Keeping it in the family

NOT long back I was critical of a club (I think it was Sandown) when it put on a race for female trainers. I suggested that was nonsense as the name in the racebook usually had more to do with their tax accountant than training duties.

Going back even further, I recall a club president in his weekly newsletter never referring to an individual trainer by name but to the Brown family or the Jones family and so on. He was right on the money. There is no way any one person has the capacity to look after a team of dogs on his own. The 24/7 task is far too demanding in both time and travel terms. Wives, husbands, kids all count.

This is important as it illustrates a major difference between American and Australian practices – one with a factory-style production of racers 200 or 300 strong, and in decline, the other with a range of kennel sizes but rarely passing the 100 mark and normally very much smaller right down to the hobby trainer with one or two. Personalised kennels are a critical factor in building a groundswell of support for the industry in the local community – when done well, of course.

But you could well take this a step further, especially in view of recent events. Perhaps training licences should be issued to the family? What applies to one should apply to all. Indeed, this is the effect of some recent changes to racing and licensing rules – the McDonald attempt to shift dogs into his partner’s name was eventually shut down, for example.

At the very least, authorities should obviously look closely into family involvements when suspensions occur. In fact, we already have the case of Graeme Bate’s dogs moving over into daughter-in-law Jenny Hunt’s name, the former being suspended and the latter now under investigation for use of amphetamines and being queried by stewards about over-racing incidents. Another family member has a police record.

Another recent case saw the high profile King couple on the NSW south coast both eventually suspended, one for drugs, the other for illegally visiting the kennel area.

Some may consider the broader approach would unduly penalise an “innocent” person yet the practical situation is that it is near impossible for close family not to be involved in some way. The final arbiter is not what is in the kitchen cabinet but what is in the dog’s system.

What is even more surprising is that Australia’s largest breeder and owner, Paul Wheeler, continues his association with the Bate/Hunt family group, apparently regardless of all the illegalities. You would think he would place a higher value on his reputation.

While on this general subject, it must be noted that Awesome Project’s owner Brad Canty was successful in the Supreme Court in setting aside the ban on his dog competing in the Australian Cup. It had been in the care of suspended trainer Darren McDonald but was transferred by Canty to another trainer. Canty, some might remember, was a party in a scandal in a maiden event at Ipswich in 2013 when his account was used to place multiple First Four bets with Bet365. The Northern Territory Racing Commission (the NT being the domicile of Bet365) found the actions by him and the Brunkers (father and son) to be “unlawful” and suggested referrals to Queensland stewards and police, which had direct jurisdiction.

The betting action involved placing big Win bets early on one unraced dog, which had travelled all the way from western Sydney to compete – pretty unusual for a maiden dog. That made it a short odds-on favourite and therefore encouraged punters to include it in their exotic bets as well. The dog, which had vomited in the kennels, ran a shocker and over $4,000 worth of bets by the Brunker/Canty group succeeded – at least at first – mainly because they all excluded the favourite. The team claimed Bet365 for some $68,000 or four times the posted Tattsbet First Four dividend of $14,500. Bet365 refused to pay on the ground of price manipulation but later offered a large settlement, which Brunker refused. But then he lost the case anyway, due to the “unlawful” assessment.

Later, very oddly, Queensland stewards could not find sufficient evidence, despite the NTRC report, to justify a case against the “unlawful” group. However, the dog was suspended for failing to chase. There are no reports of the matter being referred to the police.

The final irony is that the posted Tattsbet dividend was actually four times the amount of cash available to pay out winning punters – the pool had only $3,750 in it after mandatory takeouts. When little or no money is placed on a winning combination, both Tattsbet and Tabcorp have policy of inflating the “dividend” two, three or four times, presumably to suck in potential future customers looking for lottery level payouts. In other words, they ignore the industry convention of showing dividends for a $1 investment. Who is kidding who?

What is even more ironic is that neither the NTRC or Bet365 failed to note or mention that the Tattsbet dividend – the base of the entire case – was a false one.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that the greyhound racing system lacks the means or the will, or both, to sensibly carry out its responsibilities. At best, it is shutting the door after the horse has bolted, as in the belated changes to rules about illegal baits and suspensions, etc.

The industry is not helped by the fragmentation of its operation amongst eight states and territories, each of which has differing policies and procedures. For example, the national body, Greyhounds Australasia, publishes 59 pages of racing rules. NSW alone has 102 pages of local rules, many of them countermanding the national rules. This is bureaucracy gone mad.

Equally, each of the review teams looking into the live baiting matter will have to deal with those same variations in rules and practices. Will they harmonise their results or will we end up with different solutions to the same problem? Incidentally, note that there are no longer only three states undertaking formal reviews. The number has risen to four since the Tasmanian parliament decided to conduct one as well.

Recently, I suggested that more in-depth reviews are needed into specific operational and organisational matters, quite apart from live baiting as such. Perhaps I did not go far enough. Ideally, the industry could use an all-in national review of the operation and governance of greyhound racing. Only then would it have the means of looking objectively at all the risks, challenges and possible solutions.

