Time to study greyhound stewards

RIGHTLY or wrongly – well, both really – stewards have been in the spotlight throughout 2015 for multiple reasons.

One of the big worries about proposals to establish multi-code integrity (ie stewarding) units is that the experience and expertise to oversee three different codes is not something you can buy off the shelf. In any field there are always great amounts of code-specific material that must be absorbed and it often takes years to achieve genuine competency.

Even on a single code basis, the minimum requirement is to be able to assess form yet too often actions indicate an insufficient level of skills to do that. We have posted many examples in these columns. An overlapping issue is then that stewards may not able to properly monitor price movements, an important part of the package, and also mentioned more here than once.

Are stewards actually trained or do they just learn on the job? I have no idea as such information is never published. Are they qualified – and, if so, how and in what? Don’t know.

A decent – but not necessarily complete – separation from the commercial arms of authorities is probably desirable as it would avoid the nonsense created in NSW when stewards were ordered not to mention euthanasia in their reports. Even then, the NSW Integrity Auditor (who was at arm’s length from GRNSW) found life impossible because of a failure of communication with top management. So he quit.

However, as in that last case, I do not see this as a matter of poor organisational structure but as a shortcoming of the individuals responsible. Many observers might put the live baiting breaches in the same category. Too little, too late.

Stewards’ decisions should always be in accordance with the rules. But they also need to be clear to the public, which is who they work for. That’s often where they fall down.

Meantime, here are some recent examples of decisions which are hard to understand.

Sandown Race 2, March 20

“Stewards spoke to Mr. S. Hamilton, the trainer of the greyhound Breasha regarding the greyhounds racing manners entering the back straight. Acting under GAR 69(1) stewards charged Breasha with marring. Mr. Hamilton pleaded not guilty to the charge, Breasha was found guilty and suspended for 28 days at Sandown and it was directed that the greyhound perform a Satisfactory Trial (all tracks), pursuant to GAR 69(2)(a) before any future nomination will be accepted”.

Breasha was hassled by another dog in the back straight and sought to elbow it out of the way. It was defending itself. Having halted the other dog’s efforts, Breasha then continued normally with its race, passing some other runners without a problem. Apparently, stewards ignored the actions of the other dog, so the suspension appears very harsh.

Sandown Race 6

“Stewards spoke to Ms. Pitt, the handler of the greyhound Jonny Quick Step. Stewards deemed the performance of Jonny Quick Step unsatisfactory in this event and acting in accordance with GAR 71, Stewards directed that Jonny Quick Step must perform a Satisfactory Trial (all tracks) before any future nomination will be accepted”.

Jonny, which has been racing well in recent times, was very fortunate to avoid a charge of fighting. It deliberately took another dog off the track on the home turn. And what is “unsatisfactory” – a word not mentioned in the rule book. Fighting is, though, or words to that effect.

Sandown Race 11

“Stewards spoke to Mr. S. Payne, the trainer of the greyhound Rebel Commander regarding the greyhounds racing manners on the first turn. Acting under GAR 69(A)(1) stewards charged Rebel Commander with failing to pursue the lure with due commitment. Mr. Payne pleaded guilty to the charge, Rebel Commander was found guilty and suspended for 28 days at Sandown and it was directed that the greyhound perform a Satisfactory Trial (all tracks), pursuant to GAR 69(A)(2)(a) before any future nomination will be accepted”.

The dog clearly veered out and fought another runner. Why would they term that “failing to pursue”? Which offense takes precedence – fighting or FTC? Both have the same penalty but the continuity could be a problem.

Sale Race 11, March 20

“Stewards spoke to the trainer of Liam, Mr. J. Magri regarding the greyhound’s racing manners in the home straight. After viewing the head on footage Stewards took no further action”.

But why bother in the first place? Liam was squeezed during the turn but rallied to run down the new leader on the line with a very determined effort. Have they marked its card? See my earlier article on March 8 after the stewards incorrectly charged it with FTC at The Meadows and required a satisfactory trial. According to GRV records, no such trial was later performed.

Why question when no one is breaking the rules?

More generally, I note that stewards are now asking trainers why a dog has moved up in distance (eg to Sandown 515m). Since this happens dozens of times each week it begs the question of what their purpose is. In any event, answers can only be similar to those about “improved form” or a longish gap in racing. That is, a total waste of time. There is no rule for or against any of these practices, although we have frequently proposed that over-racing should be legislated out. So let’s hear more about that. NB stewards did query the recent career of Galloping Emma, a maiden – correctly so as it has had seven starts in the last 28 days and has managed only one 3rd place and nothing else. But, having done that, what is the next step? The answer is nil – there is no rule. Another waste of time.

