There are a lot of differences between the states. For example, a lot of them talk funny and only NSW people can pronounce Bathurst and Newcastle correctly. But greyhound folk never seem to agree on anything, which is probably why each state has dozens of pages of local rules, all of which contradict the national rules. To that you have to add varying grading policies. They might be the worst of all, and we will talk more about them at another time.
Meantime, here is an example to go on with.
The other day a colleague asked how Spirited Flame could get into a 5th grade 600m race at Albion Park ten days ago (which it won) when it had already won six of them. A good question. Well, here is my attempt to explain the dog’s history (corrections and comments welcome). All these are 600m races at Albion Park.
24 Feb 2013 Won NG Class 3 (Sun) (No idea what the NG suggests)
11 Mar 2013 Won 5th Grade Class 2 (Mon)
30 Dec 2013 Won 4/5th Grade Class 2 (Mon)
06 Jan 2014 Won 5th Grade Class 2 (Mon)
13 Jan 2014 Won 3/4th Grade Class 2 (Mon)
20 Feb 2014 Won 4/5th Grade Class 1 (Thu)
27 Feb 2014 Won 5th Grade Class 1 (Thu)
The rules are that you can win two 5th Grades in a particular Class before moving up. So how did it win three in Class 2 before moving up? Presumably the explanation is that the second Class 2 win was not strictly a 5th Grade but a combined 4/5th. Never mind that it was a tougher race, apparently the dog could keep on until it won two normal 5th Grades.
The same reasoning might well apply to the two Class 1 wins, only one of which was a straight 5th Grade. That logic suggests that it can still have yet another go at a 5th Grade Class 1 race to use up its ration of two. That would then be eight in total and only then would it be a 4th Grade dog.
To follow all this rigmarole trainers obviously need a Masters degree in something, especially if they are coming from interstate.
Incidentally, on February 15, Spirited Flame also ran a very creditable 2nd in the Rookie Rebel at The Meadows, which is arguably the country’s top middle distance race and is an invitation only race. So much for that, now back to 5th Grade at home. That sounds like a drop-back of five Grades.
Just to provide some perspective, here is a rule in place in NSW:
“Where a greyhound wins an Event consisting of multiple grades, that win shall be classified as a win in the lowest grade for which the greyhound was eligible to compete at that track, distance and category of meeting”.
Had that applied in Queensland, Spirited Flame could not have competed in some of the above races, let alone won them.
This is just one example of the clash of the states, but there are many others and none of them help the industry much.
FINISH-ON PROGRESS – PERHAPS
The saga of the use of a Finish-On-Lure system is now over six years old and shows little sign of sorting itself out. Irrespective of the details, the fact that only two states have treated the subject seriously is a black mark on the way the industry is run.
In both Queensland and South Australia authorities went to some trouble to assess the FOL’s good and bad points. In both cases, the evidence showed that the benefits were either marginally or substantially bigger than under the old system. Yet, also in both cases, significant portions of the trainer group complained bitterly that the FOL was injuring their dogs. In the end, Queensland gave in but SA continued, but with some modifications.
The confusing part of the publicity is that the FOL discussion should really be broken down into two parts: what happens during the race and what happens after they pass the post. The former concerns everybody, the latter only the dogs and their trainers.
I am not really qualified to argue about the merits of letting dogs gnaw at the lure versus having a play in the sandpit. However, there are two key factors worth thinking about. First, finishing on the lure has been the practice for many years at a dozen or so tracks in New Zealand, apparently without any great problems. There is no reason why that experience should not be transferrable to Australia.
Second, while figures are hard to come by, there is a fair amount of evidence that dogs strike problems when mucking around in deep sand in the pen. Early and late finishers can and do clash. Humans, too, on occasions.
Indeed, if you applied the human example to the dogs, even a cursory examination of the pen system would see it struck down in a minute were an Occupational Health and Safety inspector to arrive on the scene. But not for dogs, it seems.
It is inescapable that emotions have played a much larger part in these discussions than has logic or even common sense. That’s not to say that either of the systems is perfect, or that a better third option could not be found. But whichever way you look at it, the decision-making process has been flawed to some degree.
As for the in-running value of the FOL lure structure, it seems that no serious objections have been raised and that chasing and injury hassles are lessened under it. Therefore, there is a prima facie case that the higher and wider FOL-style arm, at least, should be a standard part of the equipment at all Australian tracks. Whether dogs are better off finishing in the pen – as GRSA has just decided they will at Angle Park – might be worth some more objective testing. Meantime, Gawler will continue with the full FOL.
So much for the itty gritty.
The more important aspect is the erratic administration of the subject. If ever there were a need for a national examination of a subject, this is it. Yet only two states have had a proper go, and then with somewhat different outcomes. NSW ran a brief trial at two tracks – apparently successful – and then forgot about it and failed to offer comments. Victoria rejected it out of hand on emotional grounds, according to insider reports. Tasmania and WA do not seem to have thought about it, but we would welcome advice.
This and many other matters are what prompted my previous article on March 2 (Track Design – Is Anything Happening There?) which called for a big effort to fund a scientific study on how we build tracks. The racetrack and its features are obviously fundamental to the integrity of mechanical hare racing. The industry depends for its life on the willingness of greyhounds to chase a lure yet it is characterised by sometimes slapdash efforts, differing approaches to every aspect of the subject in each state, with a majority dependent on personal opinions and traditions which have never been properly justified.
The item above further illustrates the folly of making up different rules in different states. So did the experience with the change from the dirty brown rug to a brighter green one, as it took the best part of 18 months to get it adopted in every state. Despite agreement at the GAL level, each wanted to conduct its own tests to verify what the previous one had found. For many months, viewers switching between states would see the brown, then the green, then the brown again. Daft, completely daft.
The time is long overdue for Greyhounds Australasia to take a long hard look at itself and the way it does its business. The concept of each state’s leaders (which is all GAL is) deciding on something and then going home and doing something else is farcical and grossly inefficient. Some may claim that state laws sometimes demand variations to the national theme, but that is largely a red herring. Many matters have nothing to do with legal niceties – grading being one – and are a product of an unwillingness to address change.
GAL might well examine all the processes involved in greyhound racing and separate out those which have been in place for three, four or five decades, and then throw them out. The world has moved on, folks, and it is time we caught up. The dogs will thank you for it.
Here is yet another odd quote from Victorian stewards concerning race 12 at The Meadows last Saturday: “Dolce Vita crossed to the rail on the first turn checking Salegrey’s Power and Bayman Bale”. No, wrong. Dolce Vita went past Salegrey’s Power like a rocket so if it did brush it the impact was minute and had no effect on the latter’s chances. Bayman Bale, after a moderate start, was never anywhere near Dolce Vita and was barely in the picture at any stage.
Do stewards get paid by the word?
Best to ignore these reports and watch the video for yourself.