We all know about the dominating win by Buckle Up Wes in the rich Australian Cup last Saturday. Then a day later Tasmanian pacer Beautide took out the Interdominion Championship at Sydneyâs Menangle Park. But there is one more.
Also on the weekend Tasmanian cyclist, 21 year-old Amy Cure, scored a gold medal at the World Championships in Columbia. Her win in the 25 kilometre points race came after picking up two bronze medals with her team. The Hobart Mercury reports that Cure has a contract with the Belgian Lotto-Belisol Ladies team for the coming European season.
Thatâs a lot of excitement for the Apple Isle.
If only they could smarten up their sectional timing information in greyhound races, they may have a future down there. Yes, they are still telling lies by assigning the leaderâs time to the wrong dogs. This is really strange in another way as the local organisation is leading the way in experimenting with GPS tracking using the saddlecloth on thoroughbred racers to do the same job. When perfected, the system could easily be transferred to greyhounds and then provide sectionals for all runners, not just the leader (whoever that is).
Currently, Tasmanian results offer no running orders during the race and show the sectional time against the winnerâs name, regardless of whether it was responsible for it. Both would discourage intending punters, to say nothing about destroying the integrity of racing data.
This is far from the stateâs only challenge. Its income is tied to the TattsBet operation which has been suffering from a diversion of business to the bigger Tabcorp TAB across the Bass Strait. Critically, Tatts problems are even bigger in its home state of Queensland where it is still battling with Racing Queensland over commission payments worth $100 million-plus and its overall tote business is shaky.
The key to Tatts fortunes will be the ability of the three codes in Queensland to improve their products. All have been in decline over the last decade as horse and dog numbers dwindle and field quality suffers. Short fields and low standard races are now the norm at major Albion Park meetings. Tatts management itself is frequently under fire in local media for sloppy handling ofoffers, where online bookies are making big gains.
The Tatts group is fortunate to be able to rely on growth in its non-racing sectors but that will be of no help to greyhound punters looking for better deals. Clearly, their only hope is that eventually the creation of a national betting pool will make all the troubles go away.
THE MONEY TRAIL (1)
We mentioned the Cup heats at Horsham a couple of days ago, and the risks involved in punting on them. Of the dogs that had raced in the previous few days, only one was a winner â Innocent Til, which got a bit of a belting in the Australian Cup final on Saturday from Hallelujah Henry. Two others were scratched, which contributed to all heats running with empty boxes because there were no reserves.
But there are more oddities.
Horshamâs usual Win pool on the NSW TAB is about $10,000 but sometimes more. Two weeks ago it averaged $9,983. First Four takings are also quite good. Its Tuesday twilight slot is reasonably popular, considering it is not known as a prime time of the week.
Last week was different. In its wisdom (it may well have had reasons that are not obvious) GRV shifted the graded meeting away from the normal slot to Wednesday evening. In its place, Horsham ran an all-maiden meeting containing the usual lot of triers and never-rans.
Guess what. The maiden meeting averaged only $6,940, indicating punters were not amused and maybe went across to the trots or the gallops.
How about the new Wednesday time? No better. It averaged $6,972 for a fairly useful graded program, which is a bit worse than attracted by whatever club normally occupies that slot. Anyone used to the Tuesday timing would have been put out by the change â or maybe they just donât like later starts.
Then this weekâs Cup heats meeting got shifted from twilight to night, but still on Tuesday. How did that go? Not too well, considering the high quality of the dogs and the $5,000 first prizes for the Cup heats. It averaged only $9,020, or below what the run of the mill twilight meetings pull in. And next Saturday, three of the finalists will be having their third race in eight days. Dunno about that.
Going back to the Cup heats, they averaged $9,887 on the Win tote whereas the other eight races averaged $8,309. However, the latter group included two post 10pm races which drew poorly, and five of the eight were maidens. Much of a muchness?
Of course, another challenge was that there were four other clubs running at night, but only three in the twilight zone. Aside from late night issues, the revised time put Horsham into heavier traffic.
Why does GRV keep playing musical chairs with race dates and times? It never pays off, regardless of whether they get more locals to turn up to the meeting. People like consistency, both from their dogs and from meeting programmers.
(Of course, Victorian TAB takings were about 70% larger than those above but the picture is much the same. In any case, under current arrangements, the home state also benefits from what happens on their meeting in other states).
THE MONEY TRAIL (2)
Last weekend NSW punters spent 17% more on the Win pool at Fridayâs Wentworth Park meeting than at the higher quality meeting on Saturday. No doubt some would have been attracted to the three big races at The Meadows on Saturday night. Even so, the downturn was not noticeable in First Four pools which were quite high at Wenty. The short fields might have had an influence â six on Saturday versus only two on Friday â but that was not reflected in those First Four pools. Who knows? Itâs all a mystery.
More obvious were the wild variations from race to race, no doubt in sympathy with delayed trotting starts and race clashes generally. More proof that it is a turning into a mugâs game – literally.
GRNSW has claimed big increases in turnover during the July-December period but the more important information would be a rundown on where all this money came from. How is the punter profile changing?
And why are more punters taking extortionate Fixed Odds prices rather than demanding better offers from their betting operators? That would never happen in a robust on course ring. Unfortunately, they are pretty much a distant memory. All the more reason for racing authorities to keep track of who is betting what and where.
GRNSW is about to come up with a new strategic plan, but how can they do that properly if they donât know their customers? It will be no good asking trainers, as the chairman has just announced she will be doing, because they wonât know either. It will also be no good asking betting operators because they all have different policies, different products and different client bases. The answers will come only from proper research programs â of both the public and the punters.
Hopefully, that task will be better organised than the last GRNSW survey â conducted for it by a consultant â which was tasked with working out a new formguide design. Since that turned out to be too elaborate, too flowery, too cumbersome and too hard to read, letâs hope they can do better in the future.
And, no, I am not impressed with readership figures which GRNSW occasionally trots out. They measure only who opened a particular section of the website. They tell you nothing about how the information was used.
If this was in Queensland they might get upset. Only good news is allowed there under the current management. But itâs in Victoria, so thatâs alright.
Beware. Tonightâs Horsham Cup heats involve 32 dogs, some of which will then go on to the final only four days later.
Of these starters, five raced six days ago, seven raced five days ago at Sandown and three raced three days ago at The Meadows. On the other hand, a couple have been off the scene for over a month.
The 480m is always a tough but fair trip. Even dogs coming off 500s in town can find it hard to finish off there.
How will they stand up to the task? Which dogs have the greatest endurance? And will the lucky eight finalists be fully fit on Saturday night?
Horshamâs usual fans might also be concerned about the shift from twilight to night timing. They have tried that before and, while oncourse takings were good, offcourse business was relatively poor.
Thatâs a lot of negatives, yet GRV keeps doing things like this.
According to Greek philosopher Aristotle long, long ago, ânature abhors a vacuumâ and tries to fill it up. As it happens, a bloke named Einstein and a few others have since disproved it. In fact, they claim that a vacuum never really exists.
Well, I know one. I would suggest that the state of the art in track design is as near as you can get to a vacuum â or a nothingness, as scientists might like to term it. Arguably, never in the history of mankind has so much been spent by so many to create outcomes where no-one knows what factors cause which results.
Yes, there has been a small amount of work done by vets on the effect of various turn cambers on injury rates (work that is apparently continuing in studies commenced in WA and SA and being carried on within GRV). As a result, various numbers are sometimes adopted when specifying banking angles.
But even if track builders happened on the perfect turn shape, that goes nowhere near the need to mesh those numbers with many other factors that go into the end design package. For example, where does the âturnâ start and finish, what are the transition gradients and what effect does the turn radius have on the outcome? Is the turn a small or large part of the arc? Where should boxes be placed and how should they be constructed? Do different lures have any impact? What about hard or soft track surfaces, which have attracted studies in America but not here?
And, to take some specific examples, why do we see cleaner racing at Hobart and Mandurah than anywhere else in the country? Why do we not see that on all the expensive rebuilds of one-turn tracks in Victoria, where interference is common on turns, especially for the 400m bracket of races? Is that avoidable or not?
This subject came to the fore three times in NSW, first when the 413m boxes at The Gardens had to be shifted after the new track had been designed by âexpertsâ (as NCA claimed), then when the GBOTA modified the 400m start at Gosford some months after receiving advice (which it rejected) to move it to a more favourable position, and again in 2010 when GRNSW authorised another $50,000 to be spent on cutting away the first turn at Maitland on the ground that it had been a successful move elsewhere. No it hadnât. This sort of change had failed at Wentworth Park, Bulli, Launceston and Cannington where it confused dogs, increased interference and biased the tracks. It did the very opposite of what was intended â it created less fair races. Why give the box one dog a greater advantage than it already has?
Strangely, Maitlandâs remedial work paid no attention to its home turn where dogs are regularly thrown to the outside. And that was on a recently re-built track.
In other words, whether GRNSW was guessing or telling porkies, or both, it failed the practical tests. The Maitland change increased the proportion of winners coming from boxes one, two and eight.
Similarly, why would Victorian authorities have spent (in todayâs money) over $20 million on The Meadows to build one of the most heavily biased tracks in the country, and also forget to put in a grandstand? (For those who have not visited, it has no grandstand at all, only a small balcony which is restricted to people who rent out the upstairs dining area).
WA people were advised not to cut away the first turn at Cannington, yet went ahead anyway and so created a huge bias in favour of the rails box, and also some for box two. That change has decided major Group races. Much the same thing occurred at the new Mandurah track but, happily, they identified the problem and fixed it.
Anyway, now is the time to do what this column has been rabbitting on about for years. The industry must invest in an expert panel to study current practices and all the options in order to come up with reliable track design parameters.
That panel would consist of three people: a veterinarian, an engineer and a biomechanical expert, all preferably with some greyhound exposure but independent of racing authorities. They would be charged with taking a year to study the subject and given, say, $1 million to do the job.
They would look at box styles and their positioning, lure types, surface quality, gradients and turn radii and establish the relationship between each. The aim would be to achieve a result which maximises the chances of each runner and minimises the level of interference.
At its simplest, this is what your local golf pro does when he videos your swing. It is what experts at the Australian Institute of Sport do for a multitude of different activities. It is why swimming coaches get up at four oâclock every morning to videotape how the kids do it. It is why football clubs attach GPS stickers to the jerseys of their players to see where and how they run, and what causes injuries. The technology is highly sophisticated and widely available.
Indeed, attaching the GPS marker to a dogâs vest would bring into play the second of the two major aspects of racing. One is the physical structure of the track and its equipment, the other is the nature of the dogs using it. Without jockeys or drivers, greyhounds just do their normal thing, perhaps coloured a little by their past experiences. Those habits must be defined in the context of the race before them.
There are crazy dogs, neat dogs, unlucky dogs, big and small dogs, good and bad beginners, frightened dogs, railers and wide runners. Like people, every one of them is different. Catering for all that is not an easy job and it would take months to gather evidence, analyse it and come up with optimal solutions. Thatâs why we need some highly qualified people and plenty of time to do the job. The âsheâll be rightâ attitude has never worked, and never will.
Athletes run in lanes or risk disqualification. Tennis players and cricketers have to watch the lines, too. Competitors in any sport must abide by the rules or suffer the consequences. Yet, aside from fighting, greyhounds can get away with blue murder, probably harming themselves as well as their fellow competitors in the process, and have it all put down to the luck of the game. So it is, but man controls much of that luck, or can if he wants to.
The end rewards are big – less interference, fewer injuries and some encouragement for the punters to invest more and more often. Spending a million to do that is peanuts by comparison with the amount thrown away in building crook tracks â and then sometimes re-building them with the same faults.
It would be a bonus that the effort would counter many of the objections of the anti-racing lobbies, which can be expected to rise and rise in years to come. That makes it a win-win program.
It would be the best investmenthas ever made. In fact, we might even be able to sell the secrets to other countries.
WHAT WAS THAT AGAIN?
âBuckle Up Wes crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Innocent Til, Hallelujah Henry and Musquin Baleâ. That was the advice in the stewardâs report on the Australian Cup.
Not in my eyes. If Buckle Up Wes (7) brushed with Musquin Bale (6) at the start it was very minor and, in any event, the latter had come out awkwardly and slowly. But Wes had nothing to do with the other two dogs as it roared to the front, perhaps brushing Kiss Me Ketut (1) as they rounded the turn. The other dogs all did their own damage in an otherwise messy race. âMessyâ is quite normal at The Meadows, of course.
Why do Victorian stewards make up these stories?
