A while back, we published interim results of an interference survey of Australian tracks (see articles on 12 April and 16 April). The wheels have now turned and a full year’s figures are available. Some caution is still needed as the data becomes fully reliable only when 500 to 1,000 races are involved. That picks up about 22 trips over various distances.
Still, there is a good deal of consistency in the results. They have changed little from the 6 months to the 12 months totals.
The survey picked up actual race falls as well as dogs which finished the race 20 lengths or more from the winner – the reasoning there being that such a margin reflected major interference.
In both cases, the figures may be understated due to a failure to report all incidents accurately because of clerical problems caused by the varying systems used around the country (a common national practice would be a great help).
On average, 5.5% of races involved a fall and 35.3% involved a runner more than 20 lengths from the winner.
Those trips with results significantly worse than average were Bathurst 307m, 450m, 520m, Bendigo 500m, Albion Park 331m, 395m, Canberra 440m, 530m, Casino 411m, 484m, Cranbourne 311m, 520m, Dapto 520m, Dubbo 516m, Geelong 520m, Gosford 400m, 515m, Grafton 407m, Ipswich 520m, Lismore 520m, Meadows 525m, Maitland 400m, Gardens 400m, 600m, Nowra 520m, Richmond 535m, Sandown 515m, Traralgon 298m, Wagga 400m, Warrnambool 390m, Warragul 400m and Wentworth Park 520m. These are also trips where observations confirm disruptive aspects of the track.
The detailed figures may be viewed by clicking here: Australian Greyhound Track Interference Statistics
Now these figures may not tell the whole story. Some trips with average or low fall rates may well be quite disruptive. One such example is The Gardens 515m (5.1%) but there you will also see a high 20 lengths rate (47.8%) which tends to give the lie to first turn interference.
Other measures of trouble free racing may be winning box percentages (an even saucer shape is desirable) or average winning dividends (low is good, high is bad). The class of dogs can make a difference, too. Also helpful is simply watching a large number of races to spot the problems. Check the running on the main turn to see if dogs are suddenly shot out the back for no apparent reason. If it happens too often then the configuration of the turn needs close inspection (Bulli and Shepparton are examples).
Of these measures, only winning box percentages may illustrate a track bias, as occurs, for example, at Launceston 515m, Cannington 520m or both sprints distances at Maitland. That is a design error which needs to be attacked differently.
Then there are bend starts and bend starts. Oils ain’t oils. Sandown 595m, for example, offers a tidier start than the otherwise similar Meadows 600m. Worse than either are badly placed boxes, as occurs at Dapto 520m, where runners have little lateral room and inside dogs almost always tend to veer out at the jump. Of course, they are soon in more trouble as they try to negotiate a difficult first turn.
A significant affect on 20 length margins would also be a flat first turn where the running order can change radically as some dogs are unable to take the corner neatly and run others off the track. (eg Richmond 63.0%, Ipswich 43.2%, Cranbourne 50.2%)
There will always be a question about how much the dogs contribute to the interference and how much is generated by the nature of the layout. Some dogs are just plain dumb and like to run into the backside of the dog in front. Others are neat and sensible and realise there are better ways of getting to the lead than that. A dog that consistently wins or places is worth its weight in gold.
However, a good line on the worth of the track can be seen by comparing one with the other. Hobart and Devonport, for example, boast really low figures – that is, much lower than comparable one-turn tracks elsewhere – so the track builders have obviously done a good job. They deserve closer study.
Circle tracks are usually more problematical, perhaps partly due to the shorter distance to the first turn. Most of their hassles occur on the turn itself, or at the point of entry. Notably, and critical to the industry’s fortunes, is that virtually all the major city tracks pose problems. Injuries will often occur there (and are under study by some Australian authorities). For example, a broken hock will often appear as the dog comes out of that first turn – Knocka Norris was a recent case - suggesting that the track might have placed undue pressure on it.
Whatever the causes and effects, a decent solution can emerge only after conducting an in-depth scientific study of the art of track design. In this area, greyhound racing lags behind the other codes and most modern sports. It’s time we caught up. Man-made interference should not, and need not, be tolerated.