National Questions Emerging

A very odd package of races tonight in Queensland, Victoria and SA.

Fourteen races in the three states are heats of the respective state’s qualifying runs for the National Sprint and Distance Championships later in the month. Ten of those are short of a full field, whether by design or accident is uncertain. Either way, that will cut back interest in exotic betting.

Most of the usual suspects will line up but the most risky will be in Victoria where many of the alleged stayers are backing up from one, two or three successive weeks of distance racing. The remainder are lower class dogs with little or no distance experience, hoping for a miracle tonight.

What does make it tough is that Victoria is now asking its better stayers to run two sets of heat and final events in succession – the AWM series and the Nationals series. That is a management decision and so could have been altered. As demonstrated here earlier this week, many of these dogs are not physically capable of doing half that, never mind four or five times in a row. That includes Xylia Allen, which will no doubt again start at odds-on, and Dyna Willow, which has not yet regained top form after a long layoff, but is trying hard.

Watch out for upsets.

Meanwhile, an extraordinary position has emerged at Dapto, where they ran out of nominations and made some last minute calls for a newly-added 297m race at the end of tonight’s 10-race program. They did manage to get 10 offers, including nine from the same kennel, thereby raising eyebrows all over the place. Two of the nine have been scratched but were replaced by two others from the same kennel.

This gives the impression of a work for the dole scheme, albeit a very risky one.

Widespread rounds of kennel cough may have contributed to the shortages. Nevertheless, it still rings alarm bells about the state of the nation. Even in good times, reserves are missing and some 20% of races are starting with a short field, dogs tend to be over-raced (ie racing more than once weekly), more short races are being programmed, and more bottom level dogs are getting into the mix.

The upshot of all that is that it is getting harder and harder to find decent races to bet on. The mug gamblers will not notice but it’s a major discouragement for serious punters and therefore a risk to the industry’s future income.

The underlying reason is very straightforward. There is no growth in the greyhound population but there are more races being run. So slower dogs are being asked to do a job that is beyond them. Even then, there are not enough of them.

Back to the Nationals. I will make my annual appeal to authorities to change the title of these races. They are not Championships at all (yet another mis-use of the language) but State of Origin battles, and should be so named. Inevitably, three or four runners over each distance will be left struggling out the back while a few good dogs fight out the finish. The odd exception to the failures from the small states does not justify the current policy. There is nothing wrong with either style of race but let’s be fair dinkum.

WHERE ARE YOU?

Good to see the ”Newcastle Greyhounds” organisation launch its new operation at the former NCA-run track in the state’s second biggest population centre. It will be interesting to see more details as it firms up its policies and structures. In particular, it was encouraging to note that the board is looking closely at possible adjustments to the track – it needs it.

Meantime, it urgently needs a website of its own, no matter how simple, to avoid confusion. Currently, fans are directed to an old NCA site, which is hopelessly out of date and should have been taken down months ago.