Four Invitees Announced For Superstayers At Albion Park

The four invitees for Thursday night’s listed Superstayers at Albion Park were announced on Sunday evening.

The invite-only event is held over the 710 metre trip and is worth $15,000 to the winner.

Two Victorian greyhounds as well as a Victorian-based New Zealander will join one local in the four-dog field.

The invitees announced are as follows;

Xylia Allen – Jenny Hunt - The Queen of Australian staying racing and the winner of the Group One Gold Cup at Albion Park last week. She has broken eight track records and won four Group One events. A win in this event would see her skip from fifth to third on the all-time stakes earners for Australian greyhounds.

Wag Tail – Christina Harman - A local staying star in Queensland who represented the state at the 2013 National Staying Championships. She won the 2014 Winter Chase winner at Albion Park and is the logical local selection.

Infinite Wish – Angela Langton - A regular top-line performer who has made finals in Group races in four different states over the last year. Was a runner-up in the Sydney Cup and ran third in last week’s Group One Gold Cup.

Know Class – James Shaw - A New Zealander who recently arrived on Australian shores and has already made two Group One finals. He will have his 100th career start in this race. Ran a cracking second behind Xylia Allen in the Gold Cup last week. Before that he had made the final of the Sandown Cup and will not be out of place in this race.

Move On. Nothing To See Here!

Not much there isn’t!

It was wonderful to hear the Queensland Racing Minister and Racing Queensland boss (Dickson and Dixon resp) tell assembled throngs at the annual award night that everything was looking fine and dandy, including the start of work on the new track at Logan, southwest of Brisbane, on May 19. That’s this year, not next. No further details are available yet but no doubt someone is there with a shovel or two.

The usual noisy objectors have been around, claiming greyhound racing is a dastardly affair and that the $12 million investment should have gone to hospitals and schools. That’s odd logic because that’s precisely where the gambling taxes go anyway. Demonstrators at the parliamentary Inquiry in Sydney also got their facts wrong in the same way.

Hovering at the moment is a decision on who will end up with the Queensland tote license, currently in the care of Tattsbet. The government and RQ have been looking for “innovative” submissions, whatever that means, yet the Minister seems to have missed the point that the tote (whoever runs it) has been losing traction for many years now. That may be partly due to its smaller size, partly due to the way it is run, but more importantly it is due to the fact that customers are fewer and/or are going elsewhere – ie to corporate bookies or to interstate and overseas operators.

The Minister’s joyful forecasts has also failed to take into account the continuing decline in animal numbers and nominations in all codes and owners’ preferences to move good racers elsewhere in search of better prize money and opportunities. Albion Park’s major weekly Thursday meeting now routinely includes one, two or three Maidens or Novice races and, last week, two 395m fillers to make up the numbers.

With the possible exception of NSW, racing authorities have all been putting on a bright face and trumpeting about what they term great results over recent years. GRNSW has at least pointed out it will be running out of cash before long as it is unable to negotiate a better split of TAB commissions, and may then have to rationalise operations.

None of these hopes have much substance behind them as progress has so far been funded by extra races and mug gamblers prepared to have a crack at anything. You will not hear much publicity about that, though. Interestingly, it all bears a great resemblance to the picture of the Australian economy, or at least the national budget.

Peter Van Onselen, a WA University professor writing in The Australian (June 14), surmises that the Commonwealth government is getting beaten about the head “because the community is yet to embrace the seriousness of the fiscal challenge in the years ahead” – that is, people will not accept we have been spending more than we can afford.

He agrees with the Abbott/Hockey objectives although not always the methods they have chosen to get there. To bring matters to a head, he claims that voters first need to realise the extent of the problem. “Three proofs are needed: (that) Australia has a fiscal problem, the government’s approach is flawed, and there is a better way”.

Many folk might not agree that greyhound racing has such a threefold problem. Yet, in real terms, industry incomes are flat or in decline. Field quality is getting poorer by the day as more and more races are being screwed out of a dog population that has not changed much for several years. And the betting market lacks enough real competition to generate attractive prices – largely due to the cartel nature of the system’s members.

In the last case, note that Fixed Odds operators all offer much the same price structure, more or less, while tote pricing sets the base for the former products (or perhaps vice versa).

An interesting pointer came from Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald (May 31) when he examined the so-called competition now being promoted between universities following the latest series of budget changes. He suggests there is no genuine competition there as “we have a relatively small number of large and larger organisations, selling differentiated products of uncertain quality. We have oligopoly rather than perfect competition”.

Consequently, they “usually try to avoid competing on price rather than marketing. They have a degree of pricing power and their competition takes the form of “rivalry” – focusing on the behaviour of competitors rather than the needs of the public”.

Is that any different from what we are experiencing amongst betting operators? It seems not, thereby helping to explain why the overall market is static or falling, and has been for 20 years now.

At the core, the underlying reason for that situation is that state governments control the major operators directly as well as approving the rules under which the others work. But when have governments been good at running commercial enterprises? When have they updated or brought about reforms? Not in recent memory.

Indeed, the reverse is the case. The only significant change to the racing system over the last few decades has been arrival of corporate bookmakers, starting in the 1990s. Yet, almost to a man, state governments and racing authorities opposed them violently, giving way only when the Northern Territory and Tasmania broke ranks after they got offers too good to refuse. Although customers had always welcomed the newcomers, their views were coincidental and had little impact on the big decisions.

Hence the artificiality of the wagering system as we know it. It’s set by power brokers – in an oligopoly – rather than by customer demand. And it is expensive to use, which is why we have seen the increase in mug gamblers as a proportion of the betting public. Greed wins over rationality. Genuine punters have either insisted on big discounts or given the game away.

So there is nothing new about racing trends; it’s just a matter of whether we recognise them and take corrective action.

Farmers Use It, Aeroplanes Use It, So Why Not Greyhounds?

Using modern science like GPS, that is.

Rumour has it that Greyhounds Australasia Ltd recently talked about the need for a serious study into the art of track design.

It can only be a rumour as GAL, the code’s only national body, seldom talks about what it does. No meeting agendas are published. Few decisions are announced, and then only for matters limited to veterinary subjects, drug investigations or, in the latest case, greyhound welfare programs.

The veterinary area is further limited by a GAL policy to deal only with the Australian Greyhound Veterinary Association (AGVA) and not with other organisations, including universities. In itself, that policy severely restricts the advancement of the sport, given that AGVA is comprised of members who are, by definition, tied up with current industry participants or organisations in one way or another. Conflicts of interest would be present and innovative thinking put at risk.

On the other hand, universities would in theory and practice be keen to engage with outside organisations such as racing authorities, provided only that they get sufficient encouragement. That was the case with Sydney University when it conducted investigations into the use of whips in thoroughbred racing. But it got no such support when GAL refused to deal with it on a suggested subject a year or so ago. Noteworthy also is that projects selected by final year students normally include a large number of dog breeds but none of the greyhound.

Still, going back to the welfare issue, GAL’s recently announced a push into the national sphere of the recent moves by NSW and Victoria to improve regulations and practices. It included a string of measures aimed solely at trainers and their kennels – all to “to help ensure continued improvement in greyhound welfare outcomes”. Nice but narrow.

Even the recent NSW parliamentary inquiry identified problems with tracks, especially those with bend starts, as important factors in racing injuries – surely a welfare issue, as well as a public relations challenge.

These days, the creation of good, reliable and trouble free tracks is one of the few major influences on the code’s future that still lie in the hands of the industry’s managers. Pretty well everything else is controlled by TABs and corporate bookmakers. Unfortunately, those betting organisations have now run out of puff; tote takings are in decline, alternative betting such as Fixed Odds are a financial rip-off for punters and have probably done their dash now, the weekly racing program is already jammed full, expansion is limited to strange and unknowable international events at odd hours, and sportsbetting is on the rise.

So where will future growth come from? The only logical answer is from more betting from existing customers and the attraction of new customers, preferably big spending ones.

To bring that about, it is plain that, as well as better marketing, greyhound racing has to offer a more reliable set of outcomes – ie tracks which enable more interference-free races – which then encourage serious punters to take part.

Obviously that would cost money, but going down that road is likely to be far more rewarding over the long term than doing nothing. In any event, many changes are possible before moving into the million dollar category.

For example, let’s pick out one of the worst problems and use that as a test case. There are plenty of other options but the 600m trip at The Meadows offers multiple opportunities. Its first 100m are invariably a shocking mess as eight dogs try to negotiate space sufficient for half that number. Push and shove are extreme and penalties are always enough to force one or more runners out of the competition completely.

The underlying point is that middle distance racing has become more and more popular over the last decade, indicating that dogs and their trainers, as well as punters, would like to see more of them – but not when they get smashed at the start. That popularity, incidentally, is also being affected by the fact that 700m racing is clearly beyond the capacity of the vast majority of the current dog population, including many of today’s big race winners.

So the challenge is to get out the jack hammers and the concrete mixers, pull that 600m start out and move it around to a spot which allows the field to get a good look down the upcoming straight. Never mind all the mountains and cliffs in the way, just use your nous and do it.

Going back to the track study, we have previously outlined in these columns how greyhound racing lags far behind other codes of racing and virtually all other sports in the way it has failed to modernise and improve its layouts. We pointed out that the technology and the science were basically there to be used, just as the AFL and the NRL have employed GPS monitoring of player movements and used firms like Sportsdata and Champion data to create analysis programs.

But there is more.

Now the Australian Institute of Sport has built a new system based on multi-camera pictures which feed into computers the moves by every player on the field and then pass that on to coaches for evaluation.

Nicole Jeffery in The Australian (June 6) reports that “leading AFL and NRL clubs already use GPS for competition analysis but (AIS sports scientist) Stuart Morgan says the camera data is superior because it allows coaches to track the movements not only of their own players but also of the opposition”.

“We were looking for a non-invasive way to track athletes, how fast they run, how far they run during a game, where they were during set plays, what the opposition is doing from a tactical point of view”, says Morgan.

All this sounds like stuff that track designers could readily use to assess what works well on a greyhound track and what doesn’t, even second-guessing the dogs.

Can we afford not to use it?

Group One Peter Mosman Classic Heats Preview

The coveted Group One Peter Mosman Classic heats will kick off tonight at Wentworth Park, with an enticing $75,000 on offer for winning connections in three weeks time.

Six competitive heats will be conducted over the 520m distance, with the first four placegetters moving through to next week’s three semi-finals.

To be eligible for the series all runners were required to be born on or after 1st December 2011.

Heat one will jump at 8.07pm.

Heat One:

Group One Perth Cup winner Keybow returns to Wentworth Park for the first time since contesting the Golden Easter Egg heats back in April and comes off a second placing in the Group Two Queensland Derby a month ago. Darren McDonald’s charge has a sizzling 29.45 personal best at the track and will be primed for this event from box three. My Kinda Music attracted plenty of attention during the New Sensation series at Wentworth Park in April, where she finished third behind the freakishly talented Hookesy in 29.36. Trained by Allan Pringle, the daughter of El Grand Senor and Ice Dancer recorded a flying 29.69 at headquarters last month.

Push It will be looking for her fourth straight win at the track after an impressive 29.70 performance last week from box three. Despite not having won from the outside alley, Dean Swain’s talented chaser has an excellent Wentworth Park record of three wins from six starts and the exceptional early pace to cross from out wide.

Heat Two:

Chica Destacada has returned to her brilliant best and produced a sensational 29.49 performance at the track two weeks ago, with an equally impressive 29.51 win the week prior. Doreen Drynan’s chaser has an outstanding record at headquarters with five wins from nine starts and despite the awkward box six, has enough early pace to trouble this classy field.

Jason Mackay’s Zipping Delta has come up with the coveted red rug and produced an outstanding 29.59 performance last week and a 30.61 run at Richmond the week before. The daughter of Bekim Bale will be doing her best work at the finish, so look for her to flash home. All Strung Out will be looking for his fourth straight win after solid performances at Warragul and Sandown Park over the past three weeks. He comes into this heat with plenty of confidence and will exit from box three.

Heat Three:

Darren McDonald has another strong hope in this heat with Tiggerlong Amigo, who has an excellent career record of nine wins from eighteen starts and has won four of his past five outings. An impressive 29.72 stewards trial at Wentworth Park on Monday and a handy box three draw makes this son of Cosmic Chief a huge threat to take out this heat. Oh So Striking comes off a win at the track on Monday night in 30.07 and recorded a flying 29.56 at Gosford last month, giving trainer Darren Sultana plenty of reasons to favour this son of Cosmic Rumble’s chances. Having won five of nine career starts, this greyhound can be risky at box rise, but has a huge motor that should see him figure at the finish. Hilda’s Boy shocked everyone with a near record 29.32 win at Gosford two weeks ago and a repeat of that performance should see this son of Just The Best challenging this field.

Heat Four:

Cawbourne Whip is in red-hot form at present and comes off a blistering 29.38 win at Wentworth Park last week and will only need to step cleanly to claim this affair for trainer Jodie Lord. The daughter of Dyna Lachlan and American Spot has a superb record at the track of four wins from seven starts and will be looking for her fourth straight win. Aurora Girl has a fast 29.72 personal best at the track which was recorded two weeks ago and is ideally drawn near the rails, with all of her career wins coming from boxes one and three. Trained by Marie Burton, the daughter of Cosmic Rumble can be risky at box-rise; however can find her way to the finish.

Lady Goldenpaw makes her debut at Wentworth Park for Victorian trainer Robert Britton and has some impressive personal best times, including 29.66 at Sandown Park, recorded back in March. The daughter of High Earner has good early pace and will need to use it, exiting from the awkward box six.

Heat Five:

Group Three New Sensation winner Hookesy returns to Wentworth Park for the first time since captivating the greyhound world with some sizzling performances around the two turn circuit, including a blistering personal best of 29.36. The son of Hondo Black trained by Tanya Auld, will have to overcome the testing box five, however should demonstrate another superb performance as one of the series favourites.

Unbelief has come up with the red rug and has an excellent Wentworth Park record of four wins from six starts and saluted impressively last week in 29.79. Rue De Kahn has produced solid form of late and last month recorded a flying personal best of 29.64. The Group One National Futurity winner has the ability to cross from the outside alley and push for a semi-finals berth next week.

Heat Six:

Tommy Brislane is airbourne at present, having won four of his past five outings, including a 29.74 performance at Wentworth Park and an equally impressive 26.17 win at Bulli. The son of Premier Fantasy and Mary Virginia has an outstanding career record of five wins from six starts and will give trainer Steve White a huge chance of making the semi-finals. Stilton Blue comes off a second placing in the Group Three Bulli Gold Plate and has a solid personal best at the track of 29.82.

Golden Easter Egg winning trainer Brooke Ennis returns to Wentworth Park with the talented Deadly Vane, who will exit from box eight and comes off an brilliant win at Shepparton in 25.05. The winner of 13 races from 22 starts has the pace to cross from the wide draw and will have plenty of watchers as he makes his Wentworth Park debut.

New Club Formed To Manage The Gardens

The Gardens has been plagued by controversy for most of its relatively short life, but Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) is hoping that the creation of The Gardens Greyhound Club will steady the ship.

The Gardens was originally managed by the National Coursing Association (NCA) but GRNSW stepped up to the plate in August 2013 and axed NCA’s management of The Gardens due to concerns surrounding its financial viability. The financial mismanagement of The Gardens was used as a case study in the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Greyhound Racing in New South Wales. The case study detailed the significant financial assistance (bail-outs) provided by GRNSW to the NCA over a period of time. There was also the well-publicised misappropriation scandal in 2012 which involved The Gardens General Manager.

After the NCA’s tenure was abruptly halted, GRNSW announced plans to invite Expressions of Interest for the management rights of the greyhound track. Three EOI’s were received (GBOTA, Richmond Greyhound Racing Club and PPB Advisory).

GRNSW has selected the submission by PPB Advisory and this has paved the way for the creation of The Gardens Greyhound Club. The new Club is comprised of four members:

Brett Lazzarini (Chairman)
Ronald Bell (Vice Chairman)
Alan Williamson (CEO/Club Secretary)
Michael Brown (Treasurer)

Many would recognise some of these names; Lazzarini has been involved in the greyhound industry for some time and most recently served as the Deputy Chairman of the GBOTA. Bell is a well known and highly respected greyhound trainer in the Hunter Valley. Brown is a businessman who set up the JB Lodge Greyhound Training and Breeding Facility and Williamson has a plethora of experience in managing sporting clubs.

The board members have been established in line with assistance from PPB Advisory. PPB Advisory provides corporate advisory, restructuring and insolvency services, so it is clearly in a position to provide the right advice to put The Gardens back on track. PPB Advisory will continue to assist throughout the formation of the new club.