And when are we going to get rid of the incorrect terminology of “marring”? It’s overdue for authorities to consult a decent dictionary. The correct word is “fighting”.

A personal view on what is needed for the industry

Readers wanted to hear more about two things.

My recipe for a future greyhound industry? Well, amongst some 450 or so articles written on this website alone you should find a lot of answers. However, maybe it’s time to summarise then again – so shortly.

T3 is a necessary option? I have a couple of quick comments. First, how come we got along for some 60 or 70 years without it? Second, can anyone find any Grade 1 or Grade 2 races? More on that later.

Peculiar market for the next million dollar dog

After Fernando Bale and Dyna Double One, what’s next? I suspect nothing for the moment from the Wheeler farm, which is probably just a reflection of the law of averages – it’s just part of the cycle. Much the same happened a few years ago when a big proportion of the breed was having trouble getting the 500m distance. I think that prompted the infusion of American blood.

As for Sportsbet’s market on the next dog to reach $1 million in prize money – they must be kidding starting that off at 15/1 for Snakebite Bale. 150/1 would be more like it, or maybe 1500/1. It’s one of many useful gallopers around but to achieve immortality they have to be able to jump. Snakebite Bale can’t.

All credit to Sportsbet for coming up with a fresh idea but please get realistic fellas!

Past Discussion

  1. Bruce, as a retired steward, having fulfilled 13 years in the position with greyhound racing, I can only agree with most of your comments. 

    I would like to adress each point if I may please.

    Multi- code integrity and experience. As much as I think it is possible, the logistics and training necessary are just not feasible for the time it would take to gain the experience is a major hurdle. I was fortunate to have been involved in greyhound racing since 1972.  I have owned trained and bred greyhounds as well as working as a casual steward, betting supervisor, fluctautions clerk and judge whilst living in New South Wales. In 1980 I moved back to Queensland where I continued to follow the industry with great passion although I was not involved. When the new gallop race track, Corbould Park, opened on the Sunshine Coast I was employed as a casual steward there for some years until a change in policies by the QPC saw the demise of casual stewards.
    Not to be put off I applied for a stewards position with Queensland Greyhound Racing and remained in the job until 2005.

    The experience I gained over that time in the one code stood me in good stead but by no means do I consider myself an expert. Having worked in two racing codes esculates me, I suppose, to a slightly higher branch in the tree but having never had the desire to venture into the trotting stewards arena leaves me somewhat at a loose end in that area.

    I guess what I have tried to convey is I am probably one of the more fortunate ones who has been able to work in more than one code of racing and whilst I think I performed my job with better than average ability I admit I did make mistakes. 

    Can multi-code stewarding work?    Yes but TIME is a major hurdle. Cross code experience can’t be read in a book or downloaded from the internet. Cadetship is one possibility but from my experience most of todays youth don’t want to start at the bottom and work their way up. Another factor is the glamor factor. Who wants to be a greyhound steward when I can work at the gallops and possibly earn far more money.

    A man I worked with and admire to this day, Mr. Daryl Kays, is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to all three codes of racing and has rewritten the rule book of each of the codes always professed the need for ALL stewards to be autonimous from the boards of each code and in doing so could function without fear of retrebution. I think this structure could be made to work with each being to able to function under the one banner but still maintain their individuality.

    Minimum requirements   Going back to when I started one of the foremost requirements was a background in the industry. How many applicants could profess to posessing experience in all three codes. 
    Form Assessment could be taught. 
    Price fluctuations in this day and age with online betting is very difficult to monitor but oncourse betting could be policed although most clubs have done away with betting supervisors since the demise of bookmakers and stewards ahve access to oncourse monitors.
    Training Manual I never saw one in all my time as a steward. It’s called ” On the job training “. The School of Hard Knocks come to mind too and is a very good place of learning but not for the feint hearted.
    Euthanasia was never a word that appeared in any stewards reports during my time on the job. In cases where any greyhound was put to sleep at the track it appeared in the report as the injury and would receive 28 days suspension. Like   Race 3 Hum Drum.   Injured in running. Nearside Hock. 28 days.       The explaination I had whilst compiling my early reports was that submitting it that way didn’t appear as harsh as saying the dog had to be euthanised. Keeping in mind my early reports were back in the early 90’s and were read far more than the stewards reports of today as part of the punters armoury for assessing racing form.

