Greyhounds Australasia Mysteries
Regular readers will know I have several times reported on the big gap in Australian and (presumably) state statistics – once published annually by Greyhounds Australasia but not at all since 2015. However, it turns out there is some hope.
Tucked away at the back of the Stud Book, prepared by the same Greyhounds Australasia (GA), you can find a complete rundown of names and litter numbers from 1939 through to the latest available version for 2019. Anyone who has not bought the hard copy can inspect it on the GA website.
Both categories peaked in the mid-1970s and both dropped like a stone in 2015/2016 following the February 2015 live baiting issues. 2020 figures are not shown but individual state figures suggest the downturn is continuing today.
To paint the picture, here are some approximate yearly averages, but note they would include small numbers from New Zealand where circumstances are not quite the same.
Greyhounds Australasia Breeding Fact & Figures
|80-yr Peak||Long Term||Recent Pattern|
Interestingly, live baiting had no major effect on betting volumes post-February 2015. Obviously, gamblers and breeders have two different mindsets. However, it does explain why there is now a chronic shortage of starters in all states and there is a push towards creating 6-dog rather than 8-dog races. On top of that, two by-products are a general reduction in field quality and a strong trend towards reduced racing distances.
Anyway, it leaves the question as to why the national statistics are not being published in part or whole? That's not a good look. It tells the world we want to keep it all a secret – a ridiculous policy for a significant national industry.
And it has a cost. Just a few months ago GA was unable to advise the author of a feature article in the SMH Good Weekend about the numbers of euthanised dogs. So the reporter was forced to give emphasis to a private re-homer's stories which were not very complimentary to the code.
GA never did publish those figures anyway but it could have re-directed the reporter to states which did have the information.
The other day I was scratching my head trying to figure out why some top dogs were finding it hard to get around the turn in the Warragul Cup heats – the main suspect being the limited portion of the trip allocated to the turn itself. Aside from the smallish radius of 51m, it is clear that the distance covered while racing around the turn is much less than it is for a “normal” one-turn track. Others have a wider sweep. That leads to an inbuilt bonus for runners out front on their own, as opposed to slower starters furiously paddling in an effort to get up and around them.
Coincidentally, I came across another comment from a January, 2015 column.
“It was a funny night at Warragul last Sunday for the Cup heats. Three favourites won well, including Black Magic Opal and new record-holder Walk Hard, and three lost. Every winner either jumped in front or got a saloon passage along the rails when others got tangled up.
Actually, that's the reason it is difficult to bet on Warragul's 460m trip – there is just too much interference going into the first turn. Something about the track's configuration has never been right. It's something GRV and others need to study more carefully in order to achieve cleaner running.”
Clearly, what I was wary about six years ago is still an issue. So far as we know that “careful study” has not been undertaken. So, if your dog is not a smart beginner, the message is to try somewhere else.
At the same time, it's worth checking just how some dogs handle a turn to see just how track designs affect the outcomes. A key point there is that, as a function of their galloping style, some dogs can maintain a relatively higher speed on the turn by comparison with their performances in the straight. Others cannot do that, so they slow down and give way to the former group.
The expectation would be that the larger the turn radius, the higher the speed they could show us and the safer the race would be. These days, the 51m category is usually confined to circle tracks alone – which is why you sometimes see pile-ups on their first turns.
The final in that 2014 Warragul Cup also illustrated the Plan B option as Black Magic Opal (7) and Paw Licking (1) – both brilliant sprinters – led well around the turn but then moved off a little and let the 3rd runner Walk Hard (5) through on the rail to then easily run down Paw Licking. The film is worth watching.
2014 Warragul Cup Replay
Mind you, possession of a large turn radius does not necessarily mean the track is ideal or interference-free; it's just one of several measures of a track's characteristics. For example, Warragul's fall rate (for 460m) of 3.7% is much better than the national average; while the rate for 400m races is much higher than average. Starting closer to the turn has an obvious impact, whereas a longish run to the turn gives the field a chance to spread out more and reduces the chances of interference.
For comparison, moving across to NSW, two TAB tracks – Dapto and Bathurst – have radii significantly below 50m and both have first turn hassles and a high fall rate. While the radius is just a starting point, it can be a useful red flag.
(All figures here are taken from official websites – which may require verification – or from our own national surveys. The latter are subject to reporting by individual clubs but, if anything, may understate the numbers).
In a short 10-race career, Freda Rocks has been favourite five times but managed only a few places until a monstrous 16 length triumph in 29.62 over the testing 520m at Cranbourne this week. That's just a length outside the track record over a trip coursed by many famous dogs. Everything comes to those who wait!