The National Championships at Hobart saw some fine performances on a wet and wild night. It also left a few queries.
There was no doubting Fabregas’ run in the Sprint, working quickly to the lead and giving nothing a chance in the run to the line in 25.85. As predicted, rarely do leaders get run down in these top events.
The surprise was that it blew out in the final couple of minutes of betting after sharing favouritism with Exclusive One. At 7.24 pm in NSW – one minute before the jump - Fabregas and Exclusive One shared top spot at around $2.80 in a $14,000 pool. Then late money doubled the pool size to $30,879, forcing the NSW dog in to $2.10 and Fabregas out to $3.30 (a bit more on the Victorian tote).
A national betting pool would have helped smooth those figures somewhat but the big influences remain the late betting habits of greyhound punters and the overcrowded Saturday night race program.
Glen Gallon did what you might expect of a quality dog to finish second but the evidence suggests it is much better suited to circle tracks. So is Oaks Road. Of the rest, Rob Pines is always likely to compete for a place but the rest were in a different class.
The strangest deal of the night came when Irma Bale nearly ran down Miata in the distance race. Hello! Have we got that right? Bookies might have offered 1000/1 about that happening. First, Miata led Irma Bale, which is strange in itself and, second, Irma Bale has never shown any indication of finishing hard over the 700s before. But that’s what happened.
The two Tasmanians ran very respectable races to fill the remaining First Four slots. Others never figured.
But it gets stranger.
SA and Queensland punters got out in force on Tatts with useful Win pools of $24k to $25k on the two races but came out of cracks in the ground to invest in First Four options. The F4 pulled in an extraordinary $46,728 and $41,249 on the distance and sprint races respectively (NSW and Victoria were in the range $6k to $15k).
Presumably, there must have been incentives or jackpots involved but those mounts are almost unbelievable unless Tatts has made clerical errors.
Assessing these races was never going to be easy ahead of time due to the terrible sectional data problem afflicting this country. Tasmania has always been hopeless as it never provides times for any other runner than the leader at any of its three tracks. NSW is no better at its one-turn tracks, including the heats at Bulli, and at the Northern Rivers tracks (however you describe them). The other states’ sectional experience is all on circle tracks where the run to the turn is much shorter.
In theory, one-turn dogs deserve a crack at the Nationals but unless most competitors have a chance to gain experience on such tracks it is an option that only confuses. Queensland is trying but is years away from building a Gold Coast replacement. SA claims it will develop a more prominent horseshoe at Murray Bridge or Strathalbyn but will it have the cash to provide enough prize money there? Re-building Gawler might have been a better choice. In WA, Mandurah is a kind of half circle, half one-turn track.
Having said all that, Hobart is a much fairer contest than the biased Launceston circuit, which was Tasmania’s last National venue.
Another peculiarity of this series was that all the visiting dogs had run trials on the Hobart track yet none of that information was included in any formguide seen here. It may be that they were not classed as “official” trials and therefore could not make the formal records. If so, then the system badly needs reform for such a major occasion, particularly as the Nationals invariably involve dogs strange to the track. Punters should be better informed than that.
However, if you were to search around, you might find the odd hint about Queenslanders’ trials on the Qld Magazine website, and about all of them on the local Hobart club’s website. The official Tasmanian greyhound website, run by the government, shows nothing. Tasmanian formguides are now listed on the GRNSW site, as are the results, if they get around to posting them (that still had not happened by early Monday morning).
Indeed, getting comments or results for anything other than TAB dividends was difficult on the Sunday after the meeting, with the single exception of the GRV main page. Not a single newspaper mentioned the results, including the two main local papers, the Hobart Mercury and the Launceston Examiner. That is understandable for hard copy but not for internet editions. Fortunately, the club had arranged good advance publicity via a local radio station so that may have carried something.
Finally, yet again, AGRA and the racing public have seen yet another example of lopsided racing in these state-of-origin events. At best, they are four dog races. It seems AGRA is not likely to change its basic approach but it could take a leaf out of the Olympic book and bring in some sort of pre-qualification test – for example, requiring that dogs meet a certain time standard, whether or not they win their heats. That would immediately remove a couple of runners from each race.
So, an interesting batch of races, but messy and hard to bet on with any confidence.