We all know about the dominating win by Buckle Up Wes in the rich Australian Cup last Saturday. Then a day later Tasmanian pacer Beautide took out the Interdominion Championship at Sydney's Menangle Park. But there is one more.
Also on the weekend Tasmanian cyclist, 21 year-old Amy Cure, scored a gold medal at the World Championships in Columbia. Her win in the 25 kilometre points race came after picking up two bronze medals with her team. The Hobart Mercury reports that Cure has a contract with the Belgian Lotto-Belisol Ladies team for the coming European season.
That's a lot of excitement for the Apple Isle.
If only they could smarten up their sectional timing information in greyhound races, they may have a future down there. Yes, they are still telling lies by assigning the leader's time to the wrong dogs. This is really strange in another way as the local organisation is leading the way in experimenting with GPS tracking using the saddlecloth on thoroughbred racers to do the same job. When perfected, the system could easily be transferred to greyhounds and then provide sectionals for all runners, not just the leader (whoever that is).
Currently, Tasmanian results offer no running orders during the race and show the sectional time against the winner's name, regardless of whether it was responsible for it. Both would discourage intending punters, to say nothing about destroying the integrity of racing data.
This is far from the state's only challenge. Its income is tied to the TattsBet operation which has been suffering from a diversion of business to the bigger Tabcorp TAB across the Bass Strait. Critically, Tatts problems are even bigger in its home state of Queensland where it is still battling with Racing Queensland over commission payments worth $100 million-plus and its overall tote business is shaky.
The key to Tatts fortunes will be the ability of the three codes in Queensland to improve their products. All have been in decline over the last decade as horse and dog numbers dwindle and field quality suffers. Short fields and low standard races are now the norm at major Albion Park meetings. Tatts management itself is frequently under fire in local media for sloppy handling of Fixed Odds offers, where online bookies are making big gains.
The Tatts group is fortunate to be able to rely on growth in its non-racing sectors but that will be of no help to greyhound punters looking for better deals. Clearly, their only hope is that eventually the creation of a national betting pool will make all the troubles go away.
THE MONEY TRAIL (1)
We mentioned the Cup heats at Horsham a couple of days ago, and the risks involved in punting on them. Of the dogs that had raced in the previous few days, only one was a winner – Innocent Til, which got a bit of a belting in the Australian Cup final on Saturday from Hallelujah Henry. Two others were scratched, which contributed to all heats running with empty boxes because there were no reserves.
But there are more oddities.
Horsham's usual Win pool on the NSW TAB is about $10,000 but sometimes more. Two weeks ago it averaged $9,983. First Four takings are also quite good. Its Tuesday twilight slot is reasonably popular, considering it is not known as a prime time of the week.
Last week was different. In its wisdom (it may well have had reasons that are not obvious) GRV shifted the graded meeting away from the normal slot to Wednesday evening. In its place, Horsham ran an all-maiden meeting containing the usual lot of triers and never-rans.
Guess what. The maiden meeting averaged only $6,940, indicating punters were not amused and maybe went across to the trots or the gallops.
How about the new Wednesday time? No better. It averaged $6,972 for a fairly useful graded program, which is a bit worse than attracted by whatever club normally occupies that slot. Anyone used to the Tuesday timing would have been put out by the change – or maybe they just don't like later starts.
Then this week's Cup heats meeting got shifted from twilight to night, but still on Tuesday. How did that go? Not too well, considering the high quality of the dogs and the $5,000 first prizes for the Cup heats. It averaged only $9,020, or below what the run of the mill twilight meetings pull in. And next Saturday, three of the finalists will be having their third race in eight days. Dunno about that.
Going back to the Cup heats, they averaged $9,887 on the Win tote whereas the other eight races averaged $8,309. However, the latter group included two post 10pm races which drew poorly, and five of the eight were maidens. Much of a muchness?
Of course, another challenge was that there were four other clubs running at night, but only three in the twilight zone. Aside from late night issues, the revised time put Horsham into heavier traffic.
Why does GRV keep playing musical chairs with race dates and times? It never pays off, regardless of whether they get more locals to turn up to the meeting. People like consistency, both from their dogs and from meeting programmers.
(Of course, Victorian TAB takings were about 70% larger than those above but the picture is much the same. In any case, under current arrangements, the home state also benefits from what happens on their meeting in other states).
THE MONEY TRAIL (2)
Last weekend NSW punters spent 17% more on the Win pool at Friday's Wentworth Park meeting than at the higher quality meeting on Saturday. No doubt some would have been attracted to the three big races at The Meadows on Saturday night. Even so, the downturn was not noticeable in First Four pools which were quite high at Wenty. The short fields might have had an influence – six on Saturday versus only two on Friday – but that was not reflected in those First Four pools. Who knows? It's all a mystery.
More obvious were the wild variations from race to race, no doubt in sympathy with delayed trotting starts and race clashes generally. More proof that it is a turning into a mug's game – literally.
GRNSW has claimed big increases in turnover during the July-December period but the more important information would be a rundown on where all this money came from. How is the punter profile changing?
And why are more punters taking extortionate Fixed Odds prices rather than demanding better offers from their betting operators? That would never happen in a robust on course ring. Unfortunately, they are pretty much a distant memory. All the more reason for racing authorities to keep track of who is betting what and where.
GRNSW is about to come up with a new strategic plan, but how can they do that properly if they don't know their customers? It will be no good asking trainers, as the chairman has just announced she will be doing, because they won't know either. It will also be no good asking betting operators because they all have different policies, different products and different client bases. The answers will come only from proper research programs – of both the public and the punters.
Hopefully, that task will be better organised than the last GRNSW survey – conducted for it by a consultant – which was tasked with working out a new formguide design. Since that turned out to be too elaborate, too flowery, too cumbersome and too hard to read, let's hope they can do better in the future.
And, no, I am not impressed with readership figures which GRNSW occasionally trots out. They measure only who opened a particular section of the website. They tell you nothing about how the information was used.