Greyhound racing might be excitedly bracing itself for a return to racing, though the next three months are certain to be considerably more challenging than the last two.
Overall, the sport seems to have handled the shut down in good spirits. Trainers have taken the opportunity for a ‘rest, repair and recouperate’ and there has been virtually no negativity.
Although – I will probably be hammered for saying so, I think GBGB have generally managed it extremely well.
The one aspect which I think was badly thought out was excluding an owner or trainer representative from the committee determining comeback strategy. It was a classic example of aiming a shotgun at your size tens and pulling both triggers.
The suggestion that trainers were not competent enough to prepare their dogs for a return to racing, went beyond caution and a long way into the ‘insult’ zone. Though as one impartial industry observer said to me earlier, “that thought process wasn’t meant for internal consumption. It was only ever about keeping DEFRA on side.”
Could the original plan have been a bit more pre-active on open racing? Possibly, though it would have been more cosmetic than practical (see below). The Board would have been negligent not to publish their blueprint, and most of it is 100% necessary in terms of standard procedure between tracks.
But having read some of the social media reaction to the GBGB paper, I can understand why some of the Board members were (allegedly) fabulously outraged.
The catalyst seems to have been John Coleman’s letter to Racing Post. I am certain it was meant in good faith, by quite possibly the intellectually blessed trainer that I have met. John clearly wanted to support his practitioner colleague Peter Harnden who was (allegedly) frustrated and upset at being kept out of the loop.
Quite truthfully though, I thought John’s letter was OTT and reflected a bygone stage of racing.
Like him, I can remember the sport being utterly controlled by the likes of Jarvis Astaire, Clive Feltham, Charlers Chandler and the rest. I can remember the days when the various BGRB Chief Execs were simply puppet rulers who did as they was told by the promoters, only to be followed by the wasted years under Kelly/Faulkner.
I remember the BGRF being absolutely raped by the track promoters (because they could!) and the NGRC treating trainers like something they might normally find on a shovel.
I remember the days when bookmakers contribution to the industry was derisory and the calls to their lapdogs at BAGS were daily.
I know – because I fell out with virtually every one of them.
This is nothing like the same industry, being run by an entirely different group of people.
If I was dragged in front of my maker and asked whether the bookmakers influenced the decision to insist on ‘two trials’ and the priority on grading racing I would honestly have to say ‘no, I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t think they would really give a damn’.
The days of gambling coups are gone. The bookies have such good gambling monitoring systems and a reluctance to take significant bets that they wouldn’t be slightly fazed whether a dog has an edge because it has had an extra trial.
If any trainer does get clever, as we have seen in the past, the message soon finds it way back to the track. One strike and you are out. ‘We don’t expect to lose’.
Are the bookies pushing the ‘graded over open racing’ agenda? Again, honestly, I just don’t see it.
On a Friday night at Romford, would there be more or less money taken on an S2 race or an open? I would suggest the latter.
In my view, John picked at some old scabs and some of those on social media couldn’t wait to rip them off.
I have referred previously to the ‘three men in a lift’ scenario. The track owner, the trainer and the bookie. Each has a clear thought about the other two, ‘I am subsidizing your businesses’.
It is the source of bitterness from so many owners and trainers and I think it is entirely misplaced. I have no doubt that they have legitimately felt undervalued. But I have never viewed that as ‘intentional policy’, simply a case of supply exceeding demand, forcing down the price and giving the promoters too much power.
In general, I continue to believe that we now have a better balanced symbiotic relationship that suits all involved.
So who are these exploiters?
As Monty Python might put it:
ALL PROMOTERS ARE BASTARDS
Apart from Kevin Boothby?
Obviously not Kevin Boothby! He pays good prize money at Henlow, and is re-opening Towcester.
That Jeff McKenna does his best for the small trainers in the North East. And John Curran is hugely popular with this locals.
Well – obviously, not Jeff McKenna, or John Curran, or possibly Simon Franklin at Yarmouth. No, it’s the others. It’s really the bookies who exploit us. Bastards!
You mean like Ian Smyth at LadbrokesCoral?
Maybe . . .
That would be the same Ian Smyth who oversaw the re-building of Romford, and also persuaded his bosses – who are bookmakers – to spend around £150K on a new running surface? The same bloke who resurrected the Hove restaurant and made an owners bar? The same bloke who has authorized a complete revamp on the Monmore racing surface? Who agreed to sponsor the TV Trophy, resurrect the Cesarewitch and Gold Collar? The man with the authority of the Monmore Puppy Derby, Essex Vase, Champion Stakes, Romford Puppy Cup etc etc. . .? Is he the one who doesn’t want open racing?
FFS guys. Cop on!
There are some massive challenges ahead and we will only get through them without the in-fighting.
The biggest – by far – will be a lack of races.
Closed betting shops, racing without crowds and reduced races per meeting (10) will all hit the industry – very badly.
It comes at a time when tracks can expect to see the highest percentage of ‘available racers’ ever seen.
Even runners who picked up bumps and bruises immediately before the shut down will have had nearly two months to recover.
Some tracks will be forced to reduce prize money – due to being paid less by BAGS/SIS – and not even being able to attract a crowd at the weekends.
Where do open races fit into this?
Which promoter is going to say to his local trainers, “I know some of your dogs haven’t raced for three weeks, but I was thinking of putting on some opens!
“Oh, and by the way. Even though I have reduced graded prize money, I’ll be putting on a Category One race – when even the owners won’t be able to attend.”
We are all fully aware, that without open racing, this industry is unsustainable.
But in the short term at least, we have far bigger concerns than that.