Anyone headed to Brisbane for the current batch of feature races will need to do constant mental arithmetic or be caught short.
The installation of new Steraline boxes for 520m races at Albion Park has chopped a good two lengths off sectional times, and probably as much off overall times. The lid rise is beating the timer – just as occurred at Sandown and The Meadows some time ago – but dogs also seem to prefer the new boxes. Perhaps an extra help is the slightly higher grille or aperture they are fitted with? First sections in the 5.50s are becoming common where previously you took note only on the odd occasion when a dog got into the 5.60s.
So comparisons will be odious and it will not be too long before Made to Size’s 29.57 track record is busted. Already one 5th grader has got down to 29.67, while Tomac Bale ran 29.63 winning its Brisbane Cup heat.
This is just the start. Only the 520m boxes have been changed so far but those for other trips will follow later. When that happens you may as well throw out the record books.
Strangely, you will not hear much about this subject from the club or Racing Queensland. They mentioned the new boxes in media releases but not the effect they were going to have. Much the same occurred in Melbourne in 2011 when authorities sprung similar changes on unsuspecting punters, and instantly allowed Bekim Bale and Heston Bale to create new record times at Sandown and The Meadows. The tracks did not change, only the timing mechanism, but the publicity would have done wonders for their stud careers.
That all made life difficult for form students but what galled was the huge round of publicity pumped out by several authorities about the “amazing” new times – all without mentioning that they were the result of a mechanical change and nothing to do with the dogs. Let’s hope Brisbane is a bit more honest.
Albion Park’s new boxes may have another effect. There is a bigger plug between boxes 4 and 5 to accommodate the pneumatic drive, which therefore means interference in that area may well be reduced. It will take a few months to verify but winning box percentages may well change too.
Incidentally, in the six Brisbane Cup heats, containing 44 runners, only six were attracted from interstate – one from NSW and five from Victoria. No doubt the clash of feature events plays a part in organising travel plans but the lack of interest is still disappointing. Two heats were drawn with short fields and many of the local entries would not stand a chance against qualified visitors.
A related note. Over the last decade or so there have been at least five significant track alterations that affected times and also winning box figures – at Cannington, Angle Park, Wentworth Park, Maitland and Warrnambool. In these cases, the distances remained the same but the layout altered slightly, either by moving the boxes or modifying the first turn. Of those, only Cannington and Angle Park made any worthwhile announcements about the change and only Cannington re-started statistics for winning boxes, even though the track bias was altered significantly. Wentworth Park took years to switch to a 2011 base and use that as the starting date for winning boxes. At Maitland, they never have. Consequently, many punters are being asked to play with crook cards.
The mugs may not know or care, but any serious punter wants to know all about these sorts of changes, preferably well ahead of time. It offers further evidence that administrations are focussed on other things than where their business is coming from.
In Queensland the lack of interest is palpable, as further indicated by the near complete failure of their current ”Werunasone” marketing effort. The website under that name features a tiny handful of contributions of almost no importance whatever. Boring, in fact. Of course, “Werunasone” is dedicated to racing participants, while the people who are needed to fund the industry – customers – are being offered nothing. Is it any wonder Racing Queensland cannot balance its budget?
Additionally, punters will have noted that Queensland reverted some time ago to publishing winning box statistics only for the previous 12 months. Previously, it had used long term figures. The new practice makes the majority of that data completely useless due to the small sample sizes. It is no consolation that Victoria does the same thing but it indicates that racing authorities make no effort to learn what people actually do with the stuff they publish.
A final note about the Albion Park track, or its successor. It has a problem first turn which causes to too many dogs to clash while trying to get into the same spot at the same time. One contributor to that hassle would be the fact that it has a very tight turn radius of only 48m. General practice in the industry now is to use 52m or more.
The Ipswich track is even tighter at 44m. So let’s hope that future track designers take note and make life easier for both dogs and punters. Since none of the designers used so far for draft plans have had any greyhound experience, hopes of that should not be raised too high. In any case, the multi-million dollar track investments needed in the near future for Brisbane, Ipswich and Cannington surely justify Australian authorities commissioning serious studies into the art of track design. Guesswork will never cut the mustard.