Good Information Can Promote Success

Stewardship matters never seem to go away. At Sandown last Thursday, here is what stewards said about Race 9. “Al Moran (7) crossed to the inside soon after the start checking Peloton Bale (6), All One Size (5) and Ready To Riot (4)”. (Box numbers added).

In fact, Al Moran never got close to Peloton Bale or All One Size and, if it brushed Ready To Riot, the impact was minute and not relevant. In particular, Peloton Bale walked out of the box, as it is prone to do at times, and there was no chance at all for it to get checked by Al Moran, which jumped smartly and went almost straight ahead until reaching the turn.

Sometimes it’s hard to know if we are all on the same planet. Why would stewards write such stuff?

Fortunately, the GRV race results pages and videos are otherwise very informative and easy to view, print or download. But the stewards’ reports can be grossly misleading. We are better off without them, except where they concern injuries and matters which warrant penalties. Even then, sometimes you are better off seeing for yourself.

In contrast to Victoria, race results offered by GRNSW, which now cover four states, are a pain in the butt. Downloading is impossible in practice and printouts are not available as the site serves up only one race at a time. (Experiences may vary slightly, depending on your equipment). Formguides are equally impracticable as they require excessive amounts of paper to print out, contain lots of secondary pieces of information which should be made available elsewhere, and are missing numerous sectional times. Oddly, both SA and WA joined the NSW camp (in Ozchase) when they had far superior formguides in their own systems, particularly in WA.

In Queensland, slated to join the NSW brigade later on, basic results are fairly handy. However, while their videos are probably the best in the business, you have to cover more ground than the early explorers to find them, and then only one race at a time, which is time-consuming. Queensland formguides are rudimentary at best. Apart from missing all interstate sectionals (why?) they have adopted a habit long used by the old deFax guide and the current Recorder to insert an ancient run on the track if no current one is relevant. I have yet to find a six months old formline of any use in predicting a dog’s chances.

Clearly, none of the people responsible for these services have bothered to audit the effectiveness of their work or check how they are viewed by the public. Often we hear claims about the number of hits on their website but nothing about how those inspections are put to use. You could go further – the last time a state authority published any information about public or customer views and attitudes was 20 years ago in Queensland when the then-QGRA had a consultant do such a job for them. Are they all working in the dark?

It does seem so. That is exactly the point I made the other day when discussing the attitude of authorities to their customers, and how they define that group of people. The entire industry has always concentrated the vast majority of its resources on trainers and very little on the needs of the people who pay their wages – the customers. More administration than management.

Totes are no better, which is why they still run a ridiculous product – the Duet – which hardly anyone ever buys, other than a few foolish gamblers. Or why they tell lies about First Four dividends. Or why they have destroyed the integrity of betting pools by jamming too many races into an already overcrowded calendar, hoping to drag more cash out of the same old customers (it’s not working).

In total, it’s like a manufacturer supplying its customers with a fancy piece of equipment and no instructions to go with it. Or a cookbook with a recipe containing no information on amounts or how long to cook it. Or running an election with the names of candidates but nothing on which party they belong to or what their policies are. And so it goes on.

Surely somebody must soon realise that these are some of the reasons that racing is losing its edge and why it has experienced negative growth in breeding and betting over the last 20 years. Greyhounds have been an exception for betting as it has been able to stick more four-legged poker machines into the mix, but that fix has now run out of steam. There is no more room left. Where to now?

THE GREAT UNKNOWN

Never mind that the world’s leaders are coming to Australia to discuss what the future holds. Isn’t it about time that greyhound bosses took a serious look at why greyhound racing is struggling to get its act together?

Yesterday’s premium Wentworth Park meeting had not a single reserve to start with, and so ended up with six short fields for what has historically been the code’s biggest betting venue. That’s money down the drain. The Meadows had a few more starters but still had three short fields (with two 725m runners carrying with them false times ex handicap races but no note about what advantage they had or about misleading sectional times). Sandown on Thursday started off with a race full of Novice dogs, masquerading as a Grade 5 event. Albion Park’s main meeting of the week led off with the usual two Novice races and four of ten races short of a full field.

There can be no argument that the industry has over-reached. Too many races, too few dogs. Too many short course dogs, too few stayers. Too many mug gamblers, too few punters. Too many unusable betting pools. Too much secrecy. Too many rip-off products. The list goes on. Rumours are around that someone wants to put some research into better track designs, but I want to see the hard cash first. Meantime, $30 million is being invested into new tracks in Perth and Brisbane, both with obvious design faults before they get started. That’s hardly a good way to attract future customers.

Is anyone minding the shop? A stocktake would be a good way to start a program of reform.

Past Discussion