Given the history of The Gardens, the new board members certainly have a big task ahead to make The Gardens financially viable as greyhound racing on its own will not make The Gardens trade in the black.

Lazzarini told the local Newcastle Herald that the board was considering its options.

“We will be oriented towards making it more of a community sporting arena,” he said.

“We just need it to make money again. That’s the black and white of it, because greyhound racing doesn’t make enough money for the track to be self-sufficient.”

The Gardens Greyhound Club will commence operations of The Gardens venue from 1 July 2014. The next year or so will prove crucial to its future.

2014 Group One Gold Cup Heats Preview

Group One racing moves to the Sunshine State this Thursday night when three heats of the 2014 Gold Cup are conducted at Albion Park.

The $75,000 to-the-winner event is run over the 710 metre journey and has attracted plenty of interstate raiders from Victoria and New South Wales, including the perennial track-record breaker Xylia Allen.

The race has had some classy conveyances etched on the honour board in recent times, including Chinatown Lad (2008)
, Queen Lauryn (2009) and He Knows Uno (2012).

Victorian chasers have had a mortgage on the race in the last few years, winning three of the last four finals. Nellie Noodles won in 2010, Bobby Boucheau was victorious in 2011 and Destini Fireball took out last year’s big one for Norm Rinaldi. With a strong contingent heading north again this year, that trend could well continue in 2014.

Here is a look at the main chances in each heat;

Race 2 – Macro Meats Gold Cup Heat One – 6:58pm

The greyhound that will attract more interest than any other dog racing on the night takes her place in heat one. Triple Group One winner Xylia Allen has broken five track records in her last six wins and could well add another one in the series. The daughter of Turanza Bale and Tayah Bale (Droopys Vieri – Francesca Bale) will exit box seven in a six dog field and only has to be somewhere near her best to put a space on this field.

Mepunga Tiara (4) recently made the final of the Group One Sandown Cup where she finished third to Sweet It Is. She has a ton of early speed and should Xylia Allen miss the jump, she will probably find the front and take some catching. She is possibly the knockout dog in this race.

Tweed Bah Day (8) has recently returned to the Glenda Dart kennel after spending time in Victoria with Kel Greenough. He has been racing against top company down there over the middle distances and could be prominent at his second go over the “half-mile” trip. His only other start over the distance yielded a second at Wentworth Park to the ill-fated National Distance champion Smart Valentino way back in September of last year. He led on that occasion before being run down.

Race 3 – Macro Meats Gold Cup Heat Two – 7:19pm

The second heat features two Victorian invaders as well as a recent Sandown Cup finalist from across the Tasman in New Zealand.

Born Ali (7) is a Group One Perth Galaxy winner who races consistently at the elite level. After a fifth in a Sandown Cup heat, the Rob Britton trained bitch finished third to Xylia Allen in the Listed Cup Night Stayers event, before another third at Sandown last Thursday behind Tarks Nemesis. At her best, she will be one of the big guns here.

Know Class (6) has had five starts in Australia since coming across from New Zealand for Anakie trainer James Shaw. In that short time he has managed to make the Group One Sandown Cup final where he finished seventh. He has a real grinding, dour style of racing and if he is on the pace he has the ability to out-stay his adversaries.

Infinite Wish (2) is another consistent Victorian performer who has finished in the top three at 30 of her 45 career outings. She can race on the pace or come from behind, the latter of which has been her style in recent efforts. She has to be considered a good chance in this heat.

Set Her Again (1) appears to be the best of the locals in this race. She has won three of her six outings over this trip with a best of 41.83. She returns from a drop back to 600 metres last week and will look to make her mark against some of the better stayers in the country here.

Race 4 – Macro Meats Gold Cup Heat Three – 7:41pm

Recent runner-up in the Group One Sandown Cup Tarks Nemesis looks the one to beat in the third-and-final heat. The Angela Langton prepared chaser has raced at the Albion Park venue on three occasions and was a finalist in the recent Queensland Futurity, despite the race being over an unsuitable distance. She is coming off a gutsy win at Sandown Park last Thursday and is a genuine stayer who could well be left alone in front here.

Wag Tail (6) is arguably the best stayer in Queensland at the moment. The Christina Harman trained daughter of Velocette and Bacardi Cruiser (Just The Best – Lou’s Cruise) boasts the imposing record of seven wins from nine starts over the 710 metre trip at Albion Park, including a smart 41.77 gallop. She will carry the hopes of a state into this series and has more than enough ability to be competitive.

Pumped Up Zarr makes the trek up from New South Wales for Yass based trainer Neil Staines. The son of Big Daddy Cool and Midnight Drama (Go Wild Teddy – Ready To Rise) has won nine of his 34 career starts which include wins at Wentworth Park, Sandown Park and Bathurst over the staying trip.

Eleazar (7) recently returned to Queensland from a racing sabbatical in New South Wales where she was highly competitive. She won over the distance at Richmond and Wentworth Park and was racing in top level company on many occasions. She has finished second on five occasions from eight goes at this track and trip and looks to be a chance to advance to the final if things go her way.

Encouraging The Return Of The SP Bookie

There are some who can remember when you could walk up to a bookie and claim him for $500 to $100 about number 6 – and he would let you have it. Well, he had no choice really, as that was a condition of his license. In fact, some of them enjoyed the tussle with punters as they pitted their knowledge against yours.

Sometimes the bookie lost on the race, sometimes he won. But at the end of the day, or year, the good bookies came out on top. They knew what they were doing, they worked at the form and they understood the thousands of customers thronging the racecourse.

But all that is history, except at the bigger gallops meetings. The 1960s saw the arrival of the off-course TABs so patrons had no need to go to the track to have a bet. TABs became the new way of “providing a service to the industry”, as everybody put it, and so raceclubs and governments reaped the rewards of a new source of funding. Bet types increased in number and the industry flourished. TAB coverage, and then SKY coverage became the way to prosperity. Bookmaker numbers gradually fell, many gave the game away, while eventually a handful were so dismayed at the myriad of restrictions placed on their operations that they found their way to the Northern Territory to set up shop and deal directly with customers over the internet or phone line.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. To cut to the chase, racing now provides a service to the wagering sector, feeding it events with monotonous regularity so it can make bigger and faster profits. Hence the multi-million dollar overseas takeovers of local corporate bookies, the TABs’ expansion into the Fixed Odds business, and (in Tabcorp’s case) the establishment of Luxbet in the NT to compete directly with the newcomers. Overseas-based operators are on the fringes, pinching business here and there but not paying their entrance fees.

In short, the industry has a tiger by the tail but the tiger is not very healthy.

Tote volumes are falling but, for the moment, are being replaced by betting diverted to Fixed Odds. In turn, the Fixed Odds trade has turned into a gigantic rip-off, featuring two major themes; the odds are terrible by comparison with normal tote figures (say books of 130% versus 117% on the tote); and then by manipulating the incoming bets so that successful punters have their bets reduced or refused.

We have quoted before in this column Tabcorp’s instructions to its staff to carefully monitor what comes through; all with the apparent objective of ensuring it makes a profit on every race. The old-time bookie could only look on in amazement as they get away with that.

But it has got worse recently. Tabcorp is now telling its agents all over the country that if big punters venture into their offices they risk having their access shut down completely, not just for the big guy but for all punters seeking to use Fixed Odds bets. Over 100 agencies have already been affected. (For more comment on this story, see FairWageringAustralia.com.au).

If you have every wandered into a Tabcorp outlet and inserted a Fixed Odds ticket into the machine, you may have noted that it often takes quite a while for the bet to go through. It’s not a slow computer doing that, but a delay while a checking process takes place to ensure that the bet is one that Tabcorp is prepared to accept. $20 may be fine; $500 would be another story.

While all this is going on, the standard tote pools are progressively declining, especially for greyhounds, helped also by the cash being split amongst an increasing number of races. There are no extra customers, just extra races.

So what does a greyhound punter do with a $200 bet? Or a bigger bet? If he puts it on the tote the odds will shorten appreciably – but to some unknown degree. If he tries Fixed Odds, he may well get knocked back and then run out of time to go back to the tote.

Meanwhile, racing authorities are getting less bang for their buck as their cut of the Fixed Odds business is smaller than they would get from the same money on the tote.

The Fixed Odds trade has jumped remarkably from a zero base, although it may have run out of steam now. Still, it’s over a quarter of all turnover.

What we are looking at is a wagering story in three parts; first, nearly three decades of continually rising turnover as TABs improved their product line; second, a big jump in the early 1990s as SKY put pictures into social clubs and lounge rooms; and third, a flattening out as the market matured, proportionally more mug punters arrived and betting operators scrambled around trying to get blood out of the stone.

Unfortunately, they are not doing that by skill and racing knowledge but by manhandling the traffic. They are no more than traffic cops on point duty. People who understand that will have gone elsewhere. Those that remain simply do not realise they are on the wrong end of financial skullduggery – at least by comparison with traditional betting principles, such as the one that says both parties should have a chance of winning. Given current Fixed Odds systems, there is no way an ordinary investor could win over time. While overcoming the traditional tote deductions is hard enough, those for Fixed Odds make it impossible unless the operator has made a mistake.

Currently, state governments legislate deductions for tote operations. Otherwise the operator can do pretty much what he likes. The fix is therefore for all states to implement controls over all wagering and to do it the same way everywhere. Do not leave holes that operators can drive trucks through.

Concurrently, to put some meatiness back into the market, the states should create a national tote pool so that small meetings (which are the vast majority) offer customers a reasonable product to use.

The do-nothing alternative is to encourage fly-by-nights, overseas operators or SP bookies to increase their influence. That does nobody any good, especially not state Treasuries.

The racing industry survives only on wagering turnover, yet Tabcorp’s latest action is specifically intended to reduce that turnover. How crazy can you get? And how unprofessional?

Where Will The Money Come From?

How are the greyhound budgets doing? With commonwealth measures about to hack into people’s disposable incomes it’s opportune to look at what happened last financial year as well as at trends since.

The outlook is not rosy. Only two states had genuinely positive wagering trends last year and one of those is chancy. The others are going backwards or just holding the line. Even worse if you take inflation into account. Tote betting is on the decline all over, mostly in response to business diverted to Fixed Odds activity which, in turn, offers less rewarding commission to clubs and authorities.

Western Australian turnover jumped 10.0% in 2012/13, helped by a 3.9% increase in meetings.

Tasmania increased turnover by 6.9% but now has to negotiate the effect of a full year’s switch from Supertab to TattsBet. The resultant smaller Tatts pools can only encourage more punters to jump the border and keep using the Melbourne Tabcorp pools.

They are the good ones and both are relatively small racing states.

NSW barely maintained its TAB turnover level, even though it offered 1.9% more races to bet on. Non-TAB turnover has been a saver but future growth there is uncertain. Authorities have rung alarm bells about the future, mostly because of the squeeze caused by state commission splits which involve greyhounds subsidising the other two codes.

South Australia was down by 10% and will also be affected by the declining value of the small TattsBet pools.

Queensland is going nowhere, which means it effectively has to go backwards, given the lack of meaningful action by Racing Queensland to reverse the trends. It needs more of everything, especially good dogs. Wagering was down 9.0% and even then was kept afloat only by a strong rise in commission on Fixed Odds and other corporate bookmaker offerings. They now comprise over 30% of all Queensland betting.

So, what about everybody’s hero, Victoria? The short answer is flat as a tack at the moment. GRV has trumpeted about an 8% rise in income last year but that was done on a 7.5% increase in races. Since then, the state has had the benefit of a big jump in the proportion of race commissions allocated to greyhounds. That will help in the future but it cannot contribute twice to growth.

The national picture is therefore cloudy. Future prospects for any industry can brighten only when it is uncovering new customers or obtaining more business from existing ones. Neither appears likely at the moment, largely because the industry has made only spasmodic attempts to deal with the public (as was clear in the hearings for the recent NSW parliamentary Inquiry) or to mount serious marketing campaigns.

The overcrowded TAB calendar now shows quite clearly that the industry’s product supply has now exceeded the demand from the limited number of gamblers.

The only other measure that would improve greyhound’s position is the creation of a national betting pool, thereby offering customers something decent to bet into. Whether any racing authorities are working on that is unknown. Logically, it would be the task of the national authority but, unfortunately, Greyhounds Australasia does not delve into commercial matters. So, who will put their hands up? The need is urgent.

THE EVIDENCE CONTINUES

After Late Angel Lee’s paddling win over 710m at Albion Park last week I commented that “I would not be taking Late Angel Lee to the races for another couple of weeks at least”.

Oh dear, they took no notice. Seven days later the dog turned up again for its second crack at the trip. It was therefore no surprise to see it floundering by the time they got to the back straight and then give it away on the home turn. This time it ran 43.44, compared with its first-up win in 42.41 – a 15 lengths difference. As a $3.50 second favourite, it took a lot of punters’ money with it. It had no hope of beating Wag Tail’s very smart 41.77 anyway, but that was not the point. This is a highly talented galloper but it should never have raced the second time.

In a similar case, lining up for its third distance race in 16 days, Heaps of Ability failed badly over 725m at The Meadows on Saturday. It had led-all-the-way in its previous two, although the second of those was substantially slower than the first, but met smarter early competition this time. However, it came out poorly anyway and clearly lacked the punch to go on with it in the second half of the race.

Here We Go Again

The saga of over-raced staying types is worth some continuing discussion. Particularly as Sandown has just run four heats of the Sandown Cup, a major event on the national calendar.

The 31 starters (one was a late scratching) mostly had plenty of recent racing. They included Xylia Allen’s record run a week ago over the Traralgon 658m trip. The gaps between last night’s run and their previous starts were:

4 days 1
5 days 10
7 days 15
14-plus days 4

TOTAL 31

As it turned out, three of the four heats were won by “7-day” dogs, but all in moderate time. The other (Tarks Nemesis) was coming off a 5-day break but had been racing only over middle distances. Overall, favourites had dismal experiences.

Heat 1: Early favourite Allen Deed, with no experience over the long trip, and at a silly price, led up but faded on the home turn. Tarks Nemesis got to the lead, lost it and then gained it again in an ordinary 42.41. The highly fancied Heaps of Ability, which ended up favourite, was having its fourth 700 run in three weeks, and again faded badly on the home turn.

Heat 2: Punters made Hailstorm Billy favourite despite its poor staying form since a fast win at Wentworth Park four starts ago. Having its fifth start in just over four weeks, it ran poorly again. The winner, Know Class, eventually found its way through the crowd and ran down the bolter (Supersonic Hawk) which had led to the post. The time was a miserable 42.62.

Heat 3: Rocky Bale, a heavily backed $2.50 second favourite coming out of box 1, and having raced 5 days ago at Bendigo, failed to run out the trip and was unplaced. It is normally a strong finisher. Sweet It Is, off a two week break, was always at odds-on, and should have won the race but was checked on the home turn and just missed out. That’s always a risk for slow starters coming from back in the field. The winner ran 42.71.

Heat 4: Another classic case of over-racing. History was repeated when Xylia Allen broke the track record last week at Traralgon (658m) and was expected to run away with this race, too. It was always well into the red, was prominent for a good while but then faded on the home turn. The winning time was again ordinary (42.46) and the next two best credentialled dogs, Mepunga Tiara and Break O’Day, ran the Quinella.

On the question of times, the track was only a little on the slow side but, considering times run in other races on the program (29.49, 29.50) more could be expected from the stayers. Most average distance races at Sandown are won in 42 sec, give or take a bit, yet no dog got within six lengths of that mark on the night. In every heat the field bunched on the home turn as some were coming on and some were falling back. Put simply, it was an awful exhibition of distance racing.

Brisbane also had a 710m distance event on the same night. It included all the usual suspects bar Wag Tail, which may not have been eligible as it was a 5th grade race and Wag Tail has now won five such races. The starters’ recent gaps between races were:

4 days 1
5 days 1
7 days 6

TOTAL 8

The race was a bit messy as the favourite, Set Her Again, took a while to get to the front and ended up recording a moderate 42.45. Amazingly, punters refused to believe their eyes or their formguide and sent out Late Angel Lee a well-backed $3.70 second favourite. It had every chance but never looked likely and faded into a distant fourth spot, six lengths away. The dog was having its third 710m race in 15 days, having paddled to a win in the first and failed badly in the second. Placings were in the lap of the dogs anyway as the field almost pulled up on the home turn to have a chat to each other.

At least it reinforced an old racing adage to “back the favourite in the distance race”. That worked in Brisbane but scored 0 for 4 in Melbourne.

