The ready availability of form and results on the internet over the last decade represents a huge advance for the industry. It’s not that many years since I had to buy up to five morning papers to get hold of all the results. And that was just for the placegetters. Now that and more is available in a few minutes without leaving home. This is just as well as some of those papers no longer distribute so widely – another sign of the times.
However, there’s no standing still. To keep up with the competition, we need to do it better. And we can. A good start would be SA and Queensland authorities recognising that racing is now a 7-days a week operation and people are frustrated when they shut up shop on weekends and public holidays. If you’re racing you should be working.
But keep a close eye on what you read in the official formguides. The information is not always what it seems.
For example, in NSW the field sheets are prone to tagging NBT (No Best Time) onto a large number of dogs. The intent is to say that they had not had a win. Yet many such dogs had not even raced at the track in question so could not have had a best or worst time – see last Friday’s Wentworth Park form for numerous examples. They should properly have been designated FSH (First Start Here) so fans know what they are dealing with.
The related point is that a previous winning time may not necessarily be the dog’s best over the trip. It could well have run a close second in faster time.
An even more important example is in Victoria where the GRV field lists for Geelong – in Race 2 last Friday – showed five dogs with the NBT code. This time they had all raced at the track and distance but had not won. Their actual “Best” times were:
- Tubesman 23.04
- Dominique 23.18
- Star Diamond 22.83
- Eason Bale 23.09
- Chyna Run 22.86
Although none of these runners had recorded a win these times are important in assessing the race. Two of the above dogs ended up being placed behind a hot youngster. There were a stack of similar examples in other races on the program.
Of course, at the moment we are stuck with a large number of variations on how form is presented. Six state authorities and three other formguide producers (that includes deFax) each have different ways of displaying the same information or, in a few cases, only some of it. Abbreviations used in WA, for example, are near impossible to make out in what is otherwise a good presentation. Queensland never offers running numbers. NSW provides unwieldy 35-page guides for a 10-race program and you can’t print the results without losing all the box numbers (it’s deliberately programmed that way).
However, the biggest clanger occurred when Daily Form Service (historically a gallops organisation) took over the production of greyhound wall sheets distributed by Tabcorp in NSW. DFS dreamed up its own layout and codes, especially for tracks, and published form upside down – with the latest run at the top. The Australian “standard” has always put it at the bottom.
These sorts of things never happen at the gallops, where RIS produces the same form for everyone.
All this presents a challenge for managers and programmers when the new computer era gets up speed over the course of this year and we end up with only two systems – Victoria and The Rest. While the basic aim has been to streamline administrative work it offers a huge opportunity to harmonise form production as well. No such announcement has been made yet but it should be treated as a matter of urgency.
Not least amongst the needed improvements would be the availability of sectional times for interstate visitors. You might know what a dog did in Melbourne but if it races in Brisbane the local formguide will not show that interstate data. In fact, Queensland does not even include sectionals for runs at the NSW Northern Rivers tracks, which provide a huge slice of runners at Albion Park and Ipswich. (Mind you, they will not get a lot as none of those NSW tracks worry about sectionals for non-leaders in sprint races – except for Lismore 520m while Casino 484m offers sub-3 second first sectionals which are of little use statistically and form-wise).
This country started off by placing customs officers at each state border to collect duties as traders passed through. It seems the habit never really went away. This is precisely why we need our national authority – Greyhounds Australasia – to create its own Section 92 (the part of the constitution that insists on free interstate trade) to take over and build a sensible and usable form process. It’s already done it for breeding, so why not for form?