The Sunday Afternoon "Finish On"

GRV's announcement of the allocation of $58m in prize money for the 2021-22 season on Friday certainly got the attention of interstate participants ...

Peter Davis

20 June 2021

Greyhound Racing Victoria’s announcement of the allocation of $58 million in prize money for the 2021-22 season on Friday certainly got the attention of interstate participants but there is growing discontent – neigh anger – within Victoria’s rank-and-file given their view of GRV’s refusal to engage with participants on a raft of issues.

So frustrated is the Victorian Greyhound Owners Trainers and Breeders’ Association, all participants are being urged to not nominate for three meetings on July 3 (Ballarat, Cranbourne and The Meadows) as a show of solidarity regarding the long-term frustration of GRV’s dismissive attitude to owners’ and trainers’ complaints.

“We’ve had meetings with GRV regarding track safety and GRV have not acted on our welfare concerns regarding preparation and management,” leading trainer Robert Britton said.

“We need affirmative action and unfortunately it has come to a virtual strike situation.

“Last week, there was an announcement about record prizemoney for next year but that’s just window dressing.

“Just a few years back, on less income, something like 53 per cent of revenue was returned as prizemoney and now it’s 43 percent.

“The cost of racing – feed, travel and veterinary expenses – increases week-by-week yet the ratio of prizemoney to income is in free fall.

“We need a benchmark minimum of 50 per cent and GRV just have to work to a budget that does not undervalue the people who get the job done – the participants.”

A number of independent reports on Victorian track’s infrastructure have been scathing and, despite vast recommendations, venues have not been upgraded – drainage at Sandown has been attended to but Cranbourne’s is considered inadequate.

Also at issue is the imposition of hard-line sanctions regarding cross contamination (re feeding), inspection(s) oversight and appeals processes which provides greyhound participants with less rights than average Victorians.

“It’s just an outrage that human consumption approved protein can have a level of contamination which is acceptable in Victoria but a greyhound’s threshold is zero,” Britton added.

And it’s the Greyhounds Australasia rules regarding threshold levels which is so ‘now’ given the circumstance NSW trainer Karina Britton finds herself in with Wow and the 2021 Paws Of Thunder.

Decisions at the GA Board are made by faceless people who, after passing rules, morph back normal life, immune from criticism or reflection their input has had on participants.

Education not sanction; understanding and not belligerence should be the calling card of regulatory bodies.

Unfortunately, while GA functions, there’s a hiding place for those who seek to throw grenades and run for the hills. There is no accountability and the term ‘consultation’ is mere window dressing.

RELEVANCE

While the GOTBA are active in Victoria, their NSW kin are imploding.

On Saturday, NSW GBOTA Hunter Valley Director Tony Atkins resigned while Bryan Young stood down as Chairman a couple of months back.

It’s no secret that directors have, for months, engaged in a civil war and the internal unrest was the rationale behind Atkins’ decision.

“I was there to represent the members, participants and track employees but I found it impossible to make change for the better of all when those who have their own agenda opposed my view,” Atkins said.

“The last thing I wanted to do was to walk away but the GBOTA cannot function as a member advocacy group in its present structure.”

BUILDING MOMENTUM

Builder’s dust has settled at Grafton and the new track has received universal praise.

The new circle track is the second project (after Richmond’s new straight track) GRNSW has undertaken from Government funding since the legislated ban of 2016 was overturned and it’s a blueprint for what lies ahead.

Goulburn is next on the planning white-board, Tweed Heads is working through council development processes, the Richmond circle facility is about to undergo a metamorphosis and a Tamworth upgrade sits on a wish list.

At Richmond, the running rail expected to be replaced, the Safe Chase lure system (used at Grafton and Richmond) is to be installed.

And the upgrade of Richmond is interesting. It provides certainty around the site’s functionality – trialling and racing – and the prospect of being upgraded to a metro venue prizemoney-wise.

The long-term lease at Wentworth Park expires in just a few years (2027) and an exit strategy is needed.

Few would be upset about not having to drive into the Sydney CBD in peak hour traffic and there has been talk of a new ‘greenfield’ facility to be built in Sydney’s west.

The alternative is to fully upgrade Richmond, fund Bulli (Wednesday night) as a metro facility and have decent coin to spare to deliver the best outcome for the Hunter Valley.

Not since the closure of Harold Park on September 19, 1987 has any track in this country offered week-to-week metro prizemoney on the Australian mainland – and Hobart’s Thursday night prizemoney pales in comparison to Cannington, Albion Park, Wentworth Park, Sandown and The Meadows.

Should the re-categorising of Bulli be GRNSW’s choice, it will establish a new benchmark for greyhound racing in NSW. Owners, trainers and the significantly abandoned breeders will be smiling broadly.

It will be GRNSW’s call but the rank-and-file deserve input. Let’s hope that’s the plan!

BENDIGO BONANZA

Finals night for the Pink Diamond series at Bendigo was spectacular with an amazing $834,000 (including breeders’ bonuses) across the heats and finals.

The 12 races on Friday were worth $617,000 which included $80,000 for the breeder alone (a 15 per cent loading).

Locations of the 2022 series is to be determined but it seems like Bendigo is just the perfect site.

Much was made of the ‘corner’ start for the 500m events but the racing was clean and compared favourably to anything, anywhere in the country at a metro level.

Bendigo is a track where there is little interference and all distances are catered for.

NEW CASH

NSW greyhound racing is heading in a very positive direction.

Wagering turnover is at an all-time high, funding has been made available for much-needed infrastructure upgrades and now the state government has agreed to entirely fund the Greyhound Welfare Integrity Commission after Greyhound Racing NSW promised to direct savings into a better experience for all.

GRNSW has agreed to contribute a minimum of $25 million over the next five years into a newly established Greyhound Industry Future Fund that will invest in capital items like grandstands, patron facilities in addition to re-homing facilities.

“This announcement will allow GRNSW, to invest more into ‘boots on the ground’ welfare projects and support its thousands of participants with better prizemoney returns that support their livelihoods,” said CEO Tony Mestrov.

Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson described the move as a “win-win” because the regulator has certainty of funding and GRNSW has millions freed up for racing.

On establishment, GRNSW was to fund GWIC’s welfare, regulatory and integrity role but that is now to be borne from Treasury and the two entities will not longer be responsible to each other in fiscal terms.

HELLO … SECURITY!

Jack and Maree Smith’s team are just flying and Miss Ezmae’s 29.67 best-of-the-night offering at Wentworth Park was sublime.

Not so the performance of Wenty’s security guards who were asleep at the wheel when one patron decided to enter the track precinct and ‘pose’ on the presentation podium.

Thinking it’s a better idea for the security team to be inside the track next time and not reacting after something really ugly eventuates.

Podium finish: Here come the troops: Security acts just a little too late at Wenty on June 15.

IN HARNESS

Best news of the week was that former GRNSW Chief Steward Clint Bentley has been appointed as the Chief Steward at Harness Racing NSW.

Clint was born into greyhound racing with dad Des and mum Lesley having long, successful careers breeding, rearing and racing greyhounds from their Canyonleigh property.

While many would have loved Clint to have returned to the greyhound fold (he resigned at GRNSW in 2016) he has moved from senior steward to the top role and seems very settled.

“This is a new challenge and I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity,” Bentley said.

“Greyhound racing is in my blood but this role is very important and I’m fully focused on the job at hand. It’s a real challenge for anyone to change roles/codes at my age but HRNSW have been very good to me and it’s an exciting role.”