Greyhound Tracks Are Money Makers – Or Not?

Horsham greyhound boxes

While talking about Aston Silk headed to Wentworth Park for the heats of the , top Victorian trainer Jason Thompson was quoted by Gerard Guthrie in stating, “She’s honest and Wentworth Park is a track where the best dogs don’t always win”.

Well, that’s a bit pompous but it’s certainly true. Why is this so? And isn’t it true everywhere?

Today, the dominant feature of our tracks is the difficulty in sending dogs around the first corner in one piece – preferably in front. Few capital cities allow that. seldom keeps the field in order because many dogs veer off at the turn. The Meadows is biased in favour of inside dogs. Sandown promotes first turn clashes and running off while is too tight (but is being rebuilt and lengthened). Only and the new circuit could pass muster, although the latter blotted its copybook by installing a bend start for 600m races.

Second stringers like Ipswich, The Gardens, and Launceston all have measurable first turn hassles. (Note also last week’s argument about the tricky nature of Warragul’s constrained main turn.)

Then follows the ability of dogs to run out the trip well enough. But this is frying pan and fire territory. The national push towards shorter trips (now over 60% of races) is inevitably accompanied by more bend starts with higher interference levels. What that might do over time to the state of the breed is a major worry.

Attention from alleged experts offers little hope at the moment – see , and Shepparton – by creating the same or more problems than previously, including the risky and unproven drop-in boxes.

Aside from safety issues, one outcome is that the customary 14% to 30% deductions charged by betting houses are effectively boosted to impossible levels when track hassles are added. No punter alive can match those numbers. For every big winner, ask the investor how he makes out by the end of a year.

Worse, the average gamblers’ sheep-like behaviour produces a ridiculous number of odds-on pops with form that fails to get close to their real chances. No matter what the opposition, how can you take $1.80 for a dog with three wins out of 25 starts? It’s a mathematical nonsense but there are plenty of them. The wonder is that these people are still betting and keeping revenue at a workable level. Yes, it also means many other runners are at “overs” but how do you decide which of a mixed bunch to gamble your hard-earned on?

Let’s add a historical note: a lively bookmakers’ ring would soon have sorted out the wheat from the chaff in these races. Alas, there are no such animals these days. Tipsters and throwing a dart at the board are the more popular routes.

And here’s another trend which has not helped. The switch a few years back from a list of odds to a tote-like dollar figure in decimals seems to have disguised any decent assessment of the likelihood of each dog’s chances. I doubt gamblers really work out that a $2.00 – or a 1/1 (even money) – favourite simply means it is expected to win once and lose once in every two runs. The gamblers reckon it should win every time.

Alternatively, how about calculating the possible improvements in income if we had well-designed tracks and minimised interference so that most dogs were able to show their true abilities? That would be better than Thompson hoping his bitch could fluke a run through the field.

For the record, Aston Silk didn’t “fluke” the run, finishing last 20 lengths from the winner after missing the start from box three.

Not So Trivial

Balancing an earlier comment on these pages, it was interesting to note the activity at Ballarat on January 20, 2021. The mighty Dailly/Wheeler combo started 21 dogs at the 12-race meeting, winning four times. But that also leaves 17 dogs that did not win and they eat as much as the next dog.

Separately, Wheelers owned 14 other starters with different trainers; two of which won. Dailly’s also had 14 other starters in different ownership and two of those won.

So that adds up to 35 Wheeler dogs competing for six wins and 35 Dailly-trained starters, also for six wins. Either way, that’s a 17% hit rate. Useful but hardly spectacular. Of course, one of the Dailly wins came from Shima Shine (a non-Wheeler) in the main race, where its first prize took the dog past the $400k mark. That’s nice but few get there.

There are big guys and little guys involved in owning and training greyhounds – thanks heavens we have both. Yet there are some 83% of them that have to rely on the odd place prize and some petrol money. That needs plenty of courage, hard work and luck. Bravo and thanks!

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