With the Derby over, thoughts are already moving onto finding a venue for the 2020 final. And if they aren’t they should be.
Let’s get one likely runner off the table before we start, Towcester.
Within the last 24 hours I have had a long conversation with Lord Hesketh who has confirmed that he has been approached by a number of parties with a view to leasing out his racecourse.
As things stand, he is no mood to re-open the place, though maintenance work continues on the buildings and racecourse and he estimates it would be a low number of weeks to have the place operational again.
Will Towcester ever race again? Quite possibly, it remains a superb facility under no immediate likelihood of demolition. Its owner clearly believes that he has unfinished business in the greyhound industry.
Will it be before next year’s Derby? Not for me.
Much more likely to be making a bid appears to be Central Park. It is a fairly poorly kept secret that three successful local owners have been sounding out the local management over the possibility of a financially backed bid for THE BIG ONE!
I understand that they are planning to meet promoter Roger Cearns and his first lieutenant Barry Stanton very shortly.
In the meantime, Nottingham would appear to be the front runner.
They are still recovering from this year’s event which has attracted both praise and criticism.
To be fair, most of the issues relating to viewing, were chalked up by the track management themselves before the event got underway. Nobody could have tried harder to make the most of what they have.
Final night brought its own difficulties with very poor service, particularly bar service.
While the regular staff were spread far and wide to spread their local knowledge, the agency staff brought in to supplement numbers fell well short of what was expected.
But let’s just take a deep breath here and remember that greyhound folk tend to have very selective memories.
It is worth pointing out though that Towcester were also under the cosh when staging the first of two Derby finals.
While the second was a triumph, my memories of the first are based around apologies from GM Kevin Ackerman with the promise “we will learn from our mistakes.” They did.
Is anybody seriously going to tell me that as a Derby venue Nottingham was worse than Wimbledon (on the cheap side)?
The Colwick Park racing surface was as good as any you will find – which most greyhound people would deem the greatest priority over any facilities.
As for the circuit itself, I had never considered that the inside or outside boxes are at a disadvantage over the Nottingham Derby course.
Out of touch?
Possibly – though I can’t say I have ever looked at a Select Stakes or Eclipse Final and thought, ‘he must have a decent chance provided he is drawn in the middle.’
Three of the best dogs to grace the place in recent years were Swift Hoffman, Wise Thought and Sawpit Sensation – three genuine wide boys.
Could the racing circuit be improved?
I guess it probably could, but where couldn’t?
Again, going through the memory filing cabinet and looking in the “conveniently forgotten” folder are pictures of Wimbledon’s much maligned and later re-shaped first bend.
You can’t win from trap one at Wimbledon!
I would love to see someone like Gavin Smith (other track consultants are available) take a view on the Nottingham first bend.
Would a bit more banking aid the wide seeds to drive the bend?
Of course the multi thousand pound question is not ‘should Nottingham stage the Derby again?’ But WOULD Nottingham stage the Derby again?
We are all aware of the poignant personal reasons why Rachel and Nathan Corden put their hands up to stage the 2019 Star Sports/ARC/LPS Greyhound Derby.
In agreeing to do so, there were many more over-ruled reasons NOT to run it.
The first is the cost. Despite the three sponsors, my understanding is that no organisation financed the Derby to a greater depth than the Nottingham management themselves.
Here are some rough figures. They are not complete, but I guess they tell enough of the story.
192 entries @ £250 = £48K. Total Derby prize money = £201,300
Derby sized hole in the finances = £153,300.
That is just for prize money for the main event and doesn’t include a whole host of add-ons, including things like the Derby lunch, for which I understand Star Sports picked up the bill.
The sponsorships reduce the cost, as does every meeting broadcast by RPGTV, but there is still an enormous gap.
Plus, it has been reckoned that every additional trial session cost the track the guts of £1,000 in terms of veterinary cover and other staffing.
Aggravation too, and not just in terms of additional work for the track staff and management. There have been some irate trainers who support the track the other eleven months of the year who missed out on hundreds of graded runners.
Yet when GBGB opened the floor for Derby tendering last year, most of the tracks did an impersonation of me when the lads are looking for a designated driver. They spotted something more interesting out of the window.
It seems to me that unless drastic action is taken, we could end up with nobody being prepared to take on the Derby.
It is therefore obvious that funds must be made available to help ease the burden.
Although there are a million welfare demands on the off-shore betting receipts, a sum must be put aside for the English Derby. It should be split between prize money and an admin payment for any track prepared to host it.
Quite simply, the days have gone when tracks could justify big prize money funds from additional crowds. There are no additional crowds. RPGTV provides a service for the industry, but how many of its viewers contribute absolutely nothing to their entertainment?
In the longer term, I would like to see GBGB allocate cash for major open race competitions – yes, even it had to be at the expense of graded racing. If the bookies want 20 graded races per hour, they can find the cash.
But without the Greyhound Derby, this industry – in Britain and Ireland – is finished.
My thanks to Davy Laird (Or ‘The Saint’ as he is known by Rab McNair) for the following email concerning two runners whose names cropped up in recent ‘Remember When’ columns.
The article suggested that Pineapple Magic had allegedly been put to sleep following a dