Grigorieva Baleâ€™s 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 countryâ€™s 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 Premierâ€™s 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 â€śLaborâ€™s Tragedy: a lack of strategy to govern for allâ€ť. 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 â€śa crisis over Laborâ€™s policy and strategic directionâ€ť
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 â€śa belief that the Gillard government is derailed and has failed to build on the Hawke-Keating legacyâ€ť.
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: â€śRudd and his close supporter, Chris Bowen, believe that sweeping internal reforms are essential for Laborâ€™s survivalâ€ť.
Racing hasnâ€™t 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: â€śLabor must change. It cannot see itself as a party defined by its institutional ties with the trade unions. Such a narrow definition dooms Laborâ€™s futureâ€ť.
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: â€śThe sharpest point in (Laurie) Fergusonâ€™s resignation speech was his lament that Gillard is not governing for all Australiansâ€ť.
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 Miataâ€™s attempt at the Sandown Cup was an exception that proves the rule.
PK: â€śGillardâ€™s divide and rule tactic is casting Labor into an entrenched minority positionâ€ť.
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: â€śIndividual ministers, mostly, are smart and diligent, but the total is much less than the sum of the partsâ€ť.
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: â€śLabor … has been all over the place with confused priorities, poor decision-making and sudden improvisationsâ€ť.
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: â€śLabor, as ever, awaits a political messiah with the answersâ€ť.
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 publicâ€™s 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 donâ€™t mind an occasional flutter and because the big end of town has influence (albeit thatâ€™s 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. Thatâ€™s not a simple task but it is a necessary first step.
Hello! What are these guys smoking?
It will not happen, and for a large number of reasons.
- 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 Parkâ€™s prime slot) cannot accommodate more races, especially not dog races. That policy is why at Newcastleâ€™s Beaumont Park met its fate in the 1990s.
- 4. Border Park already has TAB facilities under an â€śauditoriumâ€ť 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 planâ€™s 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.
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 codeâ€™s 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.
Thatâ€™s 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 thatâ€™s 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? Iâ€™d 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 â€śarmâ€™s lengthâ€ť oversight of his portfolio. Some support is nice, too much fiddling is not).
The short answer to all this is that itâ€™s 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 donâ€™t 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 â€ślet them eat cakeâ€ť.
In Victoria, the practice also ignores a major reason for the prominence of good dogs in many of its local fields. Thatâ€™s because NSW and Queensland owners, including Paul Wheeler, sent them there for reasons which have nothing to do with breeding. Three of last Saturdayâ€™s 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 â€śgoodâ€ť 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. Thatâ€™s 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 canâ€™t 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 breedâ€™s capability. Few will fit in to that category at the best of times. On average, a greyhoundâ€™s speed peaks at around 440m, after which itâ€™s usually a matter of which one is slowing most (thundering finishes are often an optical illusion). Itâ€™s 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. Itâ€™s 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 punterâ€™s 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 Saturdayâ€™s Superstayers final had sires with any experience of staying races. They were all top dogs but only over the sprints. Perhaps itâ€™s 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 Queenslandâ€™s 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. Itâ€™s summed up by one of the qualifications required of applicants for the new jobs: â€śall 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€ť, 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.
This is a strange demand for a number of reasons.
Continue reading Upside-Down Policies
presents a huge contrast between old and new.
As â€śChasing Dreamsâ€ť 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.
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 werenâ€™t 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 â€śwhile attendance figures at British racecourses have remained steady despite the economic slowdown,has not fared so well, with tracks closing or slimming down operationsâ€ť.
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 â€śtracks 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€ť.
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 â€śbe able to come to the governing body with a problemâ€ť. Thatâ€™s nice but what does it mean and how will it help?
A further confusion arises as the new structure is to comprise â€śstatutory bodies controlling each of the codes under one Board of Directorsâ€ť. Thatâ€™s 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 of Harold Park, arguably then and still the finest example of a one-turn track.was at
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
â€śUncertainty and expectation are the joys of lifeâ€ť. William Congreve, 1695.
Lots of joy must be ahead for Australian. Change is everywhere. Probably a good thing, too, so long as racing gets its house(s) in order.
Â·must be struggling a bit. Like the TABs, it is now pushing hard into the bookmaking sector. Apparently, more and more people like the caper.
Â· Tabcorp has just done deals in Victoria and, presumably, will have another go at combining its NSW and Victorian operations, previously torpedoed by a short sighted NSW Minister (or was it his department?) The Victorian government is sorting out new TAB contracts.
Â· New owner Tatts has revamped Tastote online and cut back some information flows. Not the end of the world but annoying. Tatts will also need a new boss when Dick McIlwain retires soon.
Â· Country wide, authorities are revamping computer facilities as NSW joins the WA system, soon to be accompanied by other states, but not Victoria. Form and race results are up for grabs, as is the availability of that form to the public. Will it be like the thoroughbred codeâ€™s RISA? Some hope! And the stud book is under the wing of Greyhounds Australasia, helped by GRV, so what will happen there?
Â· Historical Note: The first effort to combine computer form resources took place in 1994, when Victoria tried to convince other Greyhounds Australasia (then ANZGA) members to adopt a common approach. NSW knocked it on the head for very peculiar and parochial reasons. The bloke responsible for that push was none other than Adam Wallish, then offsider to Victorian CEO, the late Ken Carr. Adam was subsequently CEO in NSW, then ran hockey back in Victoria and is now a board member at GRV. Interesting! No idea what team he supports but it is probably not St Kilda.
Â· The Queensland upheaval continues apace but all we know so far is that greyhounds will have a separate board. Will there be any other changes to the organisational structure, and to how the members will be picked â€“ hopefully independently? And will they fund the new Logan site, as promised? Not sure. Will it be professionally designed? Not sure either. The last lot (at Deagon) had no greyhound experience but, then, who does?
Â· In the not too distant past, SA and Tasmania made changes to either their boards, their structures or their CEOs, while NSW is bedding down a fresh board. Likewise for Victoria, which has had a couple of board changes recently and where CEO John Stephens, a huge influence, is to bow out in the middle of the year.
Â· Victoria, under the same John Stephens, has long been the only state to actively address the need to improve tracks (although not the two city tracks). Shortcomings in other states deter punters and invite attention from anti-racing lobbies, already noisy about whips and jumps at the gallops. Is there an enlightenment in the offing?
Â· Two governments have changed colour recently, more will follow.
Â· And poor old GWA CEO, David Simonette, is watching all this from his sick bed in Perth while they try to work out when, if or how Cannington dogs will move to a new location and if they can make any money under the new fee regime (small states usually have to pay out more than they get in). Still, RWWA racing chief Ken Norquay, a former Penrith boy, is there to steady the ship. Go the Panthers!
Amidst all this to and fro, letâ€™s hope the new brooms try to modernise the set up at Greyhounds Australasia. We donâ€™t need advisors. We need someone to be in charge. Courage and statesmanship are required.
Nowhere is a strong, unified voice more essential than in a campaign to bring about a national betting pool, something which would hugely benefit greyhound turnover and profits. Most pools are already too small for sensible betting and are regularly distorted by the ever-increasing content of mug gamblers and Mystery bets.
At different times we have heard a range of people speak in favour of the national pool, including Tatts itself and former NSW Racing Minister Richard Face (following an industry review). Tabcorp wants to combine its NSW and Victorian pools anyway so going national is only a small step after that. So why is it not happening?
Sadly, no one is in charge. State governments all have different approaches to any given subject. There is an Australian Racing Ministers Council but it suffers from the same disease as each of the racing codes â€“ they all nod wisely at the annual meeting but then take home the question to bandy around with colleagues. Especially with the Treasurer, who may or may not know anything about racing.
You can call it a non-decision-making process. Even if they agree, it takes months or even years before anything happens, and then it appears in fits and starts (just like the arrival of the green rug at the dogs).
Ideally, it is time governments bought out of the subject completely. They are in there only because they passed laws to licence and protect TABs and â€“ supposedly â€“ to ensure a continuing flow of taxes. That particular obligation ceases as TAB licenses are renewed (ie from now on). The days of combating SP bookies on street corners and keeping out the mafia are long gone. Anyway, such things are the job of the police, not a government which pretends to be at armâ€™s length, but never is.
