THE Special Commission’s second and presumably final public hearings ended last week along predictable lines. Long and often tortured questioning concentrated on who knew what and when about live baiting and on the recent change to steward reporting instructions.
Former CEO Brent Hogan and some staff were involved, as was an RSPCA spokesman. The substantive bits were that stewards were ordered not to mention track deaths under the old regime but they must under the new system. This is factually a very small clerical matter but the overall policy does have substantial implications.
The question of how much the old board (ie in 2010) knew about live baiting accounted for a lot of time. The issue was really a matter of emphasis. Professor Percy Allen has previously claimed it had little real information while the evidence of CEO Hogan tended towards the opposite, with many references to board and management minutes of the day. Another way of putting it is that everyone missed the boat.
These two matters and last year’s somewhat inconclusive discussions of the detail of live baiting incidents pretty well cover the gamut of the Commissions investigations. Of course, we don’t know what has happened in private interviews.
Since live baiting has long since been processed and filed away in other forums it begs the question of what else the Commission can do. The only answer to that is to decide whether the GRNSW organisation was deficient in its actions and whether or not that organisation was adequately structured to address the problem.
Indeed, part of the Commission’s brief is to “develop an improved model of governance of the greyhound racing industry”. However, so far, it seems not to have delved into the options as such. Perhaps that will emerge in its final report.
Meantime, last week’s evidence shows repeatedly that the fundamental principle behind the structure of the NSW industry is flawed. The Act assigns all responsibility to the board – ie a committee of management – and none to the staff yet it seems that the practice varied considerably from that. For example, hiding the news of track deaths would be regard by many as a significant policy matter yet it was handled purely by staff to staff direction. Similarly, the details of various measures concerning live baiting – if any – may well have been passed to the board to “note” but the whole process was totally controlled by the staff.
Personally, I see no great problem in that as that is what managers are for. But it is not what the Act says. Hence the law is an ass – ie it is badly designed.
Of course, the Special Commission is empowered to find that, too. Whether it will or not will have to await next month’s report to the Minister. Either way, a CEO and an organisation that is not answerable to the public is a poor example of governance.
Facts beat emotion
Not for the first time a reader commented that “Trainers know best when to race and how often”. This referred to my numerous claims over several years about over-racing – all well documented. This sounds remarkably like the attitude to live baiting uncovered by the Working Dog Alliance. Trainers simply said “my old man did it so I do it, too”.
As it happens, I have the hard facts. The reader does not.
Bring on the finish on lure
It’s worth taking another look at a couple of races at Shepparton last Monday night. The times were not fantastic but two performances were. Arby (R6) and Jaimandy Hatty (R7) both promising racers, won in an amazing fashion.
They both came out stone motherless, well behind the field, and then proceeded to weave their way through and win well.
My point is not that these are useful dogs (which they are) but that they were both able to get through the traffic. On this occasion Shepparton was trialling the Follow-on-Lure. I wonder if that had some influence by offering more space between runners and so allowing backmarkers to find their way through. It certainly looked so.
Age does weary them
On yet another sad note, Exquisitus fractured a hock in race 6 at Sandown last Sunday. It broke down as it poured on the pressure after moving into the back straight. I have lost count of the number of times this has happened at this track in the same fashion.
As a veteran of 48 starts, Exquisitus conforms to evidence from some vet studies that the fragility of the bone increases with more and more racing.
Hot and cold
Since the running of the Sale Cup at Christmas seven 650m races have been run, all but one for low grade dogs. Three of the winners ran equal or better time than No Donuts (37.69 in both heat and final) while another was not far behind.
This validates the theory that the oppressive weather (40 degrees-plus) on December 20 had a significant effect on dogs and their running times over all distances, especially in the Cup heats. Some six to eight lengths is the estimated impact (as we reported in a post-race article).
The New Year heralded the coming of much tighter rules about racing in hot weather, yet so far we have heard not a word from the club, stewards or GRV about the failure to warn not only trainers but punters who invested faithfully on the Sale events, assuming that conditions would be normal. Subsequent form studies would also have been seriously affected. Regardless of the rules, some comment was warranted.