There are only two groups which could launch such a project. One is Greyhounds Australasia but it has no executive power and would have to rely on every state agreeing to take part. That’s not a sure bet by any means. The other option is for the state Racing Ministers Council to do the job. They have plenty to gain as an improved industry would promote more betting and therefore more taxes. However, as Sir Humphrey would say, it would be a courageous decision as it might produce unintended consequences and require decisions which might affect some voters. Nevertheless, it would be worth it.

Past Discussion

  1. Good Article. At the moment its all about the trainers. Personally I think there are just as many scumbag owners as trainers all more concerned about themselves than the industry. And thats why the industry will implode eventually. And of course everyone will blame the general public for overreacting, when in reality its about time the greyhound racing industry started to look at themselves. All I ever see is innocent trainers bemoaning whats happening. Well start blaming your fellow colleagues, that might be a start. Because if the greyhound racing industry goes down, we as the general public won’t care. So you’ll be moaning amongst yourselves.

  2. Good Article. At the moment its all about the trainers. Personally I think there are just as many scumbag owners as trainers all more concerned about themselves than the industry. And thats why the industry will implode eventually. And of course everyone will blame the general public for overreacting, when in reality its about time the greyhound racing industry started to look at themselves. All I ever see is innocent trainers bemoaning whats happening. Well start blaming your fellow colleagues, that might be a start. Because if the greyhound racing industry goes down, we as the general public won’t care. So you’ll be moaning amongst yourselves.

  3. dave and bruce……
    a truer theme has never been written. owners, and in one case a powerful owner,are just as responsible as any trainer or even regulating body.
    in the case relating to WHEELER and the BATE connection and all the little off shoots, one has to clearly ask WHO IS BREAKING THE RULES, or at least going to the edge.
    so much criminal activity involved there alone, yet,in VICTORIAS case, the GRV allow it to meander along. smell a rat?

    SAL PERNA in his statement a while back, made it very clear that GA and each states governing bodies, WAS/IS a catastrophe ready to implode. in which it is doing right now. we cannot blame the states controlling bodies for everything, that is for sure, but the way I see it, having two sets of rules is the definite weakness in how any state can control and be seen to be powerful enough to run the industry. this leaves them wide open for a BRAD CANTY episode, or the BATE/WHEELER/MCDONALD forays, but let me assure you of one thing. CONTINUE TO IGNORE WHAT OTHERS SEE AS OBVIOUS, YOU ARE HEADING FOR ROUND TWO, with round one being the ACTIVISTS catching the states leaders with there knickers well and truly around there ankles.

    whether they, the states regulators change, I doubt it, but hopefully the investigations currently being done, enforces obvious changes to the TWO RULE situation, and that all states have the same rules,penalties etc;

    the industry stinks right now, but I can assure you, stuff this up the second time, and that is it. gone forever.
    tread carefully, but the ball is now firmly fixed in GA and each states regulators, to heed the warnings NOW.
    greg

  4. dave and bruce……

    a truer theme has never been written. owners, and in one case a powerful owner,are just as responsible as any trainer or even regulating body.

    in the case relating to WHEELER and the BATE connection and all the little off shoots, one has to clearly ask WHO IS BREAKING THE RULES, or at least going to the edge.

    so much criminal activity involved there alone, yet,in VICTORIAS case, the GRV allow it to meander along. smell a rat?

    SAL PERNA in his statement a while back, made it very clear that GA and each states governing bodies, WAS/IS a catastrophe ready to implode. in which it is doing right now. we cannot blame the states controlling bodies for everything, that is for sure, but the way I see it, having two sets of rules is the definite weakness in how any state can control and be seen to be powerful enough to run the industry. this leaves them wide open for a BRAD CANTY episode, or the BATE/WHEELER/MCDONALD forays, but let me assure you of one thing. CONTINUE TO IGNORE WHAT OTHERS SEE AS OBVIOUS, YOU ARE HEADING FOR ROUND TWO, with round one being the ACTIVISTS catching the states leaders with there knickers well and truly around there ankles.

    whether they, the states regulators change, I doubt it, but hopefully the investigations currently being done, enforces obvious changes to the TWO RULE situation, and that all states have the same rules,penalties etc;

    the industry stinks right now, but I can assure you, stuff this up the second time, and that is it. gone forever.

    tread carefully, but the ball is now firmly fixed in GA and each states regulators, to heed the warnings NOW.

    greg

  5. ps…..
    and allow POLICE DEPARTMENTS responsible for crime and drugs etc; to have far more powers to get involved. not only with greyhound racing either, but across all 3 codes. share information, and you watch the cowards run for them thar hills.

  6. ps…..

    and allow POLICE DEPARTMENTS responsible for crime and drugs etc; to have far more powers to get involved. not only with greyhound racing either, but across all 3 codes. share information, and you watch the cowards run for them thar hills.