What Was Wrong With The Old System?
Written By Bruce Teague, Senior Australian Greyhound Racing Writer Monday 4th February 2013
Readers might be getting tired of me mentioning hassles with pool sizes and other betting issues but it seems that those in power are reluctant to address the subject or are even letting it get worse. Adding more racing late on Saturday nights is a case in point. And the evidence continues to mount, notwithstanding the Victorian Ministerâ€™s loud trumpeting of big gains in the 2012 year at the local Awards night â€“ where the main winner was actually a Queenslander. However, itâ€™s not just a Victorian issue but a national one.
Just last week, the twilight meeting on Friday at Bendigo, containing a very humdrum lot, pulled in more cash than the prime Saturday night meeting at Wentworth Park â€“ once the betting pinnacle of the greyhound code. There was a time when nothing got near it.
If you can believe it, race 7 at Wenty managed only $8,769 on the NSW Win tote. Thatâ€™s the sort of money attracted to an off-peak race of maiden scrubbers. A disgrace, really, but thatâ€™s what happens when race after race is jammed into the program and the trots are forever delaying their starts.
That came even though the normal Saturday schedule was one short after The Gardens meeting was abandoned. Traralgon offered nothing special, with three maidens and three 298m squibâ€™s races. Four of its ten races started with a short field.
Happily, later on at Cannington, Miata streeted the field by 21 lengths in its heat of the Perth Galaxy on Saturday night but ran well short of its record time. The other heat winners were five lengths slower than Miata. Good stayers are hard to come by.
The national tragedy is that we still have lots of good dogs and top trainers. The problem is how they are put together.
For example, authorities are forever adding grading classifications to the list. One of the most dramatic would be the Tier 3 category in Victoria, where competitors can enter only if they have not previously bettered a stated time â€“ that is, they are supposedly slow dogs. The rationale here is apparently to give the strugglers a chance at a more fruitful life.
The scheme applies not just to performed dogs but also to maidens. So slow maidens (a contradiction in terms?) also get a chance of fame.
Yet if you look at the results we find that well over 200 of these races operated in the last month. But 53% of the winners, and many placegetters, broke the legislated time, many by a long way. They were not so slow after all. Breaking down that figure, we find that 29% of maiden winners bettered the required mark and 63% of graded dogs did so. So what is the point of it all?
There was a time when graders were easily able to sort out Grade 5 fields into fast and slow dogs without any further help. Less experienced dogs were matched with similar dogs, likewise with more experienced types. Progression to Grades 3, 2, and 1 was normal. It all seemed to work well but apparently that was all too simple, hence the creation of another two grades in Victoria alone to satisfy the new urge (and thatâ€™s not counting Non Penalty and Restricted Win races). It all seems hardly worthwhile but it does complicate matters. So, too, in Tasmania and SA where many youngsters are now involved in Grade 6 races â€“ another recent creation. SA is considering Tier 3 as well. But why?
Ideally, a better plan might be to go back to scratch and find out what is wrong with the traditional grading system â€“ 1 to 5 â€“ and then address the reasons for any shortcomings. Above all, there is no justification for slow dogs getting a run at all. Itâ€™s just bad luck, as it is in every other facet of life. Punters deserve better than that.
Meetings lost, tracks flooded, kennels almost wiped out, coastal tacks in real strife, a return to normality in the lap of the gods. Such is Queensland at the moment. Very sad.
I am not sure how much more of this the state can withstand. I have written often of the declining quality of race fields and the apparent lack of action to remedy that situation.
A practical move â€“ although some might think this is a bit fanciful â€“ is for a moneyed group to get together, ante up a couple of million dollars and buy up a few truckloads of decent dogs to race in the north. No scrubbers though.
Leaving it to the bananabenders clearly will not work. They have had plenty of opportunities to use their initiative in the past and failed to even assess the state of the state. The introverted new governance system dreamed up by the Minister offers no hope whatever of progress. And any chance of the government allocating funds for development (including the $10 million promised ex the Gold Coast) would be less than nil at the moment.
The latest dramas come on top of a very fragile industry so without extreme action the future does not bear thinking about. Itâ€™s that serious.
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