If there is one conclusion that can be drawn from all the recent distance racing it is that good quality dogs can sometimes win well over the trip on one occasion, but they have great difficulty repeating the effort, particularly if they don’t have time to refill the petrol tank (which was the case for 90% or more of the above runners). It now remains a mystery as to how Xylia Allen massacred the Wentworth Park track record with a brilliant 41.53 run yet at no time before or since has it got near that level. It can manage the 650m/680m, certainly, as records at Geelong and Traralgon demonstrate, but apart from that single effort is Sydney, it has failed in every other distance attempt.

To one degree or another you might, say the same about Hailstorm Billy, Heaps of Ability and maybe others. On all the repeat occasions, the betting market and the industry have over-estimated the ability of these sorts of dogs to maintain a high standard over distances which do not really optimise their ability.

This is should not be a surprise as we are not trying to breed stayers in the first place. The really good ones that emerge are no more than accidents, including Miata which had virtually no genuine staying capacity in its background.

If it’s any consolation, the horses have the same problem. Seldom can one get a good 3200m, which is why visitors from Japan, France, USA and the UK more often pick up the spoils and authorities are regularly asked to reduce the distance for other classic events. Makybe Diva was the exception to prove the rule.

For the greyhound industry, stronger and more reliable competition would come from enhancing the value of middle distances trips but with one major proviso – first get rid of all the horrible bend starts. In that vein, it is horrifying to note that WA is actually planning to insert a bend start into its multi-million dollar development to replace Cannington in 2015. How can this be possible?

Sunday, 18 May 2014


Greyhound Box Draw For Canberra – Sunday, 18 May 2014

Race No. 1The Climate Doctor 0-1 Win H4:31 PM
MX event over 310 metres at Canberra Of $835 Prizemoney.
1st: $500 2nd: $210 3rd: $125.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1WINNING CHARM2133NBTFrank Hurst
2FANCY COUNTRY145218.72Chris Priestley
3RALPHY BABY376518.35Lisa Mcfarlane
4BERRIDALE CAFE444818.16Lisa Mcfarlane
5QUEEN OF JAZZ523718.24Rodney Bates
6LORD OF DARKNESS1NBTJason Matthews
7MISS GYPSY LADY777818.34Keith Morgan
8ALLIANCE SHIRAZ118.49Cheryl Buick
Race No. 2The Climate Doctor 0-1 Win H4:56 PM
MX event over 310 metres at Canberra Of $835 Prizemoney.
1st: $500 2nd: $210 3rd: $125.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1INDY’S ELITE352318.33Cheryl Buick
2USE THE FORCE4818.63Lisa Mcfarlane
3JOMO833218.24John Curtin
4NAGINATA343318.39Keith Morgan
5SPRITELY LASS81NBTBrian Tame
6MR. I AM686X18.43Rodney Bates
7AL KOCHADOR315X18.28Lorraine Roy
8GANDO’S BOY667618.79Keith Morgan
Race No. 3The Climate Doctor 0-1 Win H5:14 PM
MX event over 310 metres at Canberra Of $835 Prizemoney.
1st: $500 2nd: $210 3rd: $125.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1LOAD UP4543NBTJennifer Brown
2CANNOT GRUMBLE5718.56Lisa Mcfarlane
3COSTA RICA665718.79Keith Morgan
4GENE GENERATION233218.33Rodney Bates
5PUBLIC ORDER647218.46Peter Warner
6SORRY MANXNBTCheryl Buick
7MAGIC KNIGHT5NBTFrank Hurst
8WINFIELD AUTUMN-NBTJodie Lord
Race No. 4Vetsense Hemopaste Sprint5:32 PM
4/5 event over 310 metres at Canberra Of $1,100 Prizemoney.
1st: $660 2nd: $275 3rd: $165.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1KYMMY CAN DO432318.10Barry Coleman
2BUMP111417.67Ryan Collier
3COOL ONYX266217.77Lisa Mcfarlane
4BLACK PRETENCE557318.30Jason Matthews
5CARWOOLA ELLA362517.96Trevor Peck
6WINFIELD BLACK141117.81Jodie Lord
7SHADES OF PALE845418.12Trevor Peck
8DIAMOND KATIE778618.71Keith Morgan
9IL NERO778618.25Stephen Fitzgerald
10TROCADERO877818.04David Thompson
Race No. 5Tarquin Stakes5:53 PM
4/5 event over 530 metres at Canberra Of $1,415 Prizemoney.
1st: $850 2nd: $355 3rd: $210.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1REGAL GUARD663230.99Keith Windus
2HE’S REALLY COOL547530.74Frederick Shoobert
3SMOOTH GRIN3762NBTNeil Staines
4CAWBOURNE POWER326530.90Jodie Lord
5STEALIN’ KRUNCH584331.02Darren Sultana
6BOOMING BENNETT5523NBTShannon Ellis
7YOU’RE UP LES4443NBTJason Matthews
8PACKING KRUNCH5653NBTDarren Sultana
Race No. 6Greg Millwood Memorial Stakes6:14 PM
NG event over 530 metres at Canberra Of $3,330 Prizemoney.
1st: $2,000 2nd: $830 3rd: $500.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1KING COBBER3153NBTFrank Hurst
2CAWBOURNE BRODIE747530.49Jodie Lord
3FREDDY’S SMILE231230.81Toby Weekes
4ONE INCH PUNCH554531.18Neil Staines
5SPIRITED JOURNEY542530.91Lisa Mcfarlane
6CAWBOURNE LIBBY216530.62Jodie Lord
7PLEIADES213530.37Lorraine Roy
8PEARL IRENE137730.58Lorraine Roy
Race No. 7Sir Kudos Stakes6:33 PM
3/4 event over 440 metres at Canberra Of $1,165 Prizemoney.
1st: $700 2nd: $290 3rd: $175.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1CAWBOURNE HITMAN173425.12Jodie Lord
2MALLEE MAN314825.47Graham Thurkettle
3AMAZING PADDY312125.61Jim Coleman
4CRAZY COSMOS474325.60Shannon Ellis
5ACE ME UP145225.48Ryan Collier
6AWESOME CHANCE148225.24Lorraine Roy
7ANOTHER CALL161225.20Jodie Lord
8CAWBOURNE ROCKA366325.10Jodie Lord
Race No. 8Toledo Trailers National Capital…6:49 PM
NG event over 600 metres at Canberra Of $16,500 Prizemoney.
1st: $10,000 2nd: $4,000 3rd: $2,500.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1CAWBOURNE WHIP164134.76Jodie Lord
2BENARKIN212234.97Tony Brett
3ZAMBORA MAGIC211134.94Frank Hurst
4SOVIET MISSILE1X5134.96Toby Weekes
5PUMPED UP ZARR471235.62Neil Staines
6GRADENCE223234.93Mark Gatt
7HOPE’S FANCY881135.20Toby Weekes
8VAN CARRHO FLASH558235.23Lisa Mcfarlane
9KING COBBER315335.08Frank Hurst
10ADDIVA516335.24Gregory Lye
Race No. 9Agh Asbestos Removal Stakes7:10 PM
4/5 event over 440 metres at Canberra Of $1,100 Prizemoney.
1st: $660 2nd: $275 3rd: $165.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1MARQUESA814725.80Jodie Lord
2PURE BLOOD153526.20Darren Sultana
3CONTESSA671325.78Jodie Lord
4CAWBOURNE KAYONO888X25.59Jodie Lord
5BLUE OUTLAW438825.81Chris Priestley
6SAPPHIRE MADAM2116NBTShannon Ellis
7CARONDON MISS414225.56Lorraine Roy
8BIG ASSET322425.65John Shea
Race No. 10Buck Fever @ Stud Sprint7:34 PM
5 event over 310 metres at Canberra Of $1,000 Prizemoney.
1st: $600 2nd: $250 3rd: $150.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1SHE’S ELITE438617.98Jennifer Brown
2MANTON JACK2464NBTNeil Staines
3SON OF SON474618.14Stephen Fitzgerald
4CAWBOURNE COBRA543217.59Jodie Lord
5PINK ROSA LEE576718.53David Thompson
6TRY TIME OSCAR383418.22Kyle Newton
7MAN BAG472118.07Chris Priestley
8CARWOOLA AVARY645718.00Trevor Peck
9TROCADERO877818.04David Thompson
10IL NERO778618.25Stephen Fitzgerald
Race No. 11Oaks Road @ Stud Stakes7:53 PM
5 event over 440 metres at Canberra Of $1,000 Prizemoney.
1st: $600 2nd: $250 3rd: $150.

No.NameFormBestTrainer

1BOUNCING BENNETT748825.48Shannon Ellis
2NOBBY COUNTRY145526.50Chris Priestley
3ALBURN734725.69Garry Harriden
4JAKATIE JET1426.29Barry Coleman
5POINT BOO3664NBTKeith Morgan
6COUNTRY VENTURE72X225.83Chris Priestley
7BUSMAN BRETTX646NBTKeith Morgan
8SERIOUS CHANCE1125.44Lorraine Roy
9WINSOME MAX483725.97Chris Priestley
10WYNWOOD YA6655NBTJason Platts

2014 Richmond Oaks Heats Preview

Four sensational heats of the $20,000 Richmond Oaks will highlight Saturday night’s Richmond meeting, with last week’s Group Two Ladies Bracelet winner Zipping Willow the standout performer in heat three. Last year’s Oaks winner Calm Model will step out in the final heat and aim to go back-to-back for trainer Clay Mullens.

Heat one contains plenty of last start winners, however Smashing Sally has good early pace and has a brilliant record at Richmond with two wins from three starts, including a flying personal best of 30.45. The Neil Falk trained chaser can overcome box five to salute in this event. Dean Swain’s Eleazar drops back in distance after a solid campaign over the 720m, where she recorded a speedy 42.37, and is ideally drawn in drawn in box two. Ready To Riot comes off an outstanding performance at Wentworth Park last month, clocking 29.71 over the 520m for in-form trainer Anthony Azzopardi.

Group One National Futurity winner Rue De Kahn comes off a brilliant win at Wentworth Park in 29.64 and will exit from box six with good early pace in heat two. The Dean Swain trained greyhound has eight wins from fifteen starts and is looking to crack the $100,000 prizemoney barrier. Asha Tanga has a sizzling personal best at Richmond of 30.32 and produced a wonderful win at Maitland last Thursday in 25.15 over the 450m. This greyhound can be a risky beginner, however has great pace once she balances up and can steal this for trainer Maureen Sharman. Jason Mackay’s Zipping Delta has been down on form lately, with her last victory back in March over the 565m at Maitland. She has a huge advantage exiting from box one and is no stranger to success at the track with two wins from four starts.

Group Two Ladies Bracelet winner Zipping Willow is perfectly drawn in box eight for heat three and comes off a blistering win at Wentworth Park last week in 29.44. Debuting at the track for Jason Mackay, the winner of eighteen races is looking for her fourth straight win and is the early favourite to take out next week’s final. Black Empress is unbeaten around the Richmond circuit and was very impressive in a 30.67 win here last month. Despite drawing box four, this bitch has terrific early pace and can push for a finals berth. Chica Destacada is slowly regaining the form that saw her burst onto the scene at Wentworth Park at the beginning of the year and will need to be at her best from box five to test this field. The Doreen Drynan trained chaser has a good Richmond record of two wins from five starts and will be hard to beat if she reproduces her best.

The final heat sees promising Queensland pup Visualize It making the trip down from the Sunshine State with solid Albion Park form under her belt. The Peter Young trained bitch recorded 30.16 over the 520m last month, and does have genuine early pace to overcome the tricky box six. Anthony Azzopardi has another talented runner engaged with Kulu Special exiting from box three. Before falling in the Dubbo Cup final last month, this bitch won four three of her past four starts including a flying 29.72 performance at Wentworth Park. If the fall hasn’t affected her mindset, look for her to lead all the way and record a fast personal best on debut at the track. Last year’s Oaks winner Calm Model returns for another crack at the winner’s purse for trainer Clay Mullens, however she has been struggling of late with her last victory back in September of last year. She has a flying personal best of 30.48 at the track and will need to run this sort of time again to be any hope of making the final.

Heat one will be run and won at 7.44pm, with the winner and second placegetter moving through to next week’s $20,000 final.

More Of Too Much Of A Good Thing

I have no idea how best to train stayers, but I know what I like to bet on.

More and more it seems that dogs are being asked to do too much. Not necessarily all of them but most. To see what I mean, here are a few examples amongst many.

At Sandown Park:

Hala Belle on 24 Apr ran 41.82, followed by 42.30 on 1 May, difference +0.48 or 7 lengths.
Sisco Rage on 24 Apr ran 41.98, followed by 42.47 on 1 May, difference +0.49 or 7 lengths.
Rocky Bale, on 24 Apr ran 41.98, followed by 41.73 on 1 May, difference -0.32 or 4.5 lengths.

At Wentworth Park:

Xylia Allen on 12 Apr ran 41.53, followed by 41.98 on 19 Apr, difference +0.45 or 6.5 lengths.
… then at Sandown 1 May ran 42.13, equivalent to 42.43 at Wenty, 13 lengths worse than its Wenty record.

Of these four cases, all involving successful dogs, three faded when they raced again 7 days later. The exception is Rocky Bale which is a much different sort of racer. He always comes from the back of the field while the others are essentially leaders. That means Rocky Bale pulls out all the stops only in the run home. Or, to put it another way, it ends up going hard while the others are slowing down. Those other three are leaders and performed like that in all the above races, meeting with little or no interference.

The obvious conclusion is that leaders, with the bunny right in front of them, use up more petrol early in the race. Their chasing DNA then starts to overpower their physical capacity. Once they go past 600m or so they are effectively running on empty, or nearly so. In turn, before they can race successfully again, they need to replenish their juices (vets will tell you the correct names for those). Obviously, in most cases 7 days is not enough time for that to happen. Indeed, many vets have been quoted as saying the same thing for any dog, regardless of the distance covered. Some trainers, too.

Other influences may be the stresses of long travel or the dog’s racing frequency over time. One example was record breaker Chinatown Lad which was just a shadow of its former self for the last few months of its career. Previously it had raced week-in, week-out for long periods in several states, with short spells only for injuries.

A related question is the raw ability of the dog (or bitch) itself. Xylia Allen has always been a brilliant galloper but until the Wenty experience it was a bit of a dud over the long trip. Consequently, you have to assume that the amazing Wenty run of 41.53 was one out of the box – a reflection of its class and maturity rather than of innate staying prowess. But it clearly took a lot out of the bitch – too much as it turns out. (Amazingly, owner Paul Wheeler expected it to run even better in that second run at Wenty, which shows you that even the experts can get it wrong).

Some will talk about the “second-up” syndrome which affects most but not all dogs. Arguably, that will depend on the dog’s metabolism and perhaps its training schedule, although I doubt many trainers will trial a dog over the 700s, perhaps reasoning that they may as well try it in a race in the hope of getting a reward for the effort. Whatever they do, it is the exception for a dog to succeed when it first moves up from 600m to 700m.

Coincidentally, a sprinter with a thundering finish, Late Angel Lee, won its first and only attempt over the distance at Albion Park last week. While it had done well over 520m and 600m, it still tip-toed over the line in the longer race in a moderate 42.41. The opposition was not great, of course, and tended to mess up their own chances anyway. But I would not be taking Late Angel Lee to the races for another couple of weeks at least. That same trip, by the way, was also the site of Boomeroo’s near death experience after winning the National Distance Championship. It had demanded too much of its body and ended up on a drip for several days. And that was an experienced, well-conditioned dog. It was never the same again.

A conundrum for both officials and trainers is the fact that stayers are often asked to compete in heat and final events in successive weeks. In fact, even when that is not compulsory, they often ask them to race again with only a 7 day break. This practice must be an underlying reason for inconsistent results in staying races, doubly so when lesser dogs are involved.

It all suggests that gaps between races should be at least 7 days for sprinters and 14 days for stayers, and that racing rules should be re-written accordingly. Anything less and it is just another nail in the punter’s coffin.

What seems to be forgotten is that the average greyhound reaches its peak speed at around 440m. After that, they are all slowing down, some more than others. There are exceptions, of course, but by the time they get to 600m and then 700m it is natural that most would be dropping out of contention. More so when the Australian breed has been dominated for years by sprinting sires – as emphasised by the modern trend to make shorter races a bigger part of today’s programs. These serve only to distribute cash more widely amongst the greyhound fraternity rather than to improve the breed or attract more customers (even the mug gamblers prefer a longer run for their money). Curiously, they then run counter to the universal trend to offer bonuses for longer races – a practice which is intended to encourage distance racing but has no hope of succeeding with the existing dog population.

Currently, stayers appear only by accident, not by design. If you want more stayers, the obvious plot would be to offer those bonuses to sires and dams with proven staying ability. Surely this is not rocket science.

