Mostly we get good reactions to our articles here, but occasionally a reader takes me to task about a comment I have made. I skip some of these as they tend not to make their point logically, or offer facts to back their story. But I do read them when possible.
One case in point concerned Wag Tail’s run in the Nationals at Cannington. My article had said that one starter had trialled over 715m shortly before the actual race, in which it then ran poorly. This upset one reader although I did not nominate Wag Tail and was actually referring to another runner.
Nevertheless, Wag Tail did trial five days prior in 41.76 and then ran 41.84 to take out 3rd spot in the main race. That followed a fairly busy distance racing program over the previous few weeks, so the question then became whether it was in tip-top condition for the Nationals.
My guess would be barely, if that. Its recent background contained a series of distance races with mostly seven day breaks, which is always a doubtful policy. On its best form, it would have been entitled to run a bit quicker than it did in Perth – not to win but certainly to feature in the Quinella. My impression was that it was a bit flat for the final, which is not surprising given that it had run 715m only five days earlier. The lack of strong opposition allowed it to hold on to the placing.
The other runner of concern was Queen Marina, which both trialled and raced poorly over the full 715m.
The point, as always, is that we keep seeing regular examples of dogs which do not handle a quick back-up very well. And the logic of giving a dog a 715m trial just before a 715m race escapes me. A slip or a 530m trial, perhaps, but not over the full distance.
What happened to the other six runners after arriving in Perth is unknown, according to the formguide, but none had a stewards trial.
Change or Lack of It
Another reader claimed that nobody took any notice of what I wrote, so I was wasting my time. They may be partly right, but that’s about all. For example, several years ago I started asking why Victoria had Non-Penalty races/meetings. And I have kept on with that thought ever since. What purpose did they serve? Was the grading system no good?
It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. Perhaps I gained some support along the way?
Mind you, none of that embraces what I considered the real problem with those old NP meetings. As soon as they started over a decade ago, field quality at the provincials dropped off, thereby giving clubs less to promote if they were so inclined, and weakening their attraction to serious punters. In exchange, the industry got a mixed bag of maidens, novices, more short races, and dogs out of form or just returning from a spell. Not a good swap. It needs action to reverse that shift. Big feature events are all very well, but it’s the week to week strengths that are the key to maintaining customers.
The Good News Publications
Probably the most common complaint is that I am always “whingeing” about something. Well, there are not too many, really, but there are a few and they are quite right. Except for the spelling. Most people wrongly leave the “e” out of whingeing.
Let me make two points here.
First, there are lashings of commentators saying how marvellous things are, especially if they work for a state authority, and almost none saying there are problems. So, do we have a perfect industry? Hardly, according to numerous moans and groans I keep hearing from both participants and punters, or at the Parliamentary Inquiry in NSW.
Second, that’s not a surprise as the industry is still based on 1950s habits and practices, including its ineffective organisational structures. There has been plenty of change around the edges where services are supplied by outside people. Feeds, medicines and veterinary skills have come along in leaps and bounds. Transport facilities are a millions miles away from the old days. Communications are a whiz by comparison.
Yet we are still running meetings in the same old way, hopefully handing out prize money from the same sources but not at a rate keeping pace with inflation or with standards in other sports. States barely talk to each other and there is little national coordination or consistency. To understand grading policies you need university degrees in mathematics, logic and IT. Since crowds stopped going to the track, the knowledge of greyhound racing has declined and much of the public don’t like what we do anyway. Our public image varies from poor to non-existent.
Put another way, I suggest that were we able to modernise our product and services in keeping with standards in the outside world the opportunity is there to raise incomes by 50% or more. We are selling ourselves short. Our assets and our skills are going to waste. We have long ignored views from outside the inner circle. Our tracks are sub-standard. Our income is dependent on mug gamblers. Management is never seriously challenged, never asked to justify its actions and routinely dismisses criticism, whether right or wrong. We are not running a business but processing pieces of paper, and sometimes not doing that too well.
What it amounts to is that a huge increase in profitability is there to be grabbed if we want it. Consequently, what else is there to do but point out where that might happen? To take no action is to encourage a decline.
So keep writing in. That’s the only way we will get better outcomes.