    MARRING. A word I hate and I was there when it was adopted into the rules. Once again one of the reasons it was given air was because it “looked better” in the stewards report than fighting. The other reason given was that if a greyhound fought it failed to pursue the lure with true intent. Thus the decision was made at a national chief stewards conference to bring Fighting and FTP under the one rule. Unsatisfactory Performance and Unsatisfactory Performance through Injury seem to have lost their way a little over the years too.

    As to the stewards reports and the incidents you have highlighted I will maintain my impartiality on those suffice to say a little more “on the job” training may help but it doesn’t help if the teachers aren’t teaching.

    Thanks 
    B. W.

  2. Bruce, as a retired steward, having fulfilled 13 years in the position with greyhound racing, I can only agree with most of your comments. 

    I would like to adress each point if I may please.


    Multi- code integrity and experience. As much as I think it is possible, the logistics and training necessary are just not feasible for the time it would take to gain the experience is a major hurdle. I was fortunate to have been involved in greyhound racing since 1972.  I have owned trained and bred greyhounds as well as working as a casual steward, betting supervisor, fluctautions clerk and judge whilst living in New South Wales. In 1980 I moved back to Queensland where I continued to follow the industry with great passion although I was not involved. When the new gallop race track, Corbould Park, opened on the Sunshine Coast I was employed as a casual steward there for some years until a change in policies by the QPC saw the demise of casual stewards.

    Not to be put off I applied for a stewards position with Queensland Greyhound Racing and remained in the job until 2005.

    The experience I gained over that time in the one code stood me in good stead but by no means do I consider myself an expert. Having worked in two racing codes esculates me, I suppose, to a slightly higher branch in the tree but having never had the desire to venture into the trotting stewards arena leaves me somewhat at a loose end in that area.

    I guess what I have tried to convey is I am probably one of the more fortunate ones who has been able to work in more than one code of racing and whilst I think I performed my job with better than average ability I admit I did make mistakes. 

    Can multi-code stewarding work?    Yes but TIME is a major hurdle. Cross code experience can’t be read in a book or downloaded from the internet. Cadetship is one possibility but from my experience most of todays youth don’t want to start at the bottom and work their way up. Another factor is the glamor factor. Who wants to be a greyhound steward when I can work at the gallops and possibly earn far more money.

    A man I worked with and admire to this day, Mr. Daryl Kays, is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to all three codes of racing and has rewritten the rule book of each of the codes always professed the need for ALL stewards to be autonimous from the boards of each code and in doing so could function without fear of retrebution. I think this structure could be made to work with each being to able to function under the one banner but still maintain their individuality.

    Minimum requirements   Going back to when I started one of the foremost requirements was a background in the industry. How many applicants could profess to posessing experience in all three codes. 

    Form Assessment could be taught. 

    Price fluctuations in this day and age with online betting is very difficult to monitor but oncourse betting could be policed although most clubs have done away with betting supervisors since the demise of bookmakers and stewards ahve access to oncourse monitors.

    Training Manual I never saw one in all my time as a steward. It’s called ” On the job training “. The School of Hard Knocks come to mind too and is a very good place of learning but not for the feint hearted.

    Euthanasia was never a word that appeared in any stewards reports during my time on the job. In cases where any greyhound was put to sleep at the track it appeared in the report as the injury and would receive 28 days suspension. Like   Race 3 Hum Drum.   Injured in running. Nearside Hock. 28 days.       The explaination I had whilst compiling my early reports was that submitting it that way didn’t appear as harsh as saying the dog had to be euthanised. Keeping in mind my early reports were back in the early 90’s and were read far more than the stewards reports of today as part of the punters armoury for assessing racing form.


    MARRING. A word I hate and I was there when it was adopted into the rules. Once again one of the reasons it was given air was because it “looked better” in the stewards report than fighting. The other reason given was that if a greyhound fought it failed to pursue the lure with true intent. Thus the decision was made at a national chief stewards conference to bring Fighting and FTP under the one rule. Unsatisfactory Performance and Unsatisfactory Performance through Injury seem to have lost their way a little over the years too.

    As to the stewards reports and the incidents you have highlighted I will maintain my impartiality on those suffice to say a little more “on the job” training may help but it doesn’t help if the teachers aren’t teaching.

    Thanks 

    B. W.