PM Offers Advice From Canberra

The Prime Minister is calling for a debate and a compromise between the federal and state governments about the way they work with each other and how they spend money on such things as health services or how they collect taxes. A national reform, in other words.

“It’s basically about giving everyone ‘a fair go’ – but it has to be fair to the states making the financial contributions as well as to those receiving them, to those who give as well as those who receive. It should be possible to make these arrangements more equitable between the larger states with the smaller states no worse off,” he says, according to Fairfax Media.

For example, he points out that “After two decades of ‘cooperative federalism’ and any number of agreements at Council of Australian Government meetings, we still have tradies who cannot operate across state borders”.

His target involves “Rethinking the conventions about which level of government is responsible for the delivery of particular services or the revenue measures to which particular levels of government should have access will require a readiness to compromise … in our highly partisan system.”

So much for governments, but could it be this way for the racing industry? At least on some matters, without infringing on any sovereign rights?

Already, the march of time has resulted in racing’s customers betting on one state’s events when they live in another one. Horses and dogs don’t care about state borders, especially now that transport and communications make it easy to move from one to another.

Already the industry pays lip service to the national concept but national organisations are still advisory; they don’t carry any real weight. Who can forget the nonsensical situation when everyone approved the change of the brown rug to a green one but it took 18 months to harmonise the deal as each state decided to conduct its own technical review. SKY showed one colour in one race and the other in the next.

Stewards have regular annual meetings but then go home and apply different penalties. The only thing they are consistent about is assessing form badly – or not at all.

Track designs are unsatisfactory everywhere yet solutions are hard to come by. A highly qualified national unit is desperately needed to analyse problems and come up with reliable recommendations. No one state has the technical or financial ability to do that properly; many do not even acknowledge past errors and simply repeat them, putting both dogs and punters at risk.

Formguides do not provide a service to punters, but confuse and frustrate then. What should be a prime means of communication to the public has become slapdash, error-prone and often hard to obtain. This is yet another area where an independent national unit, tuned to customer needs, could do a much better job. After all, we don’t need half a dozen different Stud Books, do we?

In total, some stuff needs to remain state-based, some doesn’t. Compromises are the way to progress.

DON’T SWAB THE DOGS; SWAB THE SELECTION PANEL

What an anti-climax the TOPGUN turned out to be! One of the country’s greatest events was botched by the peculiar policies adopted by the unknown members of the selection panel (although we know broadcaster Ron Hawkswell was on it, because he said so).

In the end, proven performer Buckle Up Wes jumped in front and ran away with the prize. A useful run but the time was mediocre for this class, and four lengths slower than the dog’s best.

The winner, along with Chica Destacada and Keybow, was one of three runners which had not raced for 4 to 8 weeks but which had allegedly been trialling well. Prior to that, the latter two had very ordinary form, which they repeated on the big night, as did lucky reserve Mepunga Hayley. Wes had been going OK but only in Tasmania against lesser dogs.

After many decades of race watching it has not been hard to conclude that while trialling is all very well, it is no guarantee of the same or any performance in a real race. After all, the other seven runners may have trialled well, too (Allen Deed had, for example). Anyway, fit is not match fit. Form and fitness both failed Chica Destacada and Keybow, neither of which figured in the first four places, despite their good box draws.

Tipsters went for the in-form Allen Deed, making him favourite at $2.90 ($3.00 in Victoria) – a fine dog but a ridiculous price considering his box and the difficulties of The Meadows track. It is a death trap for moderate beginners and wide runners. The Watchdog went for Awesome Project, which at least had decent form, but ignored its poor box (6) and risky jumping prowess. It did well enough but was never in the hunt for first prize.

Meanwhile, My Bro Fabio had been relegated to the reserves – and failed to get a run – despite smashing the opposition over several recent runs on different tracks and breaking a track record to boot. Then, on TOPGUN night he blitzed the field in a quick BON win of 34.12 in a 600m heat of the Hume Cup.

