How do you judge greyhound training techniques?

We live in a very confusing world.

Amongst the plethora of election claims, counter-claims and straw polls doing the rounds today two processes are noteworthy – the ABC’s in-house Vote Compass and extreme views of the alleged destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. Neither of these is worth two bob and can safely be ignored. (See also PS below).

Any poll by the ABC is by definition limited to people who (a) watch the ABC and (b) can be bothered writing in. That automatically means the sample is biased. Completely unrepresentative.

On the reef, Green organisations are furiously calling for bans on everything from farming to fishing to coal mining so as to stop damage to the GBR. But they have a problem; rather than their claimed 90% damage, the proper authorities (the Marine Park Authority and the Institute of Marine Science) have found that only 22% of the reef is dead or dying, that it is due to water temperature rises, and that it has happened before and then recovered. Further, the same 22% lies in the far north where no farming or mining takes place. Oh dear! But the noise will continue. (Coincidentally, you can bet a lot of it will be heard on the ABC).

Greyhound racing also has difficult choices to consider, particularly about training methods. Now, personally, I could not train a dog to save my life so I have to rely on advice from others.

After canvassing a large number of sources, I have learned that some trainers get their dogs fitter through walking while others say walking is both boring and unproductive. Some trainers like walking machines while others will not have a bar of them. Some like free galloping in the paddock while others let their dogs dash up and down shortish runs until they get sick of it. Some like regular trials behind the bunny while others never trial between races. Some hate the hooped lure, others say it’s fine. Some insist that live baiting is essential – whoops – but others never subscribed to it at all. Some say a dog can recover within 48 hours after a race while (most?) vets like Dr John Kohnke or Dr Des Fegan have said it needs several days to do the job properly, especially if it has had a hard LAW run. Another theorises that because kelpies can run all day behind sheep that therefore greyhounds should be able to do that, too. Really? Head Honcho and Brett Lee might not have been so keen about that.

Here are some snippets when coming at it from another direction, I have observed a fairly consistent practice in a few large kennels; the top liners rarely ever race more than once a week but the lesser lights frequently do. In another case, I have observed almost all the dogs in one kennel conduct over 95% of their races at the same track. Would that be boring? I also recall, in an interview with The Recorder, leading Queensland trainer Tony Zammit stating that if he was ever forced to race a dog more than once in any week that he would give it extra time off afterwards. I see other trainers pushing their dog hard and often even though it keeps finishing sixth, seventh and eighth. Time in the paddock is apparently not an option. And so it goes on.

In total, what we have is a large variety of trainers working with an even larger variety of dogs to produce methods and results which are never quite the same. In other words, to decide what is “best” the judgement of any individual trainer cannot be set as the gold standard. It may be right, it may not be. It may be good for one dog and not for another. The views are always clouded by experiences some trainers have with top dogs or even champions – ie the alternative might be that Blind Freddie could have achieved much the same result (though that’s unlikely).

The fall-back position can only be to assess what happens in the race, or in a succession of races. Winning is “right”, losing means either not good enough or go back and start again. Excellence is justified only by the facts and by consistency.

Even then, we are being told that race times are not the critical factor – it’s class that counts. I understand what they are saying but it may come as a surprise to all those involved in everything from early education to preparing an advertisement for a sire, invariably quoting all its best race times.

None of that is to say that a great many skills are not important in the daily care of the racing greyhound. Of course they are. And some are better at it than others, which is why top dogs often end up with leading trainers. But, even then, nothing validates one system over another bar continued racing success.

Sportsbet freebets

The nature of the training caper is that no two operators work in exactly the same way. That can be both a beauty and a curse – the latter possibly because old habits die hard, as was true of live baiting. It also suggests that more owners of non-performing dogs should consider a change of trainer, not because of any fault but on the off chance that a dog just did not like its original surroundings.

How, then, can you rely on a vote by trainers? From every 10 you will get 11 different opinions – one will change his mind half way through.

