Too Much Of A Good Thing

Some while back when Wentworth Park meetings were programmed on Saturdays and Mondays, I recall writing a piece about the doubts arising when dogs ran at both meetings. Was it too much to ask? How do we know if the dog will be fully fit the second time around?

In the event a trainer wrote back to give me the rounds of the kitchen. He was annoyed because he had sat up all Saturday night massaging his dog and otherwise treating it to get it right for the Monday race. In other words, mind your own business.

Well fine. A mighty effort, even if his dog did no good at the second attempt – and usually they don’t.

But there is not a vet in the world (going on published comment) that will recommend a dog racing twice in 48 hours, especially over longer trips. They need five to seven days for their body to replenish its store of goodies. The odd trainer has echoed that thought, too.

So why do they do it? And should there be a law against it – in the interests of both the dogs and the unsuspecting public who bet on it?

To date Greyhounds Australasia has rejected that idea. Their reasons are unknown as normally they do not offer explanations.

What, then, would you do with this case? He’s My Future is a very handy dog with multi-distance experience. But let’s summarise his recent performances.

  • 22 Oct 7th WPK 520m
  • 24 Oct Won BATH 618m
  • 27 Oct Won MAIT 400m
  • 31 Oct Won BATH 618m
  • 3 Nov Won MAIT 565m
  • 5 Nov Won WPK 720m
  • 7 Nov 3rd BATH 618m – raced like a tired dog, came out slowly, showed no dash against mediocre opposition – started odds-on fav
  • 10 Nov 2nd MAIT 565m – odds-on fav – time only average
  • 12 Nov Last WPK 720m – poor performance – bumped into everything in sight – started short fav – stewards queried run

That’s 9 runs in 21 days, or one every 2.3 days, including five over middle distances and two over the long distance. The dog had done really well to win five races but how much blood can you get out of a stone?

The stewards were not impressed with the most recent Wenty run yet did not bring up the question of over-racing in their report. They will ”monitor future performances”, which is little consolation to the people who made it a $2.40 favourite.

Even so, those investors will get no sympathy from me. Surely they could read the formguide and draw their own conclusions about the risks. Or is that asking too much?

This may be an extreme example but the problem has been around for a long time. For example, it is not hard to recall the career of stayer Chinatown Lad, record holder and big race winner. The dog raced virtually week in, week out, throughout 2008, criss-crossing the nation at the same time.

It had only a couple of short injury breaks amongst those 36 races. Its form got progressively worse in the latter part of the year and it was eventually retired after repeated failures.

Is it reasonable to expect a stayer to maintain form at that racing frequency in the first place? In the broad sense, you would think not, and Chinatown Lad certainly didn’t. But lots of public money went down the drain as its form declined.

Broadly, the medical evidence suggests racing more than once weekly is not advisable, and even less often for stayers which suck a great deal more out of their systems each time they race. Who can forget the near-death experience of Boomeroo after winning the 2002 National Distance Championship at Albion Park – on a drip for four days. And that was a very fit dog, not over-raced at all.

Racing rules are clearly needed to guard against abuses.

However, a related issue is that today’s higher frequency meetings are being run with no discernible increase is the dog population. Hence the incidence of insufficient nominations, short fields and extra scratchings is increasing. All that tends to put pressure on trainers to run dogs more often than is desirable.

That’s a trend that is worth watching.

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