So far, the NSW parliamentary hearings have heard a stack of evidence from a range of racing authorities, animal welfare types, bookies and lawyers. All of them naturally pushed their own wares but very little of that touched on who the industryâs customers were and what their preferences might be.
Yet, together with willing owners, they are the only people bringing in fresh funds to pay for wages and prizes and keep the industry on the go. Everybody else, including the government, is taking cash out or shifting the same stuff round and round the same old circle. But although punters are âtaxedâ, they have no representation. They get little attention from racing authorities, whose major resources go into counting money and regulating trainers. Even their advisory groups donât always contain a punterâs nominee.
Bookies are keen to see commission rates kept down and offshore operators discouraged, all of which is understandable. Lower rates will help then promote more and build the market, they point out. True enough, but they still fail to tell us how that market is made up, or how it is changing.
For example, in recent times both bookies and TABs have introduced a fresh gimmick ââ which has proved quite popular and is taking business away from the normal tote. Thatâs good for the betting operators because they price them well above the rates on the tote, using books of 130% compared with 114.5% for Win bets. Thatâs like selling petrol at $1.70 a litre when everyone else is charging $1.50. Since they all do the same thing, competition is minimal and they get away with it.
Conversely, it is not much help for punters. At those rates they would find it impossible to make profits over a period. Put another way, those using Fixed Odds are either not aware or not concerned about the rip-off prices. Yet it threatens the first law of punting â both sides should have a chance of winning.
This gives us a lead into the punter or gambler profile. Many are clearly not sophisticated enough to look for the value which might give them a chance of making profits. There are plenty of other indicators as well.
Over two decades there has been a gradual decline in the proportion of punters betting to win on the tote. At the dogs, consistent overbetting on favourites has made that product less rewarding. Instead, high-return multiples such as Big Six and First Four have grown in importance.
Mystery bets are popular and are pushed by TABs in advertising and in the way betting tickets are prominently displayed. Mathematically, these are guaranteed losers due to (a) boxing runners which have different chances of winning and (b) a higher takeout by the TAB. Yet they still sell.
The strength of the Mystery market is emphasised by the fact that Quinella and Trifecta dividends are distorted and normally pay well below true market odds. (Mystery bets typically offer a package split between Win, Quinella and Trifecta bets).
of formguides have fallen away and the free ones produced by GRNSW (the majority) are impractical, often incomplete, and their usage is doubtful, while gamblers are turning to tipsters of varying quality and who frequently suggest boxed bets. As above, these are all winners for the house, even before the race starts. Serious punters would not go that way but mug gamblers would.
NSW wall sheet formguides in TAB outlets were never great, but are now being replaced by touch screen versions which are more cumbersome to use and contain only half the information. Similarly, personal attention at ticket counters is being replaced by touch screen betting machines which are fine for those familiar with them but messy and error-prone for newcomers. They give no change, only vouchers which have to be cashed in later (if the office is open).
There is a concerted push towards arming hand-held devices with racing information and betting facilities. Thatâs good as far as it goes. However, the physical limits of this fast-growing sector means investors will have less comprehensive information to deal with, probably less time to consider it, and will tend to rely on tipsters of variable quality.
Continuing increases in race frequency, often resulting in overlapping starts, have reduced the amount of cash bet per race, thereby making them very difficult for serious punters to assess. Win pools of $10,000 and below are normal, except at popular weekend meetings. However, only about half that amount will be visible to punters before they need to make a bet.
The last trend is exacerbated by greyhound authoritiesâ actions to schedule more racing, despite a static dog population, thereby promoting more low standard dogs to compete in TAB races. Any success in improving total turnover is then countered by a decline in average field quality and therefore more erratic outcomes. Another deterrent to serious punters.
These events can be summed up only by concluding that the industry is now being energised by the mug gambler, unable or uninterested in studying the pros and cons of a race, or in working out what sort of dogs do well, and in what circumstances. Such people come and go, probably not bothering to become genuine fans. There is nothing wrong with this business in isolation, but not when they heavily influence tote prices.
Allowing the codeâs fortunes to rest on such a customer mix should surely be at the top of the inquiryâs worry list. If the trends continue it means racing bosses will lose even more control over its destiny, and all the other stuff will matter little.
There are many things that can improve the outlook but by far the most important is a concerted national program to better educate the public about the greyhoundâs life and history and what makes it tick.
WHO IS TO JUDGE?
The legal news is messy. In an extraordinary merry-go-round, Gai Waterhouse was successively found guilty by Sydney stewards of failing to notify them of a favoured horseâs soreness (More Joyous), then exonerated by the Racing Appeals Tribunal, but is now subject to a Racing NSW appeal to the Supreme Court for a reversal of that decision.
It revolves around the question of whether Racing NSW and its stewards are entitled to rely on the Rules of Racing, which require trainers to notify them of any problems in the lead-up to a race. Similar requirements exist in greyhound rules.
The first judge has ruled that Racing NSW processes were not up to the required legal standard in demanding such reporting. Previously, owner John Singleton had agreed with the stewards and withdrew his horses from the Waterhouse stable, making a lot of noise en route.
So, are the thoroughbred rules reasonable, or are they adequately worded? The next judge will presumably throw some more light on that. Lawyers will then be off to bank their winnings.
Either way, the average punter would hardly support trainers getting away with secrecy about a competitorâs lack of fitness. Sadly, in the greyhound field, the availability of such information is the exception rather than the rule.
Letâs hope greyhound authorities watch developments closely and review their own positions.
ON THE OTHER HAND …
What were they on about?
From GRV stewards following the running of race 9 at The Meadows last Saturday: âStewards issued a warning to Ms. L. Britton, the trainer of the greyhound Star Recall regarding the greyhound’s racing manners approaching the home turnâ.
After examining the video three times it is clear that Star Recall and another dog bumped heavily trying to get around the first turn (common at this track), but there was no evidence that its manners posed any problem there or on the home turn, where it was racing in the centre of the track and only one other dog was within coooee of it. Anyway, it had faded and run wide by that time.
On top of that, Star Recall was found to be injured and was put out for seven days.
Something for everybody was the pattern at last Thursdayâs parliamentary hearings into.
A GREATÂ idea emerged from the Australian Wagering Council (a grouping of online bookmakers), which is concerned that overseas-based betting operators are horning in on local business without paying an entry fee â that is, the racefields fee on turnover or profits. On-course bookmakers supported their concern.
Pop-ups will help, according to Ben Sleep, an AWC director. These are the annoying little advertising windows that appear from nowhere on your internet screen. When punters attempt to access an offshore operator, this one would show âYou are now leaving Australian shores and you do not have the protection of Australian lawsâ, and would hopefully cause customers to return to a local outlet. Fair enough.
Other more direct measures to control money movement have not been effective in America, says Sleep.
The AWC is less convincing in calling for racing authorities to avoid any increase in fees on the ground that lower charges will encourage bookies to promote more effectively, thereby increasing the size of the pie. In practice, the online people have a huge cost advantage to play with (relative to TABs, with whom they compete) and could easily afford to increase their contribution. It also does not sit well with their normal practice of running 130% books forand then cancelling accounts for successful punters. The combination of all the above is not fair dinkum.
To be sure, any fee increase may well affect their existing widespread sponsorship of races and clubs, but a decision to go one way or the other should rest with racing authorities, not service providers. Meanwhile, GRNSW and others are seeking to have the government remove the cap of 1.5% of turnover, or its equivalent.
LATER, lawyer David Landa, who was briefly the Integrity Commissioner until he resigned in 2012, asked the committee to recommend significant changes to the way the office was structured. Landa pointed out that it had proved impossible to carry out his tasks due to a lack of resources â mainly finance â and the need to rely on support from the GRNSW CEO, which was not easy to obtain. Financial and management independence was essential, he claimed.
Currently, the Commissioner can act only if he gets complaints or has a matter referred to him by GRNSW. He cannot initiate his own investigations or inquiries.
has been without an effective audit process since 2009, according to Mr Landa.
MICHAELÂ Eberand from the Greyhound Action Group highlighted the need to introduce a fresh stimulus to the codeâs income base, citing the beneficial effect arising out of the entry of online bookmakers in past years. That boost has now disappeared and growth has flattened out again.
In preferring to see government intervene in the RDA squabble, Eberand pointed out that the original agreement included a clause requiring the parties to conduct reviews âin good faithâ and to meet regularly (quarterly) to discuss topical matters. Advice to him from the GBOTA indicates that has never happened. (There have been some meetings but apparently not in good faith).
LENGTHYÂ but often defensive evidence from Brent Hogan, GRNSW CEO, covered animal welfare, expenditure on the failed project at The Gardens, reasons for the rise in authority costs and changes for country tracks. Chairman Eve McGregor was also present but spoke rarely.
A current joint initiative by GRNSW and GRV to upgrade welfare issues and trainer education had been announced the day prior to this hearing. Other steps taken in this area had commenced last November, or well after the establishment of the inquiry, something the committee seemed to regard as a happy coincidence.
Mr Hogan was at pains to reject any validity in submissions that GRNSW was not responsive to complaints from participants. Committee deputy chair, Dr Kaye, had asked him to respond to âissues raised by greyhound industry participants that are not necessarily directly related to money.Â The issues relate to the behaviour of your organisation and the stewards, and particularly their behaviour towards people who have spoken out against decisions you have made.â
Hogan responded that this was all prompted by the lack of sufficient increases in prize money in the last few years.
THE RSPCAÂ and other animal welfare organisations spent much time lambasting the industry for its lack of attention to welfare matters, including the use of drugs, but generally lacked definitive evidence of abuses and were short on figures. By one measure, it turned out that of 5,562 shortcomings referred to RSPCA, only half related to dogs of any sort and only 35 related to greyhounds, which is 0.62% of the total. Separately, the RSPCA said of 15,000 complaints, half involved dogs but only 79 of those were greyhounds. Thatâs 0.5% of the total.
Note that these percentages relate to complaints and the like. When compared with the total number of dogs bred or racing, the proportions are miniscule. Consequently, the committee was not impressed by claims that these problems were âsystemicâ, as claimed.
The RSPCA was not able to advise of any figures for other breeds of dogs or for horses, which weakens their arguments and poses some serious questions about how the organisation is run. Curiously, it made no comments about poor track designs, which would be a major factor in greyhound injuries.
The RSPCAâs main thrust was to adopt the Chinese solution – a reduction in breeding numbers so as to also reduce euthanasia rates. It would do that by issuing permits to intending breeders. Who would assess the numbers? Not sure. Who would pay for the clerical work? Not sure. Would other breeds be targeted as well? Not stated. Who would police the breeders? Not sure either, but perhaps extra RSPCA inspectors?
MOREÂ interesting was evidence from Dr Karen Cunnington, a vet who runs a rehoming centre and also works for the Racing Science Centre in Brisbane. Her own experience and testing revealed that many greyhounds offered for rehoming were found unsuitable because they were unable to adjust to new environments. Dr Cunningtonâs work suggests that this is due to a lack of socialisation amongst dogs as they are growing up. The inability to regularly relate to other dogs at this time, due to kennelling practices, led to emotional barriers that were hard to overcome in later life.Â This offers food for thought.
MANYÂ discussions at the hearing were inconclusive as witnesses concentrated more on making speeches than giving the committee the hard information they needed and asked for. Dozens of items were parked as witnesses disappeared down a âtake under noticeâ escape route.
Still, the committee appears to be relentlessly unearthing the facts and should end up with a fairly good appreciation of what makestick. How it will weigh up conflicting evidence remains to be seen.
The popular Victorian Greyhound Owners Breeders Incentive Scheme (GOBIS) is set to receive a boost, with news the State Government is injecting extra funds, via the Racing Industry Fund, into the Victorian Greyhound Industry.
Premier of Victoria and Minister for Racing Dennis Napthine announced at the 40th Greyhound Industry Awards Night an additional $775,000 in funding would be provided toVictoria, to extend the Victorian Governments commitment to and to the GOBIS structure.
Dr Napthine said some of the enhancements to GOBIS for the next two years included all the Greyhounds that qualified for a start in a Group Race would now receive a $1000 Breeders Bonus and an additional 132 GOBIS-only races will be run throughout the year in Country Victoria, with the 11 CountryClubs running 12 races each.
The funding is provided through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund, which has been established using unclaimed dividends.
The increase in GOBIS funding is a welcome boost toin Victoria, with the incentive to breed, buy and race a Victorian Bred Greyhound now very attractive.
âVictoria is a world leader inand this scheme encourages the breeding, ownership and racing of locally bred Greyhoundsâ, Dr Napthine said.
GRV Chairman Peter Cailard said the Victorian Greyhound Industry has been reinvigorated by enhancements to GOBIS and the support of the Premier and State Government has been vital in the Schemeâs ongoing success.
