More Incentive For Premier Baird

The company police are pressing ahead.

Current speeches by Rod Sims, chief of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, call into question the spate of state government decisions distorting the market. The Australian today offered examples where scrutiny was insufficient to stop poorly priced sales of port facilities at Port Kembla and Botany and also giving the Macquarie Airport people right of first refusal to operate a second airport “for no good reason” (except a bigger buyout price at the outset).

They might also have mentioned the sale of the state owned TAB with accompanying conditions that prevented oncourse bookmakers (which was all we had at the time) from competing on equal terms. The Treasury did better in the short term but consumers got the worst end of the stick. That 15 year agreement has since been renewed but now it has to work in an environment where things have got out of hand.

The irony is that the declining turnover now going through TABs is costing both government and raceclubs hard cash. Online operators and Betfair occupy an increasing share of the market but pay smaller commissions than TABs and the states have relatively little control over either. Consequently, both revenue and taxes per dollar bet are going down. On top of that, the newcomers have served to split the pie up into smaller pieces. That makes betting pools less attractive and so the cycle continues.

It’s taken 17 years but the chickens have come home to roost. This should serve as a salutary reminder to the current Premier, Treasurer and Racing Minister that a genuinely competitive field will make that pie bigger, giving everyone more to play with. It has another opportunity now to reduce tax levels to those applying in adjacent states. Failure to act can only ensure a continuing decline in income and more diversions to other states.

Passing Comments from the Stewards – Sandown 6 November.

Race 5
“Jayney Bale, Access and Dyna Villa collided soon after the start. Speed Series checked off Access soon after the start. Access and Dyna Villa collided approaching the first turn. Access checked off Dyna VIlla approaching the first turn. Joey Veldez and Access collided on the first turn, checking Joey Valdez, Access, Speed Series and Hawk Alone”.

All of which misses the point that most of the interference was caused by Jayney Bale (3) moving sharply to the right after the jump.

Race 9
“Veyron Bale (4) crossed to the rail soon after the start, checking Scenic Shot (6), Weston East (5), Veyron Bale (?) and severely checking Cosmic Angel (2) and Crackerjack Rose (3); which both stumbled”.

Veyron Bale did none of this. It actually went straight after a poor jump until elbowed by Scenic Shot after they passed the post. All the damage was caused by Dyna Ostrander (7) crashing towards the rail, thereby leaving lashings of room for the winner, Secret Spell (8), to run around to the lead.

Race 12
“Dream It (8) crossed to the inside soon after the start, checking Tyra Giselle (6)”.

Dream It checked nothing and did not reach the “inside” until well round the turn. After the start, Tyra Giselle was edging to the rail anyway and lacked the pace to move up.

Note: Sandown’s first turn has an annoying habit of causing runners to move out suddenly between the post and the early part of the turn. As a result the hittee often gets blamed instead of the hitter. The track has long needed remodelling – since 1998 actually, when it was completely rebuilt.

This was the precise reason for Awesome Project and Allen Deed being put out of play in the SHOOTOUT. Oakvale Destiny from box 1 moved out at the magic spot. Anyway, as suggested here previously, even without the knock, Allen Deed would have had a huge job to pull in a leader running 29.27. Odds on, look on.

We Still Don’t Understand

I may be missing something here. If you study Race 12 at The Meadows on Wednesday, Lobo Loco (2), the $1.40 favourite, rocketed out of the boxes to lead comfortably into the back. It then eased, turned its head sharply to the right and snapped at another runner. By the time it got going again it was a distant 5th. It then poured on the pressure to gain 2nd spot on the home turn and then easily ran down the new leader to win going away in a pedestrian 31.08. Rarely do dogs go as slowly as that in any race. The next slowest on this program was 30.49.

What next? According to the stewards, “It was reported that the greyhound sustained injuries to the left shoulder and left monkey muscle, a 10 day stand down period was imposed”. Well it’s not for us to argue with the vet but how could an injured dog make up something like 12 to 15 lengths in the space of 200m or so? Obviously the opposition was not strong but it is still extraordinary, injured or not.

Then it got stranger. “Stewards charged Lobo Loco with failing to pursue the lure with due commitment (by reason of injury)”. That poses three more questions. Did the injury occur immediately prior to the head-turning? What constitutes fighting? And how could a supposedly injured dog go like a bolt of lightning for the last half of the race?

These days, the definition of “fighting” is apparently in the eye of the beholder. Once it involved turning the head and making contact with another runner. Alternatively, failing that contact, it could be penalised for failing to chase. Either way, it meant a month on the sidelines – no ifs or buts.

An injury is always an argument for the defense, of course, but the prosecution would then insist on an explanation for the brilliant finish over the last 200m – an impossible one to counter, surely.

This time, all it got was a requirement to trial satisfactorily. Hard to work out, isn’t it?

In any event, given the disruption, it adds weight to the need to alter the rules so that fighters are disqualified, not suspended or just rapped over the knuckles. In which case, they would also lose prize money which they are not entitled to. For comparable offences, that’s what would happen in thoroughbred and harness racing. Failure to adopt such a policy means that victims are penalised. In this case, whatever your definitions, the “fighter” clearly interfered with other dogs but got away with it.

Fame Spreads

It’s long been fashionable to name greyhounds after footballers, mostly AFL and NRL types. But now the practice has gone international with 109kg Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, getting his name in the racebook. His namesake picked up a nice win over 699m at Cranbourne this week. So did the Steelers on the weekend (replays on Channel Seven-Two Monday mornings). Previously, Roethlisberger has been an MVP in the Super Bowl.