There could not be much debate that 2012 was the year of Miata, a genuine champion in the most demanding field of staying racing. Never beaten except by the vagaries of the track or the odd missed jump.
Paradoxically, Miata’s success also highlighted the shortage of genuine stayers across the country, although Tasmanians Bell Haven and Jethro were making pretty good efforts to fly the flag. It is interesting that they follow in the wake of fellow Tasmanians such as Chinatown Lad. Maybe they feed them apples down there?
At the same time, there’s a wealth of good 600m dogs around and no shortage of opportunities everywhere except at Wentworth Park where construction barriers are stopping major improvements to the track. Is this yet another reason move away?
State authorities made the news, but not always for the right reasons. Victoria’s corruption scandals made it all the way to parliament but have now been sorted out and a fresh crowd is in charge. Queensland also threw out the old and brought in the new but for political reasons. A conservative government is in place but, predictably, took one pace forward and three paces back. It increased controlling boards from three to four, gave the three code boards little power and had them report to the main board. Board members will be nominated by industry insiders, thereby ensuring the state’s decline will continue.
The Queensland change can be expected to hold back any innovative thinking about the workings of the peak national body, Greyhounds Australasia, where each state pushes its own wares, although not on “commercial” matters, which remain outside GA’s self-assigned subject range and therefore end up without co-ordination.
Racing in general is now sticking out like a sore thumb as the only major sport which lacks meaningful, independent national management. Cricket Australia has bowed to pressure and installed three outside directors in the first stage of the modernisation of its governance practices. Heavy hitters, too. They include Rio Tinto’s local boss, a telecom executive and a former chief of Adidas.
And while we expect sate authorities to bang their own drums, some of the self-promotion is getting to the silly stage. Good news at any cost has become the order of the day, regardless of the facts. The other day I mentioned nonsense written about a moderate win by Bizarre Barbie at The Meadows. Now we read that Sale Cup winner, Destini Fireball, “exploded” to put in “one of the most amazing runs of the year” which “had to be seen to be believed”, according to GRV.
In fact, the dog jumped poorly, as it often does, met with one or two small bumps along the way – all its own fault – and then ran down the fading leaders on the line. It recorded a pedestrian 37.61, something which happens nearly every week at Sale. The dog had actually run four lengths quicker in its heat a week earlier, attracting not a lot of publicity at all.
The Sale placegetters were both average to fair 600m dogs and perhaps found the demanding straights over 650m a little too tough. Early leader Bagget Bale, in particular, was fading in the straight. Indeed, the fourth dog, a $22 chance, was overhauling them on the line anyway. The winner is an awkward racer but a pretty useful galloper but this would have been one of the most ordinary Sale Cup field in recent years. The GRV publicity was rubbish.
Why can’t we have the truth, good, bad or indifferent?
Notably, another feature of 2012 was the rise and rise of low class racing which is making an increasing impact on the TAB product. NSW has “C” class meetings, Victoria has its Tier 3 events for slow dogs only while SA is likely to copy it soon. Those three states plus Queensland are pushing ever-shorter races on to the program, allegedly to better satisfy the demand from trainers who cannot otherwise get a draw. Sadly, once in the mix, slow dogs have a way of infiltrating better races, thereby lowering standards overall.
All of which begs the point: do you run races to satisfy trainers or customers? And what will be the long term outcome of either option? We will find out more in 2013 as there is no sign that these policies will be reversed.
Finally, Tabcorp revamped its website and made it slower to access and slower to use. For example, results pages take up double the space now and arrow keys no longer work, forcing you to use the mouse to navigate – small things but not user friendly. Conventional Tabcorp betting is in decline, helping to reduce pool sizes and making a national pool even more vital.
AND FOR THE YEAR AHEAD
Top of the wish list for 2013 would be for the Wheeler combine to start sending good numbers of dogs to Queensland, saving that state from fading into obscurity and thereby restoring some balance to the national system.
A close second would be for the otherwise toothless Greyhounds Australasia to come to life by appointing and funding a small panel of experts to look into the science of track design. Only professionally-inspired improvements offer hope of attracting big spending punters to the sport.
Third would be the state Racing Ministers cranking into action and creating the above-mentioned national betting pool. Greyhound racing would be a big winner but so would state Treasuries.