As thousands of our readers would know, this column has been campaigning for some time about the unwise practice of forcing so-called stayers to back up in week to week 700m-plus races. The problem being that at least nine out of ten of them cannot do it – they are physically and physiologically incapable of reproducing their best.
The sub-text here is that the nation is no longer producing enough well-bred stayers. In turn, that is a reaction to the increasing concentration on sprinters – or sprinting sires – which can hopefully bring in a quicker return on the owner’s investment.
The sub-sub-text is that all this is the reason for the widespread increase in sub-400m races on TAB programs. Cannington had three 297m races at its Saturday meeting last week. Wentworth Park has been slipping 280m races into its Friday meetings. Albion Park actually built a new start for 331m races, as did Angle Park for 388m races. 300m-400m races now dominate most provincial meetings. All these are new trends.
Despite all the evidence, the industry is ignoring the massive shift in breeding patterns, except that it has been offering bonus prize money for provincial distance races (which generally means 650m or so) in the hope that the dogs will welcome a boost to their bank accounts by running further. But it is not working. Fields are hard to fill and, in the main, they are getting only those dogs that are not much good over shorter trips.
More importantly, clubs/authorities (cross out one) are still doing the wrong thing. Just last Saturday we saw The Meadows run the final of a Grade 5 heat/final series over 725m with seven days between the two runs. Here are the differences in times between those two runs.
1. +0.19 Big Kat 2nd
3. +0.44 Julie Bale 3rd
8. +0.18 Starc Ist
That was not the only distance race on the program. Another ordinary Grade 5 race over 725m followed. Of those eight starters, only one had a break of more than seven days prior to the distance race (Global Lad – 9 days). Four other starters had breaks of only four days. Here are the difference between Saturday’s times and those run in their previous race (corrected for a change in distance as appropriate).
1. +0.21 Reap the Benefit 2nd
6. +0.06 Global Lad 3rd
7. -0.13 Heaps of Ability 1st
Before you get too excited about that win note that Heaps of Ability ran 43.25, which is pretty pedestrian. It ran past a bunch of tiring leaders on the home turn.
In other words, following short breaks, there is a heavily defined pattern of running poor and/or worse times the second time around. Previous checks reported in this column have shown comparable results.
Wentworth Park also ran two heats of a heat/final distance series on Saturday night and with similar results to those at The Meadows – barring the amazing win by Sweet It Is. Amongst the placegetters were Zipping Maggie, Zipping Rory and Dusty Moonshine, each of which ran worse time than the week or race before, and much worse than their best. Next week will see the final of that series, where the only interest will be on Sweet It Is’ winning margin (providing it does not run into too many backsides).
What, then, is the point of scheduling heats and finals seven days apart? Of the 32 dogs listed above only one, Sweet It Is, is capable of turning on two good runs. Or, 3% can do it, 97% cannot.
Of those four races, three favourites – Reap The Benefit $2.10, Julie Bale $2.30 and Zipping Maggie $2.10 – all failed, while Sweet It Is won at $1.30, so punters would not have been impressed. Again, what is the point?
Most racing schedules are organised a long way ahead, particularly for major events. But many are not and can easily be changed.
We already have a few welfare rules preventing quick backups, more which address high temperatures as well as frequent enforced outages for injury or illness, so why not expand those a little to stop this senseless practice with distance dogs?
There is a dual or triple challenge here because all three levels of racing are involved in one way or another – national, state and club – whether for rule changes or week to week management.
Trainer Darren McDonald seems to have done a good job in encouraging Sweet It Is to leave the boxes more quickly these days. But I would take issue with him when he claims she is better off from outside boxes. I suggest the more correct claim would be that she either (a) does not like being crowded or (b) does not handle getting through a field very well, or (c) both. Perhaps this may have been the result of an incident as a pup?
Whatever it is, she has developed an Elektra-like habit of jumping well then easing back when she does not have clear air. At Wenty on Saturday none of that happened. She jumped well and was out free as a bird behind the leader and well clear of other dogs. Hence the lightning 41.55 time after a neat 16.30 sectional! Next week with a full field in the final may be different. That’s why you should never take anything less than even money about her.
From the inside three boxes, Sweet It Is has won 6 of 16 attempts, or 37%. From the outside three boxes she has won 8 of 23, or 35%. It’s the running that matters, not the box.
In passing, note that her six-dog race on Saturday at Wenty attracted a miserable $9,157 on the Win tote. You might have expected double that figure. Also related to 720m races at Wenty, why are we still offered 16 sec-plus sectional times when a timer is available at around the 5 sec mark – as evidenced in results published for 280m races which use the same boxes? The shorter time is much more relevant to a dog’s beginning ability.
Stewards Report, The Meadows, Race 8
“Radinka Bale crossed to the rail approaching the first turn, causing Skinny Vinnie and Buckle Up Mason to collide”.
No it didn’t. The other two made their way directly to the turn without hindrance, and well behind Radinka Bale.