The Sunday Afternoon "Finish On"

WA wrecking ball Sunset Spitfire extended his unbeaten run to 11 at Cannington on Saturday when securing heat three of the Anniversary Cup.

Peter Davis

29 November 2020

West Australian wrecking ball Sunset Spitfire extended his unbeaten run to 11 at Cannington on Saturday in a career best 29.39s when securing  heat three of the Anniversary Cup.

The son of Mepunga Blazer was one of four winners on the night for Dave Hobby with his litter brother Sunset Toxic and Thrift Monelli (second in heat two behind Fernando Star) qualifying for the $30,000 Cup final (winner $19,950).

In his 11 race wins, Sunset Spitfire has started odds on 10 times with his average starting price $1.28.

The only time he’s not posted the best time of the meeting was on November 7 when he was moderately away from box 2 but still prevailed by 4 ¼ lengths in 30.01s – the only time he’s not bettered 30 seconds over 520m at Cannington.

What lies ahead for the rising two year-old is puzzling Dave Hobby.

“Had it not been for COVID-19, I’d have travelled east with a team of six or so,” Hobby said.

“Sunset Spitfire might have headed to Wentworth Park for the Million Dollar Chase and the Sydney Cup was an option for Flake Monelli.

“Mermaid Monelli would have been suited at Bendigo (for the Cup over 430m) while Zack Monelli and Thrift Monelli would have found suitable races.”

Quarantine issues on returning to WA certainly hinder Hobby’s mindset.

“They way it is here, I really can’t quarantine as we have 150 dogs to look after. The staff of seven do a great job but I need to be hands-on for it to work properly.”

The upcoming G1 Silver Chief at The Meadows (Sunset Spitfire) and Sale Cup with Flake Monelli has Hobby thinking again but it’s a tough call.

His decision will be to travel the headline acts and stay at home himself or travel with a larger team and then deal with quarantine constraints.

QUESTION TIME

Submissions to the Select Committee on the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission close this Friday (December 4) and, while this is the third parliamentary inquiry into greyhound racing’s structure (and funding), it’s important that participants engage in the process.

Since being established on September 23, the Select Committee has invited submissions within the terms of reference which are:

(a)  the policies, procedures, mechanisms, and overarching principles of the Commission in relation to industry participants.

(b)  the appropriateness of disciplinary action for those industry participants breaching legal requirements as set out by the Commission.

(c)  the options for appeal by industry participants who breach legal requirements as set out by the Commission.

(d)   the combined relationship of the Commission, the industry operator Greyhound Racing NSW, and industry participants in relation to the overall greyhound racing industry.

(e)  the existing funding agreement between the Commission and Greyhound Racing NSW with a view to considering recommended options.

(f)   the actions, conduct and effectiveness of the Commission and GRNSW, in particular in relation to its role in improving the welfare of greyhounds.

(g)  any other related matter

The committee is chaired by Robert Borsak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party) while Abigail Boyd (Greens) is the deputy and the six representative members are: Lou Amato (Liberal), Wes Fang (National), Sam Farraway (National), Mark Pearson (Animal Justice Party), while Labor is represented by Walt Secord and Mick Veitch.

There is no doubt the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission has come at a cost to NSW participants.

This separation of powers (in this instance regulatory and commercial) was born of recommendations from both the McHugh Special Commission and Morris Iemma’s Report.

What now is under investigation is the effectiveness of GWIC, it’s funding and the relationship with GRNSW yet the question must be asked: What has changed since GWIC’s inception?

A window of opportunity has opened for those looking for a weakness in administration from an industry which former NSW Premier Mike Baird considered “would not reform”.

Certainly, GRNSW has long argued that GWIC spends too much of “their” money on integrity issues yet, harking back to 2016, McHugh asserted that not enough money was spent on animal welfare – and that’s been addressed.

The metrics surrounding affordability on welfare should never be an open forum. These are (again) dangerous times.

The Select Committee ‘boasts’ members which would much prefer to close greyhound racing in toto rather than make GWIC and GRNSW sing in harmony.

Those who agitated for change six-or-so years back sent greyhound racing in NSW to the executioner. A near miracle (SFF’s Phil Donato’s success in the state seat of Orange and unflinching media support) saved the code’s existence but people need to be careful what they wish for having encouraged this process to get life.

Anti-greyhound racing entities will press the Select Committee with all sorts of rationale to harm the code by reputation or functionality.

Mark Latham’s Tweet

Only last week One Nation MLC Mark Latham tweeted about the spending at GWIC and this committee now has the chance to clear the air – uncover the underlying costs at GWIC and the truth around something which GRNSW has long argued – funding levels are unsustainable.

