The best referees and umpires are the ones you never notice. The best tracks are the ones that let the dogs do their own thing. Another maxim of greyhound racing is that whenever two dogs are competing closely they will never run the time they would achieve on their own.
It’s necessary to write about the Temlee, last Saturday’s Group 1 sprint at The Meadows, mostly because of the nonsense that has been written elsewhere. The “best race ever seen”, it has been called; Radley Bale was “incredible” and showed “pure courage”.
This is fairytale stuff. The facts are that it was an ordinary race run by good dogs at an ordinary track.
Radley Bale showed nothing that it had not displayed in its other 90-odd races, including bombing the jump occasionally. In fact, the poor start was the reason it ran only 30.16, a time many 5th graders manage. It is capable of much better, as were all the other seven runners. Moreover, this is the first time in its career it has won when not leading or being very close early. But why so?
The key is that Mystic Apple (7) dictated the terms of the race by jumping well, crossing the field and scooting away into the back straight. Partly because of that, others suffered some inconvenience at the turn, notably Bogie King (4) and Dyna Tron (6), while poor old Cape Hawke (8), which had begun nicely, was yet again shoved to the outside for the whole trip and could not get a crack at them.
Still, Mystic Apple is a dog you would always be happy to have in your kennel. A good beginner, consistent and versatile but possibly a notch below the top level, which is why it was 15/1 in this race.
Incidentally, I get the impression Dyna Tron has lost a touch of its early speed but you can’t expect them to be at their top forever, can you?
Glen Gallon (1) had begun well enough and got through more or less unscathed to the back to be looking across at Mystic Apple motoring along inside it. This, then, was the big disappointment of the race. Glen Gallon has been in that position many times before. It has usually come out on top, using its good field sense and strong finish to take out the race. Not this time. For some reason it did not put in the big ones until the last 50m and it was then too late. That was a mystery of sorts, although it did pick the wrong route when it went outside the leader when turning for home. A clue might be that while both Mystic Apple and Glen Gallon are nominally railers, they actually race one or two off the fence – ie they were competing for the same space.
While all this was going on Radley Bale was hunting up along the rail, minding his own business. Until they got into the straight, it was not a chance. Then Mystic Apple started coming back to him and, together with Glen Gallon, it stormed home. Radley Bale’s rails spot earned it the nod in the end.
All these dogs are capable of running 29.70 to 29.85 at The Meadows yet none got anywhere near that. Tight competition plays a part in big races, and the surface may have been a fraction on the slow side but the big “winner” on the night was the track layout itself. Its heavy bias to the inside always poses difficulties for some runners. It lets the leader – often from the 1 or 2 box – scurry away with an extra two or three lengths bonus, leaving others to fend for themselves.
That’s exactly what happened when Godsend (1) won the Silver Chief at this track last month, or when Oaks Road (2) ran away with the Perth Cup at Cannington, or even when Radley Bale (3) cleaned them up five days previously in the Launceston Cup (a short turnaround, by the way). And this time Mystic Apple nearly got away with it as well. All these are inside-biased tracks – deliberately built that way – which do no service to the sport.
Whether these three ever get changed or not, they provide a salutary lesson to future track designers, for whom there are several opportunities coming up – a new Cannington, the Logan site near Brisbane, a re-built Casino and whatever the new track at Murwillumbah comes to. You might even hear rumblings about changes to Wentworth Park (wonders will never cease). So, lose the bias, create fair tracks. The dogs will thank you for it. So will the punters.
The Zoom Top
A good win by Miata. Perhaps not quite at her top, but with box 1 and average opposition she hardly needed to be. Some of them were not really genuine 700 dogs*, others cannot get out of their own way early, while The Meadows track shape took care of some as well. Key to Eden (4), for example, got the customary shuffle back at the first turn – one which is no easier than the one for 525m dogs. Track bias is everywhere.
Still, they were never going to beat the Black Caviar of greyhound racing.
*Quite a few dogs have scored good wins over 700m, almost always leading all the way, but have great difficulty repeating the performance. These are commonly dogs best suited to 600m or so but which have enough class to get the jump on the opposition over a longer trip. They are not stayers but good quality middle distance runners. Many are competing in longer races because they are graded out of whatever 600s are available.