25th June 2020
(Opens to a third party website)
Last week's blog certainly got the attention of many people as I held no punches on my thoughts to where our industry stands at the moment particularly my thoughts on track closures. Of course it’s sad that despite being one of the first industries to start trading again, so to speak, the deep rooted issues of a sport in decline seems to be escalated by the pandemic.
The bookmakers are happy that greyhound racing has started again especially as their betting shops are open now and they have live content at a relatively cheap price. Yes the graded racing had to be one of the first back as we stepped gently out of lockdown but thinking hard and aloud have we really succumbed to the fact that as a sport that’s all we have to offer? by that I mean just a filler from 10.30 in the morning (next week we will be back at 8 am) to 10 pm at night. Although the open racing does start again next week it’s a very limited calendar particularly in terms of one off open races and if it wasn’t for Ian Smyth from the Ladbrokes/Coral group there would be virtually no open racing. What are we going do as an industry to protect and promote what our sport should aspire to be like? The heritage of great events that produced household names like Mick The Miller, Scurlogue Champ, Ballregan Bob and Westmead Hawk seems just a blast from the past and one that’s just become a product for the bookmakers, it feels like the aspirations and longevity of our sport no longer seem to matter. One can’t help thinking that as an industry as a whole there should have been a financial package available that could saved the three tracks that closed thus saving loads of jobs and people’s livelihoods, at the end of the day what message do we really send out?
Of course any rescue package needs finances and the simple truth is we as an industry are chronically underfunded despite our fund receiving a sum of around £8 or £9 million per year from the bookmakers, some £4 million plus goes to welfare which does not leave a lot left in the pot. The bookmakers pay over £25 million in media rights to the tracks yet it’s still believed that the betting industry makes in excess of £200 million plus from gambling on Greyhound racing per year and of course people who bet on the dogs would also be tempted to bet on other sports, online casinos etc etc so we are a vital and much needed part of the business for the bookmakers. They would argue that they pay enough and maybe so for the racing just in the UK but the pictures from our sport are sold across the world and we never get to hear how much our sport is actually worth in these markets
I myself may not have loads of years left in me but I have children who love the sport and deserve to have some sort of future. I’ve made it clear I think the GBGB under Mark Bird have done an excellent job on welfare and the industry injury and euthanasia figures are credit to what they have achieved and as a sport we don’t have to hide behind the settee as much as we used to when figures are released but even that can be improved further. The Euthanasia option on the green forms of any greyhound put to sleep for ‘economic reasons’ is controversial to say the least and in my opinion has to be addressed while the option of ‘unsuitable as a pet’ option could easily be resolved if we had specialist rehoming kennels that dealt with any of these rare cases.The owner/trainer combination will always be a welfare problem but that is hard to change when the tracks demand that trainers have to supply X amount of runners to fulfil contracts, this alone should cajole the bookmakers to swell the fund to at least £15 million which in itself would not harm their profits too seriously. We are at last going to see soon a commercial director added to the GBGB whose main objective will be to seek more revenue for the industry, we can only hope this appointment is a successful one.
It was so sad to hear the news that legendary Greyhound writer Bob Betts passed away a few days ago, I had so much time for Bob and spoke to him for ages when we would see each other occasionally. He was deeply saddened by our sport's decline after putting so much hard work in as a journalist to try and make a difference over the years and he was a father figure for many of today’s Greyhound writers, RIP Bob.
At last the winners have started to flow. On Tuesday we won a no race with Towstar Winston but Saffrons Tiger won well by 5 lengths in a good 28.11.
On Thursday Sligo Lilly produced a career best performance winning an A8 by over 9 lengths in a fine 28.26, Longacres Tyrur also won well in a fine 28.16.
On Saturday we had a good day. Jesses Sister took an A3 in 27.86 while the talented Saffrons Xpress won well on Henlow debut recording a good 28.09 in an A4 and Chubbys Jenny won an A7 from off the pace in 28.74 and Energize Bingo took his chance well in an A6 in a good 28.25 to complete a good afternoon.
Sunday’s second Towcester meeting in a new era wasn’t without incident. Coolavanny Messi and Silva Hill both ran well when 2nd and 3rd in a D1. Ivy Hill SkyHigh was our first winner back at Towcester when scoring well in an A2 in a fine 29.60 and it wasn’t too long before Aero Madrid added to that beating kennelmate Tiffield Maximus in an A3 in 30.23. A messy race saw Masonspeedymac get knocked over but was thankfully ok afterwards and in a tight finish in the A2 Busters Bullet looked to have been collared close home but it’s a deceiving camera angle and much to my amazement he had hung on to win in a good 29.69.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
GRADED - SLIGO LILLY