NSW’s Disturbing Racing Trend Revealed
NSW was once regarded as the racing and breeding powerhouse of greyhound racing in Australia, yet recently, its relevance has been under duress.
18 June 2020
New South Wales was once regarded as the racing and breeding powerhouse of greyhound racing in Australia, yet in recent times, its relevance has come under serious duress.
Armed with state of the art commercial establishments and boasting breeding magnates Paul Wheeler and Martin Hallinan, New South Wales has long been considered the vital cog to the Australian greyhound racing landscape.
But despite boasting the largest breeding ground in the country, statistics continue to demonstrate an alarming trend towards short course racing.
And it’s a rapid incline that’s accelerating quickly, dwarfing what’s being exhibited in other jurisdictions.
Just 12 months back, based upon supply and demand modelling, GRNSW elected to harmonize TAB prize money across the board.
It meant prizemoney returns for say a 272m grade five event at The Gardens would reward connections the same as a 535m stamina test at Richmond.
At the time, feedback was mixed yet GRNSW pressed on, arguing demand (supply of dogs over distances beyond 500m) was not sustaining events beyond 400m in a structured (meeting content) manner.
Hard and fast was the edict … an edict that’s continued to see 500 metre plus racing in NSW diminish.
The short course prizemoney increases, which did away with TAB C or non-TAB racing, parlayed a winner’s prize money from $850 to $1500 – a 76% increase.
The debate was, and still is, two-fold.
The prizemoney equalisation will be promoted by those asserting a short-course greyhound costs the same to feed therefore connections should be rewarded equally.
Conversely, that same short course dog can (and often does) race twice per week while a middle distance specialist will only ever race once, subject to attaining a start which is proving more and more problematic in NSW.
And therein lies another issue GRNSW must attend to … race programming.
It’s in need of radical reworking to work within the confines of the new grading system.
Breeders in NSW, the largest by number in the country, have yet to react but pressure will build.
What’s the point of breeding with a dog (stud dog or brood bitch) which has staying stamina as a calling when demand is down (sale-ability) and opportunity on the track is diminished if not non-existent?
The answer is to incentivise breeders, owners and trainers to work towards developing 500 metre plus greyhounds and sustain the long-term fabric and viability of the industry.
Balance is a must of course. Yet complete prizemoney equalisation does not cut the mustard.
Some will argue the circumstances we work in rewards mediocrity and the model certainly has not fostered premium 500m plus racing – and the numbers support that principle.
The model of racing a high volume of sprint dogs multiple times a week for heightened prize money and starter subsidies has become profitable.
Scratching around for a 500m, or dare say 600 or 700m event, has not.
It’s all-but futile and the need to shift those talented ‘stronger’ types interstate is becoming increasingly automatic.
Stats for July to March (FY19/20) show there’s been a significant downturn in NSW racing over 450m and beyond. And, by the numbers, the trend is accelerating.
In fact, aside from the Northern Territory, no jurisdiction is responsible for a greater percentage of their racing being staged shy of 420m than NSW.
A massive 68 percent of 9630 races conducted in NSW this financial year have been staged over 420m and less.
In Victoria, just 43 percent of their 10469 races have been staged over 420m or less while in Queensland, 52 percent of their 4426 races have been conducted at <420m.
Just 26 percent of Tasmania’s 1232 races have been staged over the sprints while in Western Australia the number is 54 per cent of 2921.
South Australia sits at 60 percent of their 3560 races over 420m or lower.
When you consider that back in 2015 only 53 percent of races in NSW were staged over 420m or less, a stark, seismic lift over the past five years has been manufactured.
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Considering NSW is approaching 10,000 races for the season, a 15 per cent increase is, seemingly, a runaway train.
Victorian racing over the short trips has only risen marginally in that time-frame, the majority of their prizemoney and racing still deployed over 500 metre and further.
Their reward for that mix is the highest quality of racing in the land. A product that sells itself.
For NSW, the question is where to next?
GRNSW hierarchy must apply the brakes and there is a recipe to arrest the spike but can it be executed? The challenges are front and centre.
Their charter is to cater for greyhounds of varying standards/ability … Masters racing – which continues to be a booming success – is a case in point.
It’s been a raging winner with older greyhounds provided the pathway to race for far longer without being thrown to the wolves by the grading system.
For where we are now, perhaps one of the most telling signs has been at Wentworth Park in the past fortnight.
It’s almost impossible to rationalize that city racing is struggling for nominations coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Significant city prizemoney is again on offer yet the industry has shifted so far towards short-course scampers that the appetite for week-to-week 520m city racing is eroding to the point where attaining full eight-dog fields is few and far between.
However, at The Gardens on a Saturday night – a meeting full of 272m and 400m races – had sufficient nominations for 12 races to be drawn twice over.
As a tangent, just three NSW trainers sit inside the top 30 Australasian prize money earners for 2019/20. The struggle for relevance is real.
There’s no quick answer but encouraging and fostering 500m plus racing is a must.
Owners and breeders must be given a reason to keep their quality greyhounds in the state.
A common term now (in the vernacular from break-in establishments) is: “your dog is Victorian class.”
Until recently, it was just ‘city class’. NSW and Victoria were on par. Not now.
It might be argued that the challenges asserted above do not reflect in turnover. And perhaps not.
But it goes deeper than that.
The desire to showcase your best product especially at the highest level is the charter of sport in general.
It’s understood GRNSW is on the cusp of key announcements to add focus to the sport’s premier product – city racing.
The Million Dollar Chase has of course put the sport back on the map in the public eye.
Industry shaping decisions are being made all the time.
On the score of prizemoney equalization, there have been winners – short course sprinters.
And that’s vitally important, the place and need for those greyhounds is pivotal for the future of the sport.
But not at the expense of everything else.
NSW is a breeding powerhouse but its relevance is under duress.
There’s a balance, one we have not yet struck.
Which the statistics demonstrate.