Monday 18th August 2014
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The issue of how hard it is for professional trainers to make ends meet again came to the fore as respected Belle Vue trainer Kath Harris decided to call it a day. Her case is another not just of finances but more of a case of having to work seven days a week with the pressures of a Bags contract and things that every person outside the industry would take for granted like a holiday is a luxury that most trainers can't afford! I have to say I'm so lucky that I have reliable and loyal staff who can cover me so I can have a normal family holiday but I can tell you the money needed for this really has to come out of our own pockets as even our business could not afford it and though I say it delicately we are supposed to be the leading kennel in the country.
How have we, as an industry, got into this situation? It seems like professional trainers are quitting at an alarming rate, smaller trainers, who are the backbone of most provincial tracks and in many cases Bags tracks, are also dwindling as it no longer becomes viable to keep their own dogs. For far too long promoters have taken the stance that if one trainer quits another ten trainers will be standing in line to replace them. Yes, promoters that's another issue, of course they are also struggling to balance the books and all look at the easy option of selling their valuable land space to potential property developers. Certainly while they are earning easy money from Bags contracts they don't see the need to promote anymore and the percentage they put back into paying trainers and prize money for owners is not nearly enough to stop the bleeding.
Our governing body the GBGB paid, at great expense, for a report on the industry from the respected Delloites group and they highlighted the problems above yet seven months later nothing has been done. Scandalous in my opinion. Something has to change and urgently or the only professional trainers that will be left will be ones who have another business that can supplement their greyhound operation or trainers that do everything on the cheap and that surely has to bring the welfare of the greyhounds into serious question! The GBGB has plenty on their plate in keeping the sport clean and drug free for which they do a good job and the integrity is something we can all be proud of but their supposed lead in commercial growth is a shambles and holding us all back and while I'm not going to slate individuals the leadership has to come into question.
I have done my best to stay out of the politics of the sport. The two years I spent on various GTA and later GBGB committees was eye opening but the time and effort needed to try and bring about change for fellow professionals almost sent our business bankrupt but I now really fear for our sport. It's such a shame because deep down I know we have a wonderful product, one that, if it was financed and run properly, could again rise to be one of the most enjoyed pastimes for the British public. The safety and welfare of our beautiful and loved greyhounds can never be questioned but without proper finance no industry can survive.
Of course we shouldn't forget owners, without them the sport cannot function you would think. To be honest I have felt for a long time that the bookmakers, who fund the industry, and in many cases the promoters actually don't give a damn about them. As long as the trainers can give them enough greyhounds to fill their cards, especially Bags ones, they really don't care who owns the dogs whether it be the trainers themselves or owners. For their part, owners enjoy the sport as a hobby and I would say 95% of them don't want to get involved in the politics and in a lot of cases simply walk away from the sport without a fight and who could blame them the sport is supposed to be enjoyable and a release from their day to day jobs.
Have I got the answers, I'm not sure but all I can say again and again it's time that a crisis meeting was arranged. A selection of all the stakeholders in our industry need to put their differences aside and meet to discuss the current state of our sport and what we can achieve in the future - owners, trainers, breeders, promoters, the GBGB, bookmakers and anybody else that can try and bring some ideas to the table to take us out of the doom and gloom and negativity we are currently in. We have to take a chance and find a way to persuade the bookmakers to put a huge amount of money directly into prize money and trainer payments, we need to find money for a National advertising campaign that goes on mainstream television and radio, but most of all in my opinion we need to find a team of young enthusiastic individuals who have a passion for greyhound racing and are capable of making decisions on our sport's future, of course this will not come cheap.
Towcester is now just on the horizon and to me this will give our industry huge hope. The project has been a long time in the planning but now looks a matter of a couple of months away from coming to fruition. Heading the operation is Kevin Ackerman under the guidance of Lord Hesketh and both are a breath of fresh air to our sport. They can see the opportunity greyhound racing can bring to both Towcester and the industry. There is a real demand across the globe for greyhound racing and one where integrity and style can become a huge success. I'm sure there will be a few teething problems and it remains to be seen how the rest of the promoters view this new venture as in many cases all they see is a new track diluting any current funds available. To me Towcester could set the mark for all other tracks to follow in the future and open up many doors and I'm itching to be a part of it all. Chris Page one of the, if not the best, racing managers of the past few decades is so excited by what he has seen so far and his enthusiasm is a joy in what has been some bleak times. I can see the next couple of months until Towcester opens dominating the greyhound news.