Meanwhile, why not adopt a different pattern for major staying events where many competitors come from interstate? Since conducting heats and finals with a 7 day gap is a burden on the dogs, a more sensible process would be to run the heat in the local state in week 1 and move to the location of the final in week 3, thereby providing plenty of time for recovery. It’s done now for the National Distance Championship, so why not do it for all big races? The only added requirement would be to select the finalists on the basis of relative times at each local track. It would not be hard to devise a formula to calculate those times.

A Valuable Lesson From Canberra

As the country goes, so might racing. The current national debt crisis demands all sorts of cuts to and changes to government programs, according to the government’s Commission of Audit. It summarises the need in this way:

“It will require an integrated approach with hard-headed decisions on spending priorities, a preparedness to embark on meaningful tax reform, an ambitious approach to recasting commonwealth-state relations and, above all, a concerted reform agenda to support productivity and growth”. (Commission chairman Tony Shepherd in The Australian, 2 May)

That immediately brings to mind a great many things happening in the racing industry. For instance, take the subsidies being handed out to mostly well-off breeders and mediocre distance dogs – are they producing anything worthwhile? The industry’s national Forum, Greyhounds Australasia, not only has no power but fails to communicate much at all and deals only with a very limited number of subjects. By default, individual states rule in different ways to each other and therefore at a greater total cost to the industry.

As for reform, a clear need exists to rein in a rampant betting sector which is dedicated solely to making excessive profits from mug gamblers while ignoring the impact of its reduced level of service to the industry. There is nothing wrong with seeking bigger profits but not if you risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Or even growing more eggs. That makes no sense for anybody, including the betting houses.

Totes are expensive enough to start with as their deductions far exceed those for poker machines and casinos with which they compete and which people understand much better than they do racing. But now around a quarter of betting turnover (Fixed Odds) is completely out of the control of governments, given current legislation, with the result that betting operators like Tabcorp can make up their own rules as they go along.

Those same Fixed Odds books are not only over-priced but are also subject to the whim of the operator as to whether it accepts the bet or not. It acts not like a tote or a bookmaker but more like a shifty SP bookie’s agent on a street corner.

Consider what the current greyhound climate involves:

  • Volatile betting prospects in a flat or declining 20 year background. Tabcorp’s tote turnover – the main game – is doing poorly while Fixed Odds Betting is rising but at a greater cost to the consumer. The number of online operators is rising almost by the month.
  • Gamblers who do not know what they are doing. Favourites are over-bet everywhere. For example, in the last two months at major tracks 42% of odds-on favourites lost and 58% won. Since some of the winners were priced down to $1.20 or so that means the gamblers lost significantly over time.
  • Overcrowding of racing calendars continues unabated, meaning pools are now much smaller and frequently unusable, thereby discouraging serious punters. Product supply has long exceeded customer demand.
  • Breeding numbers have been declining over the last decade (as has thoroughbred breeding). Lower standard dogs are being pushed into extra TAB races.
  • State imbalances are increasing as the TattsBet states continue to lose ground. (And, in the last quarter, for all codes Tabcorp NSW tote figures improved but those in Victoria declined. That’s odd).

All this is part of a steady process that will continue on its present course, short of significant reform. In effect, what the developments of the last 20 years have done is to devolve control of the industry to betting houses and so pander to the interests of their shareholders (who are doing very well).

Racing, particularly greyhound racing, does have some options.

First, with due notice, it can tell the totes that it no longer wants to supply races willy nilly to the betting sector, rather only when it can provide a decent product for future customers. That would require a national consensus, of course.

Second, it can use its initiative and imagination and find other outlets for the low class racers that are now clogging up the system. Empty boxes can be replaced by competition for spots, as occurs in all other walks of life.

Third, it can improve that system radically by creating fewer but better races, partly by culling bad stock and partly by building better racetracks to replace the disruptive shambles that now persists

Fourth, it can get off its behind and explain the industry properly to a public that is ignorant of the greyhound’s unique history and capabilities.

Fifth, it can then start seeking new high value customers to utilise an interesting and fascinating new product, expertly put together and supported by a wide range of professional services, all making a major contribution to the economy and the wider community.

None of that will happen overnight, but it can be done. Certainly not by the existing industry structure but by modernised and well co-ordinated national organisations and programs.

The vital first steps are to reform the almost irrelevant Greyhounds Australasia set-up and give it some teeth, and then to convince all the state Racing Ministers of the need for that modernisation, especially by creating a national betting pool. It goes without saying that state and national administrations need big changes in order to bring their governance structures into the 21st century. The industry has to be managed, not just administered.

As the Commission of Audit warned, “There are too many government bodies in Australia. This leads to duplication and overlap, unnecessary complexity, a lack of accountability, the potential for uncoordinated advice and avoidable costs. There is no central repository of information on these bodies”. So, too, with racing.

Failure to act does not bear thinking about. If you don’t do something about the national debt, the outcome is that a bigger interest bill forces it to keep rising until you eventually go bankrupt. If greyhound racing morphs into nothing more than a succession of four-legged poker machines, what then happens to the breed?

Background to the Ladies Bracelet

It was a race inaugurated by the GBOTA, who were then operating out of Harold Park, to compete with the very successful National Futurity, run by rival organisation, the NCA, at Wentworth Park. This year marks the 44th running of the Ladies Bracelet, the bitches-only event which has thrown up five NSW Greyhound of the Year winners: Shapely Escort (1971), Mandarin Girl (1976), Winifred Bale (1983), Camden’s Ghost (1986), and Jessica Casey (1991).

Inaugural running

The first running took place on 15 May 1971. Champion sprinter Shapely Escort came from box eight to score by four lengths from Geeta and Tarpeena Tip, running a fast 26.5 in heavy rain. Shapely Escort went on to be named NSW Greyhound of the Year.

Distances

From 1971 to 1987 it was run over 457 metres (500 yards) on the grass at Harold Park, From 1988 to 1992 it was held over 520 metres on the grass at Wentworth Park. Since 1993 it has been run over 520 metres on the sand at Wentworth Park.

When Is The Race Run

The only major race on the Australian calendar that has always been held in the same month, in this case, May.

Biggest Winning Margins

In 1997 Oriana made full use of early trouble to score by a whopping 16 lengths from Frosty’s Title. In 2010 Cindeen Shelby won by nine and a half lengths. Mint Mojo won by six lengths in 2001.

Closest Winning Margins

The closest finish was in 2009 when Starfire Havoc beat Brislane by a nose. In 1977 Nimity Streak held out Donna’s Tosca by half a head with Hoolahan a nose away third; in 2008 Miss Beeslee defeated Queen Lauryn by half a head. Spider Web downed World Park Lass by a neck in 1990.

Most Successful Trainer/s

Don McMillan with four wins: Short County (1992; the last race held on the grass track at Wentworth Park), Nella Lucy (1999), Magenta Rose (2006), and Bralyn Maisie (2007).

Dual Winner/s

Gold Spring (1979 and 1980).

Reserve/s To Win

None. Miss Porsca was first reserve in 2006 and ran third behind Magenta Rose. Xylia Allen was first reserve in 2013 and finished third to Lagoon Lowanna.

Dual Finalists

Shapely Escort (Won 1971, fourth 1972), Dynabolt (seventh 1972, second 1973), Mercia Bale (second 1978, third 1979), Gold Spring (Won 1979 & 1980), Dyna Lace (second 1984, unplaced 1985), Camden’s Ghost (Won 1986, second 1987), Gembuka (third 1994 & 1995), Franklin Mint (sixth 1995, eighth 1996), Lucy Lawless (Won 1998, second 1999), Flash Of Light (fourth 2009 & 2010).

Some Beaten Stars

Top Saba (fifth 1971), Petite Panther (seventh 1971), Kim’s Monaro (third 1974), Classy Spider (seventh 1990), Mancunian Girl (eighth 1994), Midnight Flirt (second 1996), Kedo’s Millie (seventh 1997), Byrneville Kara (fourth 1998), Hotshow Vintage (second 2000), Flash Joan (fourth 2000), Jinderra Flame (second 2007), Queen Lauryn (second 2008), One Tree Hill (fourth 2008), Dana Beatrice (seventh 2010), Xylia Allen (third 2013).

Additional Notes

Before the current version of the Ladies Bracelet, there was a race with exactly the same name conducted by the National Coursing Association over 580 yards (530 metres) at Wentworth Park in the late 1950s. A greyhound named Calorie won the 1959 running (held in July), which might have been the inaugural event. How long the NCA continued with a Ladies Bracelet I don’t know, though I suspect it was supplanted in favour of the National Futurity, which started in 1964.

One of the Wheeler family’s foundation bitches, Gail’s Beauty, had a profound influence until the early 1990s. Maybe Now (1974) and Amy’s Doll (1993) both had Gail’s Beauty in their sire line, while Smooth Spectre (1978), Winifred Bale (1983) and Silvertail Miss (1985) had her appearing in their dam line. Judo Art, the 1981 winner, had Gail’s Beauty in both her sire and dam line.

In 2006, both reserves gained a start in the final. To the best of my knowledge I think this is the only time a major race final has had both reserves take their place in the field. Miss Porsca wore the number 9 rug to take third place, replacing Molli Tears in box 3; Sweet Hand wore the number 10 rug to replace Smart Assassin in box 2.

Have to feel some sympathy for the connections of Navada Sunrise. She was first reserve in 2009, and not required; in 2010 she made the final, but was a late scratching.

This Week in Racing History

APRIL

30th

NSW stayer Red Mystique scored a narrow but impressive victory in the 1998 Sandown Cup, defeating Totally Ablaze by half a length with Tonight’s Wish a half length away third. The field was arguably one of the best to have ever contested the final with the likes of Savanah City (fourth), Ringside Fire (fifth) and Paradise Street (sixth) among the beaten brigade.

MAY

1st

Queensland champion Top Simbi defeated the smart Garron Court by seven lengths over 558 metres at the Gabba in 1974, running 32.50 to equal his own track record.

Ronan Izmir defeated Paw Licking in the 2013 final of the Warrnambool Cup, running a fast 25.01. Ima Geisha Girl was third with Peter Rocket fourth and El Brooklyn fifth. Amazingly, the first five runners across the line were all domiciled in Smith’s Lane, Pearcedale. The winner, and fifth placegetter, were trained by Jason Thompson.

2nd

Chief Zephyr, having his first run over 800 yards (732 metres) at Harold Park in 1959, scored by 15 lengths in 43.72. For a short period, times were being taken to the nearest hundredth rather than tenth of a second, though only at Harold Park.

Rylee’s Revenge, trained by Michelle Stella, won the 2006 Ipswich Auction Series final, over 520 metres, by half a length from Eiswein and Dance Ona Dime, running 31.01.

3rd

Auf Wiedersehen took out the 2006 Warrnambool Classic by almost three lengths in a fair 25.41, earning trainer Angela Langton $50,000. Second and third were Dusty Rhode and Classy Rhode, both trained by local mentor Norm McCullagh.

4th

Bold Trease registered his fourth consecutive victory in the Sandown Cup, annexing the 1989 final by a length and a half from Smart Choice and Blade Action in 43.85 for trainer Norm McCullagh. Bold Trease’s sequence is without doubt the only time one greyhound has ever won the same major race four times in succession in world greyhound history and is arguably the greatest achievement ever seen. His 1987 victory is considered as the best of the four victories after he came ‘from the clouds’ to win running away by two lengths.

Nova Express won the 1993 Warrnambool Cup by a head from In Pursuit with Rami Legend third.

5th

NSW stayer Dusty Ginny caused somewhat of an upset in winning the 1978 National Distance Championship final, run at Hobart, although she scored in 43.3, setting a new track record and defeating Victorian Mandaquita by five lengths. Fellow NSW finalist Kawati Boy had been expected to take out the event, but could finish only sixth.

Smooth Rumble picked up $100,000 for trainer Steve Kavanagh in taking out the 1997 Australian Cup, scoring by three-quarters of a length from Firing Bear. The race was run over 515 metres at Sandown Park following the closure of Olympic Park.

6th

Travel Rev won the 1971 Association Cup at Harold Park, overcoming early interference on a rain-affected track to defeat Mustard Moss by two and a half lengths with Tara Flash third in a race record 43.6. Travel Rev earned $5,000 for trainer Alf Hayes, who then announced the retirement of his champion stayer, regarded by many as the greatest to have ever raced over 800 yards (732 metres) at Harold Park.

Veteran trainer Max Wintle took out the 2009 Warrnambool Classic with Bordain, who scored by just over two lengths in 25.34 and earned $60,000.

New Blood Might Offer Fresh Hope?

What can we expect from the new Racing Minister in NSW? Troy Grant, the National MP for Dubbo in the state’s west, moved into the job following the recent reshuffle with no obvious experience in the racing game. Dubbo is a popular regional centre of the sort that attracts some industry, the odd NRL game and fly-in, fly-out medical specialists from Sydney. Importantly, its greyhound meetings obtained TAB and SKY coverage not so long ago.

A relative newcomer to politics (from 2011), Grant emerged from a 23 year background in the police force with several awards on the way, not the least of which was a Guinness World Record for playing 1,800 holes of golf in seven days.

That stamina will place him well to handle tricky decisions thrown up by the Borsak parliamentary Inquiry into greyhound racing. The first report is out and will be followed up by another in June after detailed investigation of economic factors by the NSW Treasury.

The big worry is whether a background in public service will qualify the Minister to bring about much needed industry reforms. First among those would be the formation of a national betting pool, which has been recommended by previous reviews and even supported by now-disgraced former Minister, Richard Face. However, another former Minister (McBride) was responsible for knocking back Tabcorp’s attempt to combine its own pools in NSW and Victoria.

In either case, greyhound racing would have been a huge beneficiary. Its small pools are a turnoff for many intending punters. It would also have been some help in overcoming the current shortfalls caused by the iniquitous 99-year fixed commission distribution agreement.

The National Party is not known for its reformist zeal and little action was seen from the previous Minister, George Souris, another country lad. Hopefully, younger blood will show the way, or so Premier Baird assures us.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

One item Minister Grant and his opposite numbers in other states might pay attention to is how Australian punters are getting ripped off by the convoluted wagering system we are lumbered with. It’s getting worse every day.

But first a topical comparison. A report just released by the Grattan Institute shows superannuation fee reform is the largest single opportunity for microeconomic reform in the economy. Apparently, workers are paying about $20 billion a year in fees, or about $1,300 for each account-holder (The Australian, April 28). The Institute estimates that this could be cut in half with better management and supervision.

Yet the totes are not a lot different. They whip out an average of 17% from each dollar bet, and charge almost twice that for Fixed Odds bets where they also retain the right to cut or reject bets when it suits them. At the core they are monopolies and are being supported by state governments which gave them exclusive licenses.

The potential for reform is obviously there as online bookmakers have already shown that they can operate with costs of around 6%, according to the Productivity Commission. Even allowing for the TABs’ extra costs of providing suburban shopfronts and higher commission to raceclubs, that still leaves a big gap between what the TABs charge and what they take home to play with. That’s an opportunity for micro reform which should not be missed. Overall, of the $23 billion bet each year, about one dollar in every five is a candidate for more efficient processing. What is needed is more effective competition or, failing that, tighter supervision from governments.

The system has been allowed to grow up like Topsy, but to the disadvantage of the everyday punter.

STAYING IS A LOST ART

A final note. I see The Australian threw out a worrying thought when it commented on April 28 that “even the damaging evidence of the decline of the Australian-bred stayer could not take the gloss off the fine results on Saturday (the last day of the thoroughbred’s Sydney autumn carnival)”.

With thoroughbreds, an obvious contributor to that decline would be the crazily high prizemoney allocated to two-year old sprinters in the Golden Slipper and similar races. But the position at the greyhounds is similar. With just the odd few exceptions, competition for spots in distance races is poor as owners are too busy chasing quick early returns over short trips and clubs are specialising in providing more short races and added prizemoney for unpredictable maiden series. Any bonuses for longer races are being soaked up by mediocre performers who take it in turns to win.

There has to be a better way to return staying racing to its former glory, but it will not happen just by throwing more cash at today’s dogs. It is surely a breeding challenge for both thoroughbreds and greyhounds.

AGRA’s Pathetic Record Keeping

As regular readers would be well aware, I’ve long complained at the laxity regarding record keeping in greyhound racing. While things have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, I notice our peak body has allowed some glaring mistakes and poor record keeping to slip into its archives.

Since the introduction of Group Racing in 1995 it is possible for any interested person to go to the AGRA website and obtain the results of every group and listed event run year on year since then. That’s a positive.

What is also a positive is the records show not just the winner, but the placings of the rest of the field, margins, times, dates, first prize money and the like. All good, you would think.

