Warrnambool greyhounds illustrate some key issues

THE 14 Warrnambool Classic heats have been run and won – some in very quick time (Sausage Sizzle 24.93 and One For Me 24.94). Betting turnover was average in NSW for these time slots but punting success would have been mixed. Despite huge differences in ability, favourites won five and lost nine of the races. Odds-on favourites, which are common in this series, won three times and lost in six. No profits there.

Typically, races were run in two divisions – well-supported placegetters in one and the rest just making up the numbers – also common in the Classic. Not exciting.

However, the Wednesday meeting offered a side view of the extraordinary Victorian grading system. In a supporting Mixed 4th/5th grade event, Aston Bolero (20 wins from 34 starts) and Black Frenzy (18 wins from 35 starts), both brilliant performers over the 450m trip, shared favouritism. The former won narrowly in a BON of 24.80.

Despite their form and ability, both those dogs were 5th graders at Warrnambool, mainly because they had never raced there before. The ability to win 5th grades all over the state without being penalised a grade is unique to Victoria. It is why so few higher grade events are on any program.

It is also madness. It makes a mockery of the long-established system of having five grades through which dogs can progress as they gain experience and maturity. Victoria would be the worst offender as it not only has seven basic grades plus Maidens but a host of other designations which allow dogs to pick and choose how, when and where they race. The last time I counted, Australia had 123 different grades and classifications for its races. When in doubt, they just add another one. The tail is now wagging the dog.

That proliferation justifies only one thing – more complex and more expensive IT systems to process all the nominations, thereby confusing customers (and possibly trainers) and interstate authorities and diverting cash which would be better used for prize money, track improvements and welfare programs.

All this has it source in one area only: authorities are never really audited for the effectiveness and efficiency they achieve when they spend (punters’) money. They simply do it and so tough luck if you disagree.

Opposing views – not always accurate

The discussion about over-racing is a worthwhile one but we are still short on hard evidence from readers. Some of their claims warrant correction.

The thrust of my article, Greyhounds need to go to the fair work tribunal, was specific – the industry needs a detailed investigation into the merits or otherwise of quick backups. Hence my use of what I called a “quickie survey” to point in that general direction.

Pure Titanium raced at Sandown on April 3 and April 7 – ie a 4 day break – recording four lengths slower time in the latter race.

Leading up to the subject race, Sandave Sapphire’s last six runs showed Win, 4th, Win, 3rd, Win, 5th. Times in the losing races were 12 lengths, seven lengths and nine lengths slower than in the preceding race. But that inconsistency was not the biggest point. The critical question I brought up was whether the gutbuster (LAW in 41.84) on April 9 affected its poor performance on April 16. That quick LAW time was six lengths better than any in its career – ie way faster than its “normal” level. Anyway, is there any better evidence that stayers cannot maintain good form when racing constantly every 7 days?

It’s “Purely (my) opinions”? Hardly. This year alone I have instanced backup problems in four articles, each with detailed evidence of performances. Several other articles in 2015 did the same. Critics have offered no evidence at all. None. (Save for “Hugh” on matters to do with metabolism etc).

On a more topical matter, what can be said about Chrichton Bale’s dismal performance over 715m at Sandown on Thursday night? Following two smart LAW wins on April 7 and 14 – “recapturing his best form”, according to the Watchdog – he led long through the back straight on April 21 and then collapsed like a pricked balloon to finish five lengths 5th in 42.43. That was some seven lengths slower than in its earlier wins. Did he run out of petrol?

Viewing problems

We have had some rude comments from “Tony Davis 333”, which may be a pen-name for the steward’s mum, regarding my assessments of stewards’ reports at The Meadows meeting on April 16.

I have reviewed these several times and find that I was absolutely correct. On Race 12, it may be that the reader omitted to note that Jalapeno Flash was injured during the race.

However, she does make an intriguing remark about Race 5 – “Are you saying when entering the information into your computer that you would give the inside 2 dogs nothing back?” This implies that she is aware that some form students have a habit of going through each race and giving some dogs a credit for interference suffered. Well, each to his or her own, but the trouble with such a policy is that dogs which do that have a tendency to do it again and again. For example, I could hardly offer Jalapeno Flash any credit for running into the backside of another runner. It was just clumsy, as some dogs (and humans) are. For a more extreme example, check out Sweet It Is, which did it all the time.

The breed’s destiny

Many folk will have noted the animated discussion about whether greyhounds should be utilised for human recreation – ie by racing. Reader “Hugh” has been a longstanding opponent, primarily because he claims the industry cannot do a good job of it and because it is not the breed’s natural environment.

