The Sunday Afternoon "Finish On"

GREYHOUND racing’s darkest days will never be forgotten yet the code is different in terms of welfare, integrity, commercial and wagering these days.

Peter Davis

7 March 2021

GREYHOUND racing’s darkest days of 2015 will never be forgotten yet the code is far different in terms of welfare, integrity, commercial optimism and wagering these days.

Wagering turnover is at record levels and participants are reaping rewards with increased prizemoney in many states.

Without welfare and integrity handled adroitly, every commercial aspect fails.

And that’s what underscores the report former Racing NSW Chief Steward Ray Murrihy delivered to the NSW Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission just 10 months back.

Murrihy was firm in the view that GWIC must focus on wagering analysis and, six months after his report was tabled, the commission engaged their first analyst.

Fast forward to last Thursday and it was disclosed that trainer Rob Tyler was issued a show-cause notice over alleged breaches of Greyhounds Australasia Rule 87 which prohibits owners and trainers from ‘laying’ their own greyhounds.

On behalf of Tyler, his lawyer Paul O’Sullivan quickly asserted: “The rule as it reads prohibits the laying of greyhounds. There’s four definitions to the rule and in the evidence presented to me I can’t see where Mr. Tyler has contravened any of them.”

The rule under which this charge is determined might seem obscure and confusing to many participants and both sides will have strong argument.

This is the first time GWIC has acted on GA Rule 87 but it serves notice that they have the regulatory powers (and access to licenced wagering operators) to fully scrutinise wagering.

The investigation is ongoing yet all participants need to understand the rules they are licensed under.

In brief, rule 87 looks this way:

Regardless of how this matter is resolved, it’s clear that GWIC considers the integrity of wagering critical.

It’s no different to any other sport or racing code … recall the disaffect of the wagering scandals haunted Major League Baseball – going back to Shoeless Joe’s ban in 1920 and later Philadelphia superstar Pete Rose, the NRL in 2011, Welsh Rugby Union coach Rob Howley’s predicament in 2019, and numerous cricket incidents and it does not end there.

The rules of racing are in plain sight and without integrity there is anarchy.

NO VALUE

The variance of dividends, across the three pari-mutual operators, is a pure form of supply and demand yet the incidence of ‘money back’ dividends on Tattsbet/UBET – operating in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory – is too common.

At Wentworth Park on Saturday night, three dogs returned a $1.00 – presumably that the dividend was rounded down from under $1.09 or less.

At Nowra on the same night, Dig Deep Buddy saluted and returned a win dividend of $4.00 yet only $1.00 for the place.

It’s puzzling that regulators allow a bet to be placed with the prospect of it being a loser but not a winner. Market forces (supply and demand) will be the argument from UBET but it certainly can’t be good for business.

Choice is apparent with ‘middle tote’ options aplenty via corporate rivals yet the returns to industry is best via pari-mutual wagering.

‘Rounding down’ was a regulatory sweetener for the privatisation of the NSW TAB just on 25 years back and nothing will change there.

NSW and Victorian dividends, however, are minimised at $1.04 and it’s bizarre that no one seems concerned by the UBET anomaly.

BLURRED LINES

The distinction between marring and failing to pursue the lure in greyhound racing is becoming problematic.

A prime example is the second race at Geelong on March 5. While no head-on vision is available, GRV’s stewards had runner-up Fatboy Leeroy vetted was “found to have a left tarsal sprain. A 10 day stand down period was imposed.”

Here’s the action:

Importantly, stewards asserted: “Fatboy Leeroy turned its head outwards and eased in the home straight colliding with Lyrical Lad.”

The dog was slapped “with failing to pursue the lure with due commitment (by reason of injury)” and following a satisfactory trial, the should this bloke do the same thing again (but not be injured) he certainly should be ‘outed’ for marring – a first offence.

Decisions to allow for ‘marring’ to be mitigated due to injury is common but it hardly protects the innocent.

Time has come for marring and failing to pursue to be not differentiated.

Rules should be amended to protect the innocent and make life easier for stewards to sideline wayward types.

Satisfactory trials can only partly clear the air and all too often, dogs like Fatboy Leeroy soon reoffend and it’s not able to be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

No stewards report is available for Ipswich on Saturday night yet the decision by stewards re the actions of winner Hear Footsteps will make for interesting reading.

The incidents are Geelong and Ipswich are neigh identical in purpose but the minor injury to Fatboy Leeroy saw the GRV stewards to limit the infraction to failing to pursue … that’s got to be reviewed by Greyhounds Australasia.

IT’S TIME

Since the dark days of the Baird Government’s legislated (and overturned) ban of greyhound racing in 2016, no awards (Greyhound of the Year, Trainer of the Year, Allan Wheeler Medal etc) have been announced.

Let’s hope, in these more prosperous times, GRNSW can have the grace to recognise the deeds of past champions and participants who have excelled.

Greyhound racing in NSW was the first racing code to present an annual away and the, now, hugely successful Country Championship stages by Racing NSW for the gallops is styled on the previous greyhound racing model.

Previous awards included a Young Trainer of the Year and the aspirations of youth need to be recognised.

Hopefully retrospective gongs will be on offer when GRNSW announces the return to normal transmission.

NUMBERS

For 12 months or so, following the NSW Govt’s proposed ban on greyhound racing in 2016, breeding numbers went into free fall.

That downturn put pressure on the racing population nationwide and it was one aspect to the inclusion of G6 racing (six dog fields) in South Australia.

Animal welfare concerns – re racing incidents in eight-dog fields – were also weighed against turnover and GRSA sided with six dog fields.

Breeding numbers (and confidence in the future of greyhound racing) are now heading in a positive direction and, in NSW, are heading towards 5000 pups annually but not back to pre-2016 metrics.

ON TIME

Good news out of central Queensland!

The troublesome timing mechanism at Bundaberg is said to now ship shape.

Fortunately, technicians have resolved the matter but it’s still of concern to yours truly how race day stewards did not suspect a malfunction?