Everyone likes distance greyhound racing – even GRNSW does now, but not trainers of course; they seem to avoid them like the plague.
Which is why it is remarkable that, hot on the heels of Victoria’s Gippsland Festival of Racing, the Western Festival of Racing ($700k), the Pink Diamond series (Vic-bred only) and a claimed 50% increase in turnover during the second half of 2020; GRNSW has suddenly found another $1 Million to spend on prize money increases over the next four months.
The extras will be devoted to provincial races of 500m to 700m across the state.
Allegedly, the cash came from “a concerted effort at the outbreak of COVID-19 to operate on a very tight budget and make savings where possible”, according to CEO Mestrov. Really?
So far, so good.
It would also be good to know exactly where those cost savings came from, what will happen when the current program terminates after June 2021, and how the state has been doing in overall income terms? A progress report for the first half year of 2020/21 would have been useful but apparently that is “need to know” only.
Notable for its absence in the media release was any mention of sub-401m racing. That may well mean there is some acceptance of the validity of our campaign to downgrade ultra-short races in the long term interests of the breed and the shorter term need to reduce disruptions and injuries caused by bend starts. Whatever it is, nothing much is likely to happen while 300m racing often attracts the same prize money as longer races.
Also dubious is the GRNSW claim that a previous lift in prize money stirred up interest when it “was injected into middle distance racing, a strategy which is beginning to pay dividends in boosting the staying ranks in NSW”.
Which “staying ranks” would those be? Evidence is sparse outside Sydney while winning times at “Wenty” seldom get under the 42.40 mark, or 15 lengths slower than the record.
To be fair, any effort to energise the breed’s stamina or to push breeding and training towards longer distance racing must be treated on at least a five year basis. However, no such program is envisaged at this stage and quickie measures which concentrate on dollars alone have never worked in the past. Most states have tried distance bonuses before without any obvious success. Indeed, they are usually flat out getting decent sized fields together.
Where Do Stayers Get a Start?
Last Saturday’s meeting at The Meadows provided a stark contrast between the 80 runners lined up for the Australian Cup heats and a grab bag of so-called stayers jumping in the three heats of the “Super Stayers” event.
The sprinters had well defined form and plenty of successes, albeit many had to cope with difficult outside boxes at this track. On the other hand, the majority of staying types had little or no form over the trip. Not all, but most. Only four of the 20 runners had won there while seven were either having their first try at the distance or had never won at The Meadows. Using the term “Super” defies belief.
Prolific winner Zack Monelli from WA and local Houdini Boy creditably ran in the 42.20s but none of the other candidates could get under 42.42 (record 41.93). Many looked like they should be somewhere else.
Now that GRNSW has raised the bar by offering big money for special 500m/700m events over the next four months (presumably as a reaction to the rapid but undesirable growth of 300m racing in recent years), it’s worth looking at what has been happening more broadly.
At NSW TAB tracks over the last couple of weeks, just 2% of races have been run over 600m or longer – one at Wentworth Park and two at Richmond. That does not look like a “boost”, as GRNSW called it.
In Victoria, 5% of all races were run over those distances but only 0.8% of the total were at provincial tracks. City 600s were the main contributors. Obviously, that offers a clue as to the poor fields in the Super Stayers, especially when you consider that all three heat winners were bred out of state.
WA and Queensland offer plenty of 600m races and usually a weekly 700 as well but the quality is variable. This year WA averages 6.9 starters and Queensland 6.6 for the long race. SA also has a weekly 731m race but averages only 5.0 starters and times are usually slow.
In other words, any distance incentives in place – or even Vicbred bonuses – have proved to be of little value at all. Back to the drawing board?
Without a magic wand or a crystal ball, most of us can only guess at possible solutions to the stamina or distance racing challenge. Everyone will have their theories for the shortcomings, some will not be fussed anyway.
But first, there is obviously a disinclination amongst trainers to try for longer racing, primarily because it demands greater labour for each dollar of reward. Surely, that is readily fixed. Just change the dollar figures by cutting back the cash for short races and increasing them for the 500m/700m category – yes, GRNSW is on the right track for the moment.
Secondly, a serious investigation into breeding lines is needed. Are they conducive to achieving a reasonable proportion of strong dogs. If not, why not? That job requires professional assessment by proven experts without any involvement from unskilled employees of state authorities. And it requires full transparency.
Thirdly, are trainers willing to build the careers of potential staying types? Do they know all they should know? Can they learn? If not, why not?
Clearly, whatever the mix today, it is not working well at all. So, when in doubt, don’t keep doing what you always did as you will just get the same result. Make changes. Big ones.
For heaven’s sake!
A longstanding ARG correspondent – “Todman” by name – insists on dumping on me without really saying why. So be it, that’s his privilege. However, he keeps calling me a “Tory” for unknown reasons. I will have to give him a political lesson.
First, Tory is a pommie term. It does not exist in Australia and is barely alive in the UK either. The nearest today are the Conservatives. Secondly, it describes people who are monarchists and support God, Queen and country. I don’t buy into any of those except that I support my country (and greyhound racing). That’s all.
Nor am I, nor have I ever been, a “professional punter”. I am, or was, a longtime serious punter. Big difference. If you don’t understand that your education has been badly disrupted.