Greyhound racing tracks overdue for a review

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.

Past Discussion

  1. Bruce

    No verbal today ha

    Rarely do i agree with most of what you say BUT you are on the ball about run the industry to increase profitability to the industry to ALL in the industry and welfare will follow that. With a SMALL BIT of directions from well wishers for the dogs well being. We mostly look after the dogs interest as owners and trainers anyway.

    You do worry me with some of your criticism of aspects of our industry as knockers like Hugh who only want to stop greyhound racing are possibly receiving plenty of ideas to close down our industry from some of your own comments.

    Ie Track design

    Poor starts on corners

    Grading systems

    Dogs not supposedly backing up

    Injury during racing.

    Many more points that the antis will use and highlight in their properganda articles about us.

    just be cautious you don’t become their best ‘Idea’s man’

    One point in this article you have bought up is the broken hock or cracked tarsals that our dogs suffer. The stress that is experienced during racing on the bones is massive ( if i remember Alex Hauler put out a very good article about the stresses experienced on the dogs bodys during different stages of a race a really good read.) I hope i got the right vet on that article.

    Anyway fellow trainer was strapping all his dogs when ever he raced or would trial them

  2. Sorry i got cut off mid stream
    Continued
    He would strap all his dogs and when i asked he said he had done the as he was sick and tired of breaking hocks on his dogs so he now did it on all his dogs as a precaution. I asked how it worked. We he said he had never done a hock since
    Worth more than a passing thought i think.

  3. Sorry i got cut off mid stream

    Continued

    He would strap all his dogs and when i asked he said he had done the as he was sick and tired of breaking hocks on his dogs so he now did it on all his dogs as a precaution. I asked how it worked. We he said he had never done a hock since

    Worth more than a passing thought i think.

  4. Bruce regards your articles ( many time ) about dogs not backing up.
    I don’t believe.you take into account or at least don’t calculate the amount that early checks bumping excetera effect a dogs performance.
    We all agree their not Robots or machines.
    I would be interpreted to see a study where FIT RACING DOGS were say taken and trials set up SOLO TRIALS say four days apart ,providing they are sound and i believe you would find their time and back up or recovery would be fine and times would be constant in most cases baring injury’s ect.
    I think the pushing and jockeying early you will find takes its toll at the end of the race most dogs want to be on the lure early to run their best.
    You cannot loose 2,3 or 4 lengths at the begging and find that at the end. IN MOST CASES AT LEAST.
    I would also like either BRUCE or Hugh’y to explain (Hugh loves to rabbit on) how Guys and Gals get together in different counties about every 4 years and compete in athletic events in many different events sometime multiple events on the same day,sometimes many days in a row. BACKING UP you could say in a spectacle the World watch. Competing agaist the worlds and win

  5. Bruce regards your articles ( many time ) about dogs not backing up.

    I don’t believe.you take into account or at least don’t calculate the amount that early checks bumping excetera effect a dogs performance.

    We all agree their not Robots or machines.

    I would be interpreted to see a study where FIT RACING DOGS were say taken and trials set up SOLO TRIALS say four days apart ,providing they are sound and i believe you would find their time and back up or recovery would be fine and times would be constant in most cases baring injury’s ect.

    I think the pushing and jockeying early you will find takes its toll at the end of the race most dogs want to be on the lure early to run their best.

    You cannot loose 2,3 or 4 lengths at the begging and find that at the end. IN MOST CASES AT LEAST.

    I would also like either BRUCE or Hugh’y to explain (Hugh loves to rabbit on) how Guys and Gals get together in different counties about every 4 years and compete in athletic events in many different events sometime multiple events on the same day,sometimes many days in a row. BACKING UP you could say in a spectacle the World watch. Competing against the worlds and win. According to you guys it shouldn’t be possibly.

    I think there called THE OLYMPIC GAMES

  6. If in human events where multiple runners are starting from the same area just imaging if they were pushing and shoving would the be running their best each time.
    Me thinks not
    I suppose you would say they can’t back up
    Mr Bolt 100m sprint . Give him a big enough shove at the start i could beat him. Ha ha

  7. If in human events where multiple runners are starting from the same area just imaging if they were pushing and shoving would the be running their best each time.

    Me thinks not

    I suppose you would say they can’t back up

    Mr Bolt 100m sprint . Give him a big enough shove at the start i could beat him. Ha ha

  8. GreyhoundRacing The real issue is the corner starts. Why the morons at GRV put the 395 in at Traralgon beggars belief. What a goat track

  9. GreyhoundRacing The real issue is the corner starts. Why the morons at GRV put the 395 in at Traralgon beggars belief. What a goat track