âGRV is committed to promoting the highest breeding standards.Â This is achieved by rewarding star performers on the track through GOBIS, which stimulates the growth of the Victorian Breeding Industryâ, Mr Cailard said.
âThese new breederâs bonuses will be welcome.Â Importantly, they will be additional to the $10,000 bonus that is awarded to any GOBIS Greyhound that wins a Group Race, a bonus that was won 8 times in the past financial year.â
The Victorian GOBIS scheme has been the envy of other States in Australia and has continued to prove very popular with participants.Â However, while any extra funding is always most welcome, some participants are still critical and look to improve the way the funds are distributed, citing not enough of the money is returned to grass roots owners and breeders.
I personally know of a greyhound which recorded in excess of 20 races wins on the provincial circuit, however did not win a GOBIS event, despite being registered under the scheme.Â This was due to the fact the maiden the greyhound won was not a GOBIS event, despite the race being a maiden Final at Shepparton.
Should a Greyhounds maiden victory not carry a GOBIS bonus, many provincial or country chasers may not get another opportunity to compete for a GOBIS bonus for the remainder of their racing life.
Possibly all Maiden events in Victoria should carry a GOBIS Bonus to the winner.Â In this way, so long as your Greyhound is a race winner in Victoria, you would receive at least one GOBIS payment.Â This would certainly be a strong incentive for all to register for the GOBIS Scheme and ensure the pool of money gets spread to all in the industry, not just those competing at the elite level.
While we always look for improvement in any facet ofat ARG, for mine, to criticise the GOBIS scheme is splitting hairs, as overall it has been wonderful for the industry in Victoria.
It never rains but it pours. While the NSW inquiry continues, the Queensland Racing Commission of Inquiry, run by the Hon Margaret White and a team of lawyers, has come down like a tonne of bricks on the actions of the previous Racing Queensland board and management in bypassing proper tender procedures and providing golden handshakes to staff.
Eight board members and staff, including former chairman Bob Bentley, have been referred to the Australian Securities Investment Commission for examination of their conduct, which was ânot in accordance with good governance principlesâ, according to the Inquiry. Bentley has issued a media release objecting to the findings, claiming that more people should have been called and that âmany of the wild accusations have now been shown to be without substance.â (The report ran to 496 pages).
Separately, the Inquiry has tip-toed through the tulips in its recommendations to the government about the way Racing Queensland is structured.
Reading between the lines, the Inquiry is critical of the very structure of the new Racing Queensland makeup. It wants the chairman of RQ to be independent of the three codes (current chairman Dixon comes from the Brisbane Racing Club) and doubts the value in having the Integrity Commissioner as part of that organisation. It prefers more independence.
The last point would attract applause from David Landa, since resigned from a comparable position at GRNSW, citing (at the parliamentary hearing) a lack of resources and an inability to delve into controversial matters without the agreement of the CEO.
The Inquiry also noted that Queensland racing âis unlikely to be self-sustainingâ and called on government to âinitiate a consultative review … to identify a sustainable financial model to support the three codes of racing.â Note that it assigned this job to government rather than to Racing Queensland, whose role it should be to do just that.
While that may seem quite a logical measure to take, the inquiry treads lightly in respect to the ingredients of that financial model â ie the reasons why the three codes are failing to offer a quality and quantity of racing which is sufficient to attract more patronage. Perhaps the recently announced call for âinnovativeâ tenders for the TAB rights in Queensland will throw more light on that.
To digress for a moment, it is noteworthy that the Queensland Inquiry and, so far, the NSW parliamentary inquiry have both bypassed a fundamental aspect of racing, or of any other industry, for that matter. They have ignored the customers. They have no representation and no supporting insiders who might speak up for them. Effectively, the industry is treated as a closed shop â insiders only.
More than that, there is no evidence, here or elsewhere, thatauthorities have taken the trouble to investigate or conduct research into the nature of its customers and how that might have changed over the years. Nor do we know how the general public regard the racing industry. If there has been any inside work done on this subject it has certainly not been made available to the rest of the industry or to the public to which the industry is responsible through the Minister of the day.
Alternatively, if such investigations have been conducted the public are entitled to know why it has been kept a secret.
The concept of running a multi-million dollar business without knowing who your customers are is a terrible reflection on the abilities of authorities to do their job. This is a failing equal in importance to the action 16 years ago by the old NSW GRA to leave what it called âcommercialâ decision-making to a couple of raceclubs (as reported yesterday, see Sad and Sadder).
We are now looking at a situation where over the course of a year or so, serious shortcomings have emerged in the operation of Queensland and Victorian authorities, possibly soon to be followed by NSW, while there has also been an unexplained ruckus in the board of Greyhounds WA, and Tasmanian parliamentarians are regularly asking questions about the losses being sustained by its (government-owned) racing administration.
In three of those cases the problems have had to be dealt with formally by state parliaments, or their appointed Inquiries. Victoria has since put a broom through the place but there can be no guarantee that will solve the long term problem. Nor in NSW, where a fresh batch of board members appear to be continuing in the same old fashion (that board has no fully independent members as all have past involvements with racing organisations).
It indicates that there is a systemic fault in the way racing is governed. And it may well continue in Queensland where the individual codes are now being governed by insiders who were put forward by other insiders on instructions from the Minister. Queensland has had variations on that theme for decades now, all the while losing ground consistently.
The facts are increasingly clear but it appears no-one want to acknowledge them. Itâs not the people, mate, itâs the system!
(We hope to have more information on the NSW inquiry once hearing transcripts from last Thursday are available)
It was a bit sad, really. The demonstration from an anti-racing group outside Sydneyâs Mitchell Library last Thursday included a loud speaker, lots of banners and similar gadgetry, several retired greyhounds and numerous signs calling for an end to.
About 30 people were listening to the speeches, virtually all of them carrying the same paraphernalia and wearing the same T-shirts (later discarded to enable some of them to enter the hearing room). The public, as such, were nowhere to be seen, so the only other viewers were a few media types and an occasional greyhound trainer walking by on his way into the parliamentary hearing. Basically, they were preaching to the converted.
One particular sign protested that taxpayersâ money should not be used to support. Where do these guys get their facts from? In truth, in 2012/13 TAB betting alone on NSW greyhounds realised over $21 million for the NSW government. That one unscrupulous sign tells a story.
As in any field of human or animal activity, abuses will occur and errors will be made. The fact that they are minimal and attracting constant attention from authorities is lost in the confusion of these emotionally-based protests. Letâs hope the parliamentary committee adds it all up correctly, and with balance.
The rest of this report has been delayed because it was near impossible to absorb what was happening during the hearings. The acoustics in the room were appalling and the microphone techniques of most speakers were sub-standard. Consequently we have had to wait for the publication of the transcripts.
AMAZING BUT TRUE
Even sadder, and more extraordinary, was the evidence provided the day before in Newcastle by Ross Magin, GRA chairman from 1995 to 2003, about the goings on during negotiations on what ended up as a 99 year agreement on commission splits – The Racing Distribution Agreement or RDA.
The first point of interest concerns the professional advice GRA obtained.
According to Mr Magin, âThe point is that the thoroughbreds originally appointed Clayton Utz because we had to consider that and the GRA and, I assume the trotting, considered that, rather than get another lot of lawyers in, we would also engage them to act on our behalf.”
The Hon. Trevor Khan (for the inquiry): “You got no independent legal advice with regard to the implications of the inter-code agreement on. Is that a fair summary of the position?”
Mr Magin: “The position is that, as far as I recall and know, Clayton Utz were acting on behalf of the three codes and I would have thought that legal obligations would be upon them to love the three of them and not just one.”
Considering that the codeâs financial future was at stake, the fact that GRA had no independent legal advice is almost unbelievable. But thatâs not all.
The negotiations took place just before the government sold the TAB to the most attractive bidder (ie the one that provided the biggest single lump of cash). This led to Mr Magin explaining the GRAâs relaxed attitude in this way: âWe always knew that the Government was selling the business to the TAB and that the question of the distribution would be reviewed in 15 years time. In my mind I thought that was some sort of comfort into what might happen in the future.”
In fact, that 15 year review had nothing to do with the distribution arrangement. It was simply a condition of the sale and therefore involved only the government and the license it handed to the successful buyer â ie TAB Ltd (now Tabcorp).
However, a third point is even more shattering. Here is the process Mr Magin went through prior to signing the agreement: âThe reason I signed it was that it was not my decision. It was put to them (the GBOTA and NCA representatives) that they were the industry, they were the people that shared the money, and we were an authority that was charged only with responsible. We were the policemen. We had nothing to do with the commercial side.â
Nothing? As it happens, I had some dealings with the GRA board just prior to this time â all concerning commercial matters. So did deFax, then a private company, which won several extensions of its contract with GRA to produce racebooks, after what were said to be competitive tenders. Anyway, the GRAâs very charter called for it to ensure âthe development and progressâ of the industry. How this could be interpreted as handing over power to two raceclubs beggars belief.
Even so, those two clubs obviously exercised powerful influences, both in their own right and as ex officio members of the GRA board from that time until very recently. Of course, that then leads to the question of how they could act simultaneously in the interests of both their club and the state authority. Some conflict would be normal, surely?
Letâs note that, amongst other things, the GRA was responsible for receiving money from the TAB and then parcelling it out to individual clubs for prize money, for club administration costs, and for assessing need and allocating funds for major maintenance items. As the largest clubs, naturally GBOTA and NCA got the largest shares. But how would that process be seen to be fair and equitable, or even desirable, in the interests of the state at large? Itâs an impossible question, of course, but one which has largely disappeared now that clubs no longer have direct representation on the current GRNSW board.
We can also note that at a later time, the NCA nominee on the board, Mike Ahrens, abruptly resigned, advising the Greyhound Recorder that he could no longer accept the way it did business. Subsequently, two new appointments to the board, Paul Wheeler and Paul England, also resigned not long after they took on the job. Their reasons were never published.
The same organisation was strongly criticised by ICAC for its poor supervision following the investigation into abuses committed by the chief steward Rodney Potter, who was later jailed.
Historically, it all points to a bumbling approach to running an industry. But is it any better now? Many submissions to the parliamentary inquiry suggest not. It is also worth thinking about a year-old proposal by GRNSW to remove Border Park at Tweed Heads from the state and consign it to Queensland jurisdiction for future racing. An item in the 2012/13 annual report also emphasised the plan. The mind boggles at how a relatively lowly body like GRNSW could overcome a swathe of legal barriers and contractual obligations (to Tabcorp, amongst others) to do that. The change might also be a surprise to the NSW treasurer who would be faced with a loss of tax income from Border Parkâs busy operation (not from itsbut from the packed houses in its betting auditorium every Saturday and public holiday). And neither TattsBet nor Racing Queensland is legally entitled to operate outside the state. Bringing this about â were it ever to be seriously considered â would require a busload of expensive lawyers just to think about it. Oh dear! Is this a repeat of the RDA exercise?
generally, not just in NSW, tends to use outmoded organisational structures which militate against timely and efficient management. They particularly lack any efficiency oversight. Auditors check the sums but not the effectiveness of investments made by the board. The same applies to other racing codes, which must be a major reason that racing has been losing its punch and its market share over the last two decades. That greyhounds are doing a little better than others is no more than a reflection of stuffing more and more races into the overcrowded TAB calendar at the same time as the gallops and trots are losing their way, rather like putting more machines into an already busy poker machine palace.
So will the parliamentary inquiry see it in that light? Time will tell, but they are asking a lot of good questions.
A side note: during his former association with the Newcastle Jockey Club, Ross Magin was always a strong supporter ofat Beaumont Park, then owned by the NJC. However, in the end, the NJC refused to take the necessary action to change its pattern of operation and the track closed down and the land was sold off. The wounds were deep and the Hunter region was never the same again.
In the old days the threatened sackings at SPC in Shepparton would have been a disaster, not just for local farmers and the town, but also for patrons of the dog track. Similar impacts have occurred in the past at Warrnambool or Ballarat with Fletcher Jones downturns, at Geelong where half the town is in strife, and when steel mills closed at Newcastle and Port Kembla, affecting half a dozen dog tracks in those areas.
Fortunately, customers now come from far and wide, courtesy of SKY and the TABs, so the impact is minimal.
The national approach has a lot going for it, even though at times there are many clashing races and the kitty is split up into chunks that are too small for serious punting â which are matters racing bosses could bring under control if they wished. .
