WHEN I first became involved in greyhound racing, sometime after the last Ice Age, the grading system for the two Sydney courses, Harold Pak and Wentworth Park, was fairly simple and seemingly straightforward.
A greyhound needed to have won a minimum of two races to be eligible to race in the city, unless it had managed to win a city maiden. The grades were pretty clearly defined. A Fifth Grade would consist of greyhounds yet to win in the city, or who had won a city maiden. Once a greyhound was victorious in a Fifth Grade it moved up a level, to Fourth Grade. Once successful at that level it moved into Third Grade.
Although I’m not sure, I imagine the entire grading scale was based on that which is extant today in the United States and Britain. That is, a greyhound moves up a grade for each victory and can be dropped a grade after three unplaced runs.
My fellow ARG writer Bruce Teague has written somewhat extensively on this subject, noting how, across Australia, there is now a huge number of grades. What used to be fairly simple and straightforward is now more complicated that the code of the average DNA of a whale.
The general grading system used some decades was not perfect. Rarely do we ever witness perfection, in anything. Yet the current mish-mash is surely bordering on totally ridiculous.
You do not have to search for too long to find what I would argue are striking anomalies.
Although I’m from NSW, I personally prefer to bet in Melbourne. I think the introduction of a Grade 7 and Grade 6 was a step in the right direction, and I don’t have a real beef against the Grade 5 non-penalty races either.
What I do find quite strange is how one greyhound can be graded into a Free For All (basically the top grade) when arguably better-qualified greyhounds manage to be placed into Grade 5’s on the same program.
Example: Gary Doogan, who won a Free For All at the Meadows on 1/8/15. That was his tenth career victory. Prior to this start, Gary Doogan had raced once at the Meadows for one win. Yet here he was, pitchforked into a field that boasted greyhounds with 24 career wins (five at Meadows), 19 wins (three at Meadows), and 14 wins (two at Meadows). Of his seven rivals, four had won four or more races at the Meadows.
Earlier on the same night was a Fifth Grade race which had two greyhounds, Diego Bale and Spring Gambo, who boasted two and three wins respectively at the Meadows.
In race 10, another Fifth Grade, was a greyhound with 13 career wins and also one win at the Meadows, in 30.02, a time 14/100ths faster than that of Gary Doogan. There were another two in the same race each with five wins to their credit at the Meadows.
So, how can it be that a greyhound with nine career wins and one from one at the Meadows, in 30.23, can be classed as a Grade 4, yet a greyhound like Dyna Chaser, with five wins (best 30.12) at the track, or Spring Gambo, with three wins (best 30.11), are among those classified as Grade 5?
The connections of Gary Doogan would, I imagine, not have been very happy when they saw the race they had been allocated. It was no surprise he went off at big odds, but, hopefully, they managed to have a few dollars on him when he saluted.
There are numerous other examples of what I would regard as strange grading, and I’ve no doubt most readers could offer a multitude of anomalies as well.
Surely a serious attempt at simplifying the overall system, even if it only happens within each state, is not beyond the abilities of those running the sport? The so-called KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle is a term which certainly applies in the case of grading greyhound races. We are not dealing with a subject so complex it demands the collective brainpower of 100 NASA scientists. Instead, it is something which can be reduced to a collection of component parts which, while not being perfect, would surely be better for all concerned: from punters, to owners and trainers and the graders themselves. The Americans can do it, and so can the British and while I know there are some fundamental differences between them and us, the task is hardly in the realm of rocket science.