ONE of the tricky things about running greyhound racing is that you are never sure why authorities take certain actions. They might announce objectives (which mean fairly little and are soon forgotten) or they might announce decisions but they never really say why.
Some of those decisions are faulty anyway – eliminating or cutting back on the use of the follow-on-lure in Queensland and SA are examples. In both cases, the data supported its continuation, at least in respect to the running of the race, if not at the finish.
In another critical matter, hock injuries have been investigated in depth by the GRV vet (and previously in WA and SA) but the only report to the public so far came by accident – an address to a (closed) vets’ conference was quoted in the Special Commission hearing. The Australian Veterinary Association is itself notoriously backward in coming forward. Its website may well contain lots of reports on interesting subjects but they are for members only and denied to the public (contrasting with UK and USA info which is more readily available).
Punters are also missing out on current information on betting turnover because activity from corporate bookmakers and Betfair is not published. Nor do we know for sure how much they are charged in racefield fees. Even annual report data is hard to decipher. Consequently, trends from a quarter to a third of betting are hidden from customers and others.
It is little wonder that a perusal of any blog shows a ten to one bias against the authority in question. Rightly or wrongly, participants object to many decisions. The absence of detail from authorities often leads to incorrect data being quoted or claimed. This is an illustration of a them-and-us pattern which, coincidentally, was evident in the independent report of the Working Dog Alliance to GRNSW.
At the core, this situation emphasises the existence of an industry culture of distrust. Amongst other things, it makes a folly of appeals to dob in an offender, as some authorities are now asking. That treats the symptom, not the disease. Similarly, the function of the previous Integrity Auditor in NSW foundered because of the lack of support from industry management, according to evidence in the Parliamentary Inquiry.
Anyway, let’s go back to my original point about the finish on lure, where trials have been going on for months now in Victoria.
I have taken a particular interest in Sandown where the FOL has been used on alternate Sundays recently. Now I have no way of being definitive about this as I speak merely from observations. But I am blowed if the FOL races are not much more cleanly run than with the normal lure. The biggest crunch point is at the first turn where unpredictable interference is the norm. Yet the FOL appears to encourage dogs to stay further apart, sometimes even allowing three dogs abreast to round the corner without touching. The Sandown “Two-Step”, where the odd inside dog suddenly veers to the right, is no longer there.
Indeed, I would hazard a guess that two of Sunday’s races were won by moderate beginners solely because of the FOL. Both managed to find their way through the field to record good time. I doubt those passages would have been open if the normal lure was in use. Incidentally, most previous trials have attached a handkerchief-sized “flag” to the lure but Sandown used something closer to a bedsheet.
So what is GRV’s plan? How much more trialling is needed? What are the results so far? Is GRV evaluating both aspects of the subject – the race and the stoppage point? What are the engineering pros and cons?
No idea. GRV has said nothing.
I hope they do not let trainers make the final judgement, as occurred in Brisbane and Adelaide. For every 10 of those guys you will get 11 different opinions (one will change his mind half way through). Apparently, that reasoning also applies to The Meadows club which is allegedly strongly opposed to FOL racing.
The major determinant is what is best for the customers, perhaps followed by the welfare issue of reduced interference.
Impossible to pick
There has been some interest in my claim that stayers (and perhaps others) are being over-raced to the detriment of both dogs and customers. So here is a recent comparison of heat and final performances in the Australian Stayers series run at The Meadows.
1st Star Recall + 2 lengths
2nd Esparza – 3 lengths
3rd Lioness Lulu – 2 lengths
4th Tambay Bale – 2 lengths
5th Dewana Babe + 3 lengths
6th No Donuts + 6 lengths
7th Ima Misha Doll + 7 lengths
8th Beks + 8 lengths
Note 1: Esparza, which is a genuine stayer, did quite well in Melbourne. However, a week later it bombed at Wentworth Park in a low quality 720m event, after starting an odds-on favourite. It was checked on the first turn but failed to break the 43 sec mark in the end. Maybe it has had enough for the time being? Ditto for Chrichton Bale, which led easily at Wenty but collapsed on the home turn. It is not a stayer and never has been.
Note 2: Lioness Lulu moved to the rails in the final and got an early break.
Note 3: No Donuts displayed exactly the same pattern at The Meadows as it did in January at Wentworth Park. After winning nicely in its heat in 41.97, leading all the way, it came out midfield in the final a week later and ran 42.98. That’s now twice it could not handle two in a row over this distance.
They’re only dogs, fellas, not robots.
Out of the mouths of babes
I well remember an innocent little kid turning up with her big sister at Kooyong to compete in the Open some 15 years ago. Now a not so little Serena Williams had some words of wisdom on the Sharapova drug case. The Australian quoted her:
“The majority of the players play with integrity,” Williams said. “It’s just like the world. We live in a massive world with billions of people, and there are a few people who do things and it makes people scared, but that doesn’t make the whole world a bad situation and a bad place.”
Greyhound inquiries please note.