Most of that is ancient history but there is ample evidence that governments are never any good at second guessing what commercial organisations should or should not do. Pork barrelling usually comes out on top. A good case could be mounted that tax revenue would improve if private enterprise â€“ or any sort of enterprise – had an open go at running racing.
In any case, all businesses pay taxes so why pick out racing for special handling? Licensing is one thing, poking your nose into everyday life is quite another.
Of course, the parallel assumption would be that each of the codes themselves set up responsible and authoritative national organisations. If racing canâ€™t run its own shops efficiently, how can it expect governments to let them loose?
The Racing NSW victory on racefield fees in the High Court last week is much more than a matter of dollars. Especially as it follows a comparable High Court decision over a year ago to throw out the WA governmentâ€™s attempt to ban .
Both cases had threatened to destabilise the industry, one to deny a racing authority the means to do its job, the other to over-ride the will of the people â€“ ie racingâ€™s customers. But, while all that is now history, the welfare of the industry demands that it consider why these events happened, and create structures which encourage progress and efficiency rather than expensive legal battles.
To do that, itâ€™s necessary first to go back in time.
Continue reading Once Bitten, Twice Shy – Now Is The Time For Reform
Victorian Racing Minister Napthine and GRV Chairman Caillard have been busy announcing a joint $2.8 million allocation to breeding incentives over the next four years. This is not new â€“ just a continuation of previous policies but it sounded good and occupied a full page of the media release.
The Minister makes much of where the money will go â€“ obviously only to Victorian-bred dogs â€“ but does nothing to justify why it is necessary and how it will improve the bottom line in the long haul. He also claims it will also boost jobs (have we heard that before?) but does not explain how that will happen. Since the country is not producing any more dogs – and has not for 20 years – it beggars belief that more people will be needed to breed them or look after them.
In fact, neither in Victoria or anywhere else have governments or racing authorities ever produced any evidence that breeding incentives are worthwhile. Indeed, there are several negative aspects to them.
Continue reading Meat Pies, Holden Cars And …..
Thereâ€™s nothing like a bit of corporate spin to make the world go round. Especially in racing where, viewed from one angle, it is little more than a long line of tipsters, all anxious to grab a piece of whatever punting you are doing.
Champion Profits is a tipster. For $97 a month (or $400 upwards for a dayâ€™s instruction) they will put you on the road to success. Better value is what you should be chasing, and so on, and we will show you how to get it. Well, good luck to them, too.
But Champion Profits is run by two highly skilled Racing NSW bid to wrap up its 1.5% turnover-based race fields fee. Woodward warns it will lead to horrible losses, even closures, in the corporate bookie ranks and to the rebirth of illegal bookies. Racing will be the loser. All said with a straight face.
Continue reading High Court Race Fields Decision To Start Industry Reform?
What with dams, floods and elections, Queensland is now dominating the news. Racing Queensland chief Bob Bentley is taking advantage of the timing to press his case â€“ and his boardâ€™s â€“ for continuing in the job, no doubt because the LNP opposition has threatened to dump both should it gain power on the 24th of March. His seven-page media release on March 15 sharply criticises plans to split up the existing RQL organisation, using the words in our headline.
Bentley is currently also chair of the gallopsâ€™ Australian Racing Board.
Fortunately, everybody is in favour of building the new greyhound complex at Logan, to the southwest of Brisbane â€“ and finance has been assured. Thatâ€™s a plus but no-one has quite worked out what to do with Albion Park, now owned jointly by harness and greyhound codes, partly because the trots refuse to disappear as requested.
Continue reading “Madness” And “Idiotic” Says Bentley
Queensland trends are not easy to fathom. For example, last Monday at the second rated meeting of the week at Albion Park, we saw a string of quick times recorded. Five of the ten races were for Maidens or Novices yet they all got under 30.50, which was not much slower than the graded races. The track was on the quick side but it still suggests promising youngsters are on the way.
Thatâ€™s a puzzle as for years the state has been running short of dogs. Some of the better ones have been going south for more lucrative opportunities while many nick over the border to NSW northern rivers tracks. These days, the main Albion Park Thursday meeting features at least two Novice races, a practice unheard of a few years back.