Well, for some strange reason, the 2013 Group Racing results are incomplete in many cases. Yes, that’s last year, so I’m not talking ancient history.

The information contained in the AGRA results for the world’s richest staying event, the Sandown Cup, will let you know the winner (Irma Bale) only. No second, no third, no unplaced, no margins, no time. What about the Sapphire Crown? Same thing. The Albion Park Gold Cup. Same again. Three of the nation’s major Group 1 events, and the best AGRA can come up with in terms of those who competed in these races are the names of the winners.

The Harrison-Dawson final winner last year was Clone Your Own. Who ran second? third? How far did Clone Your Own score by? Don’t bother checking the AGRA files, none of that simple information is recorded. Of course, it’s only a Group 2 event.

The Ladies Bracelet and Bulli Gold Cup winners of 2013 are faithfully recorded. The rest of the finalists are a mystery as are the runners in the Lizrene, Bill Collins Memorial, Bert Bryant Memorial, Flying Amy Classic, and Macro Meats Cup.

That’s nine major races conducted in 2013 for which the industry’s leading organization has failed to record the depth of information which has been standard since 1995.

It gets worse. The 2006 Ladies Bracelet information shows Molli Tears as the third placegetter. In fact, Molli Tears (box 3) was scratched and replaced by second reserve Miss Porsca, who took third placing.

Now, the way this mistake could have been avoided would be to record the box numbers of each and every finalist in the results produced by AGRA. The extra work would add about 30 seconds per race recorded, but it would mean less mistakes and more detailed information…a win all around.

The 2009 Ladies Bracelet winner was Starfire Havoc. AGRA records show Vic Bartolo as the trainer. This is also confirmed by the GRV website. Yet, look at The Dogs information for that race and the trainer is listed as Brett Ferguson. So, who’s right? How many other mistakes are now enshrined for all eternity in the files of the AGRA?

I well recall trying more than once to get the National Coursing Association to correct its error with regard to the winners of the NSW Greyhound of the Year title. It had Tara Flash winning in 1971 and Shapely Escort in 1970. It’s the other way around. Despite this, the literature and information they continued to put out for years continued to be wrong. It’s like having Phar Lap as the winner of the 1929 Melbourne Cup, not 1930.

I accept mistakes happen. Despite the best attempts of ‘nanny states’ at trying to create perfection, we humans have our foibles. Unfortunately, unless the errors are discovered and corrected, the wrong ‘facts’ become enshrined in history. Near enough is simply not good enough.

Chest Thumping Is Not A Productive Exercise

Sam Walker from the RACING POST made some interesting comments about the $4 million Queen Elizabeth States at Randwick recently. Here is part of it.

“The difference was that this year the prizemoney shot up eightfold to an eye-popping AUS$4million (ÂŁ2.2m), making it more valuable than Ascot’s Champion Stakes. And did the increased purse see an increase in quality? Or a more cosmopolitan field? Sadly not”.

He concludes that “there seems very little point in giving so much extra funding to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes when exactly the same field would turn up for a fraction of the cost”.

The same question should be asked about the $350k and $250k prizes being offered now for major greyhound races in Sydney and Melbourne. What purpose do they serve? And who decides on them – the club or the authority, or a bit of both? Would owners ignore them if prizes were half that level? I doubt it.

Curiously, this comes at a time when authorities are hell-bent on promoting opportunities for low standard dogs so as to improve the breed’s image (ie ease the tension caused by euthanasia etc). Yet it is arguable that the policy and the cash spent have had a minimal effect on the end result. No figures are ever offered. At the same time, the effort has directly caused a reduction in the average quality of the racing product offered to consumers, partly due to the standard of dogs and partly due to the resultant overcrowding of race programs.

Options are there to use the extra cash in other ways. Boosting some provincial meetings. More marketing efforts. Better PR campaigns. (In fact, any marketing or PR campaigns will do). More coursing. Backing for gymkhanas. Conducting studies on track design. Educating future punters. Underwriting veterinary studies of the breed. Better race cameras. Simplifying grading systems (which would equal smaller clerical expenses). The list is endless.

In total, money should be spent where it can improve the industry’s lot over the long term. An extra hundred grand in a very few pockets today does not do that. Not at the gallops and not at the dogs.

If you need further proof, consider that both thoroughbred and greyhound breeding numbers are flat or declining, and have been for many years now. Yes, breeding can be a lucrative activity but only for a selected few. On the whole, prizemoney is important but it is not a sufficient incentive to stimulate racing in an economic sense, or not when it is distributed too narrowly. Most owners invest not for a financial return but for the prestige and the excitement of getting winners. Most trainers could use better week to week returns.

Incidentally, that is where greyhounds have a significant advantage over the other codes. Not only will horse owners have to spend a great deal more to buy and prepare their charge, but they will have to wait a long time to see it race, and even longer to see it win. And they do not win very often, even at the top level. As soon as they do win, they are off to the paddock for three months. This is one of many points that should be pushed harder in programs aimed at increasing greyhound ownership. The Australian owner or punter is hard wired to expect winners, and the sooner the better.

For all these reasons, the underlying priorities for administrators should be twofold. First, the advancement of the greyhound breed and, second, introducing that unique canine athlete to the general public. Everything else is secondary. But do those two well and betting and prizemoney will look after themselves.

CLOSING THE SHOP

What an odd business we are in! The current saga about Racing Victoria’s refusal to allow big bookie Rob Waterhouse (the father, not the son) to field at Warrnambool gallops big meetings is just the latest in a long line of barriers placed in front of this valuable sector of the industry.

RV claims that bookies serving the track year-round should not have to compete with blow-ins wanting to pick the cream of the crop.

OK, we can see what they mean but does that justify trashing competition? Is there another industry which does this? That’s doubtful because it starts to run up against laws enforced by the ACCC – laws which state governments, aided and abetted by the big galloping clubs, have already shoved aside in setting up rules protecting TABs. All of these were designed to make life more difficult for bookmakers, thereby offering less choice for customers.

By selling exclusive TAB rights, those state governments initially attracted higher tenders and later higher rents than would be the case under a competitive environment. But, in doing so, they ignored the long term potential to increase the size of the pie so everyone benefited. That is, until the NT bookmaking group started driving trucks through the holes in the system. The newcomers are now effectively competing with the two major TABs for online customers, yet in practice all they achieved in turnover terms was the restoration of the status quo.

The problem now – as the NT group matures and has smaller growth potential ahead of it – is that you cannot keep pulling rabbits out of the hat. How will the industry attract new customers or even retain old ones? Are there any fresh ideas? Will the pressure cause TattsBet and its four states to slide further down the totem pole, making their products even less appealing? When will we get a national betting pool? Or will the industry keep giving way to the pokies and casinos as has occurred over the last 20 years?

While some Queensland galloping clubs have been reported as preferring a closed ring (ie one they can control) in this case the Warrnambool people wanted Waterhouse to field there, as did the state’s racing-conscious Premier. It would help promote the carnival, they claimed. But to no avail – RV said not on our watch.

RV is the same mob which previously campaigned to outlaw NT bookies and later voted illogically to charge commission on the basis of bookmakers’ surpluses rather than on turnover. They did not join Racing NSW’ lone hand in going to the High Court to insist on their ability to charge as they preferred. In the event, RNSW was right as both big galloping organisations are now millions of dollars better off than under the profit share system. It sometimes makes you think that some of these committees leave their brains at the gate when they arrive for a meeting. Mind you, RNSW and many others were strongly (and abusively) opposed to the arrival of NT bookies in the first place. That was a fight that they were never going to win.

Racing’s penchant for a return to the good old days is a constant risk to progress.

Group Two Queensland Derby Preview

Queensland greyhound racing steps into the limelight on Thursday night with five heats of the Group Two Queensland Derby taking place at Albion Park over the 520 metre distance.

The ultimate winner of the final pockets a cheque of $40,000, which takes place on Thursday, May 1.

The Derby heats are comprised of the best male greyhounds nominated that are whelped on or after 1 October 2011. Last year’s Derby was taken out by Victorian Hello Good Bye.

Here’s a look at the heats;

Heat One – Group Two Queensland Derby (Race 2 at 6:57pm)

Late Angel Lee (3) equalled the 29.57 track-record at Albion Park back in February. The Late Late Show – Rocklynn’s Angel (Elite State – Oriental Angel) dog has won 13 from 42 and was a finalist in this year’s Group Three Big Dog Cup at Albion Park. He is a dog that likes to get back and storm home so he will need some luck in running. His last win was on 10 March and since then he has had six starts for five seconds.

Group One National Derby winner Zipping Brock (7) makes his first trip to the Albion Park circuit. He has won six from 12 and goes well from the outside. If he handles the track, he is in with a chance.

Peter’s Pick (2) is developing into a very handy chaser. The Thomas Noble trained dog by Made To Size – Tina’s Show (Late Late Show – Berella Batina) has won nine of his 12 career starts and has been unplaced just once. He has done most of his racing around Ipswich and Rockhampton but came to town last week for a nine length win in 29.98. He isn’t without a chance.

White Hornet (6) has 10 wins at the track over the 520 metre distance for a best of 30.07. His last win was a month ago and he started over 600 metres two runs back. He may find trouble from box six.

King Elliot (4) has eight wins from 13 starts and two wins at Albion Park. His best time is 30.34 and he will need to improve on that to be a chance.

Of the others, NSW chaser Murtaugh (1) and Mr Elegant (8) are having their first start over a distance of 520 metres. Mr Elegant has two wins at the track over the 395 metres. Both look tested against some of the more experienced chasers in the field. Royal Albert (5) made the final of the recent Ipswich Auction series, running fifth. He has one win at Albion Park in 30.60 and looks tested.

Heat Two – Group Two Queensland Derby (Race 3 at 7:17pm)

Darren McDonald has Where’s The Surf (7) drawn in this heat. Where’s The Surf contested the semi-finals of the Golden Easter Egg and ran third to Ritza Hattie in the Group Three Ambrosoli on Easter Egg final night at Wentworth Park. It will be his first look at the Albion Park circuit. He has the speed to lead and if he does, he will be hard to reign in.

Grand Roman (1) has six wins from 10 starts with all six wins coming at Albion Park over the Derby distance. His best is 29.92 and he has a perfect record from box one.

Bill’s Fantasy (4) has also broken the 30 second mark over the course of his five wins at Albion Park. He recorded his best of 29.93 in December. His recent form is patchy, finishing outside the placings in his last three starts. Give You Credit (3) also has a sub-30 personal best which he ran three starts back. He won at Ipswich last week and has won five from 18 overall.

A few eyes will be on the regally bred Clash Of Kings (6). He is by Fear Zafonic out of champion race bitch Queen Lauryn (Token Prince -Cheeky Sprite). He’s had just four careers starts for two wins and one placing. Both wins have come at Ipswich over the 520 metres and this is his first start at Albion Park.

The smokey in the race is Flash Reality (2). He hasn’t started since February and has been placed in the astute hands of Tony Brett. Marlene Ellis told ARG in December 2013 that he was a handy little chaser and we may now start to see the best of him.

Winged Elite (5) is out of form in its last four starts but has won five from 13 at the track. Washington Trick (8) has managed just one win at the track from five attempts.

Heat Three – Group Two Queensland Derby (Race 4 at 7:41pm)

Recent Wentworth Park winner Fusaichi Kahn (4) jumps from box four in the third heat. The Where’s Pedro – Daydream (Bit Chili – Stresa) dog is trained by Glenda Dart and is yet to miss a place over the 520 metres at Albion Park. He has had six starts there for three wins and three seconds and a cracking best of 29.88. He looks the one to beat.

Chant (6) recently contested the final of the Launching Pad at Sandown for trainer Tony Brett. He won a heat of the series in 30.01 and finished fifth in the final. He’s won four at Albion Park. He mixes his box manners but is capable of performing well.

Angvella (7) got to the front last week from box two to record a personal best 29.97 at the track and bringing up his fourth career win in the process. He moves to what looks like an unsuitable wide draw for this event.

You Say So (1) has been performing very consistently lately with two wins and four placings in his last six starts. He won last week in a best time of 30.09 and is drawn to do well.

Killer Lyon (5) is a NSW chaser that has had just four starts. He has fast wins at Richmond and The Gardens in a maiden and fifth grade event. This presents as his toughest test to date and he hasn’t been given any favours by the box draw.

The other runners; Wazz’s Fantasy (2), Thunder Of Speed (3) and Blue Den (8) will all need luck based on disclosed recent form and form at the track.

Heat Four – Group Two Queensland Derby (Race 5 at 8:05pm)

Battistuzzi (6) will be looking to return to the winner’s circle in the fourth heat after two unplaced runs in recent weeks. The Collision – Dulcinea (Primo Uno – Hannalore) dog is no stranger to group racing, having placed in the Group One Brisbane Cup and Group Two Lismore Cup and making the final of the Group Three Gold Coast Cup. He has a best of 29.77 and he looks the winner on paper.

Size Does Matter (3) for Reg Kay has a huge motor and is capable of running the hands off the clock. He has only been unplaced once in his nine start career. He isn’t the best beginner but is very strong and seems to find his way through a field. He has recorded 29.83 at the track coming from behind and a repeat of that will see him go well in this.

Group Two Ipswich Auction winner Are Ate (5) didn’t bring his winning form to Brisbane last week, fading to finish down the track. He couldn’t quite lead from box three and ended up 10 lengths seventh behind Angvella. He’s a talented dog but will need to do better then the 30.40 he has recorded at the track previously.

Trident (7) has won four from seven at the track and ran 30.21 winning last week from box three. That was his best time to date.

Tejay’s Grand (8) has had 40 starts for 17 wins and has won three at Albion Park with a best of 30.24. He has a good record from the outside.

Costa Kahn (1) is a brother to Fusaichi Kahn. He’s has just the two wins from nine starts but has run 30.15 at the track. The inside draw may provide some assistance.

Macgallen (2) and Late Show Angel (4) will struggle. Between them they have just four wins from 68 starts.

Heat Five – Group Two Queensland Derby (Race 6 at 8:25pm)

The class runner of the heats makes his appearance in the final heat. Group One Perth Cup winner Keybow (2) has drawn well in box two for trainer Darren McDonald. It’s his first go at the track, but he should be able to seal a win here as he is a huge talent.

I’m I Said (6) is one of the next best performed dogs in the race. He has had eight wins from 12 starts and three wins at Albion Park for a best of 30.18. He struck trouble last week behind You Say So from box one.

Trav’s Fantasy (1) has 11 wins from 41 starts and is in great current form, winning five of his last eight. He also has three wins from box one, which means the draw brings him into contention.

Outa Tempo (3), Farmer’s Gold (4) and Wally Who Calls (7) have all recorded wins at the track. Farmer’s Gold has the best time of the three, running 29.98 in December. He has recently returned from a three month spell and won last week in 30.52.

Shot To Bits (5) and Elvee Express (8) have no wins at the track. Shot To Bits is a Victorian chaser having his first look at the track. He’s had just the seven career starts for three wins. Elvee Express has had three goes at Albion Park for three placings.

The heat winners plus the three fastest seconds will proceed through to next week’s final.

This Week in Racing History

APRIL

23rd

The final of the 1960 Autumn Cup, run over 580 yards (530 metres) at Wentworth Park, was taken out by Carnham Valley who defeated the brilliant Festival Time by a length and a half with Fine Mia third.

On the same night, champion Tasmanian stayer Oak Queen won the Autumn Stake over 790 yards (722 metres) by four lengths from My Debra in 44.5.

Radley Bale picked up a whopping $250,000 for taking out the 2011 Golden Easter Egg at Wentworth Park, beating He Knows Uno by eight lengths in a race record 29.67. Australia’s then highest stakes winner, High Earner, running in his second Egg final, was sixth.

24th

Half Fast won a match race at Grafton in 1959, defeating Shapely Pet by half a length in 28.0, breaking the track record by 2/10ths. The previous record had been held by Half Fast and Happy Cappy. In those days track records could be recognised even if there were less than four starters in a race.

25th

Highly Blessed took out the 1991 Honda McRrae Trophy final, run over 511 metres at Sandown, by eight lengths in a fast 30.00.

Queensland star Boronia Blossom won the 1996 Sandown Cup for trainer Ron Ball. In a blanket finish Boronia Blossom defeated Northern Legend by half a head with Reeta just a neck away third.

26th

General Jeff scored a sensational victory in the 1980 National Derby at Wentworth Park (530 metres), coming from box six and overcoming a slow start to win by nine lengths and run 30.78, equalling the race record. The win was General Jeff’s eighth in 12 starts.

