By Mick Floyd
Simon Told Helen’s Harrison-Dawson win at Sandown Park on Thursday not only consolidated his standing as the country’s premier greyhound, but continued his path to becoming one of the sport’s greatest ever.
It’s a big call, especially for a greyhound that is still just 28 months of age. But, after just 23 starts, his career is on a trajectory that can only be compared to arguably the greatest sprinter of all time – Fernando Bale.
Simon Told Helen has been benchmarked against Fernando Bale before, having ran what is believed to be the fastest middle section when winning the Cup Night Sprint on TAB Melbourne Cup night last November – going faster than Fernando Bale did at the height of his powers.
Six months later, a comparison of their race records is remarkable.
On 21 May 2015, Fernando Bale won at Sandown Park in his 23rd career start by one-and-a-half lengths in 29.23. He had three Group 1 wins and prize money of $542,000.
On 21 May 2020, Simon Told Helen won at Sandown Park in his 23rd career start by one-and-a-half lengths in 29.23. It was his third Group 1 win and, had the race been run at pre-Covid-19 levels, would have taken his prize money to $540,505.
They also ran identical second splits in their respective runs (18.51), but it’s how they get to that mark that separates them. Fernando Bale was renowned for his blinding early speed – running 4.93 that night, just half a length outside of his first split record. He averaged a 4.96 first split across his eight career wins.
Simon Told Helen doesn’t have that same speed at box rise but musters like no other greyhound in the country. He ran ‘just’ 5.05 on Thursday night after stepping modestly, and averages 5.06 in his four Sandown Park wins to date.
Simon Told Helen’s middle section of 13.46 recorded on Thursday was just 0.03 seconds outside of the time he recorded on Cup night, and equal to Fernando Bale’s fastest time between the pegs.
Like Fernando Bale, the punters haven’t missed Simon Told Helen. Fernando Bale started as favourite in 19 of his first 23 starts, with an average starting price of $2.45. Simon Told Helen has started favourite on 21 occasions at an average starting price of $2.02.
The punters’ greater confidence may come from the fact that his record may be even better than Fernando Bale’s at the same point of his career.
While both greyhounds have three Group 1s to their names after 23 starts, Simon Told Helen has now won six group races and has qualified for 10 group finals – including the National Derby, from which he was scratched due to a spider bite. Fernando Bale had four group wins from the four finals from which he qualified.
Amazingly, Simon Told Helen has never contested a Grade 5 race. His last start in a graded race was at his fourth career start – a Grade 6 win at Sandown Park – with every run subsequent being a group race or group race qualifier. At the same stage of his career, Fernando Bale had run in 10 graded races, with four of them free-for-alls.
Simon Told Helen’s trainer David Burnett has known for some time he has a smart greyhound and relishes the excitement he brings to the track. He’s very much enjoying the ride it’s giving both him and his close-knit group of owners, but cautious not to get caught up in the hype.
“(I’m) just relieved,” he said after his Harrison-Dawson triumph.
“With all of the build-up during the week, there has been a lot of talk about the dog and his ability. Up until now he really hasn’t taken on the best of the best.
“To do it at Sandown Park and against open grade company, I’m just rapt that the dog could show what he could do.”
Truly, nothing excites fans of the sport – or opens up the sport to new fans – like a champion in full flight.
While Simon Told Helen has a lot more to do match, or potentially even surpass, the lofty heights Fernando Bale reached by the end of his career (he finished his career with eight Group 1 victories and almost $1.3m in prize money), his career could not have got off to a more impressive start.
Simon Told Helen may be the result of a well kept secret, but he is no secret any more.