Continuing our series on suggested changes to racing rules, here are a few more to go with those we wrote about on October 3rd (Items 1, 2 and 3). These are partly rules as such and partly recommended practices. Indeed, the latter group could well be built up by Greyhounds Australasia as a permanent guide to authorities and clubs around the nation.
There are many subjects where research and intelligence could be gathered professionally and then released for the benefit of all (as with drug treatments). For example, one we have mentioned previously is the use of the finish-on lure. Far too much of that discussion has been emotional rather than analytical and so the industry has gained little from it.
(4) Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder
One of the most important reviews we need is of rug colours. Too often they are hard to distinguish, one from the other. They are fine if the dogs are right in front of you, or the rugs are laid out on the boardroom table, but not when you are in the crowd on a wet and windy night and it’s hard to see what is happening over in the back straight.
Viewing on SKY is no better, and is sometimes worse due to long distances, starts in the back straight, poor camera quality, awkward camera angles or poor lighting.
Here are the clashes.
- (a) Red (1) and Pink (8) are OK when the two dogs are together, but not when they are apart. It’s worse when the rugs are getting old (much like the eyes of many viewers). Even synthetic fabric wears out.
- (b) Checks (2), White (3) and Green and White stripes (9) are not easy to sort out at a distance, especially when the dogs using them are white, black and white, or black.
- (c) Blue (4) and Green (6) have the same problem as 1 and 8. Sitting together they are fine but in poor light you are never sure. Lighting can play tricks, too.
Bear in mind that 99% of people watching a race are not there in the flesh but looking at a SKY picture, often at night in varying types of artificial light, when impressions can be quite different (I well remember the old Penrith track where they once used blue coloured globes which made a complete mess of the colours).
I hesitate to offer alternatives here because that is a job that should be entrusted to a qualified colour consultant. However, it’s worth noting that Dayglo colours, although probably more expensive, can be dramatically effective. I saw an example once in a whippet race and the result was brilliant (it happened to be for the Yellow). In today’s mix, Dayglo Green and Pink would also be a big help. If it’s good enough for road workers and lollipop ladies, it’s good enough for greyhounds.
GAL has already swapped the dirty Brown for a more satisfactory Green but it needs to go much further.
In passing, note that greyhound racing has a potentially big advantage over the other two racing codes where only a few regulars can easily identify jockey or driver colours. We should press home that advantage.
Note: America has neither Black and White Checks or Pink rugs and the 8 dog uses Green and White stripes. Europe has no Pink but does have Orange.
(5) No Rule but one Needed
Regularly we are seeing dogs backup quickly – many only two or three days after their previous race. Rarely does this policy show dividends, which is not surprising considering standard veterinary advice about recovery times for the average dog.
But dumping these conundrums on unsuspecting punters is not a good policy. How will they ever know if the dog is up to such a task? You can’t tell just by looking.
Imposing limits of at least 5 days between runs for sprinters and 7 days for stayers is a must. The dogs will probably thank you for it as well.
(6) Try First, then Buy
In one of its few progressive changes, GRNSW introduced a requirement for budding maidens to first complete an official trial before entering a real race. This was an excellent move because it gives punters a rough idea of how the dog might perform. Unfortunately, the practice has not been copied elsewhere.
In some cases, a specific event may require pre-qualification but it is not routine across the country. It should be.
Probably the most worrying are the premium Victorian age events – the Laurels and the Sapphire – where both unraced dogs and maidens are allowed into the heats. How can you tell if the dog is any good or not? Will it figure in the finish, run nowhere or just mess up the other runners? There is no way of telling.
A blanket ban across the country will fix the problem
Otherwise – The Staying Caper
GRV news has highlighted comments from breeder Geoff Collins about the rising prominence of American blood amongst our stayers. Fair enough, too. However, let’s go not overboard about the performances of the current lot of top distance dogs, including the examples quoted of Lucy Wires and Destini Warrior. (That also goes for Proven Impala, which does not quite seem to be at its best over the longer trip, notwithstanding its one brilliant 42.01 run at Wentworth Park, or for Irma Bale, which runs out of puff at around 650m).
For a start, they lack sufficient consistency to be in the top ranks. Nor have any of them run great times in recent months. Typically, the better races are won in times eight to ten lengths outside the track record. Good on any of them that might win Group races but you also have to consider what they beat – ie generally fair to average dogs which tend to plod rather than stay, or spear out, lead, then fade. It’s a far cry from there to the quality of today’s sprinters.
In any event, in class terms, Smart Valentino would be well ahead of the Victorian group although it, too, has to get away in the first half of the field to really sparkle. But it is a genuine stayer.
Simultaneously, GRV is pushing its program to encourage more stayers by offering bonus prize money at provincial tracks for everything from 570m to 680m. This is puzzling on two grounds.
First, they are flat out getting full fields for these races. Five, six and seven runners are more typical, suggesting that few trainers believe they have dogs capable of even middle distance trips.
Second, the dogs they do get are nothing to shout about. Many are there only because they can’t compete well over shorter trips. Results are often erratic. Flow-on to success over city 700s is rare. And, once again, performances are erratic if they do get there.
NSW has similar programs and results are much the same as in Victoria.
Which brings me back to a point that needs more emphasis. Throwing cash on the table is not much use unless you have the cards to back it up. Much better to go down the Geoff Collins road and seek out means of improving the breed. Funds would be better allocated to carefully selected sires or strains (whatever they might be) which have more chance of throwing up dogs that can get the longer trip. That would not happen overnight but it would offer much better odds of success in the long term.