Racing Authority goes where angels fear to tread

GREYHOUND Racing NSW is to be congratulated on the energy it is putting into smartening up administration of the industry following some dubious incidents in recent years. However, its latest effort to ensure greater discipline from both participants and “persons” potentially oversteps the mark. Talking about poor behaviour, GRNSW has put in place a grab bag of rules concerning public comment.

For example, as a colleague has recently quoted, GRNSW defines part of the problem in this way …

“Examples of unacceptable public comment under the policy include comments that defame members of the greyhound racing industry, are discriminatory or racist in nature or misrepresent the source of comments or the identity of the maker.”

While these words are understandable, they also push into areas already well covered by state and federal laws, thereby posing potential conflict. Then GRNSW also goes on to try to cover itself by saying ….

“This policy does not restrict legitimate public comment, and GRNSW encourages industry participants and members of the public to raise legitimate animal welfare concerns.”

That is stating the obvious and does little to pinpoint what it is on about. So let’s look at the exact wording of the new rules. They are aimed at a “person” who …

“(b) unreasonably engages in, publishes or causes to be published, broadcasts or causes to be broadcast, the use of any contemptuous, improper, insulting, or offensive language, conduct or behaviour towards, or in relation to (racing officials).”
“(c) commits or omits to do any act or engages in conduct which is unreasonably detrimental or prejudicial to the interest, welfare, image, control or promotion of greyhound racing.”

Once again, the law of the land is intended to address that sort of conduct, assuming it can be properly demonstrated in a court. However, the use of the words like “improper” or “unreasonably” opens a can of worms. It would always be hard to predict exactly how a judge might interpret such “conduct”, let alone the (untrained) management of GRNSW. It poses the risk that beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. At the very least, it goes beyond the normal competence of racing supremos. It is a specialised, non-racing area.

GRNSW certainly has the power to sanction license holders (always subject to appeal) but “persons” in general would normally be outside its reach, other than by warning them off. That did occur in a recent episode when a punter refused to attend a steward’s inquiry at Racing NSW – in the Waterhouse-Singleton- More Joyous case. The “offender” involved was Eddie Hayson, well known for his hugely successful betting scam with Lucy’s Light at the old Gold Coast track.

In any event, the new rule walks right up to censorship, and even potentially breaches the wall. It has overtones of Big Brother. Very risky! And, given the poor performance of some state authorities in recent times, hardly in the best interests of the industry.

Rafferty’s Rules

Race 4, Sandown, April 10.

“Stewards issued a warning to Mr. L. Medcraft, the trainer of Big Bold Boomer regarding the greyhound’s racing manners in the home straight.”

Here is what I meant the other day when talking about failing to chase – in that case the subject dog turned its head slightly, without making contact, continued on strongly to win the race, but was pinged for FTC and has to wear a satisfactory trial. In contrast, the above dog at Sandown this week clearly moved out, made contact with another runner, yet received only a warning.

The inconsistency is breathtaking. The whole process has become a joke. Big Bold Boomer fought, full stop. (“Marring” is incorrect English and should be eliminated from the Rule book).

You might look at the principle behind this. The Rules provide for a dog to be charged even when it has been injured – and many are. Yet dozens, or hundreds, more are injured and drop back yet are never charged with anything. This is a nonsense. If a dog is injured, any “failing to chase” is surely irrelevant in virtually all circumstances. The law is an ass, so strike it out. It would never stand up in a real law court. It has no value.

In any event, what purpose does a “warning” serve?

Back to the FTC question.

There would appear to be five possible reasons for a dog pulling out of a race.

It is not genetically disposed to chasing.
It is browned off – ie sick and tired of racing.
It is racing at a distance beyond its normal capability.
It has been barrelled by another runner, whether accidentally or not.
It is injured.

Only the first two warrant consideration of a penalty by stewards (or the Rule book).

If you care to go back further, check out the penultimate run of Xylia Allen’s meritorious career at Sandown on October 9, 2014, in a Cup Prelude. The bitch wobbled out of the boxes and meandered around the track, finishing 6th, much to the chagrin of the punters who sent it out at $1.70.

The steward’s report simply mentioned a few bumps along the way, none of which were big deals, but failed to observe that the bitch did not chase a yard. There may have been all sorts of other reasons for the failure but I suspect it fitted in to option (2) above. Why was it not charged with FTC?

Xylia Allen’s final run was no better and it was then retired anyway – connections no doubt noting the same points I make – but tens of thousands of punters’ cash went down the drain without a query.

What do you make of Xylia Allen’s run from box two?

But there’s more.

At the same meeting, Seven Gallons “sustained a fracture to the right hind hock, and was humanely euthanised”. Same track, same place as many before it – it ran around the field from a slow start but as soon as it put on the pressure entering the back straight the injury occurred.

Official GRV records now show the dog as “Retired”. I wonder if anyone is counting the number of retirees, and their circumstances? Or is GRV cutting down the injury stats by nefarious means – as GRNSW previously did?

While we are at it, on Monday night at Shepparton Stetson Kiki (R1) and the experienced Ultimate Jack (R4) succumbed to broken legs and were euthanised – or, in GRV-speak, “Retired”. Both incidents occurred moving into the main turn, one with which I have always had problems. It is why I don’t bet there.

The issue of broken hocks, or other leg bones, is taking on proportions that easily match the live baiting experience but never seem to catch the public’s eye. But that will come about unless we do something about them.

Past Discussion

  1. Good news that grnsw has commenced the formal track study as I think most participants share the concerns . In the meantime perhaps some initiatives could be undertaken immediately .

  2. Good news that grnsw has commenced the formal track study as I think most participants share the concerns . In the meantime perhaps some initiatives could be undertaken immediately .