The bickering and infighting over funding must be reined in yet, should the Government not provide greyhound racing with its appropriate funding (proper Point of Consumption Tax rebates for example), the debate would be moot.

GIPAC COMES TO LIFE

This week, GWIC made further progress in their consultative processes by announcing the formation of a participant’s advisory council.

Since inception GWIC has mis-stepped on occasions when wise industry savvy’ insight might have provided for a more measured move.

Interim CEO Steve Griffin, has advanced the Commission’s engagement and collaboration with industry participants, experts and stakeholders in the early stages of developing policy and regulations.

An advisory panel (GIPAC) has now been engaged and is eight-strong, boasting state-wide representation.

The inaugural meeting will be conducted (via remote hook-up) in December with Martin Hallinan, Gayle Masterson, Jason Lyne, Barry Ward, Mark Bell, Amanda Ginn, Tracey Hindmarsh and Jenny Barnett.

Members will give significant insight into ideas and strategies to solve industry issues and expose the impact of possible changes to rules, policies and programs under consideration.

It’s a move in the right direction … and, fortunately, it now seems that GWIC is prepared to listen!

PERFECT THE NEXT

In recent months, GRNSW increased prizemoney by $1.3m with Wentworth Park’s Wednesday meetings and added value to middle distance racing.

COVID-19 impacted heavily on wagering income this year but greyhound racing turnover is booming and a good example is the matinee meetings on Saturday mornings.

Racing Queensland added morning cards to Capalaba, Bundaberg and Townsville and their impact had been immense. It’s anticipated RQ will, this week, announce significant prizemoney increases (totalling something like $1.7m) on the back of income from the additional content.

Unlike the NSW model of equalization, RQ will increase prizemoney as distances rise. For example, Townsville’s 380m (now $1050 to-the-winner in grade five) might nudge $1500 while the 498m winners will be upwards of $2000 ($2300?).

The state-wide increase will attract the eye of Northern NSW trainer and the $1500 to-the-winner grade fives (just $900 for maidens) on offer at Casino and Lismore, will be less attractive than Capalaba, Ipswich and or Albion Park (the tyranny of distance aside).

GRNSW’s annual report is not too far away and this RQ initiative will highlight the needs for even more prizemoney to be offered up – at the base level – in NSW. Costs are spiralling (meat prices are heading in one direction only) and NSW remains the only jurisdiction without a breeders’ excellence program.

There’s a lot of work to be done and NSW breeders deserve recognition for excellence and, being a net exporter of greyhounds, the impact of a downturn in breeding in NSW is felt across the nation.

GRAFTON READY

A lot has changed at Grafton since August 24.

The complete facility, something like 10 acres without including the adjacent caravan park, has been razed and work is set to commence on Monday on a new óne-turn track – not too dissimilar to the former circuit but with wider radius.

The scope of the project is $4.6m and has been funded from the $30m promised by the Government back in 2016 when the legislated ban on greyhound racing was overturned.

Ground Zero: All is ready for work to start on Grafton’s state of-the-art facility.

While Grafton is a work in progress (completion is targeted at April 30, 2021) when (and where) will the additional $25.4m be allocated by Minister Kevin Anderson?

Goulburn was said to have a new track on the drawing board and Richmond’s proposed straight track seems to be in limbo, although it’s understood work is slowly beginning on that front.

Most tracks in NSW require serious cap-ex refurbishment and the need for a programmed maintenance schedule has been highlighted in recent months (WP’s running rail, Maitland’s lure and timing mechanisms state-wide).

It’s a problem with a seemingly obvious resolution but change is glacial.

COMING TOGETHER?

Greyhounds Australasia conducted a Board meeting last week and with COVID-19 restrictions hindering travel, remote access was again to the fore.

For many, GA, as a body, is a relic of a bygone era – when aficionados longed for the printing of the Stud Book (now ceased) and comms were not as advanced as they are today.

In structure, GA is a collective of member states yet, when the rubber hits the road, their defense is to refer back to the state bodies – a frustrating and time-consuming game of corporate ping pong.

Outside the functionality of naming and racing rules aside, there is not a lot which GA brings to the table yet there is light at the end of the tunnel.

A project is underway to investigate merging the nation’s two grading functions – FastTrack and OzChase.

FastTrack was initiated to be the sole data repository for greyhound racing in this country but member states baulked at GRV’s fees and GRNSW partnered with RWWA to see OzChase come to life.

The end game was that Victoria was dancing solo with FastTrack and income was zero. Merging the two entities is a mammoth task but, if successful, the bottom line savings should be massive.