GRNSW Conundrums

What on earth will GRSW do with Newcastle now that the NCA has been de-licensed?

The racing bit is the easy half of the exercise. What’s hard is resolving the capital finances of the project. GRNSW has to protect its 70% investment in the complex (the NSW punters’ investment, really). NCA finished $3.1 million in the red last year after trying to reorganise its books while 2012/13 figures have not yet been published by Deloittes, the administrators, but they were obviously bad enough to cause GRNSW to take the final action. However, it seems to be achieving a surplus on a day-to-day basis.

Even so, it begs the question of how well both the NCA and GRNSW analysed the worth of the project in the first place. The public is entitled to a forensic audit report from both Deloittes and the Auditor General next time around.

The next trick will be trying to get someone to assume responsibility for the 30% owned by NCA, and then restructuring the operation to set it up for the long term. However this is done, it looks like costing the NSW industry a lot of money.

GBOTA may well try to extend its temporary involvement on a permanent basis but GRNSW should resist that. GBOTA already oversees nearby clubs at Gosford and Maitland as well as other country clubs. Adding The Gardens to the list would create a partial monopoly over racing in the state, which is not acceptable. Nor has GBOTA illustrated that it is up to the task of developing and managing a commercial enterprise in a tough competitive climate.

Given a history of past competitors, the Greyhound Recorder operation – or the gap created – could be readily filled by a newcomer, preferably one that is interested in modernising it and marketing the service to the public. Flogging it to National Tabform, the only other similar Australian business, would not be an ideal solution. Its Gold Guides are quite good but as it has long since retired to a subscription-only format and is essentially an industry insider’s paper rather than one that might take the sport to the general public. Nor should GRNSW take it over. The task demands an independent, entrepreneurial spirit, not a bureaucratic process.

But the real test will be whether GRNSW has the imagination to seek out creative solutions. Its form is mixed. Its last effort was to try to dump the popular Border Park operation into Queensland’s lap, a move which makes little sense legally and is unlikely to happen. The secession movement by Prince Leonard of Hutt Province in WA comes to mind (although his tourist traffic is apparently quite good).

Another was approving the GBOTA effort to run cheap races at Wentworth Park on Mondays, which hardly excites either. What was it supposed to achieve? It would hardly please nearby provincial clubs who lose their starters either, just as occurred some years back when Potts Park and its social club got a (non-TAB) racing license. But, whoops, most of them are under the GBOTA banner anyway, aren’t they?

And, while all this was happening, we lost both of NSW straight track meetings at Wyong and the GBOTA’s Appin, thereby impacting the basic structure of racing in the state. That contrasts with strenuous efforts in Queensland to keep Capalaba’s straight track running and the successful transition of Victoria’s Healesville to TAB status.

It’s all a bit circular, isn’t it? And it has been for the last 50 years.

Time to move into the 21st century, folks.

REMEMBER THE OFFICAL GRADING SYSTEM?

After the third “C” class Monday meeting at Wentworth Park this week some form is on the board.

Runners are coming from all over the state but they don’t bring a lot of winning form with them to guide punters. Despite that, around half of all races have been run in very respectable times – from just below to just above 30 sec – suggesting that some latent good form is present. Several ran very hot sectionals as well.

Even so, would it not be better to use these dogs to boost fields at the main provincial tracks?

Happily, the last meeting contained no 280m squibs’ races which are better confined to non-TAB tracks in the bush.

On a related subject, at Sandown’s day meeting last Sunday the program included one maiden and nine Non Penalty races over 515m. All but one of those winners ran quicker than 30 sec, which is a fair average marker for competent dogs. So did four of the second placegetters. The best one ran 29.62, which would have won all but one of the 515m graded races at Sandown’s main meeting last Thursday.

What, then, is the point of continuing Non Penalty races? Surely, most of the dogs are good enough to go around in normal 5th Grade events. Even better, they might be used to bolster the standards at provincial meetings, where they are badly needed.

Whatever the reason for creating NP races in the first place – and it is hard to find one – they serve no good purpose today and should be scrapped.

It’s fine to have the cream of the crop in town every week but day to day provincial meetings are the industry’s bread and butter. We should look after them.

At the heart of both these matters is the obvious push by both clubs and state authorities to go out of their way to keep every last trainer happy and every healthy dog on a track somewhere. Well, that’s all very nice but is it the best way to run a modern industry? Apparently not, if you take a line from the steadily declining proportions of keen punters and the racing industry’s massive loss of market share over the last 20 years or so.

The first priority should always be a product that brings in customers. Apart from anything else, one genuine punter will contribute a lot more than a string of mugs gambling on four-legged poker machines. That would better reward both owners and trainers in the long run.