Complex grading system is not helping

IF READERS’ comments are any guide few greyhound participants (meaning trainers) are happy with their grading system. It doesn’t matter which one you are talking about, it’s no good.

More than that, state authorities and raceclubs must have the same opinion because they keep chopping and changing and adding to the mix. But both these groups are doing no more than reacting to the same trainers. The industry is therefore being run in accordance with the wishes of trainers.

This is the classic example of the cart before the horse.

Trainers get paid prize money which is supplied by racing customers. More customers equals more prize money. If you want that extra cash, you first have to keep the customers happy. Therefore you should offer a product that the customers want, not what trainers want. The logic is inescapable.

Yet more and more the industry has done the reverse. It started with six grades – 1 to 5 plus Maidens – and has now ended up with over 120. Each extra grade has been added to satisfy a group of trainers or, more accurately, to keep out a group of trainers – namely those with better performed dogs.

The implied argument is that it is a good thing to cater for bottom dwellers, primarily on the ground that it then avoids disposing of them, which is fine as far as it goes, but perhaps also to share the wealth amongst more trainers.

In turn, that skates lightly over two factors; first, that we can’t be sure that objective is being met. No-one has ever advanced any figures to prove the case. At a guess, the “saved” group would be very small in number, considering that there are over 14,000 dogs regularly racing today and even more than that whelped every year. Secondly, and more importantly, genuine customers don’t want to see slow dogs any more than they want to pay to see park football or third rate TV programs. They are all a switch off.

But those crook races still attract betting, some will counter. Well, yes they do, but that simply tells you that they are being patronised by gamblers who have not the faintest idea what they are betting on. Betting on maidens or on dogs with one win in 20 is a mug’s game (unless you are an insider with very special knowledge).

These days, aside from a handful of feature races, betting volumes have nothing to do with race quality and everything to do with how crowded the program is and what time of the day or week it is. Pools jump up and down like a yo-yo.

The corollary of that is that serious punters, usually people who bet more and more often, are being outweighed by the mugs. There are many reasons for that which we can address at another time. Meantime, a great deal of evidence tells us that, if anything, that bias is getting worse. That is, the day to day product is not good enough to attract more big spenders.

The unavoidable conclusions are that (a) clubs and authorities are doing no more than catering for trainers short term needs and (b) they are ignoring the opportunity of attracting a new and well-armed clientele.

This is a fundamental reason why – inflation-corrected – there has been little or no natural increase in betting volumes for the last 20 years. There have been a few gains but all due to kinder treatment of commissions by state governments. Only NSW has missed out, mostly due to poor decision-making years ago, but it is hoping for a boost when the state finishes doing its sums and considering the recommendations of the recent parliamentary Inquiry.

In total, more complex grading of itself has done no more than contribute to the absence of growth, primarily because it tried to satisfy the suppliers of the product and not the buyers. That and disruptive tracks are the two biggest challenges facing the industry

Logic and business sense might support perhaps two of the 120-plus new grades appearing every week. First, there is a possible case for adding a Grade 6 to the standard list, if only to allow youngish Maiden winners to be formally separated from more experienced Grade 5 racers (adding Grades 6 and 7, as in Victoria, is a sledgehammer to crack a nut). Second, the use of a Veterans class makes sense as some of those competitors start losing their early speed (but not their overall times) and the option is also an encouragement for dogs to extend their economic life. And, besides, they obviously enjoy racing.

Anything else is a sop to inefficiency, a degradation of the product, and a discouragement to intending customers.

Reform is needed, and the KISS principle should be given priority.

Hostile reaction

The tragedy about Hostile’s breakdown in the Golden Easter Egg is that it has probably been the best performed dog in the series so far. Certainly Recruitment was the better dog on the night in the semi but had the boxes been reversed it is probable that the result would have been, too. Hostile suffered minor inconvenience at the first turn as Zipping Abby held it off the track and Hostile much prefers to be on the rail. Still, that’s the luck of the game.

But the injury was also a warning flag. Hostile faltered just after the winning post but it could just as easily have happened in the pen. Would that pose another topical question? Would it have occurred if a follow-on-lure was in use? Maybe yes, maybe no. It also depends on the actual source of the break (to its metatarsal) whether at that spot or earlier. Some stress earlier in the race could have contributed. We don’t know.

However, it does highlight an obvious question; what is the relative difference between injuries going into the pen and those incurred as they pull up on the lure?

I don’t know the answer but it should be something that authorities keep track of. Somehow, I suspect the FOL would come out way in front.

Stewards are not learning, but should

Race 7 The Meadows 28 March

“Enchanted Bling (7) crossed to the rails on the first turn checking Weblec Belle (5), Dyna Glinda (3), Aces High (6) and Deadly Vane (8).”

Another bad call. Enchanted Bling never touched any other dogs. It jumped well clear. Anyway, after heading to the rails, how could it possibly check Deadly Vane, which was boxed outside it? The “checked” dogs were actually affected by Dyna Glinda moving out on the turn.

At a time when the competence of stewards is under serious pressure (one state chief is already under suspension) you would think they might make strenuous efforts to tidy up their basic output – which is all race reports really are. Yet the above statement is just one of a never ending string of simple errors – just a fraction of which have been reported here.

Not only is this indicative of a slapdash attitude but it smacks of a resistance to change or to achieving excellence. Or, indeed, to writing about what people want to know. The long-winded notes about A colliding with B, and C with D, etc, etc are not only boring but mostly unnecessary and frequently exaggerated. They add nothing to the readers’ store of knowledge but do cast doubt over the steward’s capabilities.

What we want to know – assuming we cannot watch the video – is whether a dog was significantly checked, whether something unusual happened, and whether any penalties were applied. Anything else is bump. Or, as Richie Benaud famously advised: “If you can’t add something to the picture, say nothing.”

Past Discussion

  1. Grading is the least of greyhound racing .. What happened in Bundy could close it down it’s the first time the bosses said he can’t guarantee he won’t put a stop to the sport.

  2. Grading is the least of greyhound racing .. What happened in Bundy could close it down it’s the first time the bosses said he can’t guarantee he won’t put a stop to the sport.