the upcoming Warrnambool Classic and he will be one of the older dogs in the event which should work in his favour. After that he will be targeting some of the upcoming Group events in the hope to strengthen his future career at stud.”
With two track records under his belt it is exciting to think what might be ahead for this star of the track. He has already proven that he can handle the Metropolitan tracks with ease and now with his recent injury problems seemingly behind him he will have those track records clearly in his sights. Connections have stated that they want to continue his racing career for as long as they can, so there should be some exciting times ahead for greyhound racing fans.