Can racing keep up? Well, Peter V’landys is trying hard for RacingNSW. But greyhound racing seems not to understand the question. Many comparisons are there to examine.
It was not hard to chuckle when AFLW teams from St Kilda and Adelaide got into strife when they turned up for their clash in near identical strips last weekend. The jumpers, that is, not the pants which were black v white. Even the coaches were reported to be hard put to find their players.
It takes me back to the several proposals I have put to Greyhounds Australasia (yes, them again) to take a serious look at rug colours, mainly by hiring a colour professional to study the entire racing environment and suggest better ways of differentiating one from the other.
Typically, Red (1) and Pink (8) rugs are fine if you examine them on the committee room table but not so good in the middle of an actual race. Similarly, too, with Blue (4) versus Green (6) or when white or black and white dogs wear the 2, 3 or 7 rugs – and so on. Making colours simple and easy to follow around the circuit should be a real asset for the code – but we can do better.
GA did not bother to reply.
But that’s just a start. Our ancient Racing Rules are overdue for some updating.
- First, the marring/fail to chase rule got some tidying up a while back but missed out on two counts. “Marring” is incorrect English if you like to consult any decent dictionary. The offence is “fighting”. More importantly, why is the fighter not disqualified from the race, or at least relegated, as would happen in the horse codes? Or in human athletics for that matter? GA was not interested in any changes, so far as we know (which is not much). So we are left with an innocent victim losing all while the offender gets only a few weeks in the paddock, or maybe not even that.
- Second, checking in with an incorrect weight attracts both a fine and a 10 day outage. Why both? What does it achieve when a dog is removed instantly from the active list, especially when there is a chronic shortage of starters? A fine is OK as the careless incident may have eliminated an opportunity for another dog to take part. GA was not interested.
- Third, we have an existing ban on dogs backing up within a two day period but not for a day or two longer when – most likely – a dog has still not had time to replenish its juices. Stewards have noted many successive three or four day breaks recently, but the rules do not prevent that. The problem is doubled for stayers which are required to race twice in seven days – which some can do but many cannot (see, for example, the well-fancied Zack Monelli in the Super Stayers). A serious study is needed but GA is not interested.
- Fourth, why do we still allow husband and wife/partner to sit separately in the official books? The practicalities are that their relationships should be of no interest to anyone but their accountant. Consider that regardless of their titles the majority of training duties are vested in family groups. I doubt they would work otherwise. One household, one kennel, one organisation, one DQ, please.
The pity is initiating change is always treated like the plague, never mind its worth.
A clue to this behaviour was highlighted when the official report into Aged Care came down recently. One of the two Commissioners favoured revitalising what the responsible department was doing. In effect, that would be just a paint over job. The other Commissioner said that would be just a repeat of a system which had failed, and called for a total renewal and reconstruction of the industry. Who will win? Probably no-one as “pollies” argue the toss amongst themselves.
I draw this parallel as racing administrations, more so in the greyhound code; have long been bureaucratic in nature, always intent on process rather than re-invigoration. Anything new is to be avoided – perhaps in case the Minister spots some at-risk voters.
We saw that twice recently as GRNSW announced higher prize money for longer races over the next four months while GRV, in a “me-too mode”, has done the same thing, albeit in a more permanent time frame.
In both cases, money is seen to be the solution to all ills – in this case the general decline of the breed’s stamina and therefore of the quality and amount of distance racing. The fact that such a policy has not worked in the past was forgotten. Neither state offered any real reason for the current move, nor did they quote any evidence or research which justified such an expense. Transparency was absent.
The best Victoria could do was to suggest it was to “encourage our breeders, trainers and owners to aspire to race beyond 480m+ and support our racing product at these distances”. Well, sure, more money might help any project, especially if it is long term. But is handing out cash “willy nilly” the best way to do that? It never has before and several states have tried it. The dogs don’t know how much they are earning anyway.
The upshot of all these chess moves is twofold. Outcomes are never measured and so the worth of the investment is never assessed (it’s usually nil). Secondly, because no reasons are ever provided there is nothing much to analyse. We learn little. Indeed, we have failed to recognise that big dough for ultra-short races is fundamentally shifting the focus of the breed and the industry.
The shame is that, with proper study, we may have been able to take a different tack and actually succeed in improving the lot of potential stayers. And with that, further reduce the need for re-homing or euthanasia. A bonus would be that 500m racing would be more competitive as more dogs would be charging home more powerfully. Many fail that test today.
Plus, the public really enjoy long distance racing.
This was borne out in the Super Stayers when the winner Stanley Road ran like a real stayer in very smart time (42.15). NSW and South Australia ran the Quinella. But favourite Houdini Boy had shockingly busted a hock when potentially in a winning position in the back straight (now recovering well after surgery).
In these situations, stewards are in the habit of inspecting the area of the track where the incident occurred (they never find anything wrong). What they should be considering is the detailed layout of the track, particularly on the turns where a high camber is always needed, and poor cambers put extra stress on the runners. Also important is the condition of the dog and its early education. Overall, such injuries warrant serious career-long research into both factors. An injury like this is not common at The Meadows but it is at Sandown.
In the Australian Cup much credit is due to a gutsy effort by Tommy Shelby which had to race outside the fast-beginning Fernando Bluey all the way round. Strangely, the very popular Watchdog left Tommy completely out of his First Four selections and instead put Tiggerlong Tonk (7) and Christo Bale (8) in behind the fast beginning Fernando Bluey. I would have thought that everyone knew that outside boxes are dynamite at The Meadows unless your dog can jump in front.
Over its life the Meadows sprint start has been changed three times in an effort to create fairer races – with no success, of course. It’s not the start or the surfacing, folks, it’s how the rail is shaped. Change is badly needed.
So how much change can the industry sustain? A great deal if you look at things objectively.