Stewards Report, Race 1, Geelong, 17 October.
“Arejay Smokey (8) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Zipping Spike (6)”.
No way. These two never touched. Not even close.
Stewards Report, The Meadows, 18 October.
“Untraceable (8) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Starc (7), Allen Wake (6), Gold Affair Two (5) and Echelonic Action (4)”.
After the jump, Untraceable crossed to half way to the rail, not all the way. Starc was slow to jump and not affected. Allen Wake may have brushed with Untraceable but the impact was small. Gold Affair Two and Echelonic Action never got involved with Untraceable which was well in front of them at all stages. They just got cluttered up in the middle of the field. It happens.
“Gorham Bale (4) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Lead Into Demise (2) and Thunder Eyes (1)”.
No way. Gorham Bale, always a slow beginner, tucked in behind the other two dogs, which then tangled with each other, mostly because Thunder Eyes was trying to move up the track. Having done that, the way was clear on the rail for Gorham Bale to move up and eventually record a nice win.
“Tweak (6) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Darbain Dasher (5), Kayo Marciarno (4), Athos (3), Deadly Boy (2) and Heaps Of Ability (1)”.
Never happened. Tweak never touched another dog and was well in front of those mentioned. The smash as they rounded the nearby corner was entirely due to Heaps of Ability running off. In any event Kayo Marciano, always a moderate beginner, was unaffected by that clash and got a rails run up to 3rd spot as a result.
”Skyfire (4) crossed to the rail approaching the first turn checking Girthy (1) and Whistler Bale (2). Girthy checked off Under Taker on the first turn (3)”.
Not so. Skyfire was clear of the others. The “checking” was due to Girthy moving off the rail and contacting the other runner. It raced in the centre of the track for the rest of the race. The second sentence amplifies that.
The regular instances of misreading of races by stewards could be getting boring to readers but these mentions are necessary to indicate a significant and persistent problem. We don’t know but perhaps some of it emerges from wild assumptions made from head-on shots which are not available to the public (which would be how they confirmed a fighter in Race 12 at The Meadows). Obviously, they should be cross-checked with other views, but apparently that does not happen.
Whatever the cause, these reports are seriously misleading and therefore lead to a lack of confidence in anything stewards do. That is not a good advertisement for the industry.
They must also be seen in the context of stewards’ general disregard to large variations in form, as have often been noted in these columns. Just to name two, both Starc and Xylia Allen put in awful runs recently yet not a word was heard, not a question asked, despite both being well supported. With so much data and technology readily available today, this is unacceptable. Of course, dogs are not machines and some ups and downs are inevitable. However, it is the trainer’s duty to present a fit dog and it is the steward’s duty to assess their performances and keep the public informed. In the above two cases that did not happen.
Indeed, just for comparison, consider the hundreds of media articles and stewards’ comments over the last couple of weeks about the fitness of gallopers, how they were ridden, what trainers’ placement policies are and what penalties and scratchings have occurred. All of which is keenly followed by the public. Seldom does any of that occur in greyhound racing.
Separately, note also that two of the above reports on early hassles come from the notoriously disruptive 600m bend start at The Meadows. Since stewards are responsible for the integrity of racing, why are they not calling for the necessary improvements to the track layout? And to comparable examples at other tracks? Whose job is that? Why is it being swept under the carpet?
Incidentally, if you want to see a real crash to the rail, check out Race 5 at The Meadows. Hoover Jack (8) wanted the inside in no uncertain terms. Stewards got that one right but dogs were splattered all over the track so they could hardly miss it.