The Mystery Of Form Reading

The mystery of form reading

‘This inaccuracy in the form guide was unavoidable due to the need to create a new track for this type of meeting. GRV realises this may cause some inconvenience for punters until such time that there is sufficient history in our system at the SAP and MEP tracks.’

So reads part of the information from GRV about its new MEP and SAP style meetings, which are being held at the Meadows and Sandown Park respectively.

While I can kind of understand what they’re trying to do, I’m sorry to say it but I think this new classification system as it applies to form reading is, to borrow a phrase Winston Churchill used about the old USSR, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

So, what we have is GRV telling us they know the form guide will be inaccurate, but it was unavoidable. I beg to differ.

That it ‘may cause some inconvenience for punters’ is an understatement. Arguably the average punter won’t notice. Which is not good in the longer term. Punters are the lifeblood of racing. Things need to be as clear and straightforward as possible to encourage turnover.

Imagine, a few weeks into the future as someone looks at a form guide and sees SAP and MEP and they ask a mate, “What track is SAP? Is that Sale? Shepparton? Shelbourne Park in Ireland?” When informed it’s actually Sandown Park and there are three or four runs marked SAN as well, do you not think our average punter is going to shake his head in wonderment?

Same track, same distances. The only difference supposedly is the ‘quality’ of the competition. And that, is total rubbish as well. Take the Thursday night meeting at Sandown on 28 August. There were greyhounds engaged with such luminary racing records as 38 starts for 4 wins (10.5%), 37 starts for four wins (10.8%), 41 starts for six wins (14.6%), 49 starts for four wins (8.1%), 65 starts for nine wins (13.8%), 94 starts for nine wins (9.5%) and so on. Remember, this is the peak city meeting of the week.

At the SAP meeting on 31 August -and, dare I say I think ‘sap’ is about the right term for this classification- there were a couple of greyhounds with four wins from 10 starts (40%), and another with 23 wins from 72 outings (31.9%), and plenty of others with reasonable racing records. Yes, there was plenty of rubbish getting a start, but regular greyhound punters are not stupid; they can work out the quality, or otherwise, for themselves.

I feel like I’m in a time warp here. Back in 1998, floods in the Wollongong area led the Bulli club to have its meetings transferred to Wentworth Park. The GBOTA hierarchy decided the deFax form guide should read ‘Bulli’ instead of Wentworth Park to reflect the fact the races weren’t full city meetings.

The stupidity of this was soon shown when a greyhound named Judge Smailes won at ‘Bulli’ over the mythical 520 metres trip in 30.41. The early form guide for a standard Wentworth Park meeting came out a few days later and showed Judge Smailes had only ever won a single event at the course in 30.92.

As I wrote at the time in the now-defunct NSW Greyhound Weekly, ‘…deFax form guides are there to help punters find winners; how the hell are they going to do that if there are greyhounds scooting around Wentworth Park with an alleged best time of 30.92 when the dog won just a week or so earlier in 30.41?’

Sense prevailed and the ‘Bulli’ runs became Wentworth Park starts soon after when the classification reverted to what it should have been all along.

A few lines of computer code could overcome this silliness. That is, instead of having a greyhound’s form show, let’s say, five starts at Sandown Park for two wins, best 29.60, when in fact it has graced the course, let’s say, 15 times for six wins, best 29.55, a modification to a few lines of code would make sure all the runs on this course are included as one set.

Punters, the lifeblood of the industry remember, would not then needlessly be inconvenienced. Sure, the graders will have a bit of a hassle, but then the state of the grading situation across Australia is an issue all on its own.

From now on the form guides for The Meadows and Sandown will be forever inaccurate. When a greyhound races at Sandown Park, for example, say 10 times as a SAP meeting and then races five times at the SAN meetings it will actually have had 15 starts on the track. Its fastest recorded time, when winning, say, at the SAP might be 29.59. It’s fastest recorded time when winning at SAN might be 29.85. So, depending on the meeting it’s best time, and the number of wins, will be all over the shop.

Personally I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. I understand the ‘logic’ behind it, I just happen to think it is terribly flawed.

You might get a greyhound which, let’s say, has raced six times at MEP for three wins and three placings. It then ‘graduates’ to a MEA meeting and the form guide reads ‘FSH’. It clearly likes racing at The Meadows, but someone not paying sufficient attention dismisses it because the greyhound is having its first start at this course after competing very well on some mythical track that looks remarkably like The Meadows. Anywhere else this kind of ‘logic’ would bring howls of laughter.

I’ll be really interested to hear from readers, whether they’re punters, trainers, owners or whatever, as to what they think about this change. As I understand it, as with the silliness of the Bulli/Wentworth Park fiasco, the chief reason for the change is to help the graders. In other words, inconveniencing punters takes precedence over inconveniencing the pencil pushers.

Past Discussion