After watching Barcia Bale give the Wheeler’s yet another Group 1 victory in the weekend’s Maturity Classic final, it got me thinking about how the Saturday night metropolitan venue seems to be, on face value, dominated by those usual suspects more than any other metropolitan meet.
With metro prizemoney having just increased in Victoria, it raises the question on just how much the Wheeler family, and the associated dominating kennels of Bate and Dailly stand to gain from this increase.
The sheer weight of numbers that Graeme Bate and Andrea Dailly provide for most Victorian meetings will obviously allow them to provide the lions’ share of winners across the board; however it did seem to be that The Meadows is the preference over Sandown for their chase of more sizeable stakes.
With Paul, Janice and Brendan Wheeler runners making up the clear majority of nominations on Saturday nights, I decided to find out the true numbers on just how much of the meeting’s money goes that direction. It isn’t hard to observe the number of ‘Bale’, ‘Dyna’ and ‘Allen’ dogs that pass the post first, however the perception and reality can offer be vastly different.
So is the domination of The Meadows as complete as it seems? In a quick study of the 31 metropolitan meetings conducted in 2012 so far, 32.75% of race winners have come from Wheeler-owned (or part owned) dogs. That is 113 from the 345 conducted races, or just under one winner in every three races. Personally, I did think that number would be higher when you consider that on several occasions, over half the field is made up of such runners.
Probably a more expected finding is that the Wheelers are yet to have a winless Saturday night so far this year, which is actually quite impressive when considering that the best of the brigade is often on the road for country cups or other feature events interstate. Despite this, the Wheeler’s have managed to land half the card (50%) or better on 5 separate occasions, often celebrating 6 winners on the old 11 event programmes.
With the addition of a twelfth race, the percentages seem to be rising with the worst result for the dynasty being 4 out of 12 in the month it has been in effect. However with Barcia Bale, Desalle Bale and like dominating the Maturity series, we cannot reliably get an indication of the 12-race impact until later in the year.
Moving on the leading trainers, where Bate and Dailly have a very interesting strike rates at the Northcorp Boulevard circuit. Despite each of them having several nominations outside of the Wheeler supply, the strike rate between the two trainers equals 33.04%, slightly more than the Wheelers alone.
Andrea Dailly leads the way with 67 winners or 19.42%, while Bate was responsible for 47 winners or 16.62% of the total.
Without doubt, the influences of Phil Lenehan’s ‘Lektra’ greyhounds have helped Dailly achieve the higher percentage, with Lektra Jay, Express and Johnson amongst others gathering multiple wins throughout hte year. With such a strong team, it is no surprise she has led home 4 Meadows winners on 4 occasions in 2012. Bate has only achieved that feat twice this year, including last week, and early indications suggest the twelfth race will be of significant benefit to him, having had an excellent July.
Interestingly, the impact of Steve Collins’ association with the Wheelers is also underrated, with the experienced trainer not often being mentioned alongside Bate and Dailly, and yet consistently provides one or two dogs to the top step of the podium on a weekly basis. This is presumably a continuation of the days when Steve and Heather were the dominant force in South Australia, with ‘Bales’ providing most of the nominations.
Back to the Wheelers, and let’s put the figures into a monetary perspective. With one winner in every three races the Wheeler greyhounds would be pulling in a minimum $20,000 per meeting with four Grade 5 wins. In actuality, this figure would be much higher when considering wins in higher grades as well as the several heats and finals held at the track through the year. Also any money collected from minor placings is not in that calculation.
Previous to the recent increase given by GRV, that minimum figure was $16,080 (33% of an 11-race card), meaning the Wheeler empire will gather an extra $3920 per Saturday night using the average win rate. To put that in terms of a yearly income with 52 meetings held at The Meadows per year, it equates to an additional amount of $203,840,taking the total to a staggering $1,040,000.
Without knowing the specifics of owner-trainer agreements, if the standard 50/50 payout was used, the Wheelers, as a family, would be earning a gross figure of over $500,000 from four wins each week, in the lowest grade, from one specific track, without collecting a cent from placings or feature events.
It sadly raises the argument of whether raising metropolitan prizemoney by such a percentage is really that beneficial to the sport and the majority of participants. I personally, am not really in a position to argue one way or the other, but the surely Greyhound Racing Victoria would be made aware of similar figures before making any such decision. While I’m not for one second suggesting that prizemoney increases are a bad thing, I tend to ask whether those same funds could be distributed to areas where there is a more even spread of recipients? Perhaps it is simply a matter of perspective, as the eternal optimist would say that 66% of the time, someone other than a Wheeler, Bate or Dailly is benefitting from the increase however. Maybe we all should take a lead from that, and focus on the races that do spread the spoils, rather than noticing a family dynasty that is coming ever closer to being a total monopoly.