Following the demise of Parklands at the Gold Coast, authorities dispatched one weekly date to Townsville, but later added back Wednesday and Sunday meetings at Albion Park. However, short races dominate those programs, including the newly constructed 331m trip at Albion Park.
Continue reading Short Cuts Miss The Big Picture
The current debate about running maidens in premium events â€“ usually age classics â€“ skips over some of the major issues. Not the least of those is that the quoted â€śrulesâ€ť preventing this are those of the AGRA, which is a grouping of major clubs. Its main function â€“ an important one – is to sort out a national calendar for feature events.
But racing rules are fundamentally the responsibility of Greyhounds Australasia and, if absolutely necessary, of the individual state authorities. Already thatâ€™s one too many. To add a third is to invite trouble. The system needs cleaning up.
Indeed, it points up the inadequacy of the GA organisation itself. (For GA membership and objectives, see galtd.org.au). It has no power of its own and depends on member states taking any mutually agreed action. It does some useful internal work (naming, stud book, etc) but often it functions as no more than a post office. Nor is it accountable to a government or the public. Its agenda and the results of its deliberations are usually kept secret. As such, it compares badly with the structure of most other sporting organisations.
Continue reading No Maidens, Please
Last weekâ€™s discussion about professional punters â€“ or one of them anyway â€“ led into an assessment of how the business of racing is turning out. In the main, that has meant addressing trends in betting turnover (not great) and how changes might help down the track.
However, it would be remiss not to talk about the production side of the industry, if only to present some balance to the discussion. So, what goes into the effort that ends up placing eight dogs in their boxes, ready to race?
In the first place, there is the dog itself. The public barely know it but the greyhound breed is unique in the purity of its ancestry and its versatility â€“ a noblemanâ€™s hunting companion, a job as a kangaroo chaser to help SA farmers keep the interlopers out of their crops, coursing with live and now mechanical lures, gymkhanas and shows, and then its major current role in chasing that lure around a racetrack. And, of course, the modest but very worthwhile retired greyhound programs.
Continue reading Assest Rich, Income Ordinary
The other day my 8-year old grandson, Johnno, took my photo while we were lunching near the beach. He had grabbed his fatherâ€™s mobile phone, pointed it, pressed the button and that was it. Later he e-mailed the photo to me. The colour and the composition were great on screen, despite lots of variables in the original background lighting.
At just about the same moment Eastman Kodak was going into bankruptcy in America. That dynamo of film and photography throughout the 20th century could no longer cope. Films had become old hat. The Kodak Brownie or shots taken on the moon using Kodak film are no more than memories.
Oddly, it was Kodak that invented the digital camera in the first place but the boardâ€™s corporate strategy preferred to concentrate on its long profitable film products, and left others to develop digital devices to the degree we know today. But Kodak got its priorities wrong and is now paying the price. Employees are out on the street and the company is trying to sell off the bits and pieces.
Continue reading Taking A Shot
NSW is often trumpeting what it has done to promote distance racing and â€śCâ€ť class country meetings, where we hear about extra turnover but never about extra costs, including a drop in takings at neighbouring higher class meetings.
700m racing at NSW provincials is still rare (Richmond aside) and likely to remain so. They just do not have the dogs to measure up so the program was always doomed to fail. The proverb is an oldie but a goodie: â€śYou canâ€™t make a silk purse out of a sowâ€™s earâ€ť. But more of that at another time.
The interesting story is at Grafton, a relative newcomer to the TAB ranks (ie aside from its annual carnival), which picks up whatever lunch time spot is available on Thursday or Friday.
Continue reading Promotion, Perhaps?
national industry body, a collection including the Racing Minister, the racing department and other government interests, and the national Racing Ministers Council. And then there is a long list of local councils running shotgun over much of what happens. Thatâ€™s a lot of people to get through to bring about any reform of the industry. But it must be done.is struggling under six layers of management: the club, state authority staff, state management boards, a
Reform is a welcome challenge for entrepreneurs, who relish the opportunity to try something new, to open up new frontiers, to create more interest, to increase efficiency. NT bookies are entrepreneurs. So, indeed, are dog trainers.