But it does bring up the question of why racing management is not also a candidate for the national approach. The current pattern of differing conditions and rules in each state cannot possibly optimise the welfare of the industry. Grading, stewardsâ policies and penalties, track standards, betting pools, commission arrangements and just sheer political influence are all matters that would benefit from a heftier and more consistent approach. The entire would be much better than the parts.
Indeed, the fact that regular national meetings of both stewards and administrators have failed to achieve more consistency is a blight on the industry. There is not much point in getting together if everyone goes home and does something different â the voluminous local rules applying in each state is evidence of bureaucracy at its worst. So, for that matter, is the lack of industry statistics for 2012 and 2013.
Think for a moment what might happen if cricket, tennis and the football codes all changed rules as they moved from one state to another. Bedlam, surely.
There are other parts of this country which have seen the light â aviation, for example, could not possibly work if state-by-state rules applied. Planes would start running in to each other. Yet dogs in their hundreds fly and drive over state borders every day. Customers could not care less and probably often donât even know what state the track is in. It makes no sense.
Indeed, a national initiative is possibly the only way that the industry would be able to mount serious public relations and marketing programs, thereby telling the real greyhound story to more and more Australians. Doing that piecemeal is just not a goer. Worse, it means episodes like the current parliamentary inquiry in NSW will lead â and has led â to literally hundreds of people throwing rocks at the sport, regardless of their accuracy or balance.
YOU WERE WARNED
More topical is the fact that Shepparton was able to stage its Monday meeting at all. Maximum temperatures then, and on several previous days, had exceeded 40 degrees, cooling down only at night.
That may have contributed to an extraordinary event. Its 650m race was reduced to three starters, including the highly talented Phenomenal. Despite warnings from this column about odds-on pops, punters sent it out at $1.10, not much more than bank interest. Yet Sisco Rage jumped in front and led all the way in a sparkling 37.28, only a length outside Nellie Noodles track record, after an equally quick sectional of 17.12. Although it got close on the line, Phenomenal never really looked the winner.
Sisco Rage has displayed ability previously, winning at The Meadows in 30.24, Ballarat in 31.11 and Geelong in 25.82.Â Still, its time at Shepparton easily bettered any of its career runs. Actually, it is amazing how often some in this kennel are able to jump well and lead the field a merry dance, as was the case here.
BEWITCHED AND BEFUDDLED
GRNSW has just told us that takings boomed in the first half of the financial year, yet only a short while ago it told the parliamentary greyhound inquiry that the code faced the prospect of scrubbing some clubs due to a dismal financial outlook. So which is it?Â Â .
The current âvibrant betting marketâ, according to CEO, Brent Hogan, is reflected in a national rise of over 5% at TABs and much more for online bookmakers and. Turnover in NSW was up 11.2% on the same period in 2012 which included some weeks of the trainers strike.
Tabcorp has already recorded a fall in traditional tote business but a rise in, albeit from a low base. Somewhat similarly, TattsBet figures are up but mainly because it took over the Tasmanian business from the state government. Its prospects in Queensland and Tasmania are not looking bright as customers are indicating a preference for betting outlets which offer more reliable dividend potential.
NSW racing codes are currently calling on the government to remove the 1.5% cap on racefield fees, thereby allowing market forces to set the rates. This is a good move. Governments are best left out of commercial matters.
However, note that GRNSW still charges fees on the basis of a percentage of bookmakerâs surpluses, rather than on a commission on turnover basis. Since the latter system has proved far more lucrative for all the major players, including Racing NSW, it indicates that something odd is occurring at the dogs.Â Clearly, either the bookies are making excessive profits or NSW punters are very bad at what they do. Can that continue in the long term?
The Victorian Parliament has just enacted a law which allows the Racing Integrity Commission and racing stewards to haul in to their inquiries any, âpeople of interest.â No longer does this apply only to licensed persons.
Failure to attend would render them liable to fines and even jail terms
Commissioner Sal Perna told the Herald Sun he will not, âgo out all guns blazing and ask questions of all sorts of people. You must use your judgement.â
Likewise, stewards, âmust show reasons they have good grounds for asking a person to attend an inquiry.â
The change follows a number of hassles in Victoria, notably the Damien Oliver case, where the jockey declined to attend the Commissionâs inquiry and where his ultimate penalty (by the stewards) was heavily criticised for being too late and too lenient. Oliver got 10 months for betting on another horse in a race he was riding in, something which must surely be the ultimate racing sin.
NSW gallops stewards must also be looking on enviously after they were frustrated by the refusal of big punter, Eddie Hayson, to attend hearings on the Waterhouse-Singleton case involving the fitness of More Joyous. Hayson has greyhound form after being responsible, amongst other incidents, for the Lucyâs Light scam at the Gold Coast greyhounds. However, there was no evidence of any illegality there. He simply beat the bookies by manipulating market prices with legal bets, after which their betting rules were adjusted big-time.
However, the change to the law in Victoria brings into question just how the Commission or the stewards will exercise their new powers. How do you define âgood groundsâ, for example? Will the practice spread to other states? And how big does a punter have to be to attract attention?Â A few hundred dollars will distort most greyhound pools these days.
I have no trouble with stewards implementing a âwarning offâ providing it is for good reason, and is subject to appeal (although whether it is policed properly is open to question). Anyway, for betting purposes, a warning-off means not a great deal in this electronic age. Racing NSW effectively âwarned offâ all the NT bookmakers at one stage, but it didnât get far with that, did it? The Northern Territory Racing Commission found serious problems with First Four betting at Ipswich in the Brunker vcase, but, in the end, Queensland stewards failed to act in any way â no suspensions, no warning off.
However, giving stewards the same power as a court of law is another matter altogether. They have no particular legal training, only past experience in similar matters. Further, most appeals from stewardsâ decisions can be made only to their employers â racing boards or committees set up for that purpose â which is a bit too circular in some minds. Only in a limited number of cases can offenders utilise independent tribunals staffed by qualified people. And it is an expensive process.
More to the point, there is reason to claim that greyhound stewards are often not up to the task in general. We have instanced on these pages many cases of irregular penalties for the same offense, stewardsâ decisions being overturned for inconsistency, poor assessment of form, and a lack of attention to dogs racing with injuries. In some of these cases, they compare poorly with stewards in other codes. That hardly inspires confidence in their ability to deal with even more complex matters.
But we do need them. For the last 150 years, crooks have never been far away from the racing scene, and will continue to be for the next 150. I would even like to see stewards armed with greater skills and more sophisticated systems, and to pay them more, providing only that they improve their performance.Â After all, in essence they are the industryâs managers-on-the-spot, so we need them to do more than just take swabs and thump fighters. However, like the dogs they supervise, they need to pass a stricter test before they qualify.
So, could stewards do more?
Hereâs an example (there would be many like it). The four semi-finals of the NSW Futurity and Derby at Newcastle last Friday featured substantial disruptions around the first turn*. Only one of four favourites won and many dogs were thrown off the track. Stewards saw fit to mention 23 of the 31 runners in their report as having suffered some sort of interference in that area alone.
There was nothing unusual about that as it happens routinely at The Gardens. Allegedly, the track was designed by âexpertsâ, according to advice from NCA management at the time, yet none of those involved had any significant greyhound experience. That showed in the original bend-siting of the 411m boxes, which later had to be shifted at great expense to the current 400m position. Unfortunately, the 600m bend start; the poor 515m first turn and a flattish home turn remain unchanged. These are basic design issues.
Given that stewards have independently noted the poor outcomes, why would they not also look at cause and effect and make recommendations about needed improvements to the layout?Â After all, they are watching all this three times a week and are responsible for the integrity of. In fact, the word integrity is usually worked into the titles of steward managers these days.
One definition of integrity comes from Macquarie dictionary: âsound, unimpaired or perfect conditionâ.Â That hardly seems to apply here, does it?
Nor does it apply to Wentworth Park, Gosford, Richmond, Dapto or Maitland where GRNSW has, at huge expense, approved tracks works over the last decade, all of which have proved disruptive to one extent or another. Or at other tracks such as Casino, Lismore, Bulli and Nowra, where similar problems occur but no attempt has been made to rectify them. Nor have stewards commented, so far as we know.
That leaves us with the question of whether we can place enough trust in the integrity of racing stewards to support any future action they might take. This is especially critical as stewards are not independent of state authorities, although there is a strong case that they should be.
* (Note: In general terms, the above hassles at The Gardens are readily viewed on race videos, but it will be impossible to make out exactly which dog suffered what because the sunlight and inadequate camera work prevent viewers from identifying the individual dogs. They are all black blurs).
How would you like to own a dog that has won more than half its 103 races, including six of its last eight and earned $194,000 in prize money? Is there another dog racing that can equal that performance? Black Magic Opal, perhaps, and one or two others. But they are rare.
Stagger has done that and is still going strong at 4 years and 5 months of age. He is off again at Traralgon tomorrow. Just last Sunday he bolted in at Sale in a smart 24.69 in a Veterans field, but most of his starts have been against all comers, including an unplaced finish in Walk Hardâs roughly run heat of the Warragul Cup. Note that, going into the six heats, only three starters had earned more cash than Stagger â Black Magic Opal, Paw Licking and Spud Regis â and all three had the advantage of picking up big prizes in town. Stagger had done it the hard way.
Leading up to that race, he had also won in 16.75 at Traralgon and 21.85 at Shepparton, both really quick runs.
By Primo Uno out of Instructed First, Stagger was bred, owned and is trained by Garry Selkrig of Devon Meadows. Both trainer and dog deserve credit for maintaining its form over such a long period, with only one break of any consequence in mid-2013. The dog won five races in succession in mid-2012, four in a row later that year, and four times since then has won three in a row.
Stagger has started at fifteen different tracks over varying distances from 298m to 535m, winning at every one, bar a single start at Bulli. He is a reliable beginner, rather than a brilliant one, but quickly runs to the lead before the turn. Thatâs a big contrast to his dad, a wonderful galloper, but one which could not get out of a box to save his life (but has still sired many top performers).
No doubt his best performances have been over the tough Horsham 480m trip, where he has broken the 27 seconds mark three times. Thatâs the mark of a hard chaser and this dog certainly fills the bill.
But are there more such veterans around? Not long ago I instanced a similar, although not quite so brilliant career by Burnt Fuse, but others are not easy to find. Victoria programs regular Veterans races, but they have almost disappeared in NSW and Queensland, and are not common in SA. Why is this so? Almost invariably, these runners put up consistent performances, their form is well known to punters and they can often run top times â Stagger’s run at Sale was easily the best of the meeting.
Injuries or loss of interest can be a barrier for many but is there enough encouragement for owners and trainers to support a bigger Veterans circuit? Such dogs can often lose a fraction of their early dash but more often than not they can still run good overall times, no matter their age (Staggerâs sectional at Sale was a modest 5.34). It seems the industry may be losing an opportunity to widen public interest as well as improve the economics of dog ownership.
After all, half the Aussie Test team is over 30 years old, while Li Na is rising 32 years of age and has just picked up a cool $2.6 million in winning the Australian Open. Many promising youngsters fell by the wayside
Speaking of tennis, it is remarkable the similarities between sports. Stanislas Wawrinka, up against a better credentialled opponent in the menâs singles, got stuck into him early and quickly dominated the way the match was conducted. His running numbers would have been 1121. Rafa never really got back into the race, despite picking up a set when Stan missed a few forehands. Rafaâs injury was unfortunate but the stage had already been set by then.
For all his abilities, Rafaâs main strength is really his defence. He will get the ball back from anywhere and just waits for the opportunity to unleash his magic forehand. But Stan would not let him do it, or not often enough. He took the initiative and that decided the race.
How often is the greyhound race run the same way? Put up a flighty performer against a hard chaser and you would want to be on the chaser most of the time. Given a chance, he is the one that dominates the running of the race, especially at the finish. A classic example was Walk Hard v Paw Licking in the Warragul Cup final.
Of course, experience also counts, which is also why there should be more Veterans races.
FIELDS FALLING AWAY?
A couple of readers expressed sorrow at the shift from locally graded fields to the current computer-dominated system, reasoning that the club grader always had the opportunity to ring around and get extras to fill up the program. (See previous article, IS ANYBODY WORRIED ABOUT THE PRODUCT, 27 January).
There is some validity in that thought, and also in the ability of some managers to initiate more interesting races.
Unfortunately, history will not be re-visited, if for no other reason than that some may not have done the right thing in the past. Besides, what sort of dog are you going to get when you twist a trainerâs arm to get more nominations?
In any event, that still does not solve the problem of the lack of numbers. The supply and demand formula has got out of whack. We either breed more dogs, cut the number of races, or run short fields. They are the only options.
