Debate Rages Over Finish On Lure Future

THE application of the finish-on lure in Australia has been a conundrum in recent years and one of the most polarizing industry discussion points.

Adam Dobbin

28 May 2020

THE application of the finish-on lure in Australia has been a conundrum in recent years.

Devoid of a committed national approach to consider its merits, states and territories have gone it alone to dip a toe in the water in an attempt to gauge success.

From a participant viewpoint, it’s proven to be one of the more polarizing industry discussion points.

Some are passionately for it, others vehemently opposed.

Ambivalence is uncommon yet the weight of debate favours what is in place despite both sides having staunch opinions.

The strong view in Victoria is that Geelong is in the midst of retreating from its finish-on lure setup and returning to the conventional catching pen model from September.

It’s understood that reduced nomination numbers and a lack of support from some major kennels is driving the decision.

But what are the metrics?

This debate certainly should be on supply and demand and greater advocacy (and or engagement) should be coming from Greyhounds Australasia and Greyhound Clubs Australia.

GA sets rules in place but then defers to each state when a problem arises. GCA comprises member clubs which can advocate loudly for the finish-on lure if it’s believed it’s prudent to do so.

Racing Queensland’s trial and subsequent report into the finish-on lure was clear and concise back in March, 2018. A report definitely worth a read.

In New South Wales, Richmond had been staging Sunday finish-on lure meetings pre-COVID-19 and receiving strong nominations.

The plan is for those meetings to return when social distancing measures restore to some normality.

The push to introduce the finish-on lure on Australian shores intensified following the 2015 live baiting scandal.

For years, Australian greyhounds that have either demonstrated a propensity to fight or been a questionable chaser have gone to New Zealand where the finish-on lure is used exclusively.

It’s turned around the fortunes of hundreds if not thousands of greyhounds, many of which going on to forge hugely successful careers.

Let’s be perfectly blunt, greyhounds which ‘marr’ (or fight a rival) win races in NZ. As do ‘non-chasers’. And if they don’t, they more often than not at least race genuinely.

It returns a level of currency and opportunity to greyhounds which have very little prospect of success in Australia.

Greyhounds are pack animals and it’s without question that the finish-on under race conditions is hugely beneficial to a significant number of greyhounds.

But granted, not all. 

Leading Victorian trainer Jeff Britton has been a staunch supporter of the finish-on lure at Geelong and is perplexed about the mooted decision to move away from the format in September.

“I just can’t for the life of me understand why some trainers are so against it,” Britton said.

“But I’m yet to hear a reasonable argument against it. It is such a good tool to build up a dog’s confidence and keenness. I hear the comments that it causes more injuries after the race but I can tell you first hand that it doesn’t.

“Angela (Langton) and I probably race more dogs on the finish-on than anyone else and we don’t see any additional injuries.

“With the (finish-on) lure still moving slowly it eases the dogs onto it where in the catching pen you can get a dog that’s first in there and be a sitting shot for the others.

“I just think the people that preach so strongly against it haven’t given it a fair go and seen it for what it is and the benefit it can have.”

Britton has rolled out 74 starters at Geelong so far in 2020 for 30 winners.

“There’s no doubt some need it more than others but what I find is if I take a dog to Geelong for 1-2 runs you can then take them somewhere else and they’ll chase harder,” Britton said.

“Mepunga Wonder is a great example. At Geelong he puts his head down and chases and goes inside dogs but if I take him elsewhere, he runs with his head up in the air and worries the tripe out of me that he’s going to do something he shouldn’t.

“That’s no good for me, the owners or punters. You want the dogs chasing and the finish-on helps with dogs like him. They are desperate to get him in New Zealand later in the year for the bigger races. But why do we want that? We should want them racing here locally.”

Like others that sit in support of the finish-on lure, Britton is adamant that the concept hasn’t been given the chance to fully take off and succeed in Australia.

“We’ve had Geelong but to be a success we really need it implemented in three different regions,” Britton added.

“You see so many dogs going around – mainly at the Tier 3 meetings – that aren’t chasing where I think to myself what a help the follow-on lure would be for them.

“The dogs would be more competitive, get better returns for their owners, and punters could invest with more confidence as well. It’s a win for everyone.

“The arguments I’ve heard against it just don’t make any sense to me.”

Britton attributes much of the concern to the optics of the sometimes rough and tumble nature at the finish.

“It can look a little chaotic for those watching it but it’s no worse than what happens in the catching pen – as I said before it’s actually better,” Britton added.

“It’s no coincidence that fighters and non-chasers go to New Zealand and win plenty of races and prize money for connections. Why aren’t we trying to mirror that here?

“At a time where we have no skins to use we should be doing everything possible to provide trainers the chance to keep their dogs keen and interested.

“Greyhounds are a pack animal and offering the finish-on incentive increases their confidence.”

When relaying the success of the finish-on lure, Britton reflects on former Queensland chaser Alpha Georgiou, sent his way back in 2017 by Mick Zammit.

“Mick sent him down to me after he got a ticket for fighting at Albion Park,” Britton continued.

“I gave him a few runs at Sandown over the Melbourne Cup and he finished midfield … not really putting in. I decided to take him to Geelong for a couple of runs and it changed him right around. He won eight of his next 12, made a few group finals and I reckon won around another $80,000 for his owners.

“There are so many like him I could rattle off.”

At a time when the industry is working tirelessly to reduce re-homing numbers and keep greyhounds racing for as long as possible, every measure available to stimulate keenness and desire needs to be at a trainer’s disposal.

It’s also a time where the ability to send greyhounds to New Zealand is proving more and more difficult for varying reasons.

The staggered approach currently in play towards the finish-on lure gives it no prospects of succeeding in Australia.

A national approach is needed one way or another. The views are varying. The personalities are big.

The other question being does its availability stop the minority pushing the boundaries by other means?

Perhaps a managed meeting of the minds can pave a way forward and, with a proper schedule in place – across a number of tracks – the numbers won’t lie.

Then again, the decision to desist might already be in place.

But whatever the reasoning there will be unintended consequences which the industry needs to be prepared for.