Everyone I know was appalled and disturbed by the Four Corners greyhound story last week.
But worse, it puts greyhound racing in danger of being outlawed. Make no mistake about it.
Michael McHugh, QC, has been commissioned to report on the issue and, if it comes out negatively, the government will ban dog racing, I feel sure.
Pony racing is in living memory. It was banned in the 1940s.
Such a ban would be very bad for horseracing. Because of old agreements with the TAB and the fact that the dogs have outperformed racing (TAB turnover on racing has dropped in each of the last three years but has increased with the “dish-lickers”), racing actually gets a share (unreasonably, obviously) of the greyhound turnover revenue.
Also, it is of importance to racing to keep supplying constant “product” to the keen punter, otherwise they will find something else, like poker machines.
The real issue with the greyhounds is that it is a 19th-century sport in the 21st century. Greyhounds are hunting dogs. To work, all hunting dogs have to be “blooded”. It is just the way nature operates. Unfortunately this does not sit well us, ‘New Age’ people.
Gai and I are very friendly with a Newmarket (UK) horse trainer. He keeps a bitch and puts her “in puppy” each year. He highly respects a dog-rearer who will only take five pups at a time, which is what he sends her.
She is based in the border country in Scotland, where it can be very cold and the country is rough. The young dogs are made to live outside, under a lean-to, beside her house. There is a mat on the ground but nothing else. No creature comforts. They are never secured.
The rearer deliberately underfeeds her charges. At daybreak, the five juvenile dogs go off hunting, often not returning till dusk and always with evidence of their many kills.
Somehow, this seems OK to me, notwithstanding the quantum of dead animals would be extraordinarily higher than Australian dogs given live kills of defenceless animals.
I was dismayed by the story last week in the Herald in relation to a “ghost” soccer match. This non-existent game was supposed to have been played in Belarus. The game was put in the schedule, a betting market was given, a half-time score was reported (favourite leading 1-0), then full time (underdog won 1-2) – all supplied to bookmaking firms around the world. The betting firms lost badly. The ground and teams don’t exist.
This is the fourth occasion that a “ghost” game has been discovered recently. A big worry for bookmakers.
It was particularly interesting to me as our son, Tom, and I went to Tallinn in Estonia (on the Baltic) two years ago, to negotiate a subscription with the main company supplying this match information, which we secured. The business is in a vast warehouse-type building where there were 400 people watching various games in real time (two observers to each game). They cover 4000 games a week. Guess, in a very poor country, it is hard to stop the occasional rogue employees. But they will.
It also has happened in racing. In July, 1898, in England, a Mr Martin contacted the Sportsman and gave the paper the fields for the next day’s meeting at Trodmore, said to be in distant Cornwell, and obliged the next day with the results and SPs. Bookmakers, who had lost badly on the meeting, have never found Trodmore on any map! The police were subsequently called.
Closer to home and in Australian racing folklore, in Launceston, Tasmania in the 1930s, a well-known character, “Nutsy” Harwood offered the local paper, The Examiner, the fields and the results of the local pigeon races, saying he was the secretary of the local pigeon club. They agreed, as long as they were written neatly and placed in their box outside their offices by 6pm. They were.
Betting shops were legal in Tasmania until the 1970s.
After quite a few bad losses on the birds to “Nutsy”, local bookmaker Ted Picket investigated. He could find no one who had any knowledge of Lonny pigeons or local bird racing. It was a trick and Nutsy was exposed.
No longer in the money
I found it informative to read the latest BRW (a Fairfax publication) on the 50 current greatest “Australian Sports Star Earners”.
I remember reading an Australian book, published just after the Second World War, which said horse racing was the dominant sport in Australia. Sadly, that is plainly no longer the case.
According to the BRW list, Australians make fortunes in many sports, golf and cricket being dominant.
Poor racing has but one high earner: at #48, champion Zac Purton ($1.4 million). Unfortunately, he is in Hong Kong.
On my figures, the three “under-a-cloud” Victorian trainers have had stellar months since the irregularities were reported.
Peter Moody trained a treble on Saturday.
Moody and UK trainer (and vet) Mark Johnston have had a very public argument with each other over the years, in the media. Mark, like Peter, is a very good trainer and outspoken.
Moody must be surprised at the support Johnston has given in his latest Kingsley Klarion magazine, saying in effect, cobalt would not help horses: “Cobalt is known to stimulate the production of red blood cells. The fit racehorse has a massive reserve of red cells in his spleen and it is unlikely the red cell volume is ever a limiting factor.”
Headwater makes headway
I mention, not to blow my own trumpet, but to prove “even broken clocks are right twice a day”, that I wrote here one month ago that I had Headwater the best two-year-old in my “free handicap”. It was 16/1 for the Slipper then.
After Saturday’s devastating Rosehill win, I note he is 11/4 for the big race.
Royal Ascot beckons
I caught up with Royal Ascot’s secret weapon, Nick Smith during the week.
He has the obvious candidates Lankan Rupee, Brazen Beau and Deep Field in his sights. He also believes CF Orr winner, Dissident, to be a worthy contender.
Smith adds: “They will, you’d imagine, end up at The Championships before any possible Royal Ascot campaign. It’s remarkable how far this Sydney carnival has come, going into just the second renewal this year.” Nick’s big news is the new group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot over 1200 metres.
He explains: “Australian two-year-olds – Blue Diamond and Slipper horses – can run in the new Royal Ascot race with 4.5kg southern hemisphere allowances. Who knows? People thought Paul Perry was mad to send Choisir as a southern hemisphere three-year-old not so long ago. Gai, you can’t win the Slipper with all of yours, so over to you!” My weight-for-age scale would say 5½ kilos was technically appropriate but I think the Australian two-year-olds would be better at sprinting. Gai should take something.
Hobartville crop show class
The autumn of 1996 is forever etched in racing enthusiasts’ memories, owing to the thrilling clashes of Octagonal, Saintly, Nothin’ Leica Dane and Filante.
Saturday’s Hobartville might have shown a special crop of three-year-olds. They rate very highly and are evenly matched. Hallowed Crown, Sweynesse, Kermadec and Shooting To Win engaged in an epic battle up the Rosehill straight, and there was little between the four at the finishing post. I can see some great betting three-year-old races coming.
Lightning a thriller
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Saturday’s Lightning at Flemington. It was very well named for two reasons: Fab Fevola went like lightning and the race was conducted between lightning storms!
I suspect the tearaway leader, Fab Fevola, up the straight, gave his connections a great thrill. Especially with the parallax error, Fab Fevola being on the stand side, looked even further in front than he was.
Such tactics gave this old handicapper, his only chances of winning. Fourth against the best in the world is not bad. Good on them.