Just when you thought you had seen it all in the Sunshine State, they have done it again. Racing Queensland has just announced that TattBetâs stranglehold over the local tote licence is up for grabs when it’s current license expires in July.
RQ says it is looking for proposals from wagering operators to âsubmit their vision for wagering growth … through innovation, customer development and greater promotionâ by the end of February. Thatâs all very well, but consider some related points.
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â RQ does not issue betting licenses. Thatâs the governmentâs responsibility. Why has RQ made the announcement? And why did it come from the CEO, not the much-criticised Chairman?
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â It implies that the tote can supply the necessary impetus to an industry that has numerous internal problems that are holding back development. The cart seems located before the horse.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â RQ itself makes almost no effort toÂ stimulate growth, other than its peculiar âWerunasoneâ campaign which tells participants to be nice to each other. Thatâs unlikely to help much.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Field sizes and quality are getting worse in all codes, but certainly in greyhounds, which now almost never fill all the boxes in its major Thursday night slot.
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â TattsBet turnover is consistently declining, with Queensland and Tasmania contributions trending worst. Its tote product is therefore noncompetitive in an era when punters can easily access a range of other operators.
6.Â Â Â Â Â Â All codes, including greyhounds, are being managed by industry insiders, a policy which has failed miserably over the last two decades, and which has generally been discarded elsewhere.
7.Â Â Â Â Â Â The mind boggles at what might happen if TattsBet were to lose its Queensland licence but still had to persevere with its NT, SA and Tasmania business. In that event, the end product would be virtually unusable.
To its credit, RQ has apparently realised that the current modus operandi is a dead duck and needs revitalisation, but only so far as the tote is concerned. Still, thatâs a good start and also may serve to shake up incumbent operators elsewhere, even though they all have long term tenure.
However, the concept of someone else taking over from TattsBet is barely realistic, given its wide spread of betting shops and the like across the state, and elsewhere. Possession is virtually nine points of the law, even though monopolies like the TABs produce many negatives. Anyway, given TattsBetâs, Queenslandâs and Tasmaniaâs parlous financial positions, it is almost a national emergency.
There is only one possible saviour for Queensland and its sister states and that is the prospect of creating a national betting pool, after which the size of local pools will no longer be so critical.
So letâs hope some interesting ideas emerge.
<h3>MONEY THROWN AWAY – AGAIN</h3>
It was a funny night at Warragul last Sunday for the Cup heats. Three favourites won well, including Black Magic Opal and new record-holder Walk Hard, and three lost. Every winner either jumped in front or got a saloon passage along the rails when others got tangled up.
Actually, thatâs the reason it is difficult to bet on Warragulâs 460m trip â there is just too much interference going into the first turn. Something about the trackâs configuration has never been right. Itâs something GRV and others need to study more carefully in order to achieve cleaner running.
But thatâs not the big thing. The staging of the Cup heats at an oddball time, like other Cup series before it in Victoria (eg Horsham, Cranbourne), invariably costs the industry big money. Shifting away from a clubâs standard slot is always risky. People get used to patronising their favourite tracks and can get lost in the backwash when a different time is chosen. Of course, Warragulâs main Tuesday night slot is not a bed of roses from a turnover viewpoint, but Sunday night has to be the pits. People have knocked off mentally by that time of the week and obviously prefer to spend time with the family, go to church, or whatever.
If you compare the takings with the previous average-fair meeting at Warragul on its normal Tuesday night, hereâs what you would find in the average Win pools.
PreviouslyÂ Â Â Â Â Â Cup HeatsÂ Â Â Â Â Â Change
VicTABÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â $14,662Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â $12,336Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â -15.9%
NSWTABÂ Â Â Â Â Â $6,265Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â $4,626Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â -35.4%
In other words, including the exotics, Australian turnover was down by well over $100,000, compared with what might have been expected if Warragul had stayed on Tuesday. Thatâs money lost forever, and without real justification.
Race schedulers might have considered the need to put a five day gap between heats and final (on the following Friday) but, even then, there are two further points to consider; first, five days is a bare minimum between major races, especially if any of the finalists need work done on them and, second, in the normal course of events any extra Warragul meetings are typically scheduled all over the week, not necessarily Friday â indeed, almost never Friday. Any number of combinations would have been better than what was chosen. Whatever the idea was, it failed on every count.
Aside from that, promotion of one of the better nights of the year â many top sprinters were engaged â was almost non-existent, as evidenced by the appalling ratings given the meeting in NSW. Moreover, the night of the heats is usually going to be more attractive financially than the night of the final â ie six good races versus one â so the heats should have been given at least equal pride of place.
It was no way to run a business.
The GRNSW pleas to the parliamentary inquiry are probably logical enough, considering the state of its finances today (see a summary of proceedings so far by Clarinda Campbell on 27 November). Future viability of many tracks is in doubt, according to CEO Brent Hogan, because of the bleed of cash to the other two racing codes under the terms of the 1998 commission sharing agreement.
It all casts black marks on the earlier administrationâs decision to sign a fixed 99 year agreement on the split. It beggars belief that any commercial operation would make such a commitment, knowing that the future century could see world wars, famine, pestilence, sea level changes and â most important of all â growth throughout the Australian. Yet it was done, and even today one person intimately involved in the decision has told me it seemed a good idea at the time.
But are greyhound administrations generally capable of good decision-making anyway? And do they learn?
Since that era, NSW has strongly opposed the arrival ofand NT bookies, notably in a speech by the then-chairman, Professor Percy Allen, who implored participants to avoid the newcomers at all costs. (At least four other states did likewise â WA, SA, Queensland and, for a while, Tasmania). That attitude was magically reversed a few years later and all now live happily together. Which is just as well as NSW gets to keep all that commission, unlike the stuff coming in through the TAB. But what an emotional and slapdash way it was to handle a fresh challenge. Allen was a public servant and part-time academic, not a businessman.
NSW has also spent millions over the last decade on developing tracks at Wentworth Park, Newcastle, Gosford, Bathurst, Richmond, Dapto and, more recently, Goulbourn and Maitland. All of that was poorly researched, resulting in old faults re-appearing or new ones created. The entire Dapto track, for example, needed a move of some metres to the north to get it away from track infrastructure, thereby allowing a more sensible start for 520m races (box 1 is now hard up against the line of the running rail), as well as an uninterrupted view for SKY watchers. At the re-built Goulbourn track, flat turns affect the running while inside dogs in 457m races must first turn right then left to avoid going straight into the rail
Earlier this year, GRNSW announced a plan to move the Border Park track at Tweed Heads to Queensland jurisdiction. This revolutionary prospect was accompanied by not a shred of justification but got applause from Racing Queensland, which immediately made a slot available in its TAB calendar. Yet how could it happen? The process would involve huge changes to laws and contractual obligations in both states, to say nothing about the constitutionality of effectively altering state borders. And this came from an administration that has previously cut back the Border Park dates â amazingly, at a time when the nearby Gold Coast track had just closed down. Perhaps it hoped that two wrongs would make a right.
But it all begs the question of why GRNSW decided to forge ahead over the last few years by adding more races and upgrading clubs to TAB status in the face of declining fortunes. Any greyhound expansion could only contribute more to the other two codes (as it did during the equine influenza epidemic), and dilute average revenue per race. And why has it failed to cut costs by combining adjacent clubs? That did happen with Orange and Bathurst, but that was largely due to local initiatives rather than those of GRNSW. Other opportunities to repeat the exercise have been ignored. Cowra/Young, Gunnedah/Tamworth and Casino/Lismore are classic opportunities, for example. Financially, the high prize money for premium races, such as the Golden Easter Egg, must also come into play. If the state is in strife, why is the budget not attacked?
Queensland itself has been dithering for years about the replacements options for the flood-prone Albion Park site and the Gold Coast track, which was lost to the neighbouring hospital. Several have been put up but both the industry and two different governments have been unable to settle on a desirable location, never mind where the money is coming from. But it is doing that in an environment where the state is continually running short of dogs and also running at a loss. None of that is new, itâs been trending that way for years yet remedial action is absent. On top of it all are a series of ongoing arguments and judicial inquiries about the use of funds by Racing Queensland.
Tasmania is also losing money, frequently generating questions in its parliament, none of which seem to address the oddity that local racing is run by what is effectively a government department. It was not doing too well beforehand, but the sale of its tote to TattsBet has sharply reduced turnover and made things worse. That drop would have been an obvious outcome to anyone versed in the habits of punters, so the bleed over to Melbourne and Tabcorpâs bigger pools should have been readily forecast.
WA is not without its challenges, notably that it cannot fund the second half of its enforced move to a new site to replace Cannington and is waiting for government to bail it out.
SA is managing reasonably, but turnover is rising mostly on the back of added races, not internal growth (a fact that the last annual report failed to identify). However, it has been able to negotiate its way towards better splits of TAB commissions. Even so, it has two strategic risks: it is part of a declining TattsBet portfolio and the state is massively dependent on the supply of racing stock by the Wheeler organisation.
Better deals are also the key in Victoria where, relatively, it is awash with money. Frequent government handouts â for track development and breeding incentives, for example â and much improved commission splits have paved with way for regular prize money increases, including the almost obscene $350,000 for the Melbourne Cup winner. Even then, one of those handouts â an increased subsidy for local breeding activity â was not accompanied by any economic justification and is highly unlikely to achieve what the Minister claimed it would do. Suppose breeding were to increase by, say, 10%, would that result in higher employment in the industry? Hands up all the breeders who will be putting on more staff in that event.
Even were the increase justified, the basic theme of providing subsidies for local breeding is a fraud in its own way. There is no evidence that they produce any real benefit to the industry, especially as every state does it. They are no more than handouts to an already profitable sector of the industry. If anything, they might do the opposite if they encourage owners to send bitches to a less than ideal sire.
All told, the common threads amongst all states are a reliance on governments to bail them out when things get tough, a thinning out of both the number and quality of dogs, and a drop in average turnover per race. That includes the flourishing state of Victoria. All this prompts, or coincides with, the obvious outcome of a drop in serious punters numbers and a rise in the proportion of business coming from mug gamblers, both of which pose strategic risks.
But looking at the even wider picture, where isheaded and what are we doing about it? Despite the presence of so-called Strategic Plans there are little vision, long term planning, or meaningful objectives, hence administrations are getting into strife they might have avoided. The customary short term outlook of politicians does not help, of course, but it remains a prime responsibility of managements to build and maintain profitable businesses anyway.
The short answers to the problem are that (a) the industry is run by administrators and not managers, (b) the profit motive is absent, and (c) also absent is any system to call management to account. Short of a march down main street to parliament there is no real method of getting the effectiveness of state boards checked out (the current NSW inquiry is unlikely to achieve a lot, mostly because the government is not running it). Racing Ministers take little notice of complaints or refer anything back to the racing board to comment on. Very circular!
Yet the evidence is everywhere that normal commercial decision-making processes are bypassed. At best, the focus is on breaking even during the current year, not on achieving development and a âprofitableâ outcome in the long term.
The blame for that position is due squarely, not so much to the individuals, but to the system under which they operate. That system is broken, if it ever were valid. A structure which assigns all responsibility to a committee is always destined to be inefficient and unresponsive, irrespective of how much or how little authority is vested in the CEO. If the CEO is strong it means the board will be weak. If the board is strong, it means the CEO will show less initiative, which is a big problem for a sport/business which is desperately trying to catch up with the outside world (or should be).
Historically, the big cry was âget more dog men on the boardâ. That has already proved a disaster, although Queensland has not read the message yet. Perhaps what we need in the exact opposite. Objective outsiders might then call for a re-examination of the way we are doing business.
Itâs happened before and it will happen again. The selective nonsense pumped out by the ABC 7:30 program on greyhound practices does nobody any good, including the ABC and its shoddy journalism. Unfortunately, the subject will rear its head once again when the inquiry by the Greens/Shooters alliance in the NSW parliament gets up a head of steam later in the year.
But itâs not much good protesting now. The milk has been spilt. However, note that virtually none of the mainstream media bothered to pick it up, as they did for the announcement of the equally poorly-based political inquiry nearly two months ago. Clearly, they regarded the program as half-baked and old hat. Even so, the anti-greyhound groups jumped at the chance to push their biased and often inaccurate viewpoints. They donât seem to realise that greyhounds actually like to race â itâs in their DNA â just as humans like to compete on the golf course or the football field.
Indeed, the RSPCA, supposedly experts in the field, should be pointing that out.
But why did it occur in the first place? It seems some bright spark in the ABC hit upon the idea on a slow news day, perhaps prompted by some personal feelings about the greyhound. Itâs not unusual for the ABC to create its own agenda and then look for the means to support it â any means will do.
