IT’S A bit like mining: until you start digging it up you can’t be sure what you are getting. So it is with tracks that might look the same, be planned and built the same way, but then reveal quirks that separate one from another. Let’s go to a reader’s comment.
“Bruce if you are going to critise Warrnambool you have to critise both Ballarat and Shepparton also because they are the same layout and distances.
Warrnambool is one of the most popular tracks in Victoria and there are many trainers in the Gippsland area who travel all the way down to Warrnambool.
I am in the Gippsland area and travel 400km to race at Warrnambool regularly and have never had any complaints about the track yet.”
My first wish is that people making comments would actually read the whole article.
Here is part of what I wrote:
“However, given that Warrnambool is probably one of the better one-turn tracks in the country, we have to ask if there is not a better way of laying out tracks in order to reduce this interference.”
This followed my point that the amount of interference (early and heading into the turn) was significant enough to alter the outcome of races. The comment particularly related to events on the big night when several races were strongly competitive and contained good quality dogs.
Overall, I have said that Warrnambool is a more reliable track than Ballarat or Shepparton or Warragul, or any one-turn tracks in NSW for that matter, but it is not perfect.
Precisely why is a question I cannot answer. It is a complex matter with many interacting influences and only detailed studies could reveal the truth.
But Warrnambool 450-metres is not up to the Hobart 461-metres standard – so, why not? (One clue is that the start is more widely spaced from the rail but that cannot be the whole answer).
Further, why was the Warrnambool distance race changed from 680-metres to 650-metres?
The start is now jammed up near the turn and therefore promotes higher interference than was present before. An early leader can get an unwarranted break on the field as it bunches up behind (which makes sectional comparisons notoriously unreliable). The same comparison applies to Bendigo 700-metres (old) and 660-metres (new).
The only logic here is that the somewhat shorter distances are kinder to less capable dogs – i.e. the average provincial racer – but the change has come at the price of more disruptive racing and therefore constitutes a discouragement to punters.
Even so, that rationale was not used when Warragul was rebuilt as it retained its 680-metres trip – which offers a reasonable run to the first turn – so GRV has been inconsistent in its design policies.
The underlying issue is that Australian track designs are not ideal, and in some cases terrible, all because they are the result of opinions and guesswork, not scientific study. Errant dogs are blamed when the fault lies just as much, or more, with man.
Hobart 461-metres is an exception, while Mandurah and Northam are better than most. Yet, in all three cases, the outcome was an accident. (Two of them were built by the same person but Mandurah’s main turn had to be altered after several months use).
To make another comparison, variable or disruptive tracks like these would not be sustainable in horse racing, or at least would be subject to severe and very public criticism from media, trainers, jockeys/drivers and punters (e.g. recent shutdowns or transfers at Ipswich, Toowoomba, Randwick, Sandown and Caulfield).
Why, then, do we (a) accept second best in greyhound racing, (b) not talk about it and (c) fail to develop improvement plans?
While I admire the persistence of a trainer who will drive 400km to race his dog, the more pertinent question is why he would travel past Sale, Warragul and Geelong on the way. Even up the freeway to Ballarat would be handier. All offer comparable trips.
Maybe GRV could look into that.
In any event, circumstances suggest trainers prefer to race at tracks where they have had some success. A classic illustration came from now-banned Queensland trainer, Reg Kay, who decamped to the NSW Central Coast after authorities installed the follow-on-lure at Albion Park. He then declared Maitland the best track in the country. Of course, at the time Reg had a kennel full of Elite State progeny which began like rockets and loved the shorter 400/450-metres trips at Maitland.
What happened in the field behind them was irrelevant. Nuff said.
Finally, some may ask why I don’t concentrate on Hobart if the track is so great. That’s an easy one. Tasmania has no sectional times worth a cracker. You get only one per race and that is usually wrong – ie they assign it to the winner, not the dog that was in front. That’s a disgrace. No sectionals equals no betting.
Ballarat, Race 10, 13 May.
“Igor Karkaroff (7) crossed to the rail approaching the first turn, checking Lektra Hombre (5), Cigar Club (6), Magic Room (4) and Sea Forever (3).”
In fact, Igor Karkaroff jumped to the lead and cut across the bows of Sea Forever when it moved to the rail. The other three dogs were never involved. Not at all. In particular, Lektra Hombre, which eventually won the race, started racing in the centre of the track and stayed there.
Does no-one check this stuff?
Note that in Victoria between four and six stewards typically work at each meeting, compared with two or three in other states. Perhaps they are blocking each others’s view?
Anyway, it sounds like a very expensive process.