On the track it's a busy time for the kennel as I mentioned last week. Thursday sees the Ladbrokes Gold Cup Final at Monmore live on Sky with supporting finals and one off races. The Coral Brighton Belle, won last year by our Bridge Ruth, begins on Thursday and we have high hopes of Evanta Evita keeping that title at Imperial kennels. Also on Thursday we will be well represented at Henlow as the Westmead Hawk Memorial Festival kicks off with heats of various competitions with the finals on Sunday. The Coral Champion Stakes at Romford is less than two weeks away and could turn out to be an absolute cracker. Adageo Bob just loves racing at the track and made it nine straight wins over course and distance last Friday and will no doubt be the one all other entries have to beat.
Take a look at 'Pete's Column' where we have a guest writer with an interesting article on the gambling industry.
On Wednesday at Yarmouth Aero Nemesis was a touch unlucky in the final of the East Anglian Challenge where he lost all chance when impeded out the traps by trap 4, he still ran well to only be beaten 3 lengths by track Champion Any Dak. Plenty of supporting opens with both our sprinters Club Notes and Sneezys Snail narrowly beaten in the two divisions. Yarmouth dogs dominated on the card and Swift Finn opened his open race account winning well in a good 27.91 in a 462m Maiden and Black Francis won a competitive 659m open after leading early and staying on strongly to score by 2 1/4 lengths in 41.80.
At Monmore on Friday in the supporting competitions for the Ladbrokes Gold Cup both Snappers Lad and Domino Storm qualified for Thursday's 480m Puppy final when runners up in their respective heats, both Aayamzamodel and Sidaz Dippy just missed out in the 630m final when third in their heats.
A good night for the kennel at Romford on Friday. Rosealinda has been running well in defeat and trapped well to lead all the way over 575m scoring in a career best 35.33. Benkaat Dolly was another who was slightly underestimated and took a 575m Maiden well in 35.92. One of the warmest 575m Maidens seen at Romford for a long while was won by Sussex Cup winner Exocet in 35.18 with Vanfrenchie running a solid race in 3rd place. Blackstone Marco was pitched in with Adageo Bob and had to settle for 2nd place behind Bob who completed a nine timer over course and distance, a stunning run of wins and one they will all gave to beat in the forthcoming Champion Stakes.
At Henlow on Sunday Evanta Nemo was just shaded by a short head in a 550m Maiden but two good winners on the night with Huggies Buck over 428 in 25.80 while Aero Babooshka bounced back to form winning a 460m in a fine 27.36.
We have had an excellent 27% strike rate this year in graded racing at Yarmouth and that record was increased this week. On Wednesday as well as open winners Rockburst Louis opened his account with an A1 win by a short head in 28.26.
On Saturday Benkaat Boomer got back to winning ways beating kennelmate Saffrons Anna by a short head in 28.13 in a top A1. Saffons Champ produced his best effort to date landing an A2 from behind in a fine 28.01. April Mirth completed a good night when landing another A2 in 28.24.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
WHAT'S ON NEXT WEEK
A busy day Thursday with racing at three tracks Henlow, Monmore and Hove with various competitions.
We will be at Romford on Friday and Henlow on Sunday.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
Aero Nemesis was an unlucky loser in the East Anglian Challenge last Wednesday.
A few competitions this week not least the Coral Brighton Belle and Evanta Evita will take the world of beating.
Vanfrenchie looks a dog to get stuck into when he returns to Romford on Friday.
EVANTA EVITA - 5 pts win ante post - Coral Brighton Bellle - Hove - starts Thursday
VANFRENCHIE - 5 pts win - Romford - Friday
ADVISED LAST WEEK
AERO NEMESIS - 3 pts win - East Anglian Challenge - Yarmouth - Wednesday - lost