WHILE greyhound people in NSW are effectively labeled by the state premier and much of his ruling party as being incapable of following animal welfare laws, the state government of Victoria has taken an entirely different view and, following a couple of reviews, have handed the collar and lead to its administration (GRV) and tasked them with making sure the sport is indeed run as well as it can be.
On July 28, the GRV website issued an interesting press release regarding modifying the ways tracks are prepared, with the prime concern being increased greyhound safety.
“Greyhounds that race in Victoria have an average of 31 career starts, which is significantly less than the number of starts greyhounds are having on average overseas and even in some other states of Australia,” said Stuart Laing, GRV’s General Manager for Racing, Wagering & Business Development.
“If we can improve track safety, we expect greyhounds will be able to race for longer, and if they are having more starts, then fewer litters need to be bred. This will, in turn, lead to a reduction in the euthanasia of healthy greyhounds with the long term aim of getting closer to zero.
“It is important to note that this is not a case of one size fits all in terms of track preparation. Each track possesses its own unique environment and conditions, so therefore each requires its own unique preparation to achieve optimum safety levels,” Mr. Laing said.
According to the press release, Laing and GRV’s Manager Racing Operations, Scott Robins, went on a study tour of tracks in the United States and United Kingdom to observe how their tracks are prepared. ‘…they discovered that racetracks were being prepared very differently to the methods used in Australia with greyhound safety being the overriding priority.’
“What we learnt from our overseas counterparts is that we need to be more focused and diligent in our approach to track preparation and safety to give our greyhounds every chance of achieving long and successful racing careers.
“There is a school of thought that we have been too focused on achieving fast times, so we need to change that focus.”
GRV has flagged that as each track experiments in its preparations meeting by meeting, times recorded will probably vary by some degree. ‘Mr. Laing said GRV will collect and analyse the data over coming months and will consider publishing penetrometer and moisture readings in form guides in the future to help punters put times greyhounds are running into perspective at the respective tracks.’
Can I respectfully suggest that, in my opinion, would be an unnecessary waste of time. As a punter, who bets exclusively on Melbourne greyhounds, I can assure Mr. Laing I do not need to know the state of the track to within a grain of sand at a greyhound’s past few starts to determine whether I should consider placing money on a particular contender. Any punter worthy of the name should be able to make a reasonably educated assessment of a contender’s chances by comparing its times with those of the best of the meeting.
For example, looking at race 10 at the Meadows for the August 6 meeting. Shima Song (box 4) was the popular pick and had won at the track in 30.04 on July 16. The best of the night was 29.81. So, Shima Song had run within 23/100ths of the best, although it also possesses a best time at the Meadows of 30.00. Drawn in box two was Crackerjack Choc, which had run 30.08 to score at that same meeting on July 16. There was just 4/100ths difference between the pair from their respective races held on the same night, which is effectively not worth thinking about. In the event, Crackerjack Choc scored a narrow win over the smart Bruce Tycoon. Shima Song was fourth.
If times were the only factor a serious punter needed to take into account, then yes we would want to know the state of the track, but times are not the be-all and end-all of assessing the majority of greyhound races (thankfully).
I recently wrote on the subject of racing surfaces and asked whether it was time (pun intended) to start thinking about producing racing surfaces that are not designed for speed but instead aimed at reducing the chances of debilitating injury. According to GRV, that is something stakeholders have been asking as well at various workshops.
In that article I mentioned 11 former NSW Greyhound of the Year winners who never set a track record during their obviously illustrious careers. They were: Blue Autumn (1965), Shapely Escort (1971), Smooth Keith (1977), Fast Sapphire (1980), Glider’s Son (1981), Winifred Bale (1982 & 1983), Classy Spider (1990), How’s The Fort (1992), Bobniak (1997), Kumta Chase (2003) and Take The Kitty (2009). As well, Rose Moss (1966), Pearl Moss (1967), Kawati Boy (1978), Acclaim Star (1979) and Big Sam Banner (2002) only set one track record each, even though they collectively competed 197 times for 100 wins, but only five in track record time.
If we in Australia can get our collective heads around the idea that breeding for speed is not a prerequisite to breeding champions, then surely we will have made great strides in reducing burn-out rates and generating much better greyhound welfare both on and off the course.