The position today – one that has been true for some time – is the exact opposite.
Brisbane has long given up trying to put on top class races in its prime Thursday night slot. Instead, Novice events and short course races invariably pad out the program.
Sydney is perennially short of starters on both Friday and Saturday nights despite the high prize money on offer. It also runs Country to City qualifying races of dubious value.
Melbourne has discovered some new devices. Over the last two months the main meetings at the two city tracks have been bolstered by lower class dogs using various excuses. 24% of the last 200 races were confined to dogs which qualified under banners such as Restricted Win, Vic Bred, Novice class, No City Wins, Country to City (mostly Vic Bred as well).
Additionally, over the last couple of years, our surveys have shown that about 25% of all Victorian races start with empty boxes. Routinely, authorities are holding open the deadline for nominations. It’s a multi-week experience.
Victoria makes its problems worse by programming nearly all meetings with 12 races, which is the maximum allowable for TAB coverage. SA and WA also bump up the race numbers whenever possible. Queensland and NSW tend not to do that. Well, they are not able to.
The overall picture is that too few dogs are competing for the number of spots available. All this produces two undesirable outcomes: first, lesser quality dogs, or less fit dogs, tend to move up into better class races, thereby making them less predictable and, second, punters are not encouraged by smaller dividends coming from smaller pools, especially for exotic bets.
The opposing view might be that all the extra races pull in more cash at the end of the year, regardless of their quality. But frankly, we would not know because the alternative has not been tried, or not for a long time. What might happen if more races were of higher class, contained mostly full fields, and were better promoted (or promoted at all)?
Either way, to talk of over-breeding is a nonsense. In practice, breeding numbers have been on the decline for the last decade (see GAL statistics).
Consistency is hard to find
At a time when you would think stewards would be more attentive than ever we still see plenty of contentious issues arise.
Peculiar comments about what happens during the running of races have often been mentioned here. For example, steward’s reports include numerous statements to the effect that “X crossed to the rail, checking A, B and C”. They love saying that, but some 90% of them are either wrong or grossly exaggerated. We can assume only that they are looking at the wrong angle. These are not life threatening issues but they are indicative of their attention to detail.
More critical is the approach they adopt to failing to chase or fighting. At the least, these amount to an inconvenience to the trainer. At worst, he loses the services of his dog and therefore the money it brings in.
In this context, I have never quite been able to follow the reasoning. Consistency seems to be missing. Below is one such example which I am still trying to work out.
Stranger than fiction
Stewards Report, Shepparton Race 4, 22 June (in Part).
“Chasin Mikado and Lakerville collided on the home turn. Lakerville eased and crossed to the outside in the home straight and collided with Chasin Mikado and Soul Dancer. Lakerville was vetted following the event. It was reported that the greyhound sustained soreness to both shoulder muscles, a 3 day stand down period was imposed. Acting under GAR 69(B)(1), Stewards charged Lakerville with failing to pursue the lure with due commitment (by reason of injury). Mr J. Thompson pleaded guilty to the charge. Lakerville was found guilty and Stewards directed that the greyhound perform a Satisfactory Trial, All Tracks, pursuant to GAR 69(B)(1)(a), before any future nomination will be accepted.”
Here’s how it seemed to a normal viewer. On the home turn, Lakerville deliberately moved out, turned its head and nudged Chasin Mikado. The term “collision” is much too kind. Lakerville then returned to his earlier course and actually led into the straight. Half way down the straight Lakerville forgot the lure, veered across (about four dogs wider) to Chasin Mikado. He missed him but it cost him the win.
I am sympathetic to an injured dog, and especially if they get cranky when racing tightly. But these two incidents were well apart and the offender went looking for a fight. And if both shoulder muscles were “sore”, how is it that the dog could go so far in looking for a victim. And how sore was it if it needed only 3 days to get better?
I have seen many dogs given a 28 day holiday for much less. Why not this time? Very strange. The odd factor is that the dog was agreed by all to have failed to chase yet attracted no substantial penalty. Can you follow that?
The related point is that punters who had backed Lakerville (not me though) would have been left badly dissatisfied at how the race turned out. Not a good look.
They said it
This is relevant to earlier remarks in this column about this track. It could have happened anywhere but it was Sandown’s main turn which again claimed the spotlight. (See previous mentions of Decanus and Space Star).
Steward’s Report, Sandown, Race 5, 595m, 21 June.
“Robartette faltered on the second turn and raced wide as a result. Robartette lost considerable ground as a result.. Robartette lost ground from the third turn to the home turn. Robartette was vetted and re-vetted following event seven. It was reported that the greyhound sustained soreness to the left front stopper bone and soreness to the second and fifth sesamoids, a fourteen day stand down period was imposed.”
Maybe it was nothing to do with the turn, Maybe it was. Who can tell until someone does some serious analysis? Simply maintaining “she’ll be right” is not good enough.