The Sunday Afternoon "Finish On"

A significant event on the Cranbourne Turf Club’s calendar is their tri-code meeting which, on Friday, will be conducted without greyhounds.

Peter Davis

23 January 2022

A significant event on the Cranbourne Turf Club’s racing calendar is their tri-code meeting which, on Friday, will be conducted without greyhound racing.

It’s the only event of its kind in the land and up to 24 races have been held every 10 minutes (or so) previously yet, with the Cranbourne greyhound track out of action for an indefinite period, only 17 gallop and harness races will be conducted this week.

“Following an independent review of the Cranbourne greyhound racing track, racing and trialling at Cranbourne will remain closed for an extended period because of rail infrastructure issues,” a GRV statement said.

Cranbourne is a unique racing centre yet the greyhound track – being inside both the harness and gallops circuits – provides little atmosphere and thus no real attraction to attend meetings.

One aspect of Cranbourne’s cessation of racing is opportunity for the many 311m greyhounds which have populated a significant portion of programs for many years.

On December 29, for example, nine 311m events were staged on a 12-race card and many Cranbourne short-course sprinters now have no like-kind track to race at.

There are options interstate and it would not surprise to see a significant influx of short-course sprinters head to NSW – to Temora, Wagga, Goulburn, Dapto, Nowra, Bathurst, Dubbo, The Gardens, Richmond … the list is, neigh, endless.

And that will bring pressure on grading processes in NSW where, until recently, a prizemoney equalisation process over all distances gave trainers no incentive to prepare dogs to run ‘500m’ and beyond.

This week, GRNSW will increase prizemoney at Wentworth Park on a Saturday night and, in some way, will provide impetus to attract new participants.

What GRNSW ultimately needs to ‘sell’ is hope, an aspirational expectation of success and a real future.

The future is about learning from the past and respecting it. The prizemoney equalisation in NSW certainly helped fill fields and meetings which might have otherwise struggled for a full program yet a 297m Grade Five winner at Dapto, for example, being rewarded with the same as a 600m winner was flawed.

Fortunately, that has been corrected.

Nomination flow has dictated programming yet the lack of incentive (dollars) exacerbated the problem.

Some dogs struggled to get beyond 400m and that’s under stood but there is a back story which encourages trainers to nominate two, maybe three times per week for short course racing.

Many will argue punters (as turnover aggregates suggest) will bet on anything but the broader story is protecting and promoting racing integrity over traditional distances.

SHORT COURSE

With the prizemoney equalisation in NSW, a seismic shift occurred with meeting structures.

For example, at Dapto on Thursday, seven of 11 races were conducted over 297m, a metric which has been static for two seasons.

In 2021, the same meeting had six 297m races while four of 10 were in place in 2020. The two years prior it was one and two.

Richmond’s meeting on Friday had not one 535m contest and only one over 618m while six 400m and five 330m races were conducted.

Twelve months back there were five 330’s, five 400’s one over 535m and 618m whereas in 2018 there were no 330m races held on the third Friday in January at Richmond and just three over 400m on an 11-race program.

RULEBOOK

The new Greyhounds Australasia Rules of Racing come into play from February 1 and major amendment is the merging of marring and failing to pursue infractions to be considered one and the same.

Stewards’ interpretation of rules varies and consistency is uncommon.

Take for example the performance of Bro’s Girl in Race Four at Bundaberg on Monday.

In part, the stewards report came up with: “… In the front straight deviated its attention from the lure to the runner on its inside, but di (sic) not make muzzle contact. Stewards spoke with trainer Mr J. White regarding the dogs running actions and charged the greyhound with Failing to pursue 1st offence 28 days and a stewards trial.”

Here’s the replay:

In more than 40 years of attending race meetings, I can’t readily recall a more inappropriate sanction.

There’s no doubt Bro’s Girl deviated in the final few bounds of the 460m contest yet never made contact with the Cisco Sniper (box four) and raced by without changing stride.

Just how failing to a failing pursue the lure infraction (GAR 69(a) -a 28-day suspension at Bundaberg) and a clearance trial to race again was handed out defies belief.

In race five, Hearts Thunder – a $4.40 chance – was caused wide from box 8 and appeared to go amiss mid-race and finished just on 16 lengths from the winner in a slow 26.89 seconds.

The Stewards’ report asserted Hearts Thunder: “Checked on the heels entering the turn off the front straight. Shifted wider in the back straight.”

No veterinary inspection was ordered by stewards and the interference Hearts Thunder endured was not in the same ball-park as Bro’s Girl yet the latter, by means of one half-stride of misdirection, was enough to be rubbed out.

Much the same happened at Bulli 24 hours later when Sweet City Sal – in rainy conditions – finished last five to Zipping Lennox in 22.63 over 400m.

She made no contact with a rival and, only after the winning line (as per the head on vision) deviated towards fourth placed Dual Custody.

Sweet City Sal was found to have sustained a near side groin strain and is required to trial before racing again – a completely fair outcome yet a galaxy away from what trainer John White endured at Bundaberg.

These are national rules but not everyone is ready from the same script.

ON DECK

With Covid-19 rampant and staff numbers so disaffected that supermarket shelves are laid bare to staff shortages at supply chains, greyhound racing, luckily, has not had a meeting abandoned.

Race callers have, individually, been on the sick list and quick roster amendments for Sky’s coverage has been par-for-the-course.

And that’s seen Rod Fuller morph into Mr Everywhere Man. In the past fortnight, he’s worked at Taree (gallops), Newcastle (harness), Tuncurry (gallops), Grafton dogs twice, Tamworth, Grafton, Port Macquarie and Armidale gallop meetings.

Fuller cut his teeth at Richmond and Penrith dogs and has a real passion for greyhound racing.

Fuller might well be the only broadcaster in the land to regularly call all three codes and his colourful calls often reflect sayings of a bygone era.

And then there is his diction, the capacity to pronounce names accurately – a skill others, with years of experience, have yet to master.

UP NEXT

Saturday night’s Paws Of Thunder Final at Wentworth Park rekindled fond memories of Dyna Double One’s clash with Fernando Bale in the Melbourne Cup of 2015 and Paua To Burn’s ‘off the canvas’ Golden Easter Egg win in 2005.

With such a congested Group Race Calendar, the Paws Of Thunder finalists along with Zipping Kyrgios there are options in where to head next.

Albion Park’s Gold Bullion, offering $200,000 to-the-winner, is a logical target for Jungle Deuce before the Australian Cup Carnival at The Meadows kicks into gear.

While Wow has a Group 1 win on his resume, maybe a stay-at-home crack at the Bulli Gold Cup will appeal to Dannielle Matic. The two-week Bulli series kicks off on February 13, the night after the Temlee at The Meadows.

The way the black type calendar is, best versus the best is becoming less common and trainers needs to plan programs precisely.

The prospect of Wow eclipsing Aston Dee Bee’s 25.78 track record is another tantalising prospect at Bulli.

Feature Pic: Dapto circa 1947. Wollongong City Library.