Harlow staged nine opens on Wednesday, five of which were maidens (including a final) – writes Floyd Amphlett.
Lots of tracks stage events confined to open race virgins, though to memory it was Harlow’s creator and promoter Toni Nicholls who was the original innovator of ‘maidens’ back in the late 1990s.
(And while open race sweepstakes have been around since the birth of the sport, it was also Toni who nailed the ‘Monkey’ format; regular 18 runner heats and final, a week apart, with £500 to the winner.)
Critics would suggest that maidens have enabled tracks to fill racecards with greyhounds without the ability to win an unconfined open race.
Supporters would argue that maidens offer opportunities for dogs unfamiliar with a track to more fairly compete against dogs of lesser ability without the need for trials.
Whatever your view, no one can argue that they clearly serve a purpose or they wouldn’t be in such demand.
So what are the assumptions and realities of maiden open racing?
How many are there?
We studied just one month’s worth of open racing – March 2019 – to see just how common they are. Here are the results:
So is the number of maidens increasing?
The media rights issue has undoubtedly left tracks scratching around for runners and filling a card with low quality maidens is a simple solution. But is that a myth or a reality.
So we checked back five years to March 2014 (see below) and came up with a comparative chart:
There are a few interesting facts to pick through. First, virtually an identical number of open races 382 v 380.
Second, the number of maiden opens as a percentage of all opens has increased though perhaps less than many people would imagine, at 19% from 15%.
Harlow, which has the highest percentage of maidens wasn’t even running many opens five years ago.
One more point, the five most prolific producers of maiden opens are all SIS contracted tracks.
What quality are the opens?
We did consider producing a table that would compare the times produced by the maiden open winners compared to the top graded race of the night.
There were many many examples where the top graders proved superior. Unfortunately, it was difficult to demonstrate that as a percentage.
This is because in some cases, a track might stage two or three maidens, which would include many of the upper grade runners, but nothing above an A5/A6 in support. Inevitably the maidens proved superior.
But that isn’t to say that maidens don’t vary considerably in terms of quality.
So, looking back to those 68 maiden winners from just one month – March 2014 – how many do you think went on win more open races within the next year?
The answer is 42 – roughly 62%. Is that more or less than you might have expected?
Interestingly too, those 42 maiden winners launched the careers of hounds of the calibre of Moss Lane Sue, Droopys Ward, Target Harris and Newinn Yolo.