By Isaac Murphy
The Queensland Stayers Circuit commences at Ipswich this Saturday night, with the new concept offering greater prize money, more races and a unique grading system to boost the profile of distance racing in Queensland.
The idea is built around giving Queensland stayers of all grades equal opportunity to be competitive in their racing, introducing guidelines which give greyhounds the chance to race over the Ipswich 630 metres on Saturdays, 600 metres at Albion Park on Mondays and 600 and 710 metres at Albion Park on Thursdays.
There has been ongoing dialogue between trainers and Racing Queensland regarding the concept and trainers Casey Dargusch and Kerry Hoggan hope to be some of the first to benefit from the scheme with greyhounds crying out for suitable races.
“It’s a great concept and I really commend Racing Queensland for working with us trainers to get it off the ground,” Dargusch said.
“It’s perfect for a bitch like Red Hot Gossip who has won a couple of six hundred metre events and has been left stranded on that number when you strike the top-grade dogs who run 35 flat around Albion where she is 35.50 bitch at best.”
Red Hot Gossip is potentially one of the biggest beneficiaries of the circuit with just two wins from her thirty-nine starts and a raft of placings, the bitch now gets the opportunity to race in her right grade on a more regular basis.
“I’ve said from the start she’s no champion, but if she can stick in those low-grade races and run her placings every week, she’s as valuable to us as any dog in the kennel,” Dargusch said.
“She tries her heart out and now with the increase of volume of events like Saturday night, she gets even more chances to run her honest race.”
The circuit begins this Saturday with the first three months of events programed until late October giving trainers like Dargusch the opportunity to plan an ideal preparation for Red Hot Gossip.
“I was hoping to give her a seven hundred in a few weeks’ time, the plan is to give her a few 630 runs at Ipswich now they’re available and the fitness she’ll gain from running every week provides a pathway to step her up from there,” Dargusch said.
“Pathway’s like that haven’t been available to us in the past, one week there would be a 0-3 win which would suit and then all that was on offer were fourth and fifth grades where we were simply nominating her for the run.”
“A stayer like her has to be fit and there just weren’t enough races on the calendar to keep her at her best.”
Having not finished out of the placings in her four starts at the track and trip Dargusch is hopeful with a bit of luck Red Hot Gossip can get the better of her less experienced rivals Saturday.
“We can’t wait to get her to the track on Saturday. She’s feeling a million dollars and jumping out of her skin and if she can transfer that onto the track it would be fantastic to kick off the circuit with a win,” she said.
“She doesn’t tend to worry too much about where she draws, I don’t think the six will be an issue. She’s a decent beginner and as long as she doesn’t get too far back she knows how to weave her way through a field.”
“There are a lot of dogs having their first start over the track and trip where I think she’ll have a bit of an edge not being out of the placings in her four starts.”
Dargusch has enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2019 with Never Walk Alone providing the kennel with their first Thursday night wins, but with the increase in prize money Red Hot Gossip could soon be the prime earner.
“She’s been such a bread and butter dog for us, she puts in her honest performance each time out,” she said.
“For us she’s just been a marvel, she’s right up there with Never Walk Alone and Blue Texada who have won ten races against her two yet she’s right up there are far as prize money goes.”
“Couple that with her demeanour at home she’s just a ripper to have in the kennel.”
Hoggan echoed the sentiments of Dargusch saying the old system was broken and the new facelift had come along just in time.
“The lack of races was becoming a real issue, outside the fifth-grade races on Thursday night with Class One dogs, there simply weren’t enough races for our Class Two and Class Three dogs,” she said.
“There were a number of occasions where we were nominating a dog for a distance race and they just didn’t have the numbers and your dog winds up sitting at home in the kennel or gets placed in an unsuitable race at a lesser distance.”
“Both Shian Cody and Where’s She Gone are perfect examples, they are both one-win dogs who go better the further the race is and rather than throwing them in a 520 at Ipswich they are on an even keel over the 630 metres on Saturday.”
Hoggan has Ratajkowski nominated for Monday nights 600 metre fifth grade race an event she’s been crying out for as the bitch looks to transition from the 520 to the 600 metres.
“We’ve wanted to step her up for a while, but the Class One Thursday races are beyond her reach,” Hoggan said.
“It’s a hot field with Shorino and Big Boy Bruce on Monday, but that’s her right grade and hopefully racing in that company will get her ready for bigger things and if not she can continue in that class.”
Hoggan believes distance racing was a dying art in Queensland and the injection of racing and prize money would go a long way to a sustainable future for stayers.
“I think we’ll see a lot more of our top stayers choosing to do more of their racing in Queensland as well, not having to chase races interstate the prize money for those class one dogs will encourage them to stay,” she said.
“I don’t think I’m alone in saying there are far too many short course races, but that fact we’re starting a staying race circuit will hopefully encourage breeders, owners and trainers alike to not forget about staying races.”