HAPPILY, the updated heat regulations just published by GRV pay more attention to pre-race conditions and not just those applying at meeting time. The new rules state “This assessment will also take into account hourly weather forecast information (where available) and will also consider travel time to and from the racecourse” (see GRV website for full info).
It also contains an implication that many or most transport vehicles are air-conditioned. That’s quite understandable for station wagons and the like but I am not sure what proportion of trailers fit into that comfortable category. I imagine the percentage would be low.
Anyway, the new release highlights the possible problems we outlined about the Sale Cup heats on December 20 when daytime temperatures were at a near record 40.7 degrees. Resultant slow race times at the meeting might be attributed to several things but the major query had to be the heat impact suffered by dogs travelling to or competing at the meeting.
Just as worrying is that the next Sale meeting on December 26, covering the Cup final, showed the same symptoms even though the maximum that day was only 20 degrees.
Cup winner No Donuts and other dogs showed no improvement at all on their times from six days earlier. Having said that, No Donuts showed tigerish courage to hang on. It’s probably better suited to a slightly shorter trip but after being threatened a couple of times it still came out victorious.
In other events, finalists like Shared Bonus, To the Galos and Aston Bolero were only marginally better over 440m than the previous week while heavy hitters like Xtreme Knocka and Berzerk ran a pedestrian 30.20 over 520m, a time which maidens would have settled for.
In other words, there are many unanswered questions.
What part did the track surface play? What was the actual temperature during the first meeting? How far did competitors travel and was it with or without air-conditioning? Did the conditions affect some dogs more than others? If so, why? Is it likely that the various dogs’ metabolisms were still impacted six days after the hot spell?
Given GRV’s keen interest in (heat) welfare, the Sale episode warrants some in-depth investigation. Or perhaps that might be done at another meeting when sufficient notice is available. Note also that the same welfare factors parallel the problems we have noted several times with stayers backing up on a weekly basis – ie most can’t do it, irrespective of the temperature, suggesting that recovery was not complete.
Either way, the new regulations would have required the Sale meeting on December 20 to be cancelled or deferred, which is precisely what we suggested in this column on December 23 (“When It Hots Up, Greyhound Racing Gets Wobbly”).
To put it another way, the new GRV regulations appear sensible but they by no means answer all the questions. It is all based on assumptions about what might affect a greyhound. What it lacks is empirical evidence of how racing greyhounds are affected by heat – at the time and subsequently. Forensic tests of all racers would obviously not be practicable but some before and after sampling would go a long way towards clearing the air.
NSW regulations are comparable except that meeting cancellations are indicated if the temperature exceeds 40 degrees rather than 38 degrees in Victoria. However, they are a little more specific about transport to the course and allow scratchings if a journey of one hour or more is necessary.
More generally, why should there be any differences at all? Heat is heat, dogs are dogs. A single national standard is surely sensible for a welfare policy as basic as this one.
In fact, the March 2015 independent review of Tasmanian welfare theory and practice was firmly in favour of more standardisation. Recommendation 10 proposes that “A review of the interaction between national and local rules be undertaken, noting that national rules should prevail over any local rules and that a harmonised approach should be adopted”. (This is the opposite of current GA provisions).
Note: The cancellation of three Victorian meetings on New Year’s Eve, including a big one at Sandown, conforms to the newly published rules. The Bureau predicted 38 degree-plus temperatures but not at Warrnambool where the numbers were a little lower and the meeting was planned to go ahead. Still the Great Ocean Road, one of two ways to Warrnambool from the city, has its own set of problems from deadly bushfires.
No, we are not there yet
After much to and fro on a National Welfare policy during 2015 the above case suggests that states are still prone to maintain their differences for sheer bloody-mindedness reasons. Why for instance, could two groups of vets not agree on the proper temperature for meeting cancellations? Or for grading policies, or even such seemingly minor matters such as the rules for promoting reserves into vacant boxes.
Some rules differences bear no relation to local facts, only to someone’s personal preferences. Indeed, it’s now over 20 years since NSW torpedoed the establishment of a national form database on the ground that it might pose legal problems about the availability of personal data for privacy reasons. It happened many years later when Ozchase got going (albeit with Victoria a dissenter) so how valid was all the fuss and bother?
It brings to mind a business maxim: if you are doing what you did 5 years ago you are out of date.