6th May 2020
(Opens to a third party website)
In these unprecedented times it seems so long ago since we last had any normality to our lives but maybe in a couple of weeks' time we could see the first steps to treading that path back. On Sunday it’s expected the government will lift some restrictions that will allow people to go back to work, albeit with strict codes of practice in place. For ourselves this will mean, at last, greyhound racing can resume and the first batch of trials can commence on May 18th. We have been given by the GBGB strict new guidelines which we all must follow in the sport and reading through the detailed report today I see nothing that isn’t either common sense or that is not impossible to concur with, the 5 phase remit from the GBGB could see racing return at the start of June.
I have said it before and I will say it again if racing is to resume I’m only interested in the safety of my family and staff before all else and will constantly look at every review and procedure in place before I’m happy to risk travelling anywhere. Hopefully we will see a big reduction in Covid-19 cases before May 18th and can feel more comfortable about going racing. I realise how important it is for the country to start getting the economy going again but it doesn’t stop me worrying about people's health and safety.
Despite the lockdown it hasn’t stopped us being extremely busy at the kennels and I can honestly say our dogs are getting our full attention. They love routine no matter what and we have been lucky that the weather has been kind in April and they have all enjoyed plenty of time in our large paddocks, walks and grooms and we have not skimped on the best feed we can give them. Breakfast includes milk, glucose and honey and dinner has the best biscuit on the market (Red Mills Engage is excellent and highly recommended, though very expensive at £35 per bag) along with meat, fish, lamb, garlic etc. We have wormed out every dog and given them all a stronghold or advocate as we enter the high risk flea season. Our kennels have been completely jet washed, steamed and re-painted including all areas in the kennels, kitchen and treatment rooms, they have a real fresh feel to them which is very satisfying. The paddocks have been cut constantly and repairs to areas and equipment seem to be never ending. The vans have been stripped and insides fully cleaned in readiness to return to the tracks and we have even tried to smooth some of the lane leading to the kennels (virtually impossible!). I can honestly say while we have been off the owners have got full value on their kennel fees this last month or so, we just have a few final things we would like to do, a couple of trips to the local tips being one important one, and we will be raring to go.
The use of social media is important and through our website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages there is a constant array of pictures and feedback and everyday without fail many people have enjoyed our Imperial Kennels daily archive races and it’s been a joy to look back at some of the great moments in the kennel's history. Emily has been a huge help on this and the feedback we have had is very positive, I will be due another blog on the Greyhound Star shortly and last week many people enjoyed the Skype lockdowntapes piece with Dave Clark, Matt Newman and David Mitchel which can be seen on You Tube where I gave a full and in depth interview.
What seems to be our biggest concern at the moment is the lack of any plans for the top open racers, in all the correspondence I’ve seen there’s little or no mention of what provisions are being made for them which has caused a huge outcry from the owners, breeders and trainers who are simply left bewildered by the GBGB, promoters and bookmakers lack of concern, it seems like they only care about providing a service for the bookmakers and getting graded cards on. Of course this is essential but as a sport overall it’s so very negative. Horse racing, surprisingly looks like it will return before greyhound racing and the Jockey Club has been expressive in their sights to have the classics as soon as possible. It maybe not possible to get open racing started straight away but please, at least give them some thought. Long term, greyhound racing will not survive without its top end, as I’ve said many times, breeders will simply stop breeding and in 18 months' time there will be virtually no dogs coming through. I’m not saying that because we have been champion kennel multiple times as 80% of our runners are graded, I’m saying it because, as a sport, I would like to see it continue and start to thrive again. Just look at Australia, greyhound racing is huge and a vital part of the country’s economy, their model over there works, it seems we are not interested in finding out why. For me the promoters here only think short term and that’s how they can maximise their profits with the bookmakers' money and nothing else matters. The excuse of keeping travelling down to a minimum is ridiculous as the majority of trainers travel at least an hour to the tracks they are attached to and I can see so many cases of trainers who need to cross at least three counties to just run in graded company. I’m not being elitist or selfish, as I say without graded racing we wouldn’t survive ourselves, but to me we have had enough time off to come up with some bright ideas and a bit more commitment that keeps everyone happy.
We do have at least one promoter who is more interested in the long term rather than just the short term and in Kevin Boothby we have a real greyhound enthusiast and not just a business man. Kevin assures me he will find every dog in our kennel and his other trainers a race whether it’s one of our low graders or top open racers either in top grades or invitation races, it wouldn’t hurt the other promoters to come out and make a statement to say the same and add on that long term they will look to reschedule a full open race programme. They have both a trainers representative and an owners representative on the board who they can voice this through, we wait with baited breath!
Rant over, the countdown to a return to racing begins and I would like to take the chance to thank all our owners for their full support in these difficult times.
Stay safe and well