  10. Bruce,
    The “she’ll be right” I don’t think was ever there nor is it there today. It’s more a case of “Problem? What problem?”
    That is a sad fact.
    Until the “what problems” of track design, lure design, reward after race, and integrity training restrictions are addressed, the world will go around and bang them on the head.
    We have a problem – no we have many but the integrity of racing is one which you should investigate. When I say integrity, I mean the training integrity which is governed and restricted by racing authorities. Also, your beloved Working Dogs Alliance “findings” lacked the same depth of authorities.
    The dogs are hunters by design, the designer making them carnivores who hunt other animals to exist.
    We can’t allow them to do that but we can allow them a reward of animal products that at least keeps them interested. Well, we used to be able to do that but with the “synthetic lure” ruling it now has become a waiting game of when will the dog stop chasing.
    It’s a bit like trying to teach a monkey a trick with the reward being a plastic banana. That waiting game would probably end up with the monkey throwing the piece of plastic in your face.
    Similar with Greyhounds, Bruce, because once the novelty of chasing “anything” wears off through the bumps and grinds of racing, we have a problem.
    With ground zero knowledge, I can inform you that less pupils pass the break-in stage, more are getting sent home with bad reports, some of the ones that do pass don’t hold their focus long, and that has left a decreasing amount of “chasers”.
    Now, where dies that leave the industry in 12 months time with decreased numbers bred?
    I went to Vietnam in 1992.
    I walked out of the airport and wanted to cross the road.
    I couldn’t because there was a constant stream of traffic that was endless. No lights, no pedestrian crossing, just an endless cavalcade of motor bikes and cars. I stood there for 15 minutes, scratching my head.
    Along came a Vietnamese woman who walked straight past me and into the traffic. She walked straight with no fear and no hesitation. She knew what she was doing and so did the traffic, which safely navigated around her with ease.

  11. Bruce,

    The “she’ll be right” I don’t think was ever there nor is it there today. It’s more a case of “Problem? What problem?”

    That is a sad fact.

    Until the “what problems” of track design, lure design, reward after race, and integrity training restrictions are addressed, the world will go around and bang them on the head.

    We have a problem – no we have many but the integrity of racing is one which you should investigate. When I say integrity, I mean the training integrity which is governed and restricted by racing authorities. Also, your beloved Working Dogs Alliance “findings” lacked the same depth of authorities.

    The dogs are hunters by design, the designer making them carnivores who hunt other animals to exist.

    We can’t allow them to do that but we can allow them a reward of animal products that at least keeps them interested. Well, we used to be able to do that but with the “synthetic lure” ruling it now has become a waiting game of when will the dog stop chasing.

    It’s a bit like trying to teach a monkey a trick with the reward being a plastic banana. That waiting game would probably end up with the monkey throwing the piece of plastic in your face.

    Similar with Greyhounds, Bruce, because once the novelty of chasing “anything” wears off through the bumps and grinds of racing, we have a problem.

    With ground zero knowledge, I can inform you that less pupils pass the break-in stage, more are getting sent home with bad reports, some of the ones that do pass don’t hold their focus long, and that has left a decreasing amount of “chasers”.

    Now, where dies that leave the industry in 12 months time with decreased numbers bred?

    I went to Vietnam in 1992.

    I walked out of the airport and wanted to cross the road.

    I couldn’t because there was a constant stream of traffic that was endless. No lights, no pedestrian crossing, just an endless cavalcade of motor bikes and cars. I stood there for 15 minutes, scratching my head.

    Along came a Vietnamese woman who walked straight past me and into the traffic. She walked straight with no fear and no hesitation. She knew what she was doing and so did the traffic, which safely navigated around her with ease.

  12. Bruce you have hit the nail on the head particularly the state of the breed panel. INTEGRITY of the breed is surely paramount to industry sustainability if not at number one then surely right at the top of priorities . And these work in tandem with tracks …. Poorly designed tracks means breeding to win on poorly designed tracks . Example Wenty Park pays the greatest Prizemoney in NSW a track absolutely dominated by leaders and interference , and so NSW breeds for speed and the result is a lot of dogs who can’t get 500, then race on treacherous corner starts . NSW is heading in the right direction with the track study, as you rightly point out a next step must be the ‘breed integrity panel ‘. Simply compare the breed and performance to USA- no need to race short distance corner starts , dogs having start numbers many times over… Some well
    over 200 starts… Less dogs having more starts means more economically valuable dogs and then less pressure on all the systems . Almost makes too much sense … It’s time to get the breed and the tracks right …

  13. Bruce you have hit the nail on the head particularly the state of the breed panel. INTEGRITY of the breed is surely paramount to industry sustainability if not at number one then surely right at the top of priorities . And these work in tandem with tracks …. Poorly designed tracks means breeding to win on poorly designed tracks . Example Wenty Park pays the greatest Prizemoney in NSW a track absolutely dominated by leaders and interference , and so NSW breeds for speed and the result is a lot of dogs who can’t get 500, then race on treacherous corner starts . NSW is heading in the right direction with the track study (which surely is going to show the need for proper reward systems), as you rightly point out a next step must be the ‘breed integrity panel ‘. Simply compare the breed and performance to USA- no need to race short distance corner starts there, the dogs readily run 500+ in vast majority , dogs having start numbers many times over… Some well over 200 starts… Less dogs having more starts means more economically valuable dogs and then less pressure on all the systems . Almost makes too much sense … It’s time to get the breed and the tracks right …