The Graeme Bate-trained Hay Dinney won a class-packed Ballarat Cup final in 1989, defeating Hua by almost two lengths with Cranarma Lad third.

27th

A greyhound track opened at Phoenix Park in Port Pirie in 1972 with an eight-race program, all over 515 metres. It became the fifth track to open in South Australia in a year. The opening event was won by Better Quality (box 5). Hi Filute won the second race by 25 lengths. Broken Bit won the third event, Mister Fullock the fourth (by seven lengths). The feature event, the Skippa Trophy, was won by Bristol Miss (box 8) from Blue Sunbeam.

Texas Gold, rated in a podcast with ARG as one of the two best stayers Jason Mackay has ever trained, took out the 2006 Lizrene Classic over 715 metres at Sandown. Texas Gold scored by almost five lengths from Odnoc Alorac and Springvale Jinx with Sargent Major, who had won at its previous seven starts, only fifth.

28th

Victorian stayer Mandarin Girl won the 1977 Gabba Gold Cup (now the Albion Park Gold Cup), run over 704 metres, by four lengths from Chief Banjo and Grand Monaro, running 41.70, a new race record.

29th

Queensland star Pied Rebel took out the 1970 Interstate Challenge, renamed the Captain Cook Memorial Cup (best eight), over 580 yards (530 metres) at Wentworth Park. The race was marred by the fall of NSW speedster The Smoother who had run out at the first turn, clipped the heels of Ophi Sparkle and crashed into the Tasmanian runner More Champagne and Victorian Gary Moss. The Smoother broke his leg in the fall and it had to be amputated, forcing his early retirement to wht proved to be a successful career at stud.

2014 Warrnambool Classic and Warrnambool Cup Betting Preview And Tips

Warrnambool Classic Semi Final One – 7:18PM

Clearly Phenomenal is the class act and with any sort of luck he wins clearly. My only concern tonight is the wide draw. He has been beginning much better in recent times but those were from inside draws. From boxes six to eight he has only recorded one win from nine tries.

Elite Diva is a very reliable beginner and she should once again set the pace. Her heat time of 25.67 isn’t flashy but there was a little mid race trouble in that race. Two runs back she beat a top field at Ballarat in 25.46 and a repeat of that run would see her give the favourite something to catch.

Outside of the two mentioned, there appear to be two other winning hopes. Top Innings powered to the line in his 25.37 heat win and he can show early speed at times. Sir Hugo is an interesting runner, after starting his career with 14 winless efforts, he has managed to score two impressive wins on the trot. His heat win saw him reel in the smart Benedict Geoff.

Obviously if Phenomenal gains a clear run he wins, however his past performances from outside draws indicate that he is likely to find bother. At $1.40 or shorter I reckon he is worth taking on.

Top Four: 6 – 7 – 3 – 8

Suggested Bets:

Win bet on Elite Diva

Trifecta: 3,6,8/7/Field ($18 for $1)

Trifecta: 3,6,8/Field/7 ($18 for $1)

Warrnambool Classic Semi Final Two – 7:38PM

This appears to be the most intriguing Semi of the night as there appears to be four genuine winning hopes. Dream It comes off a sizzling 25.01 heat win, Ride The Rails is in consistent form and does his best racing here, the well named Scintillating looks well drawn and Benedict Geoff has the ability to cause an upset.

I’ve settled on Ride The Rails, he has won three of five tries here with a PB of 25.07. He has more than enough pace to hold out Scintillating and it’s hard to get run down when you’re running 25 flat on the lure. It’s also worth noting that two runs ago he was beaten by less than two lengths behind Black Magic Opal at Ballarat in track record time.

Scintillating is the obvious second pick for me, he tends to do his best racing from wide draws and he will improve on his first look at the track here last week. This bloke musters pace at a great rate and in his brief career to date he has set the provincial tracks alight.

Dream It looked brilliant in his heat win last week but on that occasion he pinged the lids and that is a rarity for him. I don’t think he will step like that again and he is likely to find himself buried a long way back early. He is likely to start around the $3.00 mark tonight and that is too short for me. Benedict Geoff is likely to be double figures and if you don’t like the favourites he is great value, he is armed with early speed and is only a couple lengths shy of the top three on ability, so if there is any shuffling behind he may steal the prize.

Top Four: 5 – 7 – 6 – 3

Suggested Bets: Win bets on Ride The Rails and Benedict Geoff (more on Ride The Rails)

Warrnambool Cup Heat One – 7:58PM

Superstar performer Paw Licking continues to capture country cups and tonight he should put himself in a good position to snag next week’s final. Coming off a brilliant Bendigo Cup win last Sunday, he should ping to the lead and win again tonight. ### UPDATE – PAW LICKING SCRATCHED ###

Whata Good Size has the speed to go with the favourite for a long way and he should fill the quinella spot. Prince De Galles is an interesting runner, since resuming from a spell he has scored two blistering wins at Sale and Warragul. Empire Allen is poorly drawn but with some luck early he can sneak into the minor money.

Top Four: 6 – 2 – 3 – 5

Suggested Bet: Trifecta: 6/2,3,5/1,2,3,5,7,8 ($12 for $1)

Warrnambool Classic Semi Final Three – 8:18PM

The third semi looks to be a match race between speedsters Magic Diva and Little Regus. Magic Diva is probably the fastest chaser in the state for 300 metres and in her recent wins she has recorded some ridiculous early sections and I expect her to do the same tonight. Her last 30 can be a struggle at times but she did break 25 seconds at Ballarat earlier this year.

Little Regus has really come of age lately, after a promising start to his career, he appeared to lose his way a little but he announced his return with a blistering 24.98 Shepparton win in late March. He is a much better chaser on the lure and that’s why I have given Magic Diva the edge tonight. Even if he steps on terms she is likely to burn him off in the first 50 metres. It looks a strong quinella bet.

Full Of Grace appeared to turn a few heads with a 25.07 heat win last week, tonight she will face a tougher test as there are a few more runners with early speed and she won’t be able to get things her own way. Black Foo was pretty ordinary in his heat last week, although well drawn he will still need to find plenty.

Top Four: 3 – 4 – 5 – 7

Suggested Bets:

Win bet on Magic Diva

Trifecta: 3,4/3,4/Field ($12 for $1)

Warrnambool Cup Heat Two – 8:38PM

Freak talent Black Magic Opal will be looking to atone for his luckless run in last Sundays Bendigo Cup Final. He will be unbackable odds tonight but I really can’t see him being beaten. Before his last effort he had strung together three wins with two of them being in track record time, whilst the other only missed by a fraction. If he pings tonight, I’m sure he will give his kennelmates track record a nudge.

Jordan Allen looks perfectly drawn out wide and if he can follow the favourite across early, he should fill the quinella spot and add some value. Nic Nat Nui has a top record here and if he can step cleanly he may sneak into a place.

Top Four: 7 – 8 – 6 – 5

Suggested Bets:

Trifecta: 7/8/1,2,4,5,6 ($5 for $1)

Trifecta: 7/5,6,8/1,2,4,5,6,8 ($15 for $1)

Warrnambool Classic Semi Final Four – 8:58PM

Group One Winner Kiss Me Ketut returned to his best with a 25.21 heat win last week, tonight he won’t get things so easy with the Darren Brown trained pair Cosmic Station and National Time both looking to cause an upset.

National Time is a very consistent chaser and he really caught the eye in his heat placing last week. After missing the start and finding bother he managed to hit the line strongly and was only beaten by four lengths in 25.07. Tonight I’m hoping he can step cleanly and if he can find the early lead he will prove very hard to run down.

Cosmic Station was never headed in his 25.22 win her two weeks ago and he is drawn to hold a prominent position in the early stages. If Kiss Me Ketut and National Time make mistakes early he will make his presence felt.

Obviously Kiss Me Ketut has the class edge but I tend to think that he is a better 500 metre chaser. Tonight he has speed drawn either side and he may not get much room to muster. Turbo Norris and Carbon Neutral have place claims at odds.

Top Four: 4 – 1 – 3 – 2

Suggested Bet: Win bet on National Time (should get around $4.50 or better).

Warrnambool Cup Heat Three – 9:18PM

Walk Hard is going to be a short priced favourite, however I think this is one of the most open races of the night. Walk Hard is an amazing talent but unfortunately poor box manners can sometimes let him down. That’s why I think the speedsters drawn out wide will dominate the race.

Take Charge has drawn perfectly in eight and with two fast beginners drawn underneath he should get a dream run across. Tonight he drops back to a more suitable trip and I think he will take some running down.

Premier Express is expected to set the pace early and if there is any trouble behind him he may get away with the prize. Mepunga Moss is another who has the ability to lead and therefore strong place claims. Walk Hard is likely to get too far back early, anchor for third and fourth in exotics.

Top Four: 8 – 7 – 3 – 6

Suggested Bets:

Win bets on Take Charge and Premier Express.

First Four: 6,7,8/2,6,7,8/3/Field ($22.50 for 50c)

First Four: 6,7,8/2,6,7,8/Field/3 ($22.50 for 50c)

Warrnambool Cup Heat Four – 9:38PM

Ronan Izmir has a top 25.01 PB here and he is unbeaten in three tries. He comes into this after being desperately unlucky in the final of the Bendigo Cup on Sunday. After stepping on terms he looked to challenge for the lead before finding trouble, he would have been in the finish if he didn’t find bother. Tonight he should pounce on the early lead and prove too strong.

Deadly Vane was runner up in Sundays Bendigo Cup final but from the middle draw tonight I don’t think he will be able to reel in Ronan Izmir. He can be hit or miss at box rise and he will need to do everything right. Very Bitta comes here with strong SA form and Quara Bale has won six of her past eight in smart style.

Top Four: 2 – 3 – 4 – 5

Suggested Bet: Win bet on Ronan Izmir, snap up the even money.

Warrnambool Cup Heat Five – 9:57PM

The Jason Thompson trained Innocent Til has scored three brilliant metro wins on the trot and tonight he drops back to a more suitable distance. This star chaser is blessed with an amazing turn of foot and with slow beginners drawn outside he should get every chance to fire to the early lead.

Veyron Bale turned in a huge performance when placed behind Black Magic Opal in a heat of the Bendigo Cup and tonight he will exit his favourite draw. If he gets a clear run early he should be in the mix. Dr. Don is a highly promising chaser but I think he may need a little more time before he is ready to take on this class.

Top Four: 6 – 8 – 2 – 5

Suggested Bets:

Trifecta: 6/2,5,8/1,2,3,4,5,8 ($15 for $1)

Trifecta: 6/8/Field ($6 for $1)

Ten Years Of Confusion Coming Up

Well, this time we have the Sun Herald to thank for bringing out into the open what is apparently an ongoing but secretive investigation into shifting Wentworth Park to western Sydney.

Several stories last Saturday, Sunday and Monday, together with letters to the editor, are rabbitting on about the pros and cons of selling off the headquarters of greyhound racing and moving to a newly built complex at Eastern Creek, some 34 km from the CBD. That puts it half way between Parramatta (20km) and Penrith (49km). The facility would be shared with the harness code and perhaps other sporting organisations. Or so the story goes.

The problem is that it is just a story. A hopeful one, at that. A property developer, Brookfield Multiplex, is putting together a proposal to government which would require selling off Wentworth Park in its entirety and allowing it to build high density housing on the site. It suggests the cash would go towards creating a collection of sporting facilities in the west.

Wentworth Park is not just a dog track and a grandstand. While it is hardly a “park” in the original sense of the word, it does contain several sporting fields used mostly for junior football and schools. A trust controls the racing property and leases bits to various people, including GRNSW which then rents it to the GBOTA. The lease runs until 2027 but GRNSW says it has been negotiating an extension to 2054 – without any resolution so far. The playing fields are actually under the control of the local council, which also charges greyhound fans parking fees when they use the area.

Interestingly, the trust is chaired by Percy Allan, a former public servant, part-time academic and previously chairman of the very same GRNSW. This is the bloke who once spoke out aggressively about the horrors of allowing NT bookies access to racing and wagering. He implored participants to avoid them at all cost. How times change! It is a small world, isn’t it?

In principle, there is nothing wrong with GRNSW having a look at the potential for a replacement site for racing, although it would have been nice for them to tell us about it before we read it in the daily papers. GRNSW is paying Deloittes to look into the possibilities so you can expect a substantial bill to arrive, regardless of what happens with the developers.

The Wenty complex is turning into a bit of a disaster. When last I counted there were some 13 organisations that had to sign off on any change to the place. That would now be down to 12 following the demise of the NCA, but it still includes people like the Heritage Society which views the kennel block as some sort of national icon (translation – it’s very old). The grandstand is aging, which is why big money had to be spent on the roof recently. A once thriving mezzanine level has now been put out to pasture as crowd numbers have progressively dwindled over the years.

Most important of all, the track is a disruptive one and badly needs a complete rebuild in order to provide fairer racing as well as middle distance events.

One group that would not mind a shift to the west are trainers. Many of them live out there where they have room for their dogs. Of course, so do half the population of Sydney – a growing half – while industrial development is moving on apace, as is planning for Badgerys Creek airport, which is less than 10km from Eastern Creek.

Football has done well by shifting many matches west to Homebush, which is less than half way to Eastern Creek and both are already served by freeways to one degree or another. The airport will ramp that up a bit more.

However, the whole deal will turn on what government decides to do about Wenty and the surrounding playing fields. The harness people came up smelling like a rose when they sold off Harold Park and moved to the outskirts of town at Menangle Park (52km) with a brand new track. That will not happen at Wenty. The land is owned by “the people” and so politics will govern its future.

In turn, that will mean a battle between the environmental lobby and a government always keen to fill its coffers. Should the former win, as is highly likely, the whole thing would be turned into a recreational area, or at least largely so. Green space is as scarce as hen’s teeth in that part of the city.

In that event, greyhounds would be entitled to compensation for the unused portion of its 2027 lease, and hopefully to some additional help from a government which is highly dependent on tax income from racing. Coincidentally, that might give government the opportunity to restore, in one way or another, some fairness to the way TAB commissions are being distributed (as recommended by the current parliamentary Inquiry). After all, it makes no sense to allow greyhound racing to wither away, taking with it a substantial annual contribution to the Treasury.

Racing Minister, George Souris, has been of no great help to greyhounds but he is a country boy at heart and may not like to see any forced de-licensing of provincial tracks, particularly his local circuit at Muswellbrook.

The more likely outcome is that Multiplex and Co will not get what they want out of Wentworth Park, but they may get a little bit to take home. That still leaves them with the potential for big developments as they are also after the nearby Fish Markets. They may well be able to do a Packer/Bangaroo style deal which leaves everyone reasonably happy.

Either way, hang on to your tickets for the next ten years as it will take at least that long to make any headway. After all, the new airport took 50 years to bring about and the options there were as plain as a pikestaff.

HIT’ÉM WHERE IT HURTS

Great to see, for the first time I can remember, the Golden Easter Egg being advertised on free-to-air TV – 7-Three in this case – in the middle of an AFL match. That’s likely to be more productive than the traditional ads on SKY where only the already-converted are watching.

Having said that, the ad was not a memorable one. It mentioned only the fact that the races were on and made little emotional appeal to viewers. Budget restrictions (presumably of the GBOTA’s) may have limited the production expense. That’s a pity because we need much more of this.

By comparison, it’s worth noting a comment on the gallops’ “Championship” advertising by Patrick Smith of The Australian (April 11).

“IT is hard to think of a sport more oblivious to the world in which it seeks to operate than thoroughbred racing. It is a pastime/industry that only connects with the greater community when the grog flows and the business is dressed up to party hard”.

“The advertisement that you can see now promoting the Randwick championship carnival seems at pains to celebrate everything bar the horse. The animal is an afterthought. Everything else takes precedence. Alcohol, punting, bores, wankers, snappy suits, cool guys and good-looking girls”.

All very true, but they did get reasonable crowds to Randwick, so it is a start. The point being that they were giving fans a reason to attend, rather than just posting a diary note, as the greyhounds did.

This Week In Racing History

APRIL

16th

The last meeting to be conducted at the North Melbourne greyhound track took place in 1962. The track had opened five years earlier.

Sun Hero, named by trainer Tom Dailly as the ‘hardest chaser we’ve ever had’ in a podcast with ARG, took out the 2005 Perth Cup, winning by three-quarters of a length from fellow Victorian Go Forever.

17th

Satyr Rocket defeated Harbour’s Double by a length and a half with Chariot Charm third in the 1965 final of the Vic Peters Memorial Classic, run over 500 yards (457 metres) at Harold Park. The field consisted of 10 starters.

Queensland star stayer Shape Shifter set a new track record of 42.27 for 715 metres at Sandown Park in 1997.

