The Sunday Afternoon "Finish On"

Skyrocketing turnover driven by Covid is going to plateau yet the engagement of new punters highlights the importance of integrity in wagering.

Peter Davis

17 October 2021

Skyrocketing turnover, driven in COVID-19 lockdowns, is going to plateau yet the engagement of new punters to greyhound racing highlights the importance of integrity in wagering.

Take for example the betting around Ikaruga Bale in a Pathways Grade Five at Gawler on Wednesday. As much as $19 was offered (in Fixed Odds) markets – likely for very little money – but such was the reaction from corporate satchel swingers, he started at just $2.40.

Board odds: Ikaruga Bale’s wagering time-line at Gawler.

Sadly, for those who snared the juicy odds, Ikaruga Bale was beaten in a desperately tight finish by Crimes (funny that) in a slow 23.31 over the 400m trip.

Live, it was hard to tell which dog won but, in just 7.98 seconds, the judge had sorted the decision and those seeking a windfall were scuppered by the ‘overs God’.

Not too dissimilar was early wagering on the October 9 Bendigo Cup heats.

On a night of high-quality racing, the NSW TAB offered $7.50 about Shima Classic in the opening Cup heat (she started $2.10), Paua Of Buddy ($7.50, starting $2.10), Typhoon Sammy ($3.20, $1.70), Perfect Colour ($12, $6) and Dr Tucker’s fans were offered $8 and he started $1.80 – all five got the chokkies!

A technical glitch at TAB and not price assessment error was said to have brought Christmas cheer forward yet the wild fluctuations do have an impact – and that’s on trainers.

Greyhound Racing SA stewards had every right to be ‘interested’ in the vast contraction but who decides what the right price is?

Stewards often question trainers regarding price variations (either in or or) and it’s all in the name of integrity.

The issue is that very few stewards have real insight into what the correct price should be – and that’s a real concern.

FROM DISTANT SHORES

The most celebrated, breed shaping import to arrive on these shores has been Waverly Supreme.

Witch Chariot paved the way a decade earlier while Waverly Supreme opened the floodgates and contemporaries followed.

Newmore Lane, Newmore King, Castleisland Lad, Leaders Champion, Ballarat Prince, Curryhill Brute, Grove Whisper, Silver Ball and Rikasso Mick (to name a few) come quickly to mind yet the USA has been the major port of call since.

The likes of Flying Penske, Kiowa Sweet Trey, Iron Rail, EJ’s Douglas, Molotov etc. invigorated the Wheeler female line.

In recent times KC And All (and his omnipotent sons), Bella Infrared and SH Avatar have drawn serious attention and, now, SH Avatar’s best son Konomi is making a mark in his homeland.

The important National Greyhound Association’s Fall meetings concluded on Friday and, as expected, Superior Panama dominated – and prices paid at the auction were astounding.

Remarkably, 11 of 35 trials were taken out by his progeny on October 14 while, three days earlier he had six winners. On that same program, Konomi had only four starters (which are only 17 months of age) yet three won while the other finished a luckless second.

With only 15 litters on the locally, Konomi might be a slow burn but the fire will soon be stoked.

Temperament is a starting point for many discerning breeders and Konomi’s pups are considered ‘old between the ears’.

Performance is one thing, pedigree another yet performance of progeny tops ‘em all and, in the not-too-distant future, Konomi might just be the next go-to sire for discerning breeders seeking an outcross.

FUTURE FUND

Wagering, the lifeblood of the racing industry’s prosperity, has been on a massive upswing with greyhound and gallops prizemoney returning to industry at record levels.

Sadly, harness racing participants have not been so fortunate prizemoney-wise but all three codes, in these days of milk and honey, must plan for the future.

And that’s why Greyhound Racing NSW, for example, is in the midst of a capital spend to expand adoption facilities, upgrades tracks and, importantly invest in training centres.

In the 70’s and 80’s there were a dozen privately operated trial tracks in the Sydney basin – in 2021 there are none.

The most recent to operate was at Thirlmere, just a few minutes west of Picton, and an application to Wollondilly Council in the final of approval for the site to return for greyhounds to trial (and be educated) at.

GRNSW has agreed to fund the upgrade the venue and will budget to support the ongoing viability.

Trainers may still want to trial on racetracks but pressure on bookings will ease and young pups will certainly be the beneficiaries.

With the new Yamanto getting closer, participants still need  GRNSW-like planning from Racing Queensland around trialling opportunities.

Short term, a prizemoney increase is expected to be announced very shortly by RQ but the greyhound folk in the Sunshine State deserve infrastructure upgrades by the score.

Could the old Beenleigh site be refurbished (at reasonable cost) to provide trainers will a dedicated education facility on Brisbane’s south side?

It’s food for thought!

SHOCK

Sadly, the big news story of the week was the sudden death of industry icon Paul Wheeler.

When breaking the tragic news, The Greyhound Recorder’s page views hit record levels and the impact was felt on distant shores.

My friendship with the Wheeler family started in the early 80’s. We travelled together, laughed, celebrated like schoolkids in Singapore the night Fernando Bale won the G1 Henry Harrison at Sandown in 2015 and mulled over breeding programs for hours.

This column is not vast enough to pay tribute to Paul – that’s for another day, yet the Wheeler family’s impact on greyhound breeding is unique in the three racing codes.

Has any other breeder impacted England, Ireland and the USA in harness racing or the gallops like the Wheeler dynasty has on greyhounds?

I say not.

GOING, GOING?

In the west, the WA TAB sale process is about to recommence.

During COVID-19 constraints, the Government paused all discussions and offers are open for the four weeks.

It will be interesting to see whether Tabcorp – an original suitor – will resubmit a bid at a time when they have been in demerger mode.

Should Tabcorp secure the WA business, it would complete the national puzzle wagering puzzle and thereafter, the NZ entity might be even more attractive.

One owner of all wagering functions here might well tip the scales towards one pool for all states but taxation variable would need to be ironed out with treasuries.

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY

Quite stunning was the news this week regarding the ABC’s declaration of the humble greyhound to be the canine pet of the year for 2021.

In a field which included Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Cavoodles etc, greyhounds won over for their beautiful quiet nature, adaptability to home life (indoors), low maintenance and lack of ‘shedding’.

All participants should take a boy. It was only five years back that NSW Premier Mike Baird said this greyhound could not reform and must close.

He was wrong then and has been proven off the mark time and time again.

Entertainer Todd McKinney, the ‘dad’ of two retired racers, spoke passionately about his two hounds (Bob and Nancye) and his advocacy is absolutely genuine.