The word ‘strike’ has been thrown around loosely over the past few months by a people on various forums and social media websites. The treats were in response to the treatment punters are currently receiving at the hands of bookmakers and racing administrators.
The first punters strike is being organised for tomorrow, Wednesday 17 February 2016. I will be joining in to support the most under represented group of racing participants in a fight we all share, to be given a fair go.
Real action and talks of a strike were started on Saturday by a punter named Paul Degenhardt, who also goes by the username GUV on the www.punters.com.au forums. Paul isn’t a spring chicken and has seen his fair share of rodeos by all reports. In an interview with Punters, Paul made it clear that he has had enough of the changing betting landscape surrounding the Australian racing industry.
As many of you would know, racing has some of the highest betting percentage markets (112-120%) with a strong rake being delivered back to the industry. This puts a racing punter at a disadvantage in comparison to a sports punter who is offered closer to a 105% market on average. We accept this is part of how the industry is funded and we go with it. What Paul has raised as his reasoning behind the strike tomorrow is the reality facing many winning punters, where bookmakers licensed in Australian who can accept bets on Racing are allowed to close accounts of punters, refuse bets and offer lower odds than displayed to the general public.
Every Australian wants a fair go. Accepting bets only from ‘losing punters’ isn’t fair. Racing authorities should not do business with bookmakers that close winning punters accounts. They should also refuse to do business with bookmakers that refuse to bet every individual punter to an industry approved amount. Paul believes this should be $2500, which I assume is referring to liability. This seems a logical and reasonable amount for any corporate to take on the books for a metro meeting, while I could certainly life with the suggestion of $1500 for regional meetings.
I applaud Paul for taking the first steps in what will be an ongoing battle for Punters to get what they rightfully deserve.
As many of you who follow my rants on twitter know, there are several issues that are affecting punters currently that are simply not being given the time of day they deserve. If these were jockey safety issues, they would have been addressed immediately.
Punters are losing confidence in betting on staying races. Will your jockey breach the whipping rules to get their horse over the line? That’s a new element that has been added to punting on stayers.
My primary punting jurisdiction is Victoria. Unlike Queensland that seems to have been a little stricter in handing out whip punishments, I am perplexed with both the stewards actions as well as those of the RAD board in regards to breaches (especially those that are intentional) of the whip rules.
Just today, the RAD board overturned the suspension given to Jake Bayliss for breaching the whip rules, instead, imposed a $1000 fine. Since the introduction of the new rules (they knew for 6 months prior they were coming in), Jake has been one of the most frequent offenders and was handed the suspension due to this being his fifth breach. This doesn’t send much of a message to the jockey ranks.
So why are we playing roulette when backing stayers?
Two quotes of interest from Damien Oliver after his ride on Second Bullet early this month (ran second):
“The whip rules didn’t help him. I needed to (be able to) get up him on the turn”
“I needed to get up him on the turn but you can only hit them 5 times before 100”
In essence, Damien Oliver suggests he would have won the race if he breached the whipping rules. Heading into Autumn and bigger rides on the cards, Oliver can’t afford to breach the rules.. if anything, he should be looking to do so in the bigger races (it makes sense right) with no race ever being over-turned due to whipping breaches. Potentially, Second Bullet could have won that race with a jockey on board that was more willing to breach the current rules.
Let’s look at the case of Stephen Baster on Mujadale in the Bagot Handicap. Mujadale’s two previous wins were achieved under different whipping rules, but did occur when the horse was severely over-whipped by a different jockey. The horses grand final race this prep was the Bagot and up until that point, the horse hadn’t won and had been kept inside the whipping rules. The horse was whipped nine times before the last 100m, one of the largest breaches of the rule since the introduction of the rule. Basters comments to Racing.com give punters little faith in the rules when a jockey says “I know I did the wrong thing, the whip rules have changed and we have to adjust,”, yet goes out and hits the horse 9 times before the 100m resulting in the horse winning (Yes, I know the two behind breached the rules, but Mujadale responds much better to the whip). Baster received a $500 fine and won an appeal to get it reduced to $350.
I want to make it clear, I have nothing against Baster or his actions. I would do the same under the current rules if I was a jockey. But from a punters perspective, how do we know when a horse that needs to be given more than five with the whip before the 100m is going to receive it and how do we adjust?
The rules need revisiting.
Weighing in Light
It’s 1 month and 10 days since Tigidig Tigidig’s jockey Jye Mc Neil weighed in 0.6kg underweight after winning a race at Sandown. Tigidig Tigidig is a well-known horse amongst the punting ranks due to his run of seven seconds in a row last prep before finally getting a win (dead-heat)! He was a bet for me on the day at Sandown and many of those following my bets for the day were affected by what simply is an unacceptable rule of racing.
Essentially, due to Jye Mc Neil’s weight on the way out to the stalls, we were betting up to the jump on a horse that could never win the race. We were betting in-play and even over the line when the horse won, on a horse that could never win. Not only did we lose our winnings that had already been paid out, but we also lost our stake. The only people who came out of the situation worse were the owners who not only lost the prize money, but also lost any stakes they had on the horse to win (I’m told it was five figures between them).
The simple and clear solution in this case is for the horse to be ruled a non-runner. While this does as people will suggest open the rule to jockey’s dropping led bags or similar trickery, common-sense will prevail and stewards should do everything in their power to resolve the issue before declaring a non-runner. These days, everything is caught on camera.
What are we waiting for?
The racing industry has come a long way in terms of innovation, but where we have been lacking significantly is in terms of betting innovations and implementing the most logical and practical changes required for all punters. Apart from the Early Quadie, what has been added in the past few years?
Let’s start with the Melbourne Cup. It’s 2016 people, why the hell do we not have emergencies? Why is the TAB’s system dictating our biggest race’s field sizes? Get it done. Fix it. NOW.
No Third Dividend
There is nothing worse than plonking a gorilla on a horse to place in early markets, only to have the field reduced to 7 or less on the day. Suddenly you are now betting to two places and your horse runs third as predicted. Betfair is currently the only service in Australia that offers 3-places at all times for any race where by 8 runners accepted into there. At very least, every single corporate should be offering a fixed odds service with three places paid. While we are at, in fields of 16 or higher, why not give us the option of four places like they do in the UK? Punters want these options. Innovate.
Enjoy the day off the punt, hug your partner, give your mum a call and get ready for an action packed Saturday where even more stars return to our tracks!