Racing integrity commissions based on hope alone

WE may have gone as far as we can in discussing welfare and breeding issues. In any event, I find it annoying to be verballed so regularly, and to note so many extravagant statements made by people who do not state their qualifications. There is also an urge to pick out one bad apple and use it to underpin future policy decisions – hardly productive methodology.

Even so, I am going to make one last comment on one of “Hugh’s” opinions, partly because it is a reasonably fresh subject. He said, “However I do think that an independent regulator is, in principle, a hugely positive step when it comes to safeguarding animal welfare. The temptation to give into profit maximising practices at the expense of animal welfare is too great.”

I bring that up for five reasons. First, how much an integrity commissioner gets involved in welfare is uncertain, particularly if the welfare-veterinary function is still embedded in the other half of the organisation – ie the so-called commercial area.

Second, such claims assume that the new system will be a good one and that it will be staffed with knowledgeable people. There is no guarantee whatever that such an outcome will be achieved. It is more a hope than a thoroughly considered response. Indeed, two states have already appointed Integrity Commissioners, both ex-policemen, with no special competence in welfare or even greyhound racing. These were political moves, no more, no less.

Third, as occurred in all the so-called independent reviews, it does not delve into the reasons for the failure of the original system. Was that system good, bad or indifferent? Were the people competent, lazy or did they have a laissez-faire attitude? What went wrong? It is not sufficient to simply say there were not enough people and they have all been sacked anyway. The absence of historical analysis means any future change will run the risk of repeating the old shortcomings.

Fourth, there are several aspects of greyhound racing that are screaming out for improvement and modernisation, including welfare. But any new welfare initiatives will be expensive, relative to the past, and so funds must be differently allocated in the future. To bring that about, it is important, even essential, that revenue and costs improve substantially over past efforts.

Fifth, a separate integrity group will certainly prove more expensive. That was one of the reasons for disbanding the comparable GHRRA organisation in NSW a few years ago. There was no compensating benefit to match the upfront cost.

I have not a shadow of doubt that a better result is achievable but not by otherwise continuing with the status quo. To simply raise welfare costs while maintaining existing revenue will obviously retard prize money, and in turn disadvantage participants who also are required to improve the integrity of their own operations.

As I instanced the other day, if a maintenance controller allows shoddy cars to go through the production line it means that either the employee or the system is at fault, or both. So find out which it is and change it.

Similarly, it has been well demonstrated that airlines which skimp on maintenance or training are the ones most likely to suffer crashes. Such outcomes invariably are a function of top management decisions and attitudes.

Greyhound bosses have clearly been at fault and the industry has suffered terrible crashes. So where else would you look for solutions?

In short, we need major reform and modern, business-like, accountable managers and management
structures to replace the current outmoded lot.

Incidentally, “Hugh” and others may not be aware that racing authorities are essentially bureaucratic institutions, run on a day to day basis by CEOs who have little or no direct authority or responsibility – formally, that rests with the board alone. CEOs are administrators, not managers. Having said that, it is noteworthy that GRNSW has already established fresh sets of principles and objectives to guide staff in all areas. Of course, a principle is one thing, practice another.

WA greyhound racing – good in parts

I have hesitated to comment on Perth’s new Cannington track – with the exception of a prediction that a bend start for 600m races was a poor choice – pending some practical evidence. However, after a couple of months racing and a couple of feature events the picture is becoming clearer.

The corners seem quite good – but see (2) below.
The track strongly favours railers and good beginners – ie it’s a leader’s track.
The 600m bend start is a dud. It should be in a shute. (Ditto for Murray Bridge in SA).
In time I expect inside boxes to provide more than their share of winners – see (2) above.

Incidentally, the all-powerful Ozchase site never posts Cannington videos and prices until later in the week, which is a pain. However, the GWA website does the job right away but never shows field lists or times and margins. You can’t win, can you?

(Yes, I know Queensland and Tasmania are no better. Tassie also shows its own videos but, like WA, does not list names or box numbers on the same page so you seldom know what you are looking at).

Great minds

On a completely unrelated subject, here is what a newspaper reader said about the way the world works.

“The ABC is a good example of what occurs when market forces do not apply – waste, unwanted products and general inefficiency”.

Racing, of course, has never accommodated market forces in its decision making. A committee of anywhere between three and twelve decides everything – therefore always being forced to use the lowest common denominator principle and seldom innovating anything. Consequently, it has waste, unwanted products and general inefficiency.

Dismal run

Stewards Report, Race 10, Shepparton April 25.

“Zoltina’s Legacy was quick to begin. Nangar Fox and Specify collided soon after the start checking Specify. Dragon Empire checked off Zoltina’s Legacy soon after the start. Kian’s Hybrid checked off Nangar Fox on the first turn checking Zoltina’s Legacy and Specify. Zoltina’s Legacy, Nangar Fox and Specify collided approaching the home turn checking Nangar Fox. Kian’s Hybrid checked off Dragon Empire approaching the winning post. Kian’s Hybrid, Specify and Zoltina’s Legacy collided approaching the winning post.”

First, Zoltina’s Legacy, a $1.70 favourite in box 1, did get out of the box quickly but showed little pace at all after that (very unusual) and soon dropped well back. The above mentions of interference were all fairly modest and greatly exaggerated by the report. The bitch just plodded on, finishing eight lengths away in 3rd place.

Otherwise, stewards made no comment about the run, yet far better performances have been keenly queried. It may have been just a bad hair day – I would subscribe to that, given its excellent history – but punters deserved something better than what was written.

Past Discussion

  1. Bruce its hard to not agree with you, as for the antis, is it not true they are only a little insect that only stings for a short while before it goes away ?