Drawing On History Is A Big Risk

The Daily Form Service (DFS), which provides all the wall sheets seen in NSW TAB outlets, has a considerable history. It’s run by some people who have long been very cluey about the gallopers and so when Tabcorp thought about improving service to dog punters it turned to DFS and asked them to build some greyhound formguides up from nothing. Some odd practices emerged, not least that DFS decided to use its own codes for each track, which is really annoying.

Another outcome is that DFS, in evaluating the runners, uses one measure which is apparently useful for horses – Best in Last 12 Months. Personally, I believe it is a hopeless guide for dogs as their circumstances can change from one period to another. Illness, injuries, environments, keenness, etc can easily intervene.

But, back to the score at the Test, if DFS had been rating The Meadows last Saturday, they would certainly have given Dyna Willow a few extra points because of its old form. And, amazingly, they would have been right to do so this time, because the bitch swamped the opposition from the home turn to win in a smart 42.58 in its 715m heat of the Topcat Video Cup. But I think that would have been pure luck. The next 99 times out of hundred they are likely to miss out.

Dyna Willow did have some good runs in its history – ie from last April back – but its current form has been terrible. It has done nothing in its last nine runs and in its last five runs it finished 8, 7, 6, 5, 8. It started this race at $13.60 and the Watchdog rated it at $10.00, both of which were way under the true odds. Some of Saturday’s field was ordinary but there were four other runners which had lots better form.

In the event, favourite Sweet It Is messed around as usual, got blocked a couple of times and then flashed home for a one length second. All very normal for it, and in its customary time bracket.

Anyway, while Dyna Willow’s massive form reversal may have attracted groans from favourite backers, there was not a word from the stewards. Not even a polite question. It is really hard to understand their purpose in life if they are not going to assess huge form changes of this order.

The other heat was just as strange. Not because of the way it was run but the time of 43.06 was pedestrian, to say the least, even though it contained two of the better distance dogs in the country – Xylia Allen and Zipping Maggie – and they were both untouched during the race. It was run fair and square, although Zipping Maggie did have to battle across from box 8 (never easy at The Meadows) and race outside Xylia Allen all the way.

Further, the 3rd dog, Bailey Rose, franked the time because after a good jump it ran just what it normally does, even though it finished less than a length behind the two first dogs.

Making comparisons, Xylia Allen’s time was its worst ever over the long trip and, relatively, its worst since last year and the times it recorded after mucking up the starts over the 500s. Zipping Maggie’s winning time was ten lengths slower than its recent runs.

My comment now might be boring to some but it is clear as a bell – both bitches were backing up seven days after tough runs over the distance at Wentworth Park and were not at their top. Mind you, most of the other runners in the two heats were in the same boat. The perennial problem is that there is usually no way of determining which dogs will handle the back-up and which won’t.

On top of that, they are all going to go round again in another seven days in the final. I suggest using the dartboard approach for that. Race programmers are doing punters no favours when they do this.

While on the subject of tipsters, it would be great if someone could do something about the stuff Skyform puts up on the screens. We all have our own preferences but these guys are on another planet. For example, I have seen an odds-on favourite (correctly rated) completely left out of their First Four selections. I wrote to them once on the ground that they were doing a disservice to the industry (even though it helped my prices at times) and they should review their entire system. Their response, some five months later, was that they were doing fine thanks, because they picked 30% of all winners. Yet, in greyhound racing, the tea lady can do that just by selecting shorties.

Anyway, the more important thing is not just picking a winner, but getting the right price for it. Just last Saturday, five favourites started at odds-on at Wentworth Park and The Meadows. Two won and three lost so an even bet on each would have cost you 26% of your bank.

WHAT THEY SAY

Attending to some correspondence, I got a note from a Mr Todman the other day. However, like his namesake, he may be just a sprinter. He made some good points but then finished with this: “Pointing out the bleeding obvious about stayers not backing up week to week is not an edifying story we should all know this”.

Well, maybe we “should” but clearly many of us don’t. Indeed, that’s the whole reason for myself and others writing this stuff.

My reference had been to doubts about Xylia Allen winning the Chairman’s Cup at Wentworth Park because she was backing up just seven days after a searching run in her heat – something she does not do well. I also advised investors not to take odds-on. In practice, she started at $1.80 and never looked like beating Zipping Maggie. Anyone accepting my view would have done well, but those who didn’t threw away something like $50,000 on Win totes around the country and heaven knows how much elsewhere.

We won’t get it right all the time but we do try.

As an aside, can I suggest to keen gamblers that any time you take odds-on 10 times in a row you will end up losing money. Now I do know one guy who is brilliant at picking winners out of races like that. He does not mind the short odds but he really knows his dogs, he does not back them from bad boxes and he might bet only once in a meeting, maybe twice at the most. But he is one in a thousand. As they say, “don’t try this at home”.

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