Confusing The Baby And The Bathwater

Late night shoppers in the Eastern states might be in for a surprise in a couple of months when goes live with its conversion to the GRNSW data system. Tasmania and SA are already there while Queensland is mooted to cross over later in the year.

No doubt this makes a lot of sense for all those backroom administrative tasks. As with the Stud Book, a national system makes for efficiency and consistency.

However, for form students, or even casual lookers, it’s a disaster. A major overhaul is needed.

For a start, we still have no national form database, or not one that is available to the public. Consequently the mix and match operation continues with form transfers between states always a risky proposition.

They will probably get Wins and Places right as the grading depends on accuracy there. The value of the rest of the information, especially sectional times and running numbers, will be in the lap of the gods. As we mentioned in respect to the Championships, local formguides seldom include sectional times for foreign visitors. They know what they are at home so perhaps they get taxed out as they cross the border, as happened in the 19th century. Not much efficiency there.

For Tasmanian sectional times, punters will be better off not having them anyway. They are simply wrong. From their source in Tasmania they end up on the GRNSW system showing a single sectional time for each race but they allocate it to the race winner, not necessarily the dog that actually ran the time. So far, Tasmania has ignored several requests to correct this ridiculous process. Authorities claim a better system is under consideration but meantime grossly misleading information is being produced. This is unacceptable, a cancer on the of form records and should never have started in the first place.

But the biggest hassle will be the convoluted methods GRNSW uses to display what it has got. Formguides are overloaded with flowery bits and pieces which are either unnecessary or which should be made available by a separate request. WA already does that (using hyperlinks) on its existing excellent formguide while also offers extra information in separate parts of its website.

The outcome is that GRNSW formguides take up extra space – from 20 to 40 pages per meeting depending on how many past runs are required. Even then, the tiny font is difficult to read, particularly in poor light. In Victoria, you get one page to a race, with everything you need.

GRNSW results pages are set up in a similar unfriendly way. Only one race at a time can be printed out. In Victoria results for the whole meeting can be downloaded and printed out in one or two pages, depending on how much detail you want.

Neither formguides nor results are readily downloadable, either in plain language or in a computer-readable format (as they are in Victoria), and you lose all the box numbers on the way (ditto for field lists). Presumably, this is GRNSW’ way of stopping outsiders from getting hold of complete information. But to do that they have chucked out the baby with the bathwater. GRNSW seems not to realise that all over the country, hundreds or possibly thousands of people are beavering away with their own favourite computer programs in an effort to beat the books. To do that sensibly they need form that is computer-readable. In this day and age, anything else is all too hard so punters will be tempted to look elsewhere.

But why would GRNSW want to do that? It certainly makes life more difficult for everyone. Perhaps it wants to keep a tight rein on TABs and bookies who use (and pay for) racefield lists yet there are only a handful of those and it would be blindingly obvious if a commercial operator was trying to sneak under the fence.

And why should adopt a completely different attitude to other states, none of which restrict access? Bloodymindedness is the only logical answer.

All this parallels the sloppy NSW attitude to local sectional times. The main circle tracks are fair in this respect, but only for the longer trips, not for short ones. Other clubs seem not to care. The three Northern Rivers TAB tracks, plus Tweed Heads, , Bulli and Canberra all provide a mixed bag, or no times except for the leader, or sometimes none at all. Some used to do better, but seem to have tired of the effort. Consequently, dogs move on to bigger tracks with gaping holes in their form. (That occurs daily now for viewers wanting to use Queensland formguides, which invariably contain lots of runs from northern NSW).

Already, punting on NSW races therefore suffers from an information deficit, and what is offered is hard to get hold of. Five states, or 76% of the Australian effort, will soon be lumbered with that burden. It’s a funny way to encourage extra business but it will certainly push more people across the border into Victoria (together with many of the state’s better dogs). Or to the gallops, which have no such data problems.

(Note: Wouldn’t it be great if that national form database was linked with the existing Stud Book so that people could check which produced what amongst sires and dams? The very useful Greyhound-Data website supposedly does that and it also has international coverage but, while its info is excellent, its race data is absolutely useless).

CASH ON THE SIDE?

Strictly speaking, I am not a huge horse fan, but I have to admit that when the gallops put a meeting on free-to-air I take a much closer interest. That used to be only for the big carnivals but now Channel Seven is doing it on 27 Saturdays a year on its 7Two digital channel after doing a deal with TVN, which is now competing strongly with SKY.

In an effort to build its business – and hopefully its profitability – TVN is paying Seven $2.2 million a year to run the service. However, while Seven is having a ball selling advertising, rumours persist that TVN, owned by major gallops clubs, is still in financial strife. And it has been looking unsuccessfully for months for a new CEO. Apparently, many can’t see its potential and have turned it down

Greyhound racing is locked into SKY, of course, but it makes you wonder how much good would come from a similar free-to-air deal for selected races. After all, more exposure would benefit which is SKY’s owner. Mind you, having SKY/Tabcorp paying the code for rights to film its races would be a big step forward, too. Just like the football.

Either way, with half a dozen or more extra digital channels presenting monotonous sit-com repeats, there might be an opportunity to offer live action and get some good publicity. And more publicity equals more punters.

NOTE FOR TRACK DESIGNERS

Below is a quote from justracing.com.au following reports of a track fall at Toowoomba gallops.

“Justracing understands that there is a group of senior Toowoomba riders who will refuse to ride at the “inner grass” meeting that is scheduled for next Saturday at Clifford Park, as they believe the track is too tight, so there is an interesting few days ahead on any developments there”.

If only greyhounds had jockeys, how our tracks would improve.

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