Let’s give Ballarat stewards a small credit for trying to look into what they regarded as a below-par performance. There should be more of it.
But again they got it wrong. It reminds you of the time some months ago in town when they hauled in the (previous) trainer of Sweet It Is and asked for an explanation of its improved performance to win at 50/1. In fact, it had not improved at all, but just run pretty much as it had been doing at its previous several starts. The others just ran poorly. So much for their ability to assess form.
Anyway, here is what they wrote after Scintillating failed at $1.70 in a Mixed 4/5 Grade race on Wednesday night. The case is not life threatening but interesting nevertheless.
Race 5, Ballarat, 24 December.
“Scintillating which performed below marked (sic) expectations was vetted following the event. It was reported that there was no apparent injury”. (Do they mean “market”?)
The major issue here is that the market was wrong. Certainly the dog had fair form but its best recent run was over the shorter 425m trip at Bendigo in 23.95 coming out of box 4. At Ballarat the dog had box 8 and could have been expected to begin no better than several other runners. In practice it recorded 6.70 when its recent form suggested an average of 6.71 – pretty right, eh? Given the similar form of the others, there would always be a big doubt about it being able to cross before the corner. That aside, it is very doubtful Scintillate could have got down to the 25.41 recorded by the winner, Don’t Be Short, even with a clear run
So it turned out. Scintillate was stuck wide, outside three or four dogs all the way to and around the turn. Effectively, it covered nearer 500m than the actual 450m of the race. But all of that was predictable – not certain, but a major possibility in view of the nature of the track and the form of its competitors. The Watchdog said it was a $2.20 chance, I made it $5.00. In fact you could name five runners that warranted prices between $4.00 and $6.00. But, as often happens, the market just blindly followed the tips and the favourite, and forced the price down to a ridiculous level.
The winner, incidentally, Don’t Be Short from box 2, was big overs at $20 considering it has just run a smart 25.43 at Shepparton and was helped by having only average beginners either side of it. Still, none of these were champions so a range of results was possible.
Anyway, stewards should have been querying the market, not the dog, which performed more or less as expected but was unable to get the breaks it needed.
The big question we are left with is whether stewards are sufficiently competent to analyse form? Supporting evidence is weak. For example, apart from the Sweet It Is incident above, I have recently queried why they ignored poor runs over the last few months from Allen Deed and Xylia Allen, both of which have put in shockers when well supported. Xylia Allen is now off to be a mum while Allen Deed recovered top form to run a very quick heat in the Sale Cup series (final tonight). This is basically a top quality dog so its earlier poor efforts in town remain a mystery.
I do have one helpful hint for the stewards and their bosses. Rather than banning them from punting I would make it compulsory – on racing in other states, that is. They might then learn more about form and betting. The only way to do that is the hard way.
I might include GRV publicity people in that classroom, too. They called for Above All to be nominated for run of the year when it came from last (its own fault) to win a heat of the Hobart Thousand in a modest 26.16 against equally modest opposition. Having done that, how would they classify its record-breaking run in the final – 25.52? Run of the century? The millennium?
Who Is Responsible for Wagering?
Many punters will be pleased that the NSW Racing Minister has now formally endorsed the Fixed Odds betting rules put in place by Racing NSW last July (which begs the question of who actually runs racing and wagering). Conditions apply, but basically online bookies are now compelled to accept any reasonable bet.
However, so far as we know, Tabcorp is still able to play fast and loose. Its state-approved rules still include these limitations (for this purpose “TAB” means Tabcorp):
“3.1.3 Subject to Rule 3.1.4, TAB may refuse to accept any fixed price racing bet at its sole discretion and without stating reasons”.
“3.1.4 Subject to 3.1.1, TAB may set any minimum or maximum stake or payout for fixed price racing bets”.
These give the impression that they were all written by Tabcorp rather than the government. (So we ask again; who actually controls racing and wagering?) And how is “payout” defined? At face value, these rules imply that Tabcorp can pay anything it likes, regardless of the size and nature of the original wager. (A loophole that was used by Bet365 in the Brunker case about an alleged “fixed” race at Ipswich dogs).
The Minister’s announcement on December 23 made no specific mention of this although it addresses “any fixed odds wager on NSW thoroughbred races”. In that event there is a legal clash. And what about bets made in NSW on an interstate race? Online bookies are based outside NSW, but have agreed to Racing NSW conditions, not the state’s laws, while Tabcorp is legally responsible to NSW laws for what it does in that state, including taking bets on any race, anywhere.
Additionally, it seems that dogs and trots got lost in transition. Why didn’t the Minister include them?
Bravely, the NSW Minister assures us that because “some bookmakers have refused to express unqualified support” (ie to Racing NSW) he has now made regulations to enforce the new rules. How exactly would he do that for a company based in the Northern Territory where he has no jurisdiction? What a pity all states do not assign wagering powers to a single national supremo? There is plenty of legal precedent for doing that and the Productivity Commission thought it was a good idea, too.
Maybe the NSW racing department is overworked because its current website still shows the GRNSW chairman as Professor Percy Allen. Eve McGregor would not be pleased.