Judging from media releases, the TOPGUN selections were based on the quantity of Group victories over the previous year, regardless of current form. Of course, Group races might well be of a higher standard than at regular Saturday night meetings but the dogs don’t know that, nor does it take account of good box draws or luck in running. Wins and hot form are better guides than the title of the race or the size of the prize.

Certainly, the evidence proves that. My Bro Fabio’s omission was a terrible mistake, but not the only one.

Speaking of form, ancient or otherwise, whatever possessed tipsters and punters to send out Xylia Allen at $1.60 from box 7 over 600m? It had run an awful 515m two weeks earlier at Sandown, preceded by moderate placings over 725m at The Meadows and a fading 2nd at Wenty. On Saturday, it just plodded around, finishing in 6th place. None of these runs attracted steward’s comments or questions. Is motherhood indicated?

On the subject of cash, the attraction of The Meadows meeting resulted in NSW punters shifting from Sydney to Melbourne, where takings were always above average while Wenty was below average. The Victorian pools obviously included a bonus from Tabcorp as they recorded a huge $223,520 in the First Four pool. Win pools were $29,121 in NSW, $60,633 in Victoria and $15,658 on Tattsbet. The latter would have been helped by Tasmanians investing on local star Buckle Up Wes although they might have had little left after The Cleaner crashed out in the Cox Plate.

Past Discussion

  1. Good points regarding the TopGun Bruce. This race hit a bit of a rut a few years back and was rejigged exclusive to the Meadows on Cox Plate night. What was a fabulous idea at the time it was incepted has been ruined lately by a total lack of guidelines re selection, favouritism from members of the panel both toward trainers as well as their home state of origin a good example. Insisting on having dogs represented from as many States as possible, rather than selecting the best field, has made a mockery of things in recent years. This year in trying to pick the field as per the comp run by the Meadows consideration was not given to the best runners but to where dogs are from, and who trains them. That isn’t right. In assessing this years form as a punter only Allen Deed was at his best form. And as you rightly pointed out, he had very little hope from a tough draw given his racing traits. The others all had top form at various times of the year (except the Red, who was selected on one win only) and at those times all had claims to being the best dog in Australia. Just unfortunately, not on the night that matters.
    The solution seems simple enough, get rid of the panel, then the agendas will also disappear. Write up a set of guidelines and publicise them so trainers know what they need to do to be eligible for selection.

  2. Good points regarding the TopGun Bruce. This race hit a bit of a rut a few years back and was rejigged exclusive to the Meadows on Cox Plate night. What was a fabulous idea at the time it was incepted has been ruined lately by a total lack of guidelines re selection, favouritism from members of the panel both toward trainers as well as their home state of origin a good example. Insisting on having dogs represented from as many States as possible, rather than selecting the best field, has made a mockery of things in recent years. This year in trying to pick the field as per the comp run by the Meadows consideration was not given to the best runners but to where dogs are from, and who trains them. That isn’t right. In assessing this years form as a punter only Allen Deed was at his best form. And as you rightly pointed out, he had very little hope from a tough draw given his racing traits. The others all had top form at various times of the year (except the Red, who was selected on one win only) and at those times all had claims to being the best dog in Australia. Just unfortunately, not on the night that matters.The solution seems simple enough, get rid of the panel, then the agendas will also disappear. Write up a set of guidelines and publicise them so trainers know what they need to do to be eligible for selection.

  3. Personally I’d like to see a set of races advertised throughout Australia in the four weeks leading up to The TopGun to give the selector a definite set of current form to work off. Imagine a race like the Canberra Cup having an added bonus of runners being qualified for an invitation to the TopGun if form warrants. Something like this would not only help hype the TopGun for a month in advance but would also give races that might not necessarily currently be high on the agenda a real kick of publicity too.

  4. Personally I’d like to see a set of races advertised throughout Australia in the four weeks leading up to The TopGun to give the selector a definite set of current form to work off. Imagine a race like the Canberra Cup having an added bonus of runners being qualified for an invitation to the TopGun if form warrants. Something like this would not only help hype the TopGun for a month in advance but would also give races that might not necessarily currently be high on the agenda a real kick of publicity too.