In last month's PPM, Randwick clocker Craig Tompson spoke about how he goes about his job of timing the track gallops of hundreds of horses every week. In this second article, Craig outlines the problems of 'clocking trackwork' in Australia and what might be done to improve the information flow to punters.

Brian Blackwell: How hard is it to accurately clock the horses on busy mornings?

Craig: While we do our best the fact remains that in Japan all trackwork is timed with the use of bar codes, in Hong Kong a horse must wear a designated number in all trackwork, and in the United States, I believe, trainers must inform the clockers about which horses they are galloping.

I think it's even possible to be hauled in for a 'please explain' if a horse hasn't appeared in published gallops prior to a race. Given the right resources here in Australia, the trackwork coverage could be better but at the moment that is beyond what publications like the Sportsman are able to supply, which is no fault of their own. They are doing an excellent job with what they have available, believe me.

BB: Are there any signs of change on the horizon?

Craig: Well, we have Pay TV coming, and Channel 10 has been expanding Sports Tonight on Fridays to include plenty of racing. What we need is more people paying for the trackwork which will allow more clockers to be employed to the benefit of all. In my case, I am paid only by the Sportsman and Bet-Busters, not by any tipsters, punters or bookmakers.

I am doing stuff on Sports Tonight but it is doubtful if it will continue past the major carnival periods.

BB: Is it possible for Australia to have the same sort of clocking systems that are used in, say, Japan or Hong Kong?

Craig: I do think they are basically unworkable here, the reason being that Hong Kong, and most other Asian racing centres, have a very small and controlled racehorse population. So the numbering system can be used. It simply couldn't be implemented here because of the enormous horse population and its wide movement.

The bar code system is again very difficult, although Wayne Hickson, of the Sportsman, has often spoken to me about it, and I think it's something of a long-term pet project for him! What makes it hard is the fact that Randwick, for example, has five tracks regularly used for fast work (four grass and one dirt), while the places with the bar code have only the one track.

Rosehill has four tracks and Warwick Farm has at least four as well, so you can see there are hurdles. I doubt that the race clubs are about to go to such an expense straight away, particularly the Sydney Turf Club, which seems determined to cease having horses trained at Rosehill, despite what they might say.

BB: Can you suggest any solution?

Craig: I think the most realistic solution at the moment is to get more clockers, which needs money from somewhere. The AJC with Randwick in particular is the obvious place to start, due to the number and the quality of horses there.

If we could get just one more clocker at Randwick there would, without a doubt, be an improvement in the amount and quality of trackwork information. To have at least one person solely identifying horses is, I think, the key.

Trainers, as I have said, are generally a great help; however, they cannot always be relied on if they are very busy, or whatever.

BB: Should the AJC play a more constructive role in getting the trackwork information regularised?

Craig: My personal opinion is that the best way to go would be for the AJC to take over the clocking, at AJC tracks, and provide the information themselves to both media and individuals. It could be provided daily and be expanded to include the type of information such as how horses were actually travelling in the workout, who did best of a pair and so on.

The more informed punters are, the better chance they have of backing a winner, which is one of the things all race clubs, and administrators should be striving for. The more punters win, the more they will reinvest and keep coming back for the next meeting. Turnover increases when you have a better trackwork service; I think it's part of what punters want. To make any improvements, I feel we have to work with the race clubs.

• Do you have something to say about the supply of trackwork information? Should it be regulated? Should trackwork from country centres be monitored as well? We would like to hear from PPM readers on this issue. Write in and tell us your views. We'll publish the responses in the March issue.

Click here to read Part 1.

By Brian Blackwell