But that is always going to be a possibility. The real key is that the idea, and the TV presentation, fell on poorly prepared ground. Poorly prepared, that is, by the state racing authorities as well as Greyhounds Australasia, which tend to concentrate on insiders rather than the public.
While the ABC is notorious for its slanted views, it would have had little background information to guide it in this case. What it did get from officials was after the event and largely put to one side because it did not fit its theme. Sadly, public support for the greyhound breed andis minimal, largely because they do not understand what it is all about. Too many industry insiders â many of whom were rightly offended by the program â fail to realise that this is how the real world works.
The vast majority of publicity about greyhounds always has been nasty â dating from the days of live hare coursing and later re-inforced by periodic stories about drugs, injuries and the like. Ironically, the codeâs attack on drug use has been arguably its greatest single advance over the years, and its biggest success, even by comparison with other sports. Yet the general public does not know that.
The good news is that this is fixable. Not by pumping out media releases after the damage has been done but by educating and informing the public beforehand. Not with a quickie effort but with a continuing program to establish and maintain a positive image of the breed, its long history, its unique purity and its athletic prowess.
That is the responsibility of greyhound boards and managements everywhere. Itâs their first responsibility, really. But they are not carrying it out. They are clearly not able to bring to bear the commercial, marketing and PR skills required. Besides that, they operate as individual fiefdoms and the only national body â Greyhounds Australasia â it noted more for what it does not do than what it does. Too often, greyhound authorities are hired or appointed as administrators, not modern business managers. Bureaucracies are all very fine and necessary things â and we need them,too – but they are no good at flogging stuff. They do not move with the times but simply react to them â as we have seen again here (which also explains why greyhound organisational structures have not changed over the past 50 years or so).
If that capacity is lacking then the industry must go outside to employ it. What is needed is an ongoing contract with a skilled PR/Marketing organisation to develop and push a national campaign to provide all that missing information, to demonstrate to the public all the positive aspects of the business, and to ensure that media people have easy access to data, ideas, concepts and contacts should they need it.
The code is now paying out around $100 million a year in stake money. To fund the contract it needs to take out 1% of that cash and invest it in the future. Thatâs about $15 out of the average prize. That would not only ensure the code is seen in a better light but it would undoubtedly return serious dividends over time as more people seeas an attractive recreation â whether as owners, trainers or punters, or even as workers. That sort of outcome will never be achieved by accident. It has to be built.
All states must put their shoulder to the wheel. Assign responsibility for the project to somebody with commercial nous and let them get on with it. Authorities need only to set it up, fund it and support it.
Something the ABC Missed
Marvellous to see old stager Burnt Fuse – 4 years 8 months – rack up its 37thÂ win from 97 starts at Ballarat, running a best-of-night 22.27 in doing it. And an equally smart 30.43 at Cranbourne by Rockadore at 4 years 2 months.
There should be more Veterans races in other states. They are all win-win, especially for owners. They would also do no harm to the industry image, given the nonsense being pushed at the moment by the ABC and so-called animal lovers, who come out of the woodwork on these occasions.
With an energetic national program organised, the opportunity would be there to tie it in with Masters series in other sports, just as the Miata-Black Caviar association returned huge dividends. The stories would be endless.
Go for it!
It’s taken the best part of 6 months, but the statutory body that controls GRNSW has a massive positive swab issue.in New South Wales has finally formally acknowledged the worst kept secret in the industry –
Even the Newcastle Herald managed to put the point in print before GRNSW even hinted there was a growing dilemma. This is even more condemning when you consider that GRNSW are habitual “tweeters”, have a borderline addiction to sharing on ; and employ a growing list of journalists/media and marketing types. The channels of communication for them are many and varied.
The silence from those bestowed with the integrity and governance of the industry surrounding the issue has been deafening. Jason Mackay had to publicly “give up” his colleagues to emphasise the fact that he isn’t the only leading trainer waiting on their regulatory body to drag itself up by the bootstraps and deal with the issue.
Even Mackay wasn’t sure of the numbers involved citing “maybe 30 or 40 trainers” waiting for authorities to get their integrity “house in order”. But those numbers, as devastating as they are; could be even larger given there is currently a national epidemic of positive swabs – (an issue we will deal with in another analysis).
A few months ago, whenran the numbers across in New South Wales, there were over 42 outstanding swabs that had not been reported as clear in New South Wales alone- some of them went right back to late 2012. Some may have been administration or “clerical” errors, but it was safe to say that there was more going on than “the new girl” not knowing how to do her job.
In GRNSW’s defence, the only reason we were able to run that analysis was that GRNSW do report when swab results “clear”. Somewhat obliquely though, they fail to report a swab anomaly. It is left to the user to “assume” an unreported clear swab has an irregularity. Surely commonsense and good governance dictates that it would cause less innuendo and “betting ring gossip” to be upfront and report the issue? But this is the modern reality of greyhounds racing’s version of “transparency”.
As dark as this would appear to be for those in New South Wales, GRNSW are light years ahead ofVictoria (GRV).
It should come as no surprise that the regulatory body that runs subject of an Racing Integrity Ombudsman inquiry in to their lack of governance and gambling employees, will only make mention of a swab being taken in a stewards report of a race meeting. Nothing is ever mentioned of the swab again. Its value as information for the public just evaporates in to the ether.in Victoria don’t even report the swabs they take in a format anyone could digest. The same group who were the
Unless the swab is positive, and then the job of joining the dots falls at the feet of the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board (RADB). The RADB will report a positive swab inquiry outcome, although often months after the initial incident. Apparently nothing noteworthy occurs in the intervening period between a swab being taken, and inquiry report being finalised.
It wasn’t that long ago that GRV did not even report its integrity issues online. Believe it or not, GRV sought to hide integrity issues from wider public scrutiny until 2010. It’s only the last few years that these results can be found online. GRNSW through its predecessor, GHRRA; had been publishing these results online since the early 2000′s. A fact that is hard to reconcile when the GRV once trumpeted itself as the leading greyhound body in Australia with regard to Information Technology (IT).
Disappointingly, Racing Queensland and Racing Tasmania both follow the Victorian trend of only reporting swab issues after the outcome of the inquiry.
South Australia (GRSA) and Racing And Wagering West Australia (RWWA) who are often maligned in industry circles, actually lead the industry in integrity and transparency with regard to stewards inquiries and positive swabs. They both publish and release notifications when swab irregularities arise, and then keep the interested public informed as the process evolves.
If you’re waiting for the same from GRNSW – they sometimes report a swab anomaly, sometimes they don’t. The mere fact some are reported and others not only serves to further industry speculation and fuels a perception of “rules for some”. When GRNSW do choose to report swab irregularities, it is usually only days before the inquiry is set to take place; a date which is often months after the fact.
And what of Victoria? Well you might as well be living in a world before the pre-industrial age. It’s as if an information vacuum the equivalent of Steven King’s dome has descended over theheadquarters. There will be no information forthcoming at all until after the RADB hearing is held; and then it can take weeks to months for that information to be relayed to the public. Presumably the pigeon struggles under the weight of the message it is delivering.
Given the constant spiel from the million dollar marketing machines of our regulatory bodies, morphing modest achievements and occasional complete fails into stunningly digestible and palatable media “bites”, there will always be a need for commentary and analysis uninfluenced by the spell of our statutory bodies.
From time to timeand its writers have themselves been maligned for not providing a “sugar & candy” analysis and coverage of Australian . The bare facts, the potential pitfalls, and the reality of some unsavoury incidents and issues has the capacity to become too much to bear for some.
While our regulatory bodies seek to hide from the transparency the industry deserves; and while they continue to put marketing concerns ahead of integrity issues; there will always be a need for an independent coverage of.
“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth” – Albert Einstein.
In 2012 the Victorian Ombudsman produced a report in relation to the integrity of Ombudsman’s Integrity Report.Victoria. The report, titled Victorian Ombudsman â Own Motion Investigation into Victoria June 2012 â is available in full on-line and makes for interesting reading. Unfortunately most participants probably have never heard of the report. Most wonât have read it. Everybody needs to :
The report highlighted the actions of those entrusted to run our great sport â their unprofessionalism and their actions that boarded on corruption.
The 7 main points are highlighted below â the report identified:
1. GRV staff were betting on greyhound races during work hours including those in integrity-related positions.
- One employee, a senior manager was found to have placed 4,409 bets over a three year period totalling $508,705 dollars during WORK TIME. Remarkably, when identified by the ombudsman, this employeeâs contract was not torn up nor were they marched out of the building in disgrace. They were issued with a first and final warning and in the months that followed they were given a $10,000 bonus and a pay rise. Eventually this employee left the GRV in March 2012.
- Then CEO John Stephens admitted to betting on greyhound races during work time
- 11 GRV staff were found to have been involved in betting during work hours including stewards: of these 11 people – 3 stewards were terminated, 1 received a first and final warning, 1 form analyst resigned, 1 form analyst was given a first and final warning, 2 graders were terminated, 2 senior managers given first and final warnings, and 1 data operator given a first and final warning.
2. GRV staff owned greyhounds â this presents integrity issues
- How can GRV staff assure participants that they are acting in a professional manner and with integrity to everyone? They have their own interests to consider.
- GRV would continually award contracts without the correct procedures being followed â staff including then CEO would use the same contractors for personal developments. This presents further integrity issues â we need to ensure that tenders are being awarded fairly â and in align with what the industry expects.
- The ombudsmanâs report highlighted that GRV staff failed to correctly record gifts and benefits. Whilst receiving gifts and benefits is not necessarily illegal â what is received needs to be recorded and be transparent â which is wasnât. This leads to allegations of corruption and other concerns regarding integrity.
- GRV would use corporate credit cards and funds to pay for a number of non-core business related expenses such as alcohol. Public servants have faced criminal prosecution for this type of activity.
- Staff found in breach of GRV policy by betting on greyhound races during work time were given a âgolden handshake.â GRV informed the industry that their positions where terminated. This again raises integrity issues.
- Staff employment conditions stipulated the use of work email and internet based programs. Staff were able to access betting sites during their shifts to place bets on races including . Emails sent to one another also contained content of a pornographic and explicit nature â again in breach of policy.
- 1. Racing in NSW can be controlled only by GRNSW under an Act of Parliament.
- 2. Queensland cannot control any racing in NSW, also under an Act of Parliament. Even if it wanted to, Queensland cannot rule on or supervise racing in NSW.
- 3. Two weekly TAB meetings are mooted – but run by whom? Tatts could offer away-betting facilities but is legally qualified to control Queensland racing sites only, not those in NSW. Tabcorp, which already controls betting at Border Park, has long said Saturday afternoon racing (Border Parkâs prime slot) cannot accommodate more races, especially not dog races. That policy is why at Newcastleâs Beaumont Park met its fate in the 1990s.
- 4. Border Park already has TAB facilities under an âauditoriumâ license (as at Randwick and Broadmeadows in Newcastle) which allows them to take bets even when local races are not being run.
- 5. NSW encouragement for this change is the height of hypocrisy â it was GRNSW which chopped back Border Park meeting numbers a couple of years ago, even though the region needed a boost following the closure of the Gold Coast track.
- 6. The broader region of SEQ and NSW Northern Rivers already sees a plentiful exchange of dogs amongst the five available tracks (including Casino and Lismore) so the only impact of this proposal would occur if Border Park prize money were to increase substantially.
- 7. Any extra prize money would require full TAB coverage which would have to come in an already overcrowded weekly program. Only two possibilities are available â first, to run races at breakfast time when most TAB shops are closed or, second, to jam then into a more popular slot and thereby split the available betting funds more thinly. The latter has already created a major problem for intending punters at other tracks. In the interests of the industry, neither option is practicable or desirable.
- 8. The Queensland state is already short of money and so is Racing Queensland â hence the longstanding dithering about building a new track.
- 9. Racing Queensland has shown no competence in running racing and is currently presiding over a decline in finance and standards across all three codes. It has already done back-flips over track expenditure and racing dates at Toowoomba, Caloundra and other provincial galloping locations. The imminent appointment of industry insiders to local boards is likely to make those problems worse.
- 10. The planâs support from the GRNSW CEO, who has no executive authority, must have emerged before checking with his board. His chairman is a lawyer and would certainly have seen the above blockages.
3. The Tender Processes and Practices of GRV
4. GRV lack of gift and hospitality declarations
5. Hospitality Expenditure
6. Staff were given termination payments
7. Staff use of email system
The ombudsman report identified a number of issues involvingin Victoria â some of which are still on-going and have not been adequately addressed. The report has identified a number of issues that affect all state authorities. Changes have occurred in Victoria and they needed to. We need to ensure that this keeps occurring â both here and throughout Australia. Everybody needs to read the ombudsmanâs report â changes needs to occur and integrity needs to be maintained.