A better option is to assess all the views, get all the facts then, and only then, make a considered judgment about what best suits the occasion. For example, that’s what should have happened with the early FOL discussions in Brisbane and Adelaide – but it didn’t. Noise triumphed over facts. The industry lost.

PS: Here is more on surveys. The Tasmanian Greens party is campaigning to halt all greyhound racing within five years, falsely claiming that the government is giving the industry millions of dollar a year in subsidies. “Tasmanian taxpayers have been subsidising the cruel and mendicant industry for too long,” the Greens document says.

The same lies have been spouted previously in NSW and Queensland campaigns. Now The Advocate newspaper in Burnie is running a fraudulent vote on the idea – ie it is allowing any one person to have multiple votes. As they say, vote early and vote often. What rubbish!

Only in Queensland

While searching for information on cancelled meetings last Saturday I tried the Racing Queensland website. Very peculiar!

For the non-TAB meeting at Capalaba, for example, it showed form for each runner but there were only two lines and they came from an unknown source which I have seen repeated on touch screens in pubs. The only hard stuff available shows a time and margin if the dog had won. For everything else it shows only its final placing – nothing else. Whoever originated that material would have had to start with a fairly good formline and then kept deleting items until he got to the reduced level he was after. The reasoning behind that escapes me.

Moving on to the evening meeting at Ipswich, clicking on “Race Form” takes you to the OzChase field lists – which is not form at all, just a list of names. Of course, you can click on each runner’s name to obtain its personal form but there is no direct access to composite form for the whole field.

This seems to defeat the whole purpose of the OzChase system, cumbersome though it might be.

Reverting to the primary OzChase site (via GRNSW) will offer more alternatives but that’s hardly the point, is it? In any event, navigating the RQ site is always a pain. Not friendly at all. That would be disappointing for Capalaba fans and the club as well – it is struggling to make ends meet.

And, sadly, given the rain, a grass track and its dangerously low position near the river, Capalaba abandoned its meeting, as did Eagle Farm. Ipswich managed to run normally.

Past Discussion

  1. Bruce . Support your comments on FOL. If we want to maximize dogs chasing with all the flow on benefits to punting and number of dogs racing and less early retirements , the fol is a must. The number of different options of lures Oz wide is mind boggling (same old same old in NSW , blue and yellow flyer in QLd, hoop arm in Adelaide) and yet in NSW no changes and Victoria had a successful schedule of fol racing and yet now disappeared again new lures but catching pens. Same old same old .

  2. Stayers How can you argue with the fact that with the FOL dogs are finishing at full speed and crashing into each other but with the catching pen the lure is taken away and they finish at half speed resulting in less injuries. Like Bruce, do you have a trainers licence or have you ever had a lead on a dog?

  3. Bruce, my reference to kelpies running 20 or 30 klms a day chasing sheep was to the question, where’s the welfare issue in greyhounds running 700 meter’s week to week?

  4. Bruce the questions you are asking on training were answered in the various publications by the racing associations particularly the NCA prior to them handing the registration of greyhounds to the Government control  Board in 1985. The greyhound guild was also responsible for publications on training and at various stages blooding of greyhounds was assessed. The GBOTA also published information on training/breeding and at one stage obtained Dr Gillette to lecture trainers and owners. The Government allowed extra race meetings on application to distribute half income of the clubs to charity and to animal research  The problem with all of this is that the above enterprise effectively stopped with the introduction of the private TAB. While have been massive developments in the understanding of inherited factors in canines beyond the “visible DNA” etc the greyhound research has stopped.

    The following prompt is from Dr Gillette in 1990 and was presented to the GBOTA seminar attended by 200 owners and trainers. An interesting comment is that for distribution of even weight for a greyhounds negotiating a first turn the camber on the track would need to range from 0 to over four meters. 

    http://www.sportsvet.com/greyhound/GHKinem.htm