Not Finished Yet

The extraordinary thing about the finish-on- (FOL) option is that it seems to work well yet people don’t like it. Well, some people don’t.

It’s now been tried in three states. had a brief go which seemed to turn out well but it then disappeared without a trace. Queensland ran it extensively and got much improved results for injuries and marring (figures published by the Brisbane club). Yet they, too, dumped it following noisy objections from many trainers.

Late last year also saw a deputation from trainers asking for a return to the old system but authorities remained strong. The latest newsletter contains the official decision:

“The Board noted that there was a clear reduction in the incidence of failing to chase and marring offences under the FOL system. It was further noted that there was evidence to support the position that the incidence of injuries decreased under the FOL system, albeit that the accurate measurement of injuries has some inherent limitations. A couple of the initial problems with implementing the lure, relating to the heightened risk of specific injuries, have been largely addressed through the introduction of a lure cover and the availability of stronger muzzles.

Insofar as the higher/arched lure is concerned, the Board has resolved that this general design has significant advantages over the lower traditional arm-style lure and will be retained regardless of any decisions relating to the manner in which greyhounds are pulled up.”

In other words, the SA and Queensland results were comparable, and favourable, while in NSW it would probably have been so as well. Yet SA is the only state to retain it. New Zealand has been running it successfully for yonks and has no intention of changing. The talk in is more along the “over my dead body” lines, which means there was no debate and no trial.

Clearly, it is an emotional subject. There will always be a range of opinions but all the hard evidence shows that it is a good thing.

Not the least of the issues that arise is that dogs going back and forth to SA will be chopping and changing between lure types. Even so, nothing much has been heard about visitors meeting problems. Dogs are apparently more flexible than their guardians.

A personal guess: noting that the FOL sits higher off the ground than standard lures, could this re-define the term “unsighted” and therefore explain the reduction in failing-to-chase offences?

What it does point up is that having seven or eight jurisdictions ruling differently on the same subject is cause for concern for everyone from dogs to punters. Add this to the list where a national standard is required – like rug colours, box apertures, scratching policies, grading, markers, and all the rest of them. The days of states switching away from national and standards on a whim should be consigned to history. What we really need is a national body with teeth and national rules that everyone has to stick to.

There are reasons racing is declining in importance in and this is one of them. People like to see a bit of progress but they also are more comfortable with consistency. Dogs, too.

Still Cash Poor

After all the fuss about betting turnover at , how did the finals go last Wednesday?

Not much good, actually. Well, the Cup did reasonably with over $21,000 in the NSW TAB Win pool. Overall, the night averaged only $11,997 per race or nearly 9% less than for the semis night a week earlier. So a few guys wandered in for the big race and then disappeared. Oh, and the final of the high priced Classic did not quite make the average. That was disappointing, particularly as the two big races offered quite good value for the favoured runners.

The Victorian pools were much bigger, of course, helped by bumper oncourse attendances, but the shape of the betting was the same. The Cup did well but the Classic final was only the fifth biggest of twelve, just pipping a 390m Maiden early in the night.

A few more big betting punters would have made things more lively.

$350,000 prizes and a lot of chest-thumping will not help that effort, any more than a $70,000 first prize boosted takings in the Classic final. More important is a 52-week effort to produce good fields on good tracks with good publicity. What counts is not how much money you have but where you invest it.

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