WHAT an extraordinary dog Fernando Bale is. The blinding victory in the Peter Mosman heat on Saturday took his prize money up to $546k and he is still only 27 months old. To bust any records he needs only to remain healthy (and not move to China).
So far, the dog is faultless and is taking on Brett Lee proportions. At only 29.5 kg he reminds you of Warrens Flyer, another brilliant but modest sized dog – but a very risky beginner.
Fernando also offers a boost for American sire Kelsos Fusileer, which had nowhere near as good a race record as Fernando Bale’s 19 wins from 24 starts.
Of note is that Fernando Bale has been continually improving as he goes on, which is a credit to the Daillys who train him as well as breeder Paul Wheeler’s USA diversion.
Money is not everything
Talking of Brett Lee and company, it was instructive to read colleague Duncan Stearn’s recent comments about the rapid rise in feature event prize money in recent years, in both absolute and relative terms. It takes on the appearance of a race, not between dogs, but between the major clubs for bragging rights.
Anyway, here is another slant on that subject.
I took Brett Lee, which last raced in 2001, Rapid Journey, which finished in 1998, Flying Amy (1996) and Highly Blessed (1992) and re-calculated their winnings in today’s money. To do that I used the official CPI inflator for Australia from the Bureau of Statistics. The AGR website lists all the original earnings.
Brett Lee – official earnings $405,106, converts to $570,000 today.
Rapid Journey – official earnings $530,995, converts to $830,000 today.
Flying Amy – official earnings $354,105, converts to $561,600 today.
Highly Blessed – official earnings $294,465, converts to $516,400 today
Of course, Brett Lee would have earned millions more than that at stud but not Rapid Journey which was a relative failure there. What a shame as it has long been a favourite dog of mine – fast, consistent, good beginner and versatile.
Those figures take no account of the relative increases in feature event prize money, of course. Had something like the $250k-$350k level been in force back then those earnings would have been much higher again. Effectively, Rapid Journey would have surpassed the $1 million mark.
Looking broadly at the league table, prize-wise, it is clear that it more and more rewards luck as much as ability. This is a perennial greyhound problem as dogs can wax and wane in form and, more importantly, suffer injuries at unfortunate times – witness Space Star pulling a muscle when on its way to victory in the Sandown Cup. That alone made at least a $300k difference to the relative positions of it and Sweet It Is.
I think only once has Sweet It Is beaten Space Star fair and square – in the nationals at Cannington – yet it easily outranks every dog in the country in prize money ($828,515 with NZ to come). Brett Lee lies in 35th place, Flying Amy with 42 wins from 57 starts is 45th. Space Star is lying in 27th place with a 63% hit rate, albeit it and Sweet It Is, with only a 31% hit rate, are still racing.
Wins depend on ability, of course, but also substantially on good health and a good box draw. Money can never reflect that fairly.
Will the whole truth ever emerge?
I may be naïve, but I am finding it hard to believe that any trainer would deliberately use ice or amphetamine to help their dog go faster, as has occurred in Victoria.
Obviously the drugs were in the area but were they applied to the dogs as such? In this day and age nothing could be more stupid from either a health or detection viewpoint. And would those drugs actually help the dogs anyway?
I don’t doubt the technical facts, although I would like to hear the fine details of amounts, timing and so on. However, let’s trust that the police forensic people are involved. If not, they should be, as these are prohibited drugs for humans as well as animals.
What keeps going through my mind is the case of the “guilty” stablehand of Gai Waterhouse who allegedly brushed up against a cocaine user in the local pub – so she got off. That seemed a pretty thin excuse at the time but it is an indication of the potential for laboratories to find minute traces of bad stuff.
Questions are unanswered.
Following the Queensland nastiness, more than the odd reader is asking that we regard greyhound racing as just a sport and gear things to their needs and happiness. Well it’s an interesting thought but it is never going to happen, as much as some owner/trainers have a passionate attitude to their pet dogs.
But nor should it.
The trick is that in order to create opportunities for hobby trainers you have to have a professional industry to start with. That justifies all the supporting services like feeds, medicines, vets and muscle men which trainers, big and small alike, all need to keep their charges up to speed.
Anyway, a little prize money here and there enables those small guys to pay for household/kennel expenses.
Still, the hobby trainer will always be part of the magic of Australian greyhound racing, in contrast to the factory-like approach in America. They warrant support.
Meantime, many thousands of people owe their employment to racing, directly and indirectly. Therefore it is important to take a professional attitude to how it is run.
Unfortunately, Australia’s public service-like racing authorities too often fail to meet that target. Attention should go to the top of the tree, not the bottom.
Not quite so famous
I have to give credit to a dog most people have barely heard about – Queenslander Big Dac (Colin Hamilton).
This dog would run a place in a 6-day bike race. Never mind the class or the box, or even the distance, it just gets the job done. On Monday at Albion Park it came out dead last but still got through to run 2nd to noted flier Rose of Galo while favourite Flash Reality got barrelled at the first turn (will they ever fix it?).
Big Dac, now rising 4 years old, has had 168 starts for 11 wins, 29 2nds and 38 3rds – prize money $64,814. Well done. Its average starting price is $17.49 which is why exotic punters should not miss it.