The Case Of The Disappearing Grading System
Written By Bruce Teague Monday 11th June 2012
It’s hard to be sure about the exact purpose of Tier 3 racing in Victoria. Or “C” class racing in NSW, which is similar in many ways.
In both cases they are yet another addition to a lengthening grading system. The conundrum is that the basic system is often not used thoroughly. For example, how often do you see Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 3 races in either state? Once you start getting past Grade 4 they all get disguised as Best 8, Free For All or combined grade races. Or, when in doubt, they become a Special Event. A dispensation for heat and final doubling up is perhaps understandable but why should both be discarded by the grading system?
The better dogs are pretty much the same mix as 20 or 30 years ago but how they get put together is not.
Supposedly, Tier 3 was intended to cater for slow dogs that could not get a run under normal circumstances, thereby giving them a useful purpose in life. That might be nice for the dogs but it begs the question of how punters assess the form. In practice, of course, most would not bother. Only mugs would have a go. In any case, it is a short lived benefit for the dog. What does it do after it has picked up a Tier 3 race?
In turn, Tier 3 races might be more acceptable if such racing were parked away from regular fans at slow times of the week. But it often does not work out that way. Many Tier 3 races are inserted into prime provincial programs. Which also begs the question of why there is space for them in the first place? Is there too much racing in general? Do we need 12-race meetings, especially when they run late into the night? At the moment, the difficulty Sandown has in getting nominations for either of its weekly meetings suggests there is a problem.
In any case, history tells us that old-time graders had no problem sorting out the wheat from the chaff when putting races together. They simply placed like against like.
In practical terms, NSW is not a lot different. The low prize money for “C” races virtually guarantees poor quality dogs. However, for the most part they are separated from the more rewarding meetings
Victoria runs about 15 or so Tier 3 races each week, currently concentrated on Bendigo, Shepparton and Warragul. But the intriguing thing is that 45% of the winners over recent weeks actually got under the official benchmark – the cut off point which GRV sets and which runners cannot have bettered previously (24.40 at Bendigo, for example). So they actually might not have been slow dogs after all. Indeed, the odd one has ended up running hot time. Previously, they may just have been having bad luck, in which case they would be much like all other Grade 5 competitors.
The practice in NSW is perhaps acceptable, or would be if the authority stopped the “C” racing (or any racing) interfering with top class meetings such as Wentworth Park on Saturday nights. Both Wenty and Meadows lose turnover as a result of the clashes.
In Victoria, there seems little point in complicating the system with the extra grade. Surely the normal spread of races would cater for most of the dogs in question. Much the same could be said for limited-win races in both states. They, too, virtually guarantee lower quality fields, and are there simply to pad out the program for the benefit of a few trainers, not to satisfy the public.
As for Non-Penalty races, of which there are plenty, including in the city, the mind boggles as to what purpose they serve – apart, that is, from seducing better dogs away from provincial meetings which badly need them.
Too Much Of A Good Thing
At the risk of boring some readers, I am going to get on a hobby horse again.
The Young Guns final highlighted last Saturday’s meeting down the Capalaba straight track in Queensland. It’s a pretty little spot by the river (when it does not flood) and is well patronised by area trainers, as are most straight tracks.
However, the big race reflected two unfortunate incidents. First, one very smart dog had to be withdrawn as, according to the trainer, it was “stressed out” following its run at Albion Park less than 48 hours previously. Second, the favourite failed to catch the runaway leader. This time, according to the trainer, it was “a bit flat”, also following a smart win at that same Albion Park meeting.
Bad luck for the trainer, but what about the public who bet on it? And what about the dogs themselves? What sort of system do we have that permits dogs to be raced twice within such a short period. There is no easy way of telling whether the dog has recovered anyway, even if detailed medical checks were undertaken (and I doubt they would be).
Backing up within five days should be banned across the nation. It is in no-one’s best interests.
Nor is it for humans. Five day turnarounds are a death march for football teams. More and more, coaches are pulling players out of club matches during the pre- and post-State of Origin period. Tennis finals are significantly affected by how long a break the players have between matches. Fast bowlers are getting rested (rotated) in never-ending cricket series. And so on.
And, yes, I know that if you are reading this on Monday afternoon they will be lining up for the final of the Galaxy at Tweed Heads, having competed in heats 48 hours earlier. That doesn’t make it right, although at least they have all had the same treatment.