Signs Of The Times

In a remarkable move, Racing Victoria is set to increase Saturday thoroughbred races from eight to nine and reduce the gap between races to 35 minutes. The aim is simply to bring in more cash. It says it will provide “more opportunities” to owners but you can forget that – it is the dollars that count.

While this has no direct effect on greyhound racing, it is consistent with the pattern being pushed by Tabcorp/SKY to ram more races into every 24 hour period, regardless of any “unintended consequences”, of which there are plenty. That’s why we are seeing all sorts of strange French and Swedish trots and oddball gallops from South Africa (a country which bans greyhound racing), to be followed before long by American races, all of which will contain unknown runners at unknown tracks. These are the classic “four-legged poker machines” which Tabcorp favours to repair its ailing tote business.

Some of these do directly impact on greyhound turnover – the South African gallops in particular, so it’s not hard to see that the clear and distinct priorities of betting operators are, first, more turnover to please their shareholders and, a distant second, progressing the Australian racing industry. They are happening on top of an already overcrowded local program which is splitting the race by race betting chunks into smaller and less usable pieces.

Unfortunately, greyhound racing itself has assisted the trend, starting mainly in 2010, when extra meetings were added to an already busy Saturday night. The immediate result was a reduction in turnover on the two biggest betting attractions in the country – Wentworth Park and The Meadows greyhound meetings – which continues to this day. Their volumes are still usable for betting purposes, but only just, and only in the state of origin, especially with more turnover going across to corporate bookmakers. All of which reduces the integrity of the trend-setting TAB prices. Other than the big two, pools of $10,000 or so are the best you can hope for. So don’t put more than $10 on your Quinella choice as you will then be buying back your own money.

To rub salt into the wound, last Saturday night GRV put on an all-maiden meeting at Bendigo to do battle with prime greyhound and harness races. What sort of future does that promise? What were they thinking?

Maybe one fresh idea might come from other sports. Rugby Union is about to get a strong proposal from a group of businessmen (also supporters of the code) to buy up the NSW Waratahs and take them to greater heights. Clubs in Rugby League have already gone down that road – Brisbane, Newcastle and Melbourne. Many others in all codes are effectively controlled by related social clubs anyway.

Maybe a better plan would be to privatise the entire greyhound code, just as happened with the TABs, and gain the weapons to fight fire with fire. Alternatively, with the benefit of hindsight, it is plain that governments would have achieved better results by retaining ownership of the totes and selling off all the codes. If you have to have a monopoly, far better to have the government handle it, thereby offering the opportunity for the public to have a stronger voice. Or any voice, actually.

AROUND THE BETTING RINGS

Day of the Week

At Wenty, pools on Friday night are often shading those on Saturday, although the class of fields on the latter must be a good 30% better. Only the Peter Mossman final broke the pattern with $28,295 on the NSW Win tote. GRNSW is to shift half the Friday dates to provincial tracks in the coming year. Will they do as well? Doubtful.

Who Are Those Guys?

Sisco Rage (WPK R9) was sent out as an extraordinary $2.40 favourite from box 8. Who on earth could have done that, other than die-hard Darren McDonald supporters? It had no special form to speak of, its last good run being back in April when it won a 500m race at Bendigo. It has generally done better from the inside, too. I made it a 20/1 chance and it ran a mediocre 2.5 lengths to a slow 30.34 after coming out stone motherless last and then crossing to the rail. It finished in 2nd place only because of huge disruptions on the first turn.

Not the Real Reason

Notable at Wenty on Saturday were the runs of Keybow (R3) and Lochinvar Impact (R4). Both had box 8, both were favourites, both began poorly, both put their paw on the accelerator and whizzed around the field to lead in the back straight. Tops dogs? Well, yes, although Lochinvar Impact was pipped on the post, but the reason they were able to do that was not just due to their abilities but because the inside division bunched up, slowed down and therefore made space for outside dogs. It’s the nature of that awful run to and around the turn. Many others have done likewise. Anyone for a track re-build?

Clerical Error

Still at Wenty, how is it possible to publish race results with every sectional time wrong (R2, Saturday)? It happens every so often in Victoria, too. Does nobody actually look at these things before they send them off?

And Still No Change

Tasmania continues to tell lies by deliberately posting sectional times against the wrong dogs, while Tabcorp and Tattsbet continue to publish imaginary First Four dividends. When will the truth come out?

Stayers continue to take turns in winning and recording times ranging from ordinary to poor – the latest a miserable 42.48 by Zipping Joe at Sandown last Thursday (record 41.17 by Miata) beating dogs that have previously run much faster. I wonder if trainers have ever thought of giving their charges a month off to roam the paddock and freshen up. Horses and humans do it all the time but not greyhounds, it seems.

And we still have four states, soon to be five, where you are unable to print out a decent copy of the race results – all of which are in the care of GRNSW. Formguides are almost as inaccessible.

Error Firmed Up

The latest plans issued by RWWA and GWA confirm that its Cannington replacement will have a bend start for 600m races. This continues the muddled thinking present in virtually all other Australian clubs to produce designs which make life even more difficult for dogs and punters. Plans for the new track at Logan in Queensland do likewise. Together, that’s around $30 million of punters’ cash being spent badly.

But here’s a suggestion; put all track design in the hands of an experienced jockey. There is no way one of them would make a racing animal suffer a start like that.