AH, the Warrnambool Cup, where several fine performances could be seen as well as a hell of a lot of push and shove. Luckily, Unlawful Entry squeezed through the ruck to bust the just-established track record, running 24.72. He reached the lead only on the turn but he is a beauty if you can catch him.
Unlawful Entry has won three of its last eight races, always at shortish odds so there is no value in following it regularly. It was always at $2.00 to $2.20 this time out.
The Cup fields contained a lot of highly qualified runners, yet did you know that almost half of them (34 of 63) failed to better a 6.70 sectional mark (the overall average for all classes is 6.83)?. Quick beginners will run around 6.50 but only three got under that time – Zambora Brockie (6.42) and Deanos Gadget (6.49) which won, and Bearville Azza (6.49) which was unplaced. Three others got down to 6.51 – To The Galos (Won), Diego Bale (Unpl) and Lunar Eclipse (2nd).
Several top dogs got shuffled out in the run to the turn – including Ultimate Magic ($1.60), Sausage Sizzle ($1.60) and Dalgetty ($2.80), all as a result of eight dogs trying to squeeze into too small a space. As I have pointed out before, fields of good quality dogs will frequently suffer from that overcrowding due to the nature of the track.
Equally, other one-turn tracks like Ballarat, Shepparton and Warragul are not much different.
Something is wrong in the design profile at these tracks although it is possible that use of the wide, hooped lure would help to keep runners separate (that’s yet to be proven scientifically but observations support that view).
That’s a pity because otherwise I like the set up at Warrnambool and the food is excellent.
From verballing to genetics
On “Hugh’s” last message: My recent article made a couple of general points, followed by lengthy comments on a particular suggestion of “Hugh’s”. In the former case, I find I am verballed regularly, not by “Hugh” but mostly by people who do not state where they are coming from, nor do they supply evidence. Well, that’s life but it does not help the discussion much.
(Having written the above, I subsequently find that “Hugh” is now also prone to apply the “verballing” gag. He has just said “For example, in the eyes of someone like Bruce, the preservation of the greyhound breed is of such inherent importance and value that the disposal of non-performing dogs that are inevitably created in a breeding program is of little consequence.”
In fact, I have said no such thing. It is a lie. I have specifically supported extra efforts to generate more productive uses for less fortunate dogs, especially as pets. But let me clarify further, lest my articles are further misrepresented. I have long pointed out that, from a management viewpoint, welfare should not be first priority as such – rather, given current circumstances, increased profitability should be on top and welfare right behind it. That order is essential as optimal welfare will be achieved only if it can be paid for from accrued profits (or surpluses, in non-profit organisational language). Welfare in a large commercial organisation rests massively with the numbers, wages, expenses and motivations of people running the show. If you get that right, superior welfare will follow. However, the reverse will not work – as we have seen over recent times.
In any event, all the available evidence suggests that “wastage” in the greyhound is little different to that in any other dog breed (or horses). That does not justify poor behaviour but it does broadly reflect community attitudes. Veterinary ethics also clearly point out that euthanasia is a normal outcome of any breed and cannot be seen as a welfare matter.
Back to more pressing welfare matters.
A short while ago, I also pleaded a case for better analysis of genetic change over time. Indeed, over the last 10 years I have several times called for the establishment of what I called “A State of the Breed” panel to report annually and independently on the progress of the greyhound. In part, that reflected my view that the subject has been largely ignored or addressed piecemeal – at least in the public arena – by the greyhound veterinary sector. That gap necessarily risks sub-optimal policy making as in, for example, distance race programming and funding, injury analysis, track design, breeding, etc etc.
There is not the slightest evidence of any progress on this proposal, despite its fundamental importance to the future of the industry.
One reader has mentioned cancer as a substantial problem, although at the same time failed to mention it affects several breeds of large and aging dogs, mostly more often than for greyhounds. Not much perspective there.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. For example, broken hocks and other tarsal injuries are well known, particularly at tracks like Sandown, yet there is no obvious action to delve further into that subject to determine whether or not genetic change has played a part. Equally, the track configuration must be playing a part; otherwise we would not be seeing the consistency of such injuries at tracks like Sandown.
In other words, the industry is leaving itself open to a “live baiting” style attack, although in this case there is considerable empirical evidence of the problem. The form is on the board.
In short, rather than seeking excellence, the industry is dominated by the “she’ll be right” syndrome, which is why it keeps getting into trouble. In another context, that shortcoming was well illustrated by the findings of the Working Dog Alliance report into training practices where a common explanation was that “my Dad always did it so I do it, too”.
The problem, as always, is one of attitude, of industry culture, perhaps of priorities. To improve that, start at the top and work down. And don’t put stewards into another organisation where the message will get lost.