Wonderful news for the Upper Hunter town of Muswellbrook. An unknown amount of cash (out of the $30m or so donated by the NSW government to take our minds off then-Premier Baird’s aborted greyhound ban) will be allocated to modernising the town’s modest greyhound operation. It will come with TAB status for half a dozen dates a year. Other meetings will remain non-TAB.
Now, I quite liked Muswellbrook’s operation during my very occasional visits. They were always a lively and cheerful mob, led in by a venturesome away-bookie with an unusual product. (Was his name Al Gore?). Always first to put up his prices, he offered early punters a chance to double their ticket figure by rolling the dice (literally) to see if you could throw a number which equalled the number of the dog you had backed. If it did and it won you were rewarded with the big figure.
Later punters might come in after the bookie’s price service came in over the PA, after which Al would then have to wind down all the prices on the board and you no longer had the benefit of the doubling. (That dubious official prices service warrants a long comment on its own). Anyway, on one occasion I managed to pick the right dog in a Penrith race so I have good memories of the track.
Not all of it though. You would have to hope that the new broom from GRNSW will do away with the horrible 429m start. In Australian greyhound history, its right angle turn adjacent to the start has been equalled only by the monstrous 311m start at the old Olympic Park track in Melbourne (prior to the MGRA move to The Meadows).
But I digress. The Muswellbrook move comes some two decades after the then-GRA – with lots of help from the real controllers of racing in NSW (NCA and GBOTA) – decided to dump the TAB-rated Singleton club (just up the road from Muswellbrook) in favour of more dates for the Newcastle area. Those NCA sponsored efforts crashed badly and cost the industry several millions to fix, eventually causing the NCA itself to disappear from the scene. The popular Wyong straight track bit the dust at the same time.
Singleton had done exactly the same job – or better – than Muswellbrook does now, as explained in GRNSW words, “Because of its location the (Muswellbrook) club attracts trainers and dogs from Gunnedah and Tamworth in the New England region, as well as those right across the Hunter Valley”. Singleton was and is a much larger town where mining activity produces the highest average incomes in the entire Hunter district. Its facilities were poor but nothing that some investment would not have fixed. A great pity but a sad illustration of backward thinking at the time. (The same management era also saw the introduction of the infamous 99 year IDC which limited greyhounds to 13% of TAB commissions).
But good luck to Muswellbrook – it deserves a break, even a small one.
Meanwhile, with TAB status comes responsibility. Let’s hope GRNSW insists on good record keeping for all new TAB clubs. The biggest shortcoming is the lack of attention to publishing sectional times. Other newcomers often fail to do this – ie Taree (537m only), Wauchope, Wagga and Richmond Straight. Dubbo and Gunnedah are fine but not oldies like Goulbourn (none) while others like Bulli and Wentworth Park are erratic. All this indicates a lack of interest from clubs and GRNSW in what punters want and need.
Explaining The Race
Recently, I was critical when GRV scribes boosted the Watchdog’s success rates artificially by ignoring the fact that one of its three daily selections is not counted in their stats. Apparently, a tip is not a tip unless you write in a $1 bet at the bottom.
But the reason I mention this is because the Watchdog also includes a discussion about how the selected dogs will race and how the race might pan out in practice. This encourages readers to think more about the race and how different dogs handle a track, thereby promoting longer term interest in the code – a good thing. It contrasts with most other tipsters who just whack out the numbers and hope.
By the way, the GRV website now includes the results of its “Grading Survey Results & Recommendations”. The February survey was confined to Victorian trainers only but it is useful in telling us what people are thinking and how GRV might react.
Tabcorp – Going Where?
For those interested in the goings-on amongst boards at Tabcorp and elsewhere, not a lot is happening despite the Victorian license renewal coming up for grabs in a couple of years. However, reading between the lines suggests that, one way or another, its wagering business is going to be separated out from it gaming activities. The only real question is who will own it.
At the moment, UK company Entain (owner of online bookmakers Ladbrokes and Neds) seems to have its head in front although what the Tabcorp board might do is impossible to assess. As columnist Terry McCrann (Telegraph, 28 April) suggests, Tabcorp suffers from “a fundamental strategic sterility and inertia at board and management levels”.
None of this is looking helpful to the greyhound code, short of some radical corporate action by a united industry. Tabcorp’s pools are already too small to support decent bets while the corporates’ turnover is both unknown and unpredictable. Collectively, they continue to pinch business from the “Jolly Green Giant” but they also split it several ways so it is hard to know who is in profit and who isn’t.