AT A time when racing authorities should be pulling out all the stops to present a cleaner and brighter image to the public, they continue to blot their copybooks, and the stewards’ books are the most visible. Here is just one.
Stewards Report, Race 2, The Meadows, 9 May.
“Dynamic Punch (7) crossed to the rail approaching the first turn checking Awesome Cove (3) and Mendes (4).”
Stewards were not watching. This did not happen. In fact, Dyna Tiber (1), a nice galloper but not a railer, edged out on the first turn, squeezing up the field, and then the slower-beginning Awesome Cove decided to run off and cannon into other runners, thereby causing Bowl Em Out (6) to fall.
For its part, Dynamic Punch, which is a railer, did edge towards the rail but was moving forward about two or three off the fence. It did not cross aggressively and did not really affect the above two alleged “victims” – they began moderately and caused their own problems.
Somewhat similar exaggerations occurred in Races 4 (in part) and Race 5, where Cosmic Vee Bee was not especially keen for the rail but was pinged for “crossing”. It may have hampered Shanlyn Lucy slightly at the start, although that’s doubtful, but not any runners inside those two as it was always well clear of them.
It seems the stewards are desperate to gain brownie points for the number of dogs they can mention in these situations, regardless of the actual cause. In other words, they are paying scant attention to the customary running habits of individual dogs, where they are actually positioned and what their actions contribute to the interference.
The effect is magnified at tracks like The Meadows where the field invariably jams up at the turn and keen railers boxed inside roar off into the distance. Last Saturday, this was why bolters appeared in the placings in seven of the 12 races and six races paid First Four dividends of over $1,000. That’s normal.
Previously, this column has called for a radical re-engineering of the awful 600-metre bend start at this track but the problem is wider than that. The heavy inside box bias alone is evidence that the layout is unfair, a feature which has been present since day one.
The message for punters is to concentrate on dogs which are sure to lead – not a simple task, but a necessary one. Ignore what the stewards say and join the call for better tracks.
Wrong address, mate
The other day, not for the first time, a reader called on me to stop telling him what happened after the race and instead offer some predictions beforehand. Well, he is not going to get satisfaction, or not much anyway.
This is not a tipping column. Here we concentrate on what’s going well and what isn’t in the industry. We don’t predict so much as we analyse. That might involve form, tracks, betting and policies, all of which go to making the sport better or worse.
Tipping is for other folk and it is a hard life – there is not one in the land that can do better than pick three out of ten winners so that leaves a lot of losers to explain, and you will get no thanks for it. Some are better than others, of course, but you will have to find out about that the hard way. (That said, I can offer a hint – take no notice of Skyform as it obviously uses the tea lady’s mad cousin).
I always check what some of them are saying, especially those who offer some decent comments with their choices, like our own Bradley Bugeja. That encourages you to think about how the dogs might plot their course. One line quickies are a waste of space. I also make it a point to see what the Watchdog has done, not because I want to follow him but because his selections seriously influence market prices (right or wrong).
I ignore what trainers are saying, mainly because they tend to over-emphasise a dog’s raw galloping ability and downgrade other equally important factors in the race. You have to be in the right place at the right time. Even more annoying is the SKY habit of providing a guest tipster, usually also a trainer, who offers tips just as the dogs are going into the boxes. Hello!
In particular, punters and gamblers both tend to create false favourites, or favourites at false prices, which is why you will never make money backing dogs at odds-on. Rarely is a dog race so reliable. That, incidentally, highlights one of my occasional tips when I cautioned people to stop taking short odds about Sweet It Is. Of course, they ignored the advice and are now missing the seat out of their pants.
Another common habit is for punters to over-bet dogs from the 8 box on circle tracks. It’s fine when it comes off but more often it does not. If the dog out there does not have the speed to cross the field, it is soon history, doubly so at biased tracks like The Meadows (see above item) where the shape of the circuit forces them to give away extra lengths. Nevertheless, many trainers like being out there because they reason that their charge will get a clear run. That’s not good enough.
Of course, the biggest factor to do with prices is the late betting nature of the greyhound market, together with its small (and decreasing) pool sizes. Even waiting till late, you will be lucky to see more than half the eventual pool on the screen. No doubt this is why many fans have diverted to the Fixed Odds market but I am afraid that is a frying pan and fire problem. On average, F/O prices are always worse than the tote’s, simply because TABs and others have made it that way. It’s all in the percentages. The first operator to change that policy should be able to garner a big slice of the business. It is remarkable that none have done this so far.
In short, the industry’s future prosperity depends heavily on the creation of a national betting pool. In the past, Tabcorp has tried to move in that direction and Tattsbet has called for it directly – to no avail. We should be hearing authorities screaming from the rooftops for this advance but all we get is dead silence so state governments sit on their hands.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying this is not a tipping column – ideas, yes, but not tips. In any case I am a better analyst than I am a punter. More’s the pity.
Indeed, if I have any advice it is to gather up all the information you can find, assess it and then make your own decisions. And don’t use your iPad – get a proper formguide and a beer and relax with them for an hour or so.