Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave

A small example tells you a lot. If you downloaded a (Tuesday) GRV formguide on Monday afternoon this week, you would have been missing a run for one dog at Broken Hill on December 9 – the previous .

This was not earth shattering but the dog did have reasonable form. In the event it ran nowhere.

But why was that run missing?

The short answer is that state racing authorities have terrible trouble talking to each other. So when something happens in one state you can’t be sure all that information will find its way to other states – eg from NSW to in this case.

Even when the run is recorded it may not be complete. For example, or running numbers may not be included. So they are talking but only through gritted teeth. And within states, sectional times may well be wrongly reported in the first place and the mistake repeated elsewhere (which tells us that proper controls are not in place – Victoria is a prime offender).

That’s for free formguides produced by the state authorities. Of the two commercial formguides left, the Greyhound Recorder does not have comprehensive information while Tabform does – at least if you subscribe to its paid service ($44 monthly), not the abbreviated one printed in the weekly paper.

Add all that up and you get eight regular formguide sources in Australia but only one could be said to be reliable, complete and convenient, but you will have to pay for it.

The two worst are from Queensland and . Both offer only the last four runs (at least five are necessary for reasonable assessments), they omit running numbers and sectional times are regarded as a luxury in Tasmania where you are lucky to get one for the leader alone. Queensland is also light on in this area, particularly when it comes to displaying sectionals for interstate runs.

Omissions aside, WA, SA and Victoria are fair but not perfect. In the SA case, the guide is produced by GRV as the two states exchange form data by arrangement. Funnily enough, the Victorian system also produces results for Tasmanian meetings but does not offer formguides.

NSW would be reasonable if it got rid of a slather of extraneous information. Meantime, if you print it out you will need 35 sheets of paper, which is a lot to stuff in your back pocket. And that is for a 10-race meeting only. However, it can’t get blood out of a stone. The majority of NSW clubs do not record sectional times other than for the leader so the formguide is always deficient to that .

A major reason for NSW peculiarities is that the whole process was designed by an outside consultant who did not really understand what formguides were and how they were used. For example, a simple list of runners was classed as one “formguide” option. It seems that prettiness outranked functionality, which what happens on a lot of websites, too.

On top of all that, anyone wanting to process form data in a computer program (you might be surprised how many people do that) will have a lot of work to do first because track codes can vary from meeting to meeting – primarily in SA and Queensland. Those states use different codes for different days of the week (to denote the “class” of the meeting).

Punters also have to find their way through a maze of different Grades and their accompanying codes. No two states have identical grading or promotion systems. This is like manufacturers using different cornflakes recipes in different states. The consumer (and the trainer) is forced to experiment with different tastes.

In theory, there is a national form process under the guidance of which runs in the background using GRV machinery. However, it contains only basic information for purposes (whatever they are) and is of little use for proper formguides. Still, it does increase the number of Australian guides from eight to nine.

Currently, the entire subject is up for grabs as two competing computer systems, one from WA and one from Victoria, battle for supremacy in the national race. NSW is joining WA, SA is wavering, Tasmania is generally in the Victorian camp while who knows what happens in Queensland.

Whatever their bias, the time is overdue for the states to recognise that customers could not care less who wins that battle. What they need is consistency, efficiency and good reliable information. It is not rocket science.

Incidentally, this subject first arose in 1994 when Victoria first put up a proposal for a national form database. In the event, it was struck down by a short sighted NSW administration, which said it was too expensive and, besides, its member clubs had computers with no hard disks and therefore could not handle anything bigger than than 360kb. That’s the same size as one of the now obsolete floppy disks. Breathtaking, isn’t it?

Still, that attempt was organised by Adam Wallish, then deputy to GRV boss and now a GRV director. He may be able to help create some sense out of the current schemozzle.

The quote in the title of this piece comes from Scottish author and novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). The full version is:

“Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive”

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