The Australian Greyhound industry and the punting public need to have complete trust in those entrusted with the role of overseeing it. State authorities need to show that they are doing all they can to ensure integrity and transparency. Continuing on from our swabbing story last week â letâs take a further look at some other issues. There are countless others and everyone needs to raise their concerns.
GRV staff identified by the ombudsman are still employed by GRV. One questions how this can ensure integrity if some of these persons are still in charge of overseeing theindustry? If they have been found responsible of breaching GRV policies, then they were responsible for unethical behaviour. How can they still be employed in these positions?
One concern is the seeding of greyhounds into races. In blatant terms one could consider this a true example of race fixing. By seeding greyhounds, stewards are attempting to shape the fields and influence the outcome of a race. Of course in, things happen during a race, so why do we need greyhounds to be seeded? This is a quick fix that would improve transparency and integrity. No more greyhounds seeded into races, concerns addressed. Allegations that race fixing occurs disappears.
Box draws are a unique issues. It is all well and good to say that they are conducted by a computer. However computers can be programed to produce particular results under given circumstances. The fairest way to draw a race, and box draws is by the banjo system â which should be recorded or displayed online to ensure transparency and fairness to all.
The ombudsman report touched on the surface of an organisation failing to be managed in a manner that was expected of it by the industry that supported it. It was an unethical organisation.
Furthermore â the ombudsman report touched on the surface where the industry needs to dig deeper. The investigation needed to delve into the phone records of GRV staff and stewards identified in the investigation. Confidence and transparency needs to be built. When people entrusted with the administration of this industry are placing substantial bets of races it begs the question, âTo what extent are these people prepared to go to ensure they reap a benefit (reward) from their investment?â Letâs remember, it was these same people who were responsible for grading dogs into the races, seeding dogs into field and the box draw. They were also responsible for deciding which dogs were subjected to the swabbing process during a meeting.
By comparing betting records with telephone checks, investigators may be able to identify a particular pattern of bets between GRV staff and trainers. Was there any communication that would help identify a particular pattern? Can we conduct this inquiry to negate the risk that any trainers were involved?
Investigations need to be made to ensure that these issues didnât occur and indeed are not currently occurring. A formal inquiry should be conducted by experience investigators with sufficient experience and knowledge within the racing industry to ensure that these issues and more are completely investigated. This may require commission of inquiry powers to ensure such an investigation is successful. The persons identified in this report oversee the integrity of the industry, they are judge jury and executioner.
Similarly the process of determining which dogs are swabbed at a meeting needs to be overhauled. If officials have placed substantial bets on a particular dog and the trainer is made aware that the dog will not be subject of a swab, than the officials bet had a greater likelihood of success. The ombudsmanâs investigation did not delve deeply enough into the activities of those persons involved. Similarly, where were the offenders managers in this process, what role did they play and why did their supervision not detect this activity?
How do we stop this? While not saying that it does occur, letâs prove that it doesnât. Dogs that are to be swabbed on race night should be drawn randomly and in the public spectrum for all to see. All race winners should be swabbed. All swab results need to be published.
These are just five issues of many that need to be urgently addressed. The industry needs leadership and governance by corporate business professionals. Integrity needs to be built and participants need confidence that those in charge are doing everything they can to level the playing field. Victoria in particular would benefit from a Commission of Inquiry, and those that do the wrong thing are in turn held suitably accountable for their actions. These small few canât be allowed to damage the industry for all involved. Queensland has begun its Commission of Inquiry and industry participants are eagerly anticipating the findings.
The ombudsmanâs report touched on the surface concerns about GRV â but the findings relate to each state authority. We raised some issues â a few of many – and you are encouraged to raise your issues and concerns. Again, there is no proof that this has happened â but letâs eliminate any suggestion that it has, or it is currently occurring.
Do you like being confused?
Are you sick of things being straight forward and enjoy the feeling of frustration?
Then the unique sport ofis for you. Welcome to a world where bureaucracy and red tape are prevalent and where poorly trained people would rather waste your time and tell you misinformation than assist you or lead you on the right path.
Presuming it will be mainly greyhound folk reading this, then I am making the assumption this sarcastic opening will strike some sort of familiarity. But in case it doesnât, then I say âgather around kiddiesâ and let me tell you the story of âOllieâ and his lovely dealings with the people that run our industry.
Ollie lives in South Australia, however his beloved racing-now-brood bitch has found a nice home with his trusty trainer in regional Victoria. A common scenario one would think, however that line of thought is questioned when Ollie decides he wants to breed a litter.
Being the first time Ollie has ventured into the breeding game, he rests in comfort knowing the trusty trainer is more than happy to spend the time and energy whelping and rearing, so it just comes down choosing a sire. After some careful decision making, one is chosen, but with the sire based in Victoria (as so many are) the vial gets transferred to the trainers preferred vet.
From there it seems like smooth sailing. Brood has the procedure, and nine weeks later, two happy, healthy black puppies are on the ground. Happy days.
However things seem strange when Ollie realises that not one bit of paper was signed, not one phone call, email or other received to register the litter with anyone. So Ollie takes the initiative, and calls GRV to investigate.
Once the GRV employee gathers some basic information, they advise that they have no record of the service taking place, and that they will askSouth Australia (GRSA) to contact him and get that information, as he is a registered person with them, not GRV.
After three days of no action, another call to GRV takes place, particularly wondering why GRSA need to be involved when everything relating to the litter happened across the border.
âOh thatâs not correctâ Ollie gets told by a different GRV employee. âGreyhounds Australasia supplies the service informationâ.
Interesting to get two pieces of different info from the same source isnât it? Regardless, GA receive the next call.
âWe are waiting for paperwork from when the breeding unit was bought. Usually the vet collects that and passes it on, so you may want to chase it up with themâ. GA explain.
They could have offered to do it for him, but nonetheless Ollie scrounges through the receipts to find the trainersâ vetsâ number and phone call number four takes place.
âWe only get a copy of that information and we never pass anything on to GA.â He is told. âYou were supposed to obtain an original copy of the transfer-of-ownership form provided by the stud master, and then submit it GA immediately.â
It is at this point in time Ollie realises this has become a debacle. Five phone calls to four different offices have resulted in Ollie being misled not once, but twice, and now having to chase paperwork he didnât even know existed, for a service that occurred ten weeks ago, and only after he made an unprompted enquiry himself. One would think that somewhere along the line the breeder, the trusty trainer, GRV or maybe even GA would have lent some assistance and said âHey, do you know about this?â â Nope – Only a conversation with a veterinary receptionist made things clearer and allowed things to get back on track.
But if only that was the end of the debacle. Five days after finally lodging the correct form with GA, does the phone ring â itâs GRSA.
âWe require to know which sire has been purchased and where in S.A. the whelping will take place?â
They sounded less than impressed when Ollie told them the litter was already whelped entirely in Victoria one week earlier.
They sounded even less impressed when Ollie got a little mad once he received a SECOND phone call from GRSA two days later, asking the same thing!
So the tally is now up to five phone calls made, two calls received and all for a process that was meant to occur nearly three months ago. What an easy thing this greyhound game isâŚ
Remember kiddies, these bodies are apparently designed to support the industryâs participants. So letâs see how many new people will scramble to get involved when they read stories like mineâŚ. errâŚ I mean OllieâsâŚ and the hundreds more that Iâm sure exist out there.
For what itâs worth, I wonder if âRed Tape Runaroundâ will make a good racing name?
Grigorieva Baleâs fine but surprising win in the Golden Easter Egg, one of the most lucrative races on the Australian calendar, was a terrific effort â Paul Wheeler again! It has not been the most consistent dog in the country but it does take you back a year to the time when as a raw puppy it set the Bendigo track record of 23.42. Funnily enough, Slater, winner of the Egg in 2007, had a similar history.
Anyway, that party is over and the hard slog starts again.
There are differing opinions about how wellis going. Now is a good time to have a look at the industry in two ways: what is happening week to week for the rest of the year, and what can we look forward to in the long term.
Already we have Tasmania and NSW struggling for money and Queensland struggling for everything. WA and SA are marking time, just as the countryâs dog population has been doing for the last decade or more. Victoria is doing OK financially following big changes in the sharing of TAB commissions and grants from a kindly government (having a Racing Minister who is not only a vet but also in the Premierâs chair is unique). Radical changes are taking place in the customer profile as TABs manufacture more and more mug gamblers to replace the form students of yesteryear. So, too with race programs, which are now stuffed to overflowing with good, ordinary and just plain bad dogs in unpredictable ways.
In the end, the package does not do justice to the racing public, to a skilled set of trainers, to the breed, or to the big advances made in behind-the-scenes technology in recent times. We are not making the best of our raw materials. We can do better. We must look for fresh ideas.
Here is an example of a different way of looking at the big picture.
Paul Kelly, Editor-at-Large at The Australian, wrote the other day about âLaborâs Tragedy: a lack of strategy to govern for allâ. You might consider this drawing a long bow but there is a remarkable similarity between how the country has been governed and the progress, or lack of it, in the racing industry. Forget political preferences for the moment and consider the similarities.
PK: There is âa crisis over Laborâs policy and strategic directionâ
Racing has never really had a strategic direction, never mind words included in pretty documents published every few years by state authorities. Largely, racing strives only to do a bit better than last year. At the club level the major, or maybe the only, objective is to survive. Neither gives you a thrill or an incentive to join in.
PK: There is âa belief that the Gillard government is derailed and has failed to build on the Hawke-Keating legacyâ.
Racing in the 1980s delivered into the modern era a pattern of strong local involvement and big attendances at racecourses. The advent of SKY brought more cash but also pushed the above two factors into the background. Eventually, the new system failed to replace those committed crowds and started relying on impulse purchases by mug gamblers. Racing never really adjusted to new circumstances.
PK: âRudd and his close supporter, Chris Bowen, believe that sweeping internal reforms are essential for Laborâs survivalâ.
Racing hasnât smelt a whiff of any reforms; rather it prefers to hold on to traditional systems and processes, risking decline or even suicide to do so (witness the aggressive and emotional opposition to the arrival of NT bookies and).
PK: âLabor must change. It cannot see itself as a party defined by its institutional ties with the trade unions. Such a narrow definition dooms Laborâs futureâ.
For some time now racing has been tied to the apron strings of TABs, which effectively control race coverage and programs. Recent breakouts have been helpful at the margin yet still serve to emphasise the continuing dominance of the TABs with their monopoly licenses over most betting. Unfortunately, the TABsâ objectives are different to those of racing â quantity is beating out quality.
PK: âThe sharpest point in (Laurie) Fergusonâs resignation speech was his lament that Gillard is not governing for all Australiansâ.
Racing authorities largely concentrate on administering the needs of participants at the expense of adjusting to developments in the outside world where customers live, work and play. That huge night last year involving Miataâs attempt at the Sandown Cup was an exception that proves the rule.
PK: âGillardâs divide and rule tactic is casting Labor into an entrenched minority positionâ.
Differences, or even disputes, between states are perennial barriers to progress and timely action. The national body is ineffectual, refusing to address commercial or consumer matters, and operating in great secrecy.
PK: âIndividual ministers, mostly, are smart and diligent, but the total is much less than the sum of the partsâ.
All racing management â club, state and national – is legally in the control of committees, with varying but unknown levels of responsibility assigned to senior staff. Such a policy encourages mediocrity and discourages innovation and strong leadership.
PK: âLabor … has been all over the place with confused priorities, poor decision-making and sudden improvisationsâ.
Racing conditions vary extensively from state to state, as do their finances, field standards, track qualities and level of government support. Each state makes up its own local rules. Policies lack economic justification.
PK: âLabor, as ever, awaits a political messiah with the answersâ.
Should racing find such a leader, it would make no difference. The current system would grind him down. We must first change the system.
From the publicâs viewpoint, all the above will matter little after September when Labor will disappear into the wilderness, no doubt still arguing on the way out. But it matters a lot to racing which has already ceded genuine control of the industry to outsiders â mostly to TABs and other betting agencies but also to state governments who lack either the objectivity or the will, or both, to modernise racing structures.
Remember also that those TABs operate under detailed rules set up by Premiers, Treasurers and Racing Ministers. It is a classic case of governments meddling with businesses they know little about in a climate where wagering itself regularly comes under threat from moralising opponents and animal activists. To governments, racing is simply a cash cow which must be watched closely lest the mafia take over. It survives because most Australians donât mind an occasional flutter and because the big end of town has influence (albeit thatâs mostly to do with horses, not dogs).
