It’s been a funny couple of weeks. Here’s yet another reason for that claim.
The heats of the $100,000 Laurie Helion Maiden series at The Gardens were covered in our July 26 article. Now we have the results for the semi-finals, run last Friday. They are extraordinary!
They offered only normal Friday prize money of a thousand or so, which is curious, as against the $3,500 first prize for the heats. Can’t quite work that one out.
Favourites missed out in all four semis. They had every chance but were not good enough on the night. Each race was won by the dog leading all the way, or nearly so – all fading but holding on. They ran solid but not spectacular time. All of which is fairly normal for maidens.
Winners paid an average of $9.40, so a lot of people went home with empty pockets. However they left a lot behind. Or, more correctly, they left it to gamblers who guessed right.
The average Win pool on the NSW TAB was $29,609, well above normal takings on a Friday night and 25% more than at Wentworth Park the same night ($22,129). Exotics were also good, which parallels the effort from the previous week’s heats. Note that we are talking about inexperienced dogs here, many with no more than the single run in the heats, so those are amazing figures.
Why is this so? No idea.
Surely, trainers would have more sense than to engage in a betting duel using unproven dogs? Maybe it was the owners, but we can’t tell. We do know that, in general, mug gamblers are an increasing force. Even then, TAB turnover is holding up only by the skin of its teeth. Yet this time the mugs must have been out in force. Good luck to them.
What does it tell us about the future of greyhound racing? Two flies on the wall? Fingers crossed? Throwing a dart at the racebook? It bears thought.
MYSTERY BETTING AT HOBART
The upcoming Nationals at Hobart’s Elwick track will be interesting.
For a start, it is the best track in Australia, bar none. Dogs run straight after jumping, they get around the corner pretty well, and it demands a good hard run to the line. Pikers do not win. Interference is very low and falls are rare.
Dogs from Queensland and SA will need to adapt as they have no one-turn tracks to test themselves on. Indeed, together with WA and Victorian dogs, they will be qualifying on a circle track. It’s not the same thing. Some dogs do well at both, some don’t.
NSW has attacked this challenge by shifting its qualifying races to the big track at Bulli. However, while a good idea in theory, that produces its own problems.
The Bulli track is fine for leaders but its peculiar main turn creates its own disruptions for those behind, mostly as a result of the cutaway rail section prior to the start of the turn proper. That does not affect runners over 515m or longer trips as the field has time to sort itself out beforehand. But it is a problem for 400m and 472m runners, which have trouble maintaining a consistent course with the double change of gauge.
Having got past that, the home turn at Bulli is flat as a pancake and encourages dogs to run off uncontrollably. In contrast to Hobart, Bulli would be one of the country’s worst one-turn tracks. The best dog may or may not win. (Maitland might have been a better option, although not a perfect one by any means.
But there is more. Hobart has two form peculiarities. First, sectional timing is limited to the leader (although some formguide people seem to be able to produce a bit more than that, presumably from videos). Second, hardly any races have ever been run over the 700m trip. Both factors mean form comparisons will be difficult, doubly so for NSW competitors because Bulli, like Hobart, lists sectionals for leaders only.
And there is more still. Apart from a recent test, the 701m trip at Bulli has not been run for yonks (distance races are all over 659m) so the blind will be leading the blind in Hobart, so to speak.
Forget the formguides. Instinct will have to do.