Performance Trials Return On The Agenda

TO trial or not to trial, that’s the burning question being hotly debated across New South Wales greyhound racing at the present time.

Peter Davis

5 August 2021

TO trial, or not to trial.

A contentious issue for NSW greyhound racing is back on the agenda.

It’s been just over 12 months now since GRNSW abolished the performance trial mandate for unraced maidens prior to their racetrack debut.

The reasoning for their initial introduction had many layers but most importantly it was perceived that a public showing in some capacity would assist (and protect) punters.

It provided a ‘yardstick’ on which stewards could make determinations about first-up performances and for the most part the reasoning was well accepted.

But with the performance trials parked for just over a year now a number of trainers have indicated that a resumption to the practice would be advantageous on a number of fronts.

That’s led to the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC) and Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) beginning consultation with participants along with the NSW TAB Clubs Association and the GBOTA on the relevance of performance trials.

Those siding with the removal of the time-constrained trials (which triggered the right to start for the first time) argued the trials served no purpose other than to expose form to corporate bookmakers.

The irony being that youngsters often trialled ‘únderdone’ and when fully primed for a debut outing, the trial result of the PT was far from a guide to talent.

For those not concerned with having a bet, times were inconsequential and the PT’s often added bottom line value to youngsters which might soon be on the market.

Make no mistake, the issue is divisive. There is no correct answer.

The soft landing place in NSW might just be to have the capacity to trial (potentially gaining valuable field experience) but not be compulsory.

The upside of exposing form would, potentially, be delivered as a preference over a dog which has no trial record when nominating to race.

Interestingly, there is no need to trial (to race for the first time) under the Greyhounds Australasia Rules of Racing yet WA does have qualifying trial requirements (first invoked in 1974) before a dog can start for the first time.

Uniformity is a missing element in GA’s national rules.

The qualifying trial requirement is well accepted in WA and a young dog gains valuable race-day experience (weighing, kennelling etc) in the process.

Information provides wagering confidence and integrity is absolutely critical to the good name of the code.

Welfare, some argue, is at risk if poorly educated youngsters contest a ‘full field’ maiden and, while significant injuries have not been common in maiden events, it’s impossible to quantify confidence.

Diminished confidence in a juvenile is difficult to build. No doubt, trainers can nominate from track to track without trial experience and that has no oversight.

Nor does varying distances or the before slated 90-day expiration of trials not followed by a race start.

There seems to be no downside to having a trialling opportunity in place in NSW but it’s a long way from being instituted.

Unlike the hydration policy which GRNSW introduced a few years back – and imposed quite brutally – this can be optional and be complementary rather than hard line.

Fortunately, GWIC and GRNSW are actively consulting on the matter and they see both sides of the discussion.