Like Labor, racing must re-invent itself in order to achieve a different and more favourable attitude from the general public and to be able to adopt commercial practices which allow it to compete in a tough world.
A good starting point: repackage the image of the greyhound breed. Thatâs not a simple task but it is a necessary first step.
More information has come to hand on the proposal to shift the operation of racing at Border Park at Tweed Heads to Queensland jurisdiction (see Weed on the Tweed, 8 March).
GRNSW now advises that it has the full endorsement of the NSW board, something which was not mentioned in the original media release.
Hello! What are these guys smoking?
It will not happen, and for a large number of reasons.
The tragedy of all this kerfuffle is that the national racing package would be enhanced if a well-built, one-turn track were to emerge at Border Park. But there are two provisos. The region does not have enough good dogs to justify that plan at the moment. The cart has been put before the horse.
Secondly, full TAB coverage of the new meetings would have to occur as a replacement of existing meetings. Otherwise, finances will suffer somewhere else. Who will accept that?
The greyhound codeâs major need is not to add more tracks or more meetings to the calendar but to make a better job of those that already exist. The starting point would be the development of a bigger pool of customers with fresh money.
A few weeks ago the consultative committee to GRSA voted to ask the authority to cut normal prize money and divert the difference to races limited to SA-domiciled dogs.
Thatâs not much different to preferences in other states. In NSW, for example, the authority surveyed breeders to see if they would like to get bonuses for winners they bred. Amazingly, they all said yes, so thatâs what they got. All states now have incentives for locally bred dogs, which then generates a bragging contest â my bonuses are better than your bonuses. In Victoria the Minister recently put out a media release announcing even bigger bonuses, saying they would boost local breeding and create new employment. Really? Iâd like to see that!
(You might also ask why the Minister is getting involved in payments to participants rather than letting the authority do its job. Me, too. So much for âarmâs lengthâ oversight of his portfolio. Some support is nice, too much fiddling is not).
The short answer to all this is that itâs garbage. But there is more to it than that.
There is no evidence that state incentives do any good, much less achieve whatever it is they are looking for. Indeed, their actual objectives are never stated. Nor are their results. They serve only to divert cash away from some winners and give it to others.
But not only do they achieve nothing, they also have negative impacts.
In SA, for example, the effect would be to discourage better dogs from visiting the state. Instead, inferior local dogs would be encouraged, thereby lowering standards across the state, which is the opposite of what SA needs. In turn, punters would have less incentive to patronise SA races (and donât forget that SA income depends partly on betting from Queensland and the NT, via Tatts).
While it has always been that way to some degree, the industry is now besotted with looking after bad dogs â unfortunately to the extent of putting the end product at risk. It may be understandable for an owner or trainer to try to get the best result for his charges but for a state authority to go too far in that direction is simply bad business. Sadly, it has adopted a local version of the Marie Antoinette solution â if they have no bread then âlet them eat cakeâ.
In Victoria, the practice also ignores a major reason for the prominence of good dogs in many of its local fields. Thatâs because NSW and Queensland owners, including Paul Wheeler, sent them there for reasons which have nothing to do with breeding. Three of last Saturdayâs Superstayers field and two of the Australian Cup field were registered interstate. So were another eighteen in other races at The Meadows.
In breeding terms, a discriminatory approach encourages owners to select dogs which may not be the best match for their bitches.
Everywhere, owners who are not on the gravy train are getting less prize money than they might normally expect, which is hardly a boost to future purchasing habits.
In any event, the purpose of a subsidy â assuming it is justified in the first place â is to help those worse off to get through a bad time, or overcome a short term problem. And a âgoodâ subsidy always has a sunset clause because circumstances will change as time passes. No such clauses exist in Australian greyhounds.
Further, there is no evidence that breeders are doing it tough. On the contrary, there is a case that breeding is the most efficient and profitable area of the greyhound industry and should be left alone. After all, aside from the incentives, it is subject to the normal effects of market forces where seller and buyer establish a relationship which satisfies both.
Those who might want to point out that the incentives did not affect their decisions are simply emphasising that they should never have been there in the first place.
More subtly, breeding subsidies are counter-productive as they create a false environment. They might give bragging rights to administrators who bring them in, but they are of no help in generating more income for the industry, which is what pays all the wages. In other words, they are bad business policies. Get rid of them and start again.
Separately, subsidies for distance races are all the fashion today. Thatâs not necessarily a bad thing as there is plenty of evidence that distance racing is on the wane. Too few dogs are readily able to get the 700m-plus trips. Too many starters tend to be dogs whose only qualification is that they are not competitive over shorter races. But the solution has been to give existing dogs more money and, presumably, hope that miracles will occur.
This is muddled thinking. If a dog canât run out 700m then no amount of money is going to make it do so. In other words, the idea of incentives was fine but the plans were misdirected. It seems that no-one bothered to analyse why good stayers had become scarce. It does not need rocket science to guess that breeding patterns must have had something to do with it yet, so far, that area has attracted no attention.
Remember that 700m is down at the far end of the breedâs capability. Few will fit in to that category at the best of times. On average, a greyhoundâs speed peaks at around 440m, after which itâs usually a matter of which one is slowing most (thundering finishes are often an optical illusion). Itâs a point which needs expert attention.
Staying sires (if we can define them as that) are notoriously difficult to sell, even at giveaway prices. Buyers are mad keen on pups that will spear out of the boxes and pick up cash for short races. Even the Wheelers are in that camp, as evidenced by their long stream of top sprinters. Itâs also why recent times have seen a substantial increase in sub-350m races (ie more pandering to bad dogs), and many more over 400m than was the case previously.
The odd sire offers an each way bet. Token Prince is an obvious one but, alas, he is no longer with us. Bombastic Shiraz is another (NB Miata) although you would not have known that in advance, would you? But they are few and far between. Anyway, I lack the ability to delve much further into that subject so I can do no more than call on Australian authorities to start investing punterâs money in projects that offer some hope of success in the medium to long term.
Yet another blind survey of existing operators would not be the way to go. For every ten of those you will get 11 different opinions anyway. The starting point would be a serious independent investigation into breeding trends over time. (Although I have to point out that the latest budding star, Destini Fireball, is half-American and comes from a very successful litter of 12. Apart from that, note that none of the starters in last Saturdayâs Superstayers final had sires with any experience of staying races. They were all top dogs but only over the sprints. Perhaps itâs mum that counts).
As for those consultative committees, be wary. They are there because state governments require them for all instrumentalities for which they are responsible. They seldom produce much, and are often ignored anyway, but they should be limited to matters which suit their abilities and are related to racing operational subjects. Never to business matters, especially those which affect their own hip pockets.
New laws covering the establishment of Queenslandâs four-board racing structure have now been inked in by Racing Minister Steve Dickson. A chairman and two members will control each of the three codes, in turn reporting to an over-riding board of five to run the state. The big board will include the chairman of each code. It will also make all the serious decisions.
This is a whole new world for Australian racing, not just because of the odd structure but the way the members will be appointed.
At a time when sporting organisations are universally trying to modernise their practices, and especially to relate to their public, Queensland has gone in the other direction. Itâs summed up by one of the qualifications required of applicants for the new jobs: âall applicants for a board position must hold the endorsement of an industry licensee, a race club, racing association or association related to promoting the relevant code of racing prior to being considered for appointmentâ, demands the Minister.
Continue reading Queensland Rejects Progress
Prize money increases are the talk of the town at the moment, but particularly in Queensland where there is much discussion about how much should go where. Head of the list is an additional low-class meeting for Ipswich but there are modest changes proposed elsewhere, including some improvements for the battling provincial clubs up the coast.
On the other hand, the Brisbane club wants to see even more races because, according to CEO Luke Gatehouse, âin excess of 150 greyhounds are not required in SEQ each weekâ.
This is a strange demand for a number of reasons.
Continue reading Upside-Down Policies
presents a huge contrast between old and new.
As âChasing Dreamsâ reminds us (available via GRV), clubs have been hugely dependent on the work of willing volunteers for their very survival. Without them, the sport may well have died out, and with it the breed as we know it. Yet progressively since the 1960s, and particularly since SKY boosted income in the 1990s, it has become more and more dependent on cash from people the club has never heard of and will never meet.
The first dollar to an off-course TAB changed everything. Except the willing workers.
Continue reading What Can We Afford?
Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the bubble of the localised greyhound world, with usually the same people with the same team of dogs showing up at the tracks and trials each week. Since the inception of the tote, and then later live televised racing, the racetrack itself has lost much of its appeal to those not directly involved with the day-to-day operations.
It has now got to the point where it can almost feel isolating being there, watching those transport greyhounds to the same empty tracks several times per week. Also, with the relationships between owner and trainer growing more distant, remembering the public impact that trainers/handlers can is now truly hard to recognise.
As the Nationals approaches each year, we do get that awakening that the Australian greyhound industry is really all one entity, and not made up of spasmodic clusters of people working kilometres apart.
However, one thing that we all probably fail to realise is the far reaching audience that our sport can attract. Technology is a wonderful thing nowadays, and folks from far and wide have the capacity to be exposed to things they werenât ten years ago. This is something that may seem very hard to perceive for those putting on the lead and collars each and every day.
Continue reading The World Wants to Watch â But Can We See It?
Recently I wrote to a government department asking it to change my records â primarily about a change of address. It rejected the letter, instead sending me a form to fill out. I did that, although the form contained less information than I had put in my letter. They then sent me letter saying that my details were now what I had just told them they were.
I would estimate that, from go to whoa, that department spent well over $100 in dealing with me. Had someone initially tapped in a few keystrokes and gone on to the next job it might have cost, say, $10 or so. So much for how bureaucracies work.
All racing authorities are bureaucracies.
Continue reading What’s In A Title?
The picturesque country around Towcester in Northamtonshire in the UK is home to a Lord Esketh who donated part of his estate and some of his cash to form a jumps racing club run by a profit-making company. It races a dozen or so times each year, attracting crowds of 4,000 to 5,000, helped by free admission to all but a couple of feature days.
It has done fairly well but in recent times it has become harder to turn a profit, just as it has for many other horse and dog tracks in the UK. Bookies paying smaller taxes after decamping to offshore locations is one problem (Unibet, which sponsors The Gardens, is based in Malta). The Guardian newspaper reports that âwhile attendance figures at British racecourses have remained steady despite the economic slowdown,has not fared so well, with tracks closing or slimming down operationsâ.
In a startling move, Towcester will run against the tide by creating a greyhound track in the middle of the horse circuit and bringing in new fans, so improving its profitability. It hopes to get this going later in the year. The Guardian points out that âtracks with a strong local following remain successful and the management at Towcester believe that, despite their rural location between Northampton and Milton Keynes, crowds of 1,000 or more could be attracted to weekly meetings on Saturday eveningsâ.
Continue reading Sign Of The Times?
Racing people please note: running big sport is becoming a target for change.
The unlikely duo of Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib and General Peter Cosgrove (both retired?) is looking into the governance of Rugby Union. Cricket is still thinking about whether the old-timers should give up their God-given right to rule (for the uninitiated, that means NSW and Victoria) in favour of a more democratic setup. Soccer is in a constant state of flux between billionaire Frank Lowy and billionaire club owners.
But the most dramatic of all has been the dumping of its apparently successful CEO David Gallop by the newly formed ARL Commission â an independent group headed by chairman John Grant, a former player and now successful businessman.
Continue reading Rugby League Commission Fails Its First Test
Queensland is out looking for answers but it does not seem to have worked out the questions yet.
Kevin Dixon, the pro-tem boss of Racing Queensland, comes from a racing family and was recently chairman of the Brisbane Racing Club. He has promised a completely different approach to that of his predecessor (Bob Bentley), and wants greyhound participants to âbe able to come to the governing body with a problemâ. Thatâs nice but what does it mean and how will it help?
A further confusion arises as the new structure is to comprise âstatutory bodies controlling each of the codes under one Board of Directorsâ. Thatâs four organisations replacing one, which replaced three. Sounds both expensive and messy. Time will tell.
Continue reading Good Bloke, Wrong Message
One of my earliest memories ofwas at Harold Park, arguably then and still the finest example of a one-turn track.
A big striding dog, very often down from the Hunter Valley, would be motoring along in the centre of the track and then cut down on the hill on the back turn to run to the lead. The mob would roar, all 15,000 of them. The banking on the grass surface was superb, giving the dog the means to do what it was born to do.
Freeways do much the same thing, asking only for a light touch on the wheel to take a bend safely. Banking is of the order of 6 degrees. The radius is quite large, but the principle is the same.
Continue reading Highway Engineers Could Help