IT HAS now been eight months since the live baiting drama occurred yet there are few signs of the industry slowing down. Betting turnover, for one, is holding up. For example, last Saturday’s meeting at The Meadows showed well above average figures, no doubt helped along by winners from the Caulfield Cup earlier in the day.
Dog numbers are a bit scratchy but they have been that way for a few years now as administrators pile on more races for a population which has been declining slightly for a decade now. As a result, plenty of empty boxes are available. That trend is not yet recognised by all the big names running state inquiries yet it is fundamental to a proper analysis of breeding numbers.
Breeders express mixed opinions. Some are fearful of a drop in demand for pups while others predict gaps in a couple of years’ time unless the industry sparks up. However, last weekend the Ipswich club experienced a big jump in numbers for its annual auction sales and much bigger prices for those sold (up 33%).
New rules now prevent dams from producing more than three litters in their lifetime unless there are special circumstances – mainly based on performances by their previous offspring. This move is not popular but at least it is based on the reasonable rationale that later litters seldom produce top quality dogs, and therefore create more “wastage”.
Nevertheless, the climate is such that naysayers continue their efforts to highlight what they see as cruel treatment of animals. Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine has just run a four-page colour spread featuring the Grey2K organisation which has been visiting NZ and Australia as part of its effort to stop all greyhound racing. The article was not complimentary but at least it contained some balance, which is more than you can say for other Fairfax efforts.
Others, too, are regularly repeating the figure of 18,000 greyhound deaths per year which was copied from an ill-considered and amateurish confidential memo from Greyhounds Australasia – one which was highly inaccurate and/or misleading. It found its way into the mainstream media (which is what the internet does these days) and was supplied to the Special Commission now sitting in NSW.
In practice nobody, including GA, has any idea of the numbers of dogs put down without proper justification. And, so far, there is no evidence that any authority is doing much to improve our knowledge of previous numbers. Of course, they have been substantial, as they are for other breeds and for horses as well. But also substantial are those disappearing because of sloppy record-keeping, unrecorded re-homing and lifestyle accidents of one sort or another. Indeed, I can recall four such events in my former family life, including two lovely Labrador pups, all for totally uncontrollable reasons. It does happen.
The GA CEO was also naïve in allowing his photo to be taken with the Grey2K leader, thereby providing a boost for the anti-racing group’s future publicity efforts. Analysts in America have noted that the organisation devotes almost all its (donated) income to travel expenses and salaries rather than to animal welfare programs. The Fairfax article failed to delve into that area.
For its part, the industry is charging on with its repeated statements that live baiting is terrible and we are doing lots of stuff to make sure it does not happen again. GRNSW even created a new website to talk about “change”. Unfortunately, none of that will count for much as viewers have to (a) know the address and (b) then take the trouble to look it up. Neither is likely to happen to any great degree. It is a response that gives the appearance of doing something but never actually achieving much, a very bureaucratic habit. The cause is not helped by the fact that two major states are in the hands of an interim boss (NSW and Queensland) while the other with a big problem chose only to play musical chairs with board members (Victoria).
In total, the industry is effectively dwelling on the past and failing to mount a decent campaign to recover the lost ground or, better still, to create a new platform. To state the obvious, the simple fact is that greyhound racing is popular with people who like it and unpopular with those who don’t, regardless of live baiting. There are many more of the latter than the former. Unless the industry goes out to meet them it will never progress.
They key problem is that greyhound racing is carrying a ball and chain. It has no cohesion, no leadership, and no national power worth counting. It is little more than a collection of aimless state entities more concerned with paperwork and local empire building than developing a modern industry. Without control over the whole country, genuine progress will never happen. This is particularly important for breeding, where aggressive activity in one state will simply divert business to another.
The solution, of course, lies with the Racing Ministers and their national Council. Only they can cede that control to a central body. But who will encourage them?
Paw Note: After The Meadows Wednesday meeting this week Greysynd Phantom ended up being recorded in the GRV system as “retired”. It actually busted a hock and was euthanised. Some retirement!
More dumbing down
In its wisdom, the all-powerful Tabcorp has introduced a new product for mug gamblers – the First Four Mystery bet. For $4 the computer will pick the runners for you. This might be fine except for one thing – Mystery bets destroy the integrity of the betting product.
We know this because it has already done so for Quinella and Trifecta bets. What happens is that the computer selections are not random at all. It is told to pick out a mix of favourites, middle priced runners and longshots. Those selections are then “boxed” so that no matter in which order they finish you will get a payout.
Naturally, the favourite will appear more often. Consequently, so long as the favourite is somewhere in the mix you get a reward. So often does this happen that the dividend is smaller than it would be if the chances of success were based on each dog’s actual win price. In short, if the favourite wins you expect a smaller dividend. If it only runs a place you expect a larger dividend. That does not happen – the two are much of a muchness.
Punters who are shrewder than the market – eg by identifying false favourites – are therefore dudded. Bad luck, says Tabcorp, volume is what counts, not quality.