Often this column has pointed out that 20% or more of races around Australia start with empty boxes, suggesting that the demand is smaller than the supply – and that therefore jumping to conclusions about overbreeding are poorly based. That is not to say that some poor breeding does not take place – ie from sires and dams with low probability of good outcomes. No doubt new breeding restrictions will address some or all of that problem.
This is occurring in summer, of course, when our stats show that typically there are around 3% fewer dogs racing than in the cooler months. It is also noteworthy that some meetings are currently programmed with few races than normal – for example, Wentworth Park down from 11 to 10 and some Victorian meetings down from 12 to 11.
However, there is another side to this subject. Just as an example, I looked into last Tuesday’s meetings in Victoria (at Geelong, Horsham and Warragul). I use Victoria as its records are far easier to access than those in the cumbersome Ozchase files.
First, 55% of those 36 races started with empty boxes. Half of them were maidens so we will give them some leeway there.
But the intriguing issue was that while there were 27 empty boxes across those three meetings there were also 54 scratchings of both drawn runners and reserves which caused the shortage in the first place. A few more were reserves for races with full fields and not required. Now that is a huge proportion of some 300 dogs involved in total, considering that withdrawals are permissable only for genuine reasons. Yet one in five was unavailable or unused for various reasons.
Now, are they fair dinkum? Injuries or illnesses are a routine part of an athlete’s life, of course. But those proportions appear way out of line with what you might expect to happen between nomination time and race time.
At the same time, many reserves which were ready to race did not get the call because their particular races held up with a full field. That amounts to a waste which might well be avoided.
It suggests giving more attention to setting up a pool of reserves for each grade, or even for varying distances when the trainer indicates he is flexible about getting a start. It also warrants a check into the reason for all the non-starters, including reserves. Anything to give more opportunities to more dogs – and to help increase industry income. Full fields always generate greater turnover.
More Sale hassles
The saga of Sale continues. Anyone investing on its meeting last Sunday might have been astonished to see how slowly they ran. There seemed no obvious reason for it as the day’s weather – 15 to 18 degrees, a little rain and a modest breeze – was average enough and some reasonable dogs were competing.
It turns out that the track was harrowed on the previous Wednesday, which was duly noted on the steward’s report. That left a four day gap for things to settle down, but that did not happen. Here are some time comparisons.