‘Happiness’ has to be a good thing. If it wasn’t, Ken Dodd wouldn’t have sung about it.
As a geek plummeting deep into middle age, I have studied the subject with growing interest. Or it might be because I have been involved in the greyhound industry for 46 years and have observed that happiness is usually a very short lived state.
Is it because there are five losers in every winner? Or maybe greyhound racing simply attracts a high percentage of emotional self-harmers?
Spend ten minutes on a forum – or even some of the greyhound related comments that I get on my Facebook page and I find myself wondering ‘if greyhound racing makes you so unhappy, why don’t you just . . . ’
The people who feel they are being ‘screwed’ by (accumulators available) Irish vendors, trainers, racing managers, the tracks, the GBGB, vets, the betting industry – are the unhappiest bunch of all.
Anyway, here is what I have learned about happiness and how it applies to greyhound racing:
1) Happiness is not about money, or not significantly about money. I have spoken to a string of trainers who started with a couple of dogs on the flaps. They grew their kennels, landed lucrative BAGS contracts, and have stopped enjoying dog racing.
2) Achievements only bring temporary happiness. It was all very well winning that Cat 3, but you won’t be happy until you have won a Cat two, then a Cat one, then a Derby. And then another.
3) We are predisposed to concentrate on negative news. An injury to a top open racer will always attract big headlines than a good news story. Don’t look for happiness on a website!!
4) Happiness is predominantly a state of mind. There can be no simple expansion of this thought on a greyhound website, though it is worth knowing.
So where is all this going?
The media rights battle of course!
My local track Henlow is currently a happy place and the feedback to the recent article was hugely positive. Even the moaners were struggling to find something to be negative about.
However, unlike Pete Harnden as stated in his blog, I don’t think Henlow can ever be an industry model.
It works because Kevin Boothby loves dog racing. Ultimately though, unlike whippet racing as just one example, greyhound racing became a multi million pound business, because it is a business.
Kevin isn’t the only promoter who loves greyhound racing, but at the other end of the scale are hard headed businessmen.
We could have an industry where profits were secondary, it just wouldn’t be a very big industry!
If tracks don’t make enough profits, they become vulnerable to development and I am aware that some are considering their options, everything from housing to car parks.
While the SIS tracks like Henlow have seen huge influxes of cash, the GMG tracks are earning less than they did two years ago, AND they have had to increase prize money and retainers to compete.
I can already hear cries of ‘about time too’ from trainers around the country.
They are right of course, though it is more complex than that. On many levels, greyhound racing operates to fine margins.
For example, 15% too many, or 15% too few greyhounds available for grading spells disaster. Increase the workload of racing office staff by 25% and the wheels start to come off. I cannot remember there being more racing office vacancies than at present.
While trainers have been tempted by an extra few bob in prize money and retainers – which can only be a good thing – there is a limit to affordability.
So the trainers may be more financially secure but are they all actually happier – bearing in mind that only an idiot would come into the industry for money alone?
When the media rights battle does come to an end, and some of those trainers decide, ‘I’ve had enough of this running around, I am not enjoying it any more’, let’s hope their old lower paying local tracks are still there.
You would think someone would clean up this effin table!
I should have taken a dustpan and brush to the salt but flicked it onto the floor with my hand.
I didn’t think at the time, but that salt was a bit too powdery, or way too grainy to be flour . . .
It was about a week later that I discovered that two young guys, well ‘Stella-d-up’ had bought a wrap of coke and decided to use that particular table to snort it.
I am not prepared to go into any more detail about the incident, other than to say, I was shocked.
It was only later that the idea of contamination occurred to me.
Now its not like I had taken a sip of Novichok, but a forensic report would not have made for pleasant reading.
Although I had washed my hands, would there be any under fingernails. Under a ring? On my clothes? On the curtains? Engrained in the table surface? What had gone on knives and forks? Or into the food?
I worked out that I had eaten at least once at the table before I had even noticed the stray ‘salt’.
Cocaine is out there. I have never ‘touched the stuff’ so to speak, but clearly I had touched the stuff.
If I had been feeding greyhounds that day, I have no doubt that they would have tested positive for traces.
Which brings me to Thursday’s International at Dundalk, won by Droopys Verve.
What wasn’t as widely reported at the time was that Clonbrien Hero had trialled for the race. He had clocked 28.34 for 525 yards the previous week.
Now maybe that run wasn’t good enough to secure a place in the International field? It is an invitation race after all.
Or did the dog’s year old alleged double positive findings in the Irish Laurels – still to be heard by the IGB stewards – work against him? There was no suggestion that they would when Holland booked the trial.
Now I don’t intend to rake over old ground about the sensitivity of modern drug testing.
However, I do hear it rumoured that the IGB – who seem to have taken a more enlightened approach recently (“no changes to the 42 day rule”) have either introduced or are considering introducing ‘levels’ to allow for accidental contamination.
They really don’t have any choice. The courts are acknowledging that a level of natural contamination is impossible to ignore.
As I have reported previously, I have no doubt that a couple of the GBGB’s findings for cocaine positives would now, based on quantitative analysis, be considered unsafe.
As and when IGB do introduce a threshold, Clonbrien Hero’s connections have to be prepared to be judged against them.
As for Dundalk, I am sure that they wouldn’t have acted as judge and jury on Clonbrien Hero or his trainer.
That said, they surely wouldn’t want their race won by any greyhound or trainer who has been involved in any controversy.
Now – let’s have a quick look at that list of previous winners . . .
One story that didn’t make the Savva book concerned the euthanasia of Sonic Flight.
Nick knew that the old boy had cancer but had kept putting off the awful day. Until inevitably, the old pensioner, sunning himself in the paddock was unable to get to his feet.
Nick carried the 12 year old back to the kennel. The notes from the book have long since been lost, but I can recount Nick’s recollection of the dog’s last few minutes from memory.
“As he lay on the bed, I thanked him, then I kissed him, and then he drifted away.”
Sonic, like his son Westmead Hawk, and Hawk’s mum Mega Delight, are buried at the first bend of the Westmead schooling track.
Previously, I was lucky enough to be asked to write the foreword for Charlie Lister’s book, and made a point of reminding folk that the man who, in his youth, fought gypsy bare knuckle boxers, couldn’t bear to see his dogs in pain.
We were reminded of that recently when Big Tough Charlie had to take a week’s holiday to get over the death of a favourite Jack Russell.
So I had to give a smile this week when ‘the dog man’s dog man’ Rab McNair confessed to his soft side.
As a young man on the flaps, he would occasionally have to take an injured dog to the vet and return home with only the lead.
“I could do that sort of thing back then” he said, “but I’ve gone soft.”
Last week, the staff decided that 14 year old Droopys Ruby, the mum of Fifis Rocket, was struggling, and there was only one course of action.
The deed was done, and much to Rab’s bemusement, a box was delivered to be buried six foot deep.
Then some flowers from a presentation at Hove appeared on the grave and a few words were said.
Rab said: “I had kept saying, she has had a wonderful life, it was the right thing to do. Then someone started bawling, and before I knew it, I was bawling too.”
As if the antis would ever understand . . . .