So be it, but I wonder if he has considered the perspective of working dogs in general. Many breeds are assigned to tasks constructed by humans but which suit the skills available in each breed – or perhaps developed over time. In each of these cases the dogs themselves offer clear evidence that they do so happily and willingly, no doubt partly as a function of the value they place on having a close relationship with man.

Examples include watchdogs, police dogs, military dogs (inch bomb disposal), drug sniffers for customs, hunting dogs, shepherding types, guide dogs for the blind, and who could forget those providing the backbone of the pastoral industry – the cattle dog and the kelpie, without which Australian farmers would be in a sorry state. Also note that SA farmers used greyhounds in the 19th century to control kangaroo damage to their crops.

In fact, many animals of all descriptions seem to have no trouble conforming to the needs of humans looking after them. One obvious example would be milking cows making their own way back to the sheds once or twice a day.

In any case, the greyhound has a centuries old tradition of seeking out and running down prey in company with their masters. Whether in open country or behind a mechanical hare the task is essentially the same. The important variable is how well man plays his part in the joint effort.

Strategically, the greyhound now has two primary uses – as a pet or as a racing animal. Both are vital for the survival and welfare of the breed.

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Hugh_
Hugh_
4 years ago

Bruce I think you mischaracterise my view when you say I oppose greyhound racing “primarily because he claims the industry cannot do a good job of it and because it is not the breed’s natural environment”.  I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “cannot do a good job of it”, good job of what precisely?  As for it not being their natural environment, greyhounds don’t have a natural environment since they were bred by us.  But they still have natural behavioural patterns. I’ve said many times that I would be fine with greyhound racing if it didn’t come at… Read more »

differentview
differentview
4 years ago

Hugh your full of crap go and get a life

Hugh_
Hugh_
4 years ago

differentview Bruce invited discussion of this issue within his article and put forward an interesting question.

“Full of crap” usually means someone is making inaccurate claims, feel free to point out where I’m doing that, I’m always happy to be wrong and readjust my view.  If you just don’t like my opinion then I’m sorry, feel free to make your own argument.

Perhaps you just find my comments to be uncomfortable truths and that is why you respond unpleasantly?

Tony Davis 333
Tony Davis 333
4 years ago

You raise an interesting point about sniffer dogs. Apparently the greens are upset with their presence for some unknown reason. Jenny leong took offence to people comments. If only your parents took the same advice.

Hugh_
Hugh_
4 years ago

Tony Davis 333 If memory serves the recent objections raised regarding sniffer dogs are not to do with animal welfare, they are to do with drug laws and civil liberties.  The argument was that sniffer dogs often show interest in people that have not used and are not carrying drugs, which was leading to completely innocent people being subjected to unjustified and invasive strip searches and other very demeaning and invasive treatment. I can’t speak to how true this is, but there were recently a bunch of articles written making this claim.  Perhaps that is what you are referring to.… Read more »

Hugh_
Hugh_
4 years ago

Bruce I think you mischaracterise my view when you say I oppose greyhound racing “primarily because he claims the industry cannot do a good job of it and because it is not the breed’s natural environment”.  I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “cannot do a good job of it”, good job of what precisely?  As for it not being their natural environment, greyhounds don’t have a natural environment since they were bred by us.  But they still have natural behavioural patterns. I’ve said many times that I would be fine with greyhound racing if it didn’t come at… Read more »

differentview
differentview
4 years ago

Hugh your full of crap go and get a life

Hugh_
Hugh_
4 years ago

differentview Bruce invited discussion of this issue within his article and put forward an interesting question.

“Full of crap” usually means someone is making inaccurate claims, feel free to point out where I’m doing that, I’m always happy to be wrong and readjust my view.  If you just don’t like my opinion then I’m sorry, feel free to make your own argument.

Perhaps you just find my comments to be uncomfortable truths and that is why you respond unpleasantly?

Tony Davis 333
Tony Davis 333
4 years ago

You raise an interesting point about sniffer dogs. Apparently the greens are upset with their presence for some unknown reason. Jenny leong took offence to people comments. If only your parents took the same advice.

Hugh_
Hugh_
4 years ago

Tony Davis 333 If memory serves the recent objections raised regarding sniffer dogs are not to do with animal welfare, they are to do with drug laws and civil liberties.  The argument was that sniffer dogs often show interest in people that have not used and are not carrying drugs, which was leading to completely innocent people being subjected to unjustified and invasive strip searches and other very demeaning and invasive treatment. I can’t speak to how true this is, but there were recently a bunch of articles written making this claim.  Perhaps that is what you are referring to.… Read more »