18th

Heather Rev took out the 1970 Wentworth Park Gold Cup defeating Sally Alla by a length with Busy’s Charm third. The final was run over 790 yards (722 metres) at Wentworth Park but had been renamed the Sir Joseph Banks Cup to celebrate 200 years since Captain James Cook had sailed up the east coast of Australia. For the first and only time in its history the Cup had heats run at both Wentworth Park and Harold Park before a final field was assembled.

19th

Steelflex became the first and only greyhound to win two successive National Derby finals when he defeated Alpha Brava by three-quarters of a length over 530 metres at Wentworth Park in 1975. Ungwilla Lad was a nose away third. Steelflex was retired immediately after the race by his breeder, owner, trainer Allen Wheeler.

20th

Greyhound racing at night in South Australia commenced with the opening of the Day’s Road track in Adelaide in 1972. Well over 11,000 people turned out to watch eight races. The opening event was taken out by Riverette (box 6). Other winners were Red Ochre, Garron Court (box 5), Varley (box 1), and Satan’s Fury, all from Victoria, as well as former Victorian Starkie, Speedy Goblin, and Rich Benefit. The main event, over 560 yards (512 metres) was the Commonwealth Invitation Sprint, which featured Gerard The Gent, Red Ochre, and Binica, all from Victoria, Lord Galaxy (NSW), and local hopes Bristol Miss, Mulga Clown, and Sawle. The race was marred when the boxes opened prematurely and it had to be re-run after the last. Gerard The Gent was scratched, injured. The race was won by Red Ochre by half a length from Binica with Lord Galaxy, who had led by six lengths at one stage, half a length away third. Lord Galaxy was later found to be injured. Bookies held over $95,000; the tote almost $23,000.

21st

The Bob Doak-trained Dusty Trail used box one to full advantage to take out the 1973 Bi-Annual Classic over 457 metres at Harold Park, defeating the smart El Gazelle by two lengths with Kid Springdale third.

Track specialist Turbo Top won the 1984 Premier Stakes, run over 530 metres at Wentworth Park, downing Master Dominic and Star Prediction.

22nd

In 1949, Treble Value won his 10th successive race over the hurdles on the Launceston track, a new record for a Tasmanian greyhound. On the same night, Tiler Bill won the Easter Cup.

Wentworth Park specialist Stately Bird took out the 2000 Golden Easter Egg from Mystical Gem and Mabili’s Babe, earning $100,000 for trainer Ken Paull.

Bendigo Gold Rush Carnival In Full Swing

The 10th annual Bendigo Gold Rush Carnival is in full swing, with the rich Gold Rush Maiden Series at the Semi Final stage, while the heats of the 2014 Group 2 Bendigo Cup have also been drawn.

It promises to be an excellent night of racing on a bumper twelve race card this Wednesday, April 16. Four semi-finals of the maiden series will support five strong heats of the cup.

The Gold Rush Maiden Series is fascinating this year, with the semi-finals of the event over the 425 metres oozing talented up and comers in each of the four run offs.

The first semi-final pits the Jenny Hunt trained Capullo Bale, who scored a terrific heat win in 24.20 seconds against the impressive Leading Edge for Brooke Ennis,, who also won his heat win in 24.20 seconds. Conquer Fear was the quickest qualifier in the first semi, with a superb 23.95 heat victory for Geoff Howell.

In semi-final two, it’s hard to go past the heat win of Hard Urned Burst for Darren Pattinson, who ran a stunning 24.00 seconds on debut. The other main chances appear to be Arena Allen for Jenny Hunt and Detcord for Barry Marshall, who both impressed in their heat victories.

Semi three again sees Brooke Ennis to the fore, with her runner Bejay The Dejay setting a hot tempo before winning his heat in 24.01 seconds. Valladares must rate as the danger going on his heat win in 24.14 seconds, while the other main contender appears to be Trent Twogood who won his heat in 24.35 seconds.

The fourth semi contains perhaps the most interesting runner in the whole series in Bradley Benz. Bred in the UK and imported to Australia as a pup, the son of Droopys Scolari out of group one winning bitch Westmead Sula, went gangbusters on debut, winning his heat in 24.02 seconds. Dangers look to be Fratelli Fresh, who ran home strongly in his heat win in 24.29 seconds, while Cosmic Angel led throughout in his heat win in 24.05 seconds.

The heats of the Group Two Bendigo Cup over 425 metres will pit some of the best horseshoe greyhounds in Australia against one another for a shot at the huge riches on offer in 2014.

While only five heats have been drawn, the quality is sensational, with the Jason Thompson trained Ronan Izmir attempting to defend his 2013 Bendigo Cup Victory in the first heat. The dangers look to be Quara Bale who has won seven of her past eight starts, while Zambora Storm and Nic Nat Nui look best of the rest.

In heat two, Paw Licking is ideally drawn in Box eight and he looks a class above his rivals.

Heat three looks a match race between Deadly Vane and Whata Good Size. Others with claims look to be Ollie Bale, while youngster Fine Diner has plenty of early speed.

In the fourth heat star sprinter Black Magic Opal has box one and looks almost unbeatable. If there was to be an upset perhaps Great Spartacus or Al Moran look the most likely.

Heat five is perhaps the most open of the 2014 Bendigo Cup Heats. Locally trained sprinter Matty’s Entity for Scott McKenzie has been racing in terrific form and has loads of early speed. National Futurity winner Zipping Brook looks a threat as does the Rob Britton trained Clone Your Own.

The Bendigo Gold Rush Carnival culminates on Easter Sunday with the finals of both the Group Two Bendigo Cup and the Gold Rush Maiden, as well as several other graded finals, in what shapes as being a wonderful evening of greyhound racing at Lords Raceway.

Why I Bet On Victoria

This is the story of a modest punter but I would not be surprised if there were many others like it.

The constant flow of good dogs from NSW and Queensland to points south of the Murray River has got all the attention over the last 15 years or so. Nothing those two states do seems to slow down this process. The attractions of more prizemoney, kinder grading and a bigger choice of suitable tracks are the big pullers. They certainly are for Australia’s biggest owner, Paul Wheeler.

But punting is a different subject. These days, you can bet on anything, anywhere, at any time, from wherever you sit. The choice is yours.

I choose Victoria. Not for the tracks. Not for the better dogs. And, certainly not for the cash in the pools; they are much of a muchness everywhere. The main reason, in fact virtually the only reason, is the information. Victoria offers much more information, more conveniently, and it is more accurate. It’s not quite perfect but it is near enough.

There are two key aspects of that information flow – formguides and results.

Leaving aside Queensland, where the local formguides are rudimentary at best, the comparison is between Victoria and the rest – ie NSW, SA, WA and Tasmania. Those four are now embroiled in the Ozchase system designed and operated by GRNSW.

Whatever other benefits the partners get from Ozchase, its three “formguides” are terrible. Here’s why.

The (F) option is not a formguide at all but simply a list of runners. Even so, it still takes one and a half pages to print out ten races. One page would have been enough.

The (W) option not a formguide either. It is a list of Tips accompanied by a sectional map. That also takes a page and half to print out but don’t try to print it from you own program’s Print option as that will show only the left half of the page. Use the onscreen Print Meeting although that will still take up one and a half pages, usually with four races on one page and six on the other. As for the sectional map, forget it as it will only lead you astray. It does not assess most interstate runs, Tasmanian times are mostly lies (that state assigns the only sectional time to the winner in every race, regardless of what dog ran it) and NSW calculations are unreliable because many tracks record only the leader’s time, but you have to guess which dog was responsible. A particular problem is the shortage of times at the state’s two main one-turn tracks – Bulli and Maitland. It’s a hotchpotch.

The big one is option (E) – for “Expert”. It is a formguide, but it contains all of the problems with the (W) version as well as some of its own. Each race soaks up two and a half pages of paper and even then you will need a magnifying glass to read the formlines. In poor light it would be an impossible task. In an era when the average age is increasing (including those for trainers and punters) and reading capability is therefore falling, this is very poor planning.

The task of designing all these was outsourced to an alleged racing “expert” a few years ago, according to GRNSW. (From personal dialogues with those people, I can assure you they were not).

The NSW effort to publish race results is not a lot better. The screen will show you an attractive and colourful page for a given race so no problem so far. However, there is no option allowing you to Print the whole meeting, or even to show it all at once. If there was one, it would require many more forests to be cut down due to all the wasted space on the page.

If you try to Print directly from the screen, bad luck. You will get only two thirds of the page. As for a Download option – forget it, it does not exist. If you try to do it manually you will not be able to send it to one of the common programs such as MS Word – it will tell you “it does not compute”, or words to that effect.

Alternatively, you can download it to a basic text editor, which will lose all the formatting and, for reasons which escape me, GRNSW has another trick up its sleeve – it deletes all the box numbers on the way. Apparently, they want to keep them a secret.

As for a comma-delimited file, which many fans might like to allow them to insert the details into their own programs – nothing. That does not exist either.

By comparison, here is what Victoria offers.

Free and easy access to all local formguides via the Watchdog section. Just hit the button to download it or print it out. All races occupy only one page and the typeface is easy to read. If you wish, you can print some pages and ignore others.

Free and easy access to meeting results – the whole meeting on the same file – so you can print or download that, too, as you wish. There is a comma-delimited option as well.

A sister option also provides full colour presentation, together with videos and stewards reports, all on the same page. No need to go searching all over the website.

All Victorian races have complete sectional times for all runners (except, once again, for interstate runs).
The only drawback in Victoria is the misleading presentation of Handicap race times. There is insufficient distinction between them and normal races over the same nominal distances, so readers can get confused.

In other words, for Victorian races you just go bang, bang and it all happens easily. For the NSW coverage, which now involves four states with Queensland to come later, everything is hard work while presentation and usability are poor to non-existent. All four states were advised of these shortcomings before they signed up but chose to ignore the advice. So did GRNSW.

So, one Australian state offers good information which encourages fans to take part, the others put up a long string of obstacles to make life difficult. On balance, that cannot be good for the industry.

That’s why I favour Victorian racing.

Of course, many of these hassles are overcome by the subscription-only National Tabform formguide ($11 weekly), but not for NSW meetings.

Note: For our personal system we have been forced to develop our own means of producing formguides for those few non-Victorian occasions when we need them. The GRNSW-Ozchase system, which probably cost millions to implement, is just impossible to handle. The effectiveness of that project would make a good start for the proposed independent Integrity Auditor, as recommended by the recent parliamentary Inquiry.

CRIMINALS WIN, VICTIMS LOSE

It used to be the convention – if that is the right word – for stewards to accept that an injury was sufficient explanation for a dog’s misbehaviour (fighting, failure to chase, etc). Now a suspension or warning or satisfactory trial and so on get mentioned in the same breath. Is there a standard here? We are confused.

I am all for chucking out fighters but not this way. Anyway, on a related issue, if we are serious about this subject then surely it is time that greyhound racing rules were changed to require fighters to be disqualified and lose any prizemoney. Every other competition on this planet, including both the other two codes of racing, does exactly that. I have been proposing this for many years but everyone seems to ignore the need. It’s not a fair go, especially for the victims.

Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Five Year Strategic Plan

The Governing body of greyhound racing in the state of Victoria, Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV), have announced a five year Strategic Plan to oversee and direct the future of the sport, until 2019.

After much industry consultation, the plan, On Track for a Great Future, lists eight core competencies that address all aspects of the sport, including animal welfare, racing operations, wagering, member services, culture, clubs, technology and branding.

While stake returns to participants has never been greater ($41 million in the Financial Year ending 2013) and wagering turnover continues to increase, GRV have recognised the way forward must be carefully planned in order for greyhound racing to continue its prosperity.

Despite the successes of the past decade, GRV Chief Executive Officer Adam Wallish says now is not the time to stay stagnant and there is much to be done to ensure the future of the code nationally and internationally.

Of the eight core competencies itemised in the Strategic Plan, three perhaps more than the other five may have a direct impact on current participants.

The implications of the new Strategic Plan may predominantly be experienced by participants in the areas of animal welfare, racing operations and increased membership.

Firstly, the animal welfare topic continues to be a highly scrutinised, both internally and externally. Wallish described animal welfare as a “key plank in our strategic direction”, emphasising the amount of onus placed on this one issue.

The tracking of a greyhound throughout its entire life, from whelping, rearing, breaking in, racing and finally retirement, is of paramount importance for GRV. This forms part of their commitment to ensuring the greyhound is always monitored throughout its life cycle and that someone is responsible for the greyhound at all times. An additional $2.8 million is being injected into animal welfare to make sure best practices are observed in regards to Greyhound welfare issues.

“A key priority is to have a Victorian strategy and also we are leading the way in a National strategy”, says Adam Wallish in regards to greyhound welfare.

Secondly, in racing operations, GRV are committed to providing a fair, transparent and enjoyable racing experience for all participants with increased racing opportunities and clear rules in order to govern the sport with the highest level of integrity.

The aim is to monitor grading rules and to implement drug policies and increase swabbing in order to preserve the fairness to all competing.

Thirdly, the attraction and retention of the next generation of members through increased opportunities is also a key priority for GRV, for without new blood entering the sport, greyhound racing will not flourish. While this seems to go without saying, our current participants’ average age is 51 years, so to entice and maintain newcomers to greyhound racing is of huge importance.

Other sections of the Strategic Plan include the vision statement as follows:

“Greyhound Racing Victoria to become the world’s most respected greyhound body; widely regarded for the market position and reputation we have created for greyhound racing in Victoria.”

While this declaration is fairly obvious in its objective, GRV are already the industry leaders in this country, and perhaps even on a world scale.

GRV Chief Executive Adam Wallish will present the Strategic Plan to members at The Meadows, Warragul and Ballarat clubs in the coming month to explain the significance of the five year plan. If you would like to attend any of these sessions you should contact GRV Member Services to reserve your place.

The next five years in greyhound racing cannot be taken for granted as far as success is concerned for our governing body, and many hard yards are still to be traversed before the goals of this plan are realised. However, it is fair to say Greyhound Racing Victoria have achieved a great result for our Owners, Trainers and Breeders in recent years.

The implementation of this Strategic Plan over the next five years should ensure the continued success of greyhound racing in Victoria.

Another Track Record To Xylia Allen

In the modern era many greyhounds are labelled as champions, some well before they are worthy of the title, however nobody has any qualms about describing Xylia Allen as a genuine champion of our sport.

Without a doubt, she is one of the most versatile and gifted greyhounds to have ever raced in this country.

Xylia Allen’s combination of pace and strength was on show for all to witness again at Geelong last Friday night when she added the Geelong track record over the 680 metres to her bulging list of achievements.

Carrying the green rug, Xylia Allen jumped well and crossed the field as they left the home straight on the first occasion, with Hailstorm Billy and Sisco Rage following. As the field raced into the back straight, the super bitch began to increase her margin slightly, with the chasers beginning to labour in their attempt to stay in touch. At the judge, Xylia Allen had 6.75 lengths to spare over Hailstorm Billy, who was gallant in defeat, with Sisco Rage a further 4.5 lengths away third.

The time posted by Xylia Allen was a slippery 38.90 seconds, surpassing the time standard of 38.92 seconds held previously by another of the Wheeler bred and raced greyhounds in Wilma Bale.

Not only did Xylia Allen break the track record at Geelong, she made it two track records from her last two starts as she set new figures at Horsham on March 25, running a superb 31.93 over the 570 metres at that venue.

When you look at the career highlights of Xylia Allen, it must be said there are not too many feature races which when contested, she has not been able to win. Her list of credits include a Group 2 Launceston Cup, Group 1 Sapphire Crown at Sandown, Group 1 National Sprint Championship Final and the Group 3 Sandown Shoot out to name a few.

Overall, Xylia Allen has now started on 59 occasions for 26 wins and 19 minors and stake earnings of just over $480,000.

Bred and raced by the Wheeler dynasty and trained by Jenny Hunt, Xylia Allen is a testament to the long term breeding program of Paul Wheeler, as her dam line is exclusively Wheeler Bred. Sired by Turanza Bale (Primo Uno-Daishi Bale) out of Tayah Bale (Droopys Vieri-Francesca Bale), Xylia Allen has Wheeler bred greyhounds back four generations in her dam line.

The other amazing fact about Xylia Allen has been her ability to compete at the elite level over both the sprint and staying journeys, a rare talent indeed.

The only other greyhound I can recall who could be mentioned in those terms would be the legendary Zoom Top.

The old timers like to espouse the talents of the mighty Zoom Top, who had the versatility to compete over sprint and distance and win with monotonous regularity. In fact Zoom Top won 68 races from 136 starts and set or equaled fifteen track records in her career, resulting in induction to the Australian Greyhound Racing Association (AGRA) Hall of Fame.