Continue reading Can It Be Fixed?…….Yes…….But,…..
Last weekâ€™s item on Racingâ€™s Corporate Challenge suggested that the industryâ€™s prime source of income â€“ betting commission â€“ was on shaky ground, mostly because average product quality had declined and mug gamblers had replaced serious punters. Any nominal increases in income in recent times could be put down to extra meetings rather than more enthusiasm for â€śnormalâ€ť races.
So what are we doing about it?
On three key issues â€“ track standards, field quality and breeding trends â€“ itâ€™s hard to see any concerted effort by the industry to improve performance. A bit here and a bit there really doesnâ€™t count in the long run because greyhounds have long since moved into a â€śdogs without bordersâ€ť mode. Itâ€™s a sport more and more dominated by national and international factors. Wherever the bunny moves, dogs will come to compete. And todayâ€™s customers often do not know where the race is being run anyway.
Continue reading The Triple Whammy
When someone publishes a list of figures you may not be quite sure where they came from, who did the measuring or how they were put together. Hereâ€™s a general example â€“ house prices. The real estate people are often telling us the average price of houses in particular cities. But what they are calculating is the average price of houses sold in the current period. They do not know the prices of houses that were not sold. Therefore the mix may or may not be typical of all houses in that area yet the figures may be taken and used in all sorts of ways to tell us how the economy is doing. That may be right or it may be misleading- you donâ€™t know.
Back to racing, there are three recent examples worth noting.
First, that very cluey website justracing.com.au picked up a series of sectional times published by TVN for Melbourne horse races and demonstrated how inaccurate they were. So, too, with contradictory penetrometers readings and mixed advice about stewardsâ€™ track classifications. (Details available on the JUSTRACING website).
Continue reading Figuring It Out
Why would anyone bother to get involved with?? Why would someone who is brand new to the sport possibly want to become a long-term participant with the terrible attitudes and opinions of those most familiar with it?
The logical thing that any potential greyhound enthusiast is going to do is investigate how things work in our industry. Whether it is someone looking to own a dog, begin a training career or even breed a litter, it is only natural to ask those already involved about the costs and rewards, and whether the venture will be as fulfilling as they hope.
But when listening to on-track conversations or scanning the limited media and information outlets available – both in print and online – it seems far too easy to find what is wrong with
Continue reading We Are Our Own Worst Enemies
Governance by national sporting bodies continues to grab the headlines as cricket tries to move into the modern world following the Carter Crawford report to Cricket Australia.
The selection panel has already changed while CAâ€™s 14-person state-based board is mooted to be cut down to nine. Each state would still have one member but that person would have to be independent of the state administration â€“ not an easy thing to bring about. In any case, this looks like a Claytonâ€™s solution. How can you claim true independence when state residency is compulsory?
However, if CA accepts the recommendation it would then join the top bodies of the AFL and â€“ shortly â€“ Rugby League as reasonably independent organisations.
Continue reading Racing Has Been Stumped
The Heâ€™s Remarkable case at the Perth gallops â€“ where connections are mounting a challenge against a stewardsâ€™ decision â€“ threatens to confuse and disrupt.
This action risks endangering the normal processes of racing by asking a third party â€“ never mind what their experience is â€“ to overturn a decision based on the stewardsâ€™ assessment and opinion of interference.
Appeals are certainly reasonable if they address the severity of a penalty or any alleged improper process. Neither is really relevant in this case. The stewards have simply said one runner deliberately interfered with another (and they outed the responsible jockey, who has not appealed)
Continue reading Let’s Hear It For The Stewards
Apparently, last Mondayâ€™s â€śWhoâ€™s in Chargeâ€ť article needs correction. In saying racing authorities talked â€śonly to owners and trainersâ€ť it was partly in error, at least so far as Queensland is concerned.
The Greyhounds Qld Magazine reports that Racing Queensland will talk only to the local GBOTA, and has refused to recognise the newly formed United Queensland Greyhound Association, according to statements by UQGA president John Falvey.
This comes despite the fact that UQGA membership includes the majority of the stateâ€™s top trainers. And it begs the question of whether RQ, as a public body appointed by government, has the right to take such high-handed action.
Continue reading Queensland – Short On Vision