It’s a simple matter but it has far reaching consequences.
The background is that it seems racing authorities are divided into two halves. One lot tries to be nice to trainers, the other tries to thump them for breaking the rules.
The last lot is well illustrated by the high number of people who view reports on this website on fines and suspensions.
The other half concentrate on handing out cash and modifying grading rules to make life easier for trainers – which is their lifeblood. The subject is front and centre again as GRV has just introduced Grades 6 and 7. The obvious intention is to make it possible for moderate dogs to pick up some wins. That’s always a frustrating task for Maiden winners.
The only stated reason for the change is that it will help avoid learners being placed in races with more experienced dogs, which is fair enough. You could say that it the same reason used for creating T3 races but without the accompanying restriction on times. It also overlaps with, or even duplicates, Non Penalty and Restricted Win races.
There are some parallels with other states. SA has a Grade 6 and Tasmania has a Juvenile class, both with some age restrictions. NSW has a “country” class for non-TAB clubs. Queensland has three classes of tracks/meetings so all the rules are tripled there.
Some time ago I believe I estimated Australia offered a total about 123 different grades. Now make that 125. The new Victorian grades are as well as, not instead of.
The first thing this brings to mind is how the old time graders – meaning club secretaries – got the job done before the computers at headquarters took over. Nominations were faxed in and separated into piles for each of maiden winners, winners of two races, and so on. Each pile was then split up according to experience and often age so that like would generally be competing with like. It seemed to work well enough, although the odd questionable practice might have snuck in here and there and interstate runs might not be properly listed. Even so, the prospects were generally clear for punters.
Of course, in those days we had only five grades plus maidens so it was all easy to understand. One memory involves going to Harold Park on Saturday nights and gazing respectfully at runners in what I think was called the Presidents Stake – Grade 1. These were the stars, the peak of the industry. Every week. Often they had Grades 2 and 3 races as well.
Can anyone remember the last time we had a Grade 1 event, or Grade 2 or 3 at your favourite track?
Since the mighty computer took over it became straightforward (but not cheap) to absorb additional requirements and sort out the wheat from the chaff. Mind you, errors still occurred and occasionally races had to be re-drawn. Still, it gave employment to more people and it meant trainers could not argue the toss with anyone. Now, that computer program will get bigger again as they find room for 6s and 7s. That will cost money, of course.
However, the whole subject begs the question of why Australia cannot have one simple set of grades for everyone. That’s the sort of subject which does fit into the purview of Greyhounds Australasia, just as it defines rug colours, box allocations and the like.
Equally, you have to ask why each state finds it necessary to have different grading policies in the first place. They will claim circumstances are never the same but that is an excuse, not a reason. After all, tracks are much the same, dogs are much the same and so are trainers, so why not grading? Cricket, tennis and all forms of football manage to get by with identical rules across the nation. What is so special about racing – remembering that the gallops are just as messy as the dogs?
And what will now happen as Victorian 6s and 7s cross the border to race, or vice versa? How will they convert to local conditions? There is more work for each state to re-write their rules – ie more costs – and more puzzles for trainers to work out or for owners to fathom how best to locate their dogs. In reality, there is no good answer, and so punters who provide the code’s income are therefore forced to fund the extra costs to sustain the more complex systems.
Maybe the good old days were not perfect, but they were a lot cheaper to manage.
Yet there is much more to this than just sorting out good and bad dogs. The complex pattern of rules and regulations developed over the last 20 or 30 years have been accompanied by other major trends. More and more short course events are being placed on the calendar following demand from trainers whose charges can’t manage longer trips. Novice and 300m races are infiltrating major tracks, where previously they never existed. Fewer competent starters are available for distance races. More races in total are being run, staffed by dogs which formerly could not reach the standards for TAB racing, and particularly city racing. While I do not have accurate statistics, anecdotal evidence suggests that dogs are racing more often, but with less consistency.
To cap it all, remotely located customers (the vast majority) now include greater numbers of mug gamblers who have not the faintest idea of what they are doing. Is this a coincidence? Like the average race, they too have been dumbed down.
In short, an industry which once put excellence at the top of the list is reduced to pounding out product of any old quality in the hope of dragging in a few more dollars. It is not really succeeding but it likes to give the impression that it is.
If you are at sixes and sevens it means you don’t really know where you are going.
Still Not Enough Dogs
On the question of the shortage of dogs, mentioned here recently, it was disturbing to note that seven of twelve races at Horsham yesterday were short of starters. One maiden had only two runners, other races had four, five and six (twice) runners. These would have had a terrible effect on betting turnover.
The meeting was drawn with full fields so the shortfalls occurred due to scratchings. But were they fair dinkum nominations in the first place?
Also yesterday, Lismore had four short fields, including only five runners in a (subsidised) 635m race.
And so it goes on.