Although she has still has a way to go to equal or exceed the deeds of the mighty Zoom Top, Xylia Allen may be spoken about with the same regard in years to come.

Navigating From 1983 To 2003 To 2023

This is nostalgia week so I am taking the opportunity to repeat here some comments made in 2003 in the QGRA Journal (hopefully RQ will not mind the copyright infringement). It looks at the past and makes some guesses about the future. Make of them what you wish. The only thing missing here is the arrival of online bookmakers in strength, and the NBN fibre connection. Still, I did make note of the gaps in TAB coverage – ones which the newcomers were able to drive trucks through.

Everything below was written 11 years ago.

20/20 VISION HELPS

Crystal ball gazing can be useful at times. For instance, I just learnt that in 20 years time many of today’s raceclubs will have disappeared. Of those that remain, the bigger ones will be part of a multi-purpose complex, either jointly with other racing codes or in a “shopping mall” concept. Under good management, they will be very profitable. Those smaller country clubs which hang on will be little different from today but they will be strictly for local enthusiasts and won’t offer much in the way of prize money.

However, one State is rumoured to be on the point of closing down all but one of its racing complexes. The one that’s left will contain three side-by-side tracks – of different styles – and be located on cheap land 200 km northwest of the capital city. The latest CAD techniques (computer-assisted-design) will produce turns where dogs never fall and boxes that always open. Box draws are seeded, of course, in sympathy with the dogs’ running styles. The surrounding 3,000 kennels will be run by the ZammBate Corporation, currently capitalised by the market at $50 million. The company now operates in five countries and is considering opening branches in three more.

Rocky Mountain Ltd will supply most of the dogs, flown in by jumbo freighters after early schooling at the company’s breeding farm at Chow Mein, a small island off the Chinese coast (labour’s cheaper there). Beijing is reported to be very happy with its 51% ownership of this joint venture.

Ti-Tree Gone

Race meetings each morning, afternoon and evening will be broadcast around Australia and to 35 other countries, accompanied by crowd noises from a battery of DVD machines. Race broadcasts will be auto-generated by the same system, using laser beams to identify each dog by the tiny chip embedded in its ear. Computerised voices will have been constructed years before from recordings of oldtime racecallers Dolan and Ambrosoli. Mentions of ti-trees and bands of wild Indians will have been deleted first. Within seconds of the finish, photos, prices and times will be flashed to the media, the National Database and Racedata subscribers, while winnings will be credited to your Smart Card.

On cooling down, all dogs will have their blood analysed on the spot and then pass through one of several MRI machines, which now cost about the same as a top end TV set. Stresses and strains will be detected, recorded and treated with the help of the on-site branch of the State University’s veterinary faculty. Drug offenders will be dispatched immediately to help boost the new racing operation at Mt Isa, a leading mining town in the old days but now host to thriving art galleries, dude ranches and archaeological digs.

AussieTAB, the national tote company, will negotiate coverage with the National Greyhound Commission although Betfair and its local competitor, Packfair, now handle 33% of all betting turnover. Form details will be available to all comers just by calling up the National Database from your remote controller (as soon as the missus finishes using it to organise the dinner menu). Formguides disappeared altogether 10 years ago but most punters subscribe to one of several race analysis services, the most popular being the Daily Greyword, published by Ripkin and Sons at its Long Bay facility.

Your Choice

Your PackPay TV subscription will give you separate channels for live broadcasts from each racing code as well as an additional channel you can use to call up past races on demand. Charges and bets will be recorded on your phone account and debited to your National Smart Card.

Your internet connection is made through the electricity system, which turned out to be more efficient after all than satellite transmission or the ugly thick cables many suburbs once suffered. Actually, some city folk might also see a lot more live races at boutique tracks, in between shopping at the megamarket, taking in a virtual movie, buying a MacDonalds lentil burger or relaxing with a joint at the licensed pot shop. Your electric gomobile is parked in the middle of all those facilities.

All a bit fanciful? Well if you think that’s a bit much, consider that was happening in 1983.

20 YEARS AGO

Thousands of fans attended race meetings.
Punters actually knew something about the dogs they were backing.
Bookmakers were plentiful; some actually used their judgement to take punters on.
SKY Channel did not exist.
The internet did not exist.
Vanuatu was where you went on your adventure holiday.
Governments owned all the TABs.
The Gabba, Toowoomba, Mt Isa, Lawnton and Beenleigh were happily running race meetings.
So was Harold Park, the country’s premier one-turn track.
Big kennels were rare and local Councils quite helpful.
The local formguide publisher was doing a brisk business.
You found the race results in the morning papers (if you were lucky and if you lived in the city).
Most main roads were slow, freeways were rare and air transport very expensive.
NSW used to hold on to all its good dogs.
Ministers were promising to really get stuck into a review of racing.

OK, given the differences between 1983 and 2003, are the projections for 2023 too ambitious? It wouldn’t seem so. By any definition, the industry has seen massive changes over the last two decades. Of course, many were outside greyhound control, while others were just follow-the-leader episodes – SKY twilight coverage, for example. Some of them were forced – such as vacating the Gabba or shutting down Olympic Park for main road development. Unfortunately, Harold Park, in Sydney’s historic Glebe and the birthplace of Australian greyhound racing, closed for no good reason at all.

Anyway, for those who doubt this sort of progression, please check out the history of World Series and one-day cricket, Rugby amateurism, Murdoch-owned football clubs or advertisements on the backs of referees, all revolutions in their own right and all happening in the last 20 years.

Which leaves us with the question: how will our Governments and our racing authorities handle the future? What sort of 2023 might they envisage and how will they plan our progress from here to there?

While there are several options, there’s little doubt about the main issue. Just how will the commercialisation of racing proceed? In this day and age, the countrywide ban on proprietary racing looks pretty silly. After 180 years of thoroughbred racing and 76 years of mechanical hare racing every other aspect of the industry is in the hands of entrepreneurs and professional managers – breeding, training, owning, videos and broadcasting, TABs, feed, medicines, veterinary science, racetrack concessions and the major formguide publisher. So are the illegal betting operations, which can exist only because many customers don’t much like the legal options. Oddly, Governments have been quick to let go control of other functions which they are not good at. Yet they still hang on to racing – or, more accurately, betting – like grim death.

Whether the greyhound developmental process is fast or slow is not so much the point. They key will be to assume that it will happen and then to plan the growth of the industry to best advantage. The greyhound industry has been a follower over the last 20 years. In the next 20 it has the opportunity to take the lead – and leaders win most of the races.

This Week in Racing History

APRIL

2nd

Farrago, who would later go on to become one of the best all-distance greyhounds of his time, won his maiden over 370 yards (338 metres) at Broken Hill in 1949 at the age of 17 months. It was his first win in three career starts.

Cheatin’ Charmer took out the 1988 West Australian Derby at Cannington by 10 lengths in a race record 30.90 for trainer John Nangle. It was also Cheatin’ Charmer’s seventh win in a row.

True Vintage won the 1988 Easter Cup at Launceston to register her ninth successive win. She would go on and win 15 in a row before tasting defeat.

3rd

Plunkett’s Pride used box one to perfection to defeat star bitch Macareena (box two) by a length and equal the 500 yards (457 metres) track record of 26.5 at Harold Park in 1954. Macareena lost the race when she clipped the heels of Plunkett’s Pride and gave ground. Macareena had equalled the track record seven months previously.

Oak Queen won the 1959 Easter Cup final at Launceston by five lengths in a race record 29 13/16 for the 548 yards (500 metres).

4th

Champion Queensland greyhound Top Simbi bounced back to his best form to annex the 1974 Foundation Gift over 558 metres at the Gabba, scoring by two lengths from Zepplin King with Dan Meadow third. Top Simbi had been narrowly beaten in a match race at the Gabba by Zepplin King three starts earlier before running fifth and third in top grade races at Harold Park.

Welcome Stranger won the 1990 Ballarat Cup by just over four lengths from Danlisker’s Tim, to notch his fifth win on end since returning from an injury-enforced three-month layoff.

5th

Victorian stayer Amerigo Lady, and top-class sprinters Rokoko and Sammie Sparrow, were found to have been ‘nobbled’ after finishing unplaced in their respective races at Harold Park in 1969. Police were called in on the subsequent inquiry and found evidence of ‘big betting by a syndicate‘. The CIB later asked Harold Park stewards to postpone their own inquiry so that police investigations were not prejudiced. Sammie Sparrow, in particular, appeared to suffer from the effects of the drugging, failing to recapture his previously scintillating form.

6th

Night greyhound racing in Queensland commenced with the opening of the Gabba track in 1972. The opening had been delayed by a month due to Cyclone Daisy. Nearly 12,000 people packed into the Gabba and watched racing over 610 yards (558 metres). Jaffrine (box 6) took out the first event for one of Australia’s greatest trainers, Stan Cleverley. Later in the night, Irish Korina (box 2) won for Cleverley, giving him a perfect two starters for two winners evening. The feature event, the Skippa Invitation, featured Ragsie, Gerard The Gent, Lord Galaxy, and High Stepper. In a sensational race, the Paul Cauchi-trained former Victorian Ragsie (box 2) scored by half a head from the Victorian Gerard The Gent (box 4) with NSW speedster Lord Galaxy (box 1) third. Ragsie earned $630 for his victory and ran 32.76. Other winners on the night were Sir Mullaway (box 8), Silent Drive (box 2), Kaismer (box 1), and Mitten Toes (box 3), who won the Foundation Gift. Some big name interstate bookmakers fielded on opening night, including Ray Hopkins, John Harrigan, and John Waterhouse. The bookies held over $300,000; the tote just $34,000.

7th

Likely Light completed a rare double when she won the 1973 National Futurity at Wentworth Park, over 530 metres. The black bitch, who had been beaten a nose in her semi-final, came from well back early to defeat Cosmic Gem by a head in a fast 31.07. Likely Light had previously won the 1972 NSW St Leger (now Paws of Thunder). The National Futurity victory proved to be her last as the injury-prone speedster failed to win at any of her final 10 races.

8th

Midnight Enemy won the 1972 Woodstock Cup (later renamed the Lord Mayor’s Cup) by two lengths over 530 metres at Wentworth Park, running a race record 31.1. Midnight Enemy had made the 1971 final but had been scratched due to injury.

Airbourne Bale won the 2007 Bendigo Cup (430 metres) from Run’s House for trainer Robert Britton, earning $25,000.

Select Committee Report – A Curate’s Egg

A Curate’s Egg describes something that is at least partly bad, but has some arguably redeeming features.

For a parliamentary Inquiry that started off with a hiss and a roar about alleged abuses in the NSW greyhound industry, the eventual report is a bit more logical. “The incidence is minimal”, it found, and “greyhound owners and trainers take great care and pride in their dogs”.

So much for the nonsense put about by a poorly researched ABC 7:30 program, Fairfax press and numerous animal lover organisations, including the RSPCA. All either got their facts wrong or used information selectively and out of context. Even so, it gave the industry a clear message that it needs to tell its story better and earlier.

What the Inquiry did find is that the NSW industry is desperately short of money and also that it needs organisational change. The former claim is pretty right and revolves around the crazy 99-year commission agreement signed off fifteen years ago. On the latter point the inquiry has got the right idea but has ignored the needed solution and instead proposed one that would make it worse.

The report now goes to Parliament and to the responsible Ministers but will be followed up by a second report (due in late June) which will include comments on financial options yet to be assessed by the Treasury.

The money question will, as always, depend on the will of the state government to over-ride the current conditions of the Racing Distribution Agreement in one way or another. The prospect of greyhounds continuing to subsidise the gallops and trots is unrealistic and unworkable, yet those two codes are immovable in demanding it stay as it is, despite their declining patronage figures and greyhound’s increased popularity.

To improve the working of GRNSW the Inquiry has recommended that the board be increased by two members, who should come from the ranks of licensed persons. There are two fundamental errors in that reasoning.

First, it implies that the current system and the current board members do not perform well enough, but bases that view primarily on the complaints of various participants and outside groups. They may well have reached the right answer but the evidence is mostly sketchy and reflects personal opinions, including those of animal lover groups, few of which can be substantiated. A better conclusion would emerge only from a forensic examination of the board’s actions – did it make good decisions and did their investments produce results, for example? They have never been properly scrutinised, but might be if the Racing Integrity position is enhanced, as the Inquiry recommends.

Secondly, to return to the bad old days by installing a couple of owners or trainers on the board would be to dismiss all the reasoning behind the recent appointment of (supposedly) independent people and to re-introduce the conflicts of interest that plagued previous boards. Justice would never be seen to be done. In any case, it tends to downgrade the importance of choosing members with special qualifications. Running an industry is a very different thing to running a greyhound kennel, for example. If you have a broken leg you don’t call the plumber.

What the inquiry did not address was whether the structure of this or any racing organisation is satisfactory or relevant. The evidence suggests that the concept of an Act of Parliament assigning all management authority to a committee is simply not workable in this day and age, which is why it is never used in commerce and has been largely bypassed in most “grower” style boards (wheat, wool, meat and livestock, etc). The long term decline in racing’s share of the gambling market is proof enough of its failure.

Committees which meet occasionally are, by definition, slow to act and reflect the lowest common denominator view. Rarely do they innovate. Any power they might delegate to staff is variable from place to place and tends only to confuse. It probably depends as much on the personalities as anything else, which is always a risky process.

The proper role of a board is to look after broad policy, the budget and capital expenditure and to hire and fire the CEO. It should not be running the organisation as such. Yet, to take a current example, Greyhounds SA has just announced that “the board” has approved the dismantling of the Follow-On-Lure system at Angle Park. Clearly, that is an ongoing operational matter in which the board has no special expertise. It would be like the BHP board telling its engineers what sort of drill bit to use. The job should be left to the CEO and staff.

Boards often make curious decisions anyway. In NSW, for example, a proposal to shift Tweed Heads greyhounds from NSW to Queensland jurisdiction has “the full support from the board”, GRNSW tells us. Yet although it started off more than a year ago and was highlighted in the 2013 annual report, nothing has been seen in practice. But why would a board take that action in the first place? What would it achieve? It has massive legal, constitutional and contractual implications in both states – measures which could cost millions to process. Nor do we know what the NSW Treasury thinks about the loss of taxes to Queensland, were it to happen. It has all the hallmarks of a financial and operational fiasco.

NSW has also spent over half a million dollars on each of Dapto and Richmond to re-furbish their tracks yet the outcomes were that pre-existing design faults were repeated and interference is still high. Similar problems occurred after constructing expensive new tracks at Gosford and The Gardens. This may be why the Inquiry recommended that GRNSW “develop and implement industry standards for best practice for race track design” (R16). Of course, the difficulty there is that no-one knows what best practice is. It’s a job that has yet to be undertaken. Either way, such an investigation is sensibly a national task requiring lots of money and a spread of technical skills, preferably independent ones. Demonstrably, they do not exist within GRNSW, or any other authority for that matter.

Otherwise, the Inquiry talks about increasing the number of swabs, providing information about drugs, more kennel inspections, re-homing dogs, and so on. However, there is a thread here of some lack of appreciation of how the industry works, to say nothing about how increased activity could be funded in a tight financial environment. For example, information about therapeutic substances and their withholding periods is a matter long since covered by Greyhounds Australasia and published in great detail. To the extent that NSW varies from those “rules” is to weaken and confuse the overall effort, given that hundreds of dogs and trainers cross state borders every day.

Nevertheless, the Inquiry at least got many things out in the open in an industry which has long been too secretive and still largely relies on the “she’ll be right” syndrome. It should happen more often, and it should happen nationally. For one thing, the Productivity Commission report on Problem Gambling got many things badly wrong about the Australian racing industry, not the least of which was its recommendation that racing authorities rely on betting operators paying commission on their profits rather than on turnover. Thankfully, Racing NSW and the High Court managed to get that straightened out, and most of the country is better off as a result.

Even so, in GRNSW’ case it still works on the profit basis, demonstrating that it brings in more cash than a commission on turnover. No doubt, but it is virtually the only racing authority that now does that, which indicates there are very peculiar transactions going on between betting operators and their NSW customers. That may well change over time, if or when the gambler profile continues to shift further in the direction of refugees from the poker machines. In that event, the impact on the industry will be much larger than anything discussed in this Inquiry.

Note: Complaints by many owners and trainers about the poor level of NSW prize money and the better options available in Victoria are both correct and understandable. However, I would be even more sympathetic were it not for all the empty boxes going around at Wenty every week. And Sandown and The Meadows are no better. We are talking about $4,500 to $7,000 per race here – for 5th Graders, or even Novices – but not enough people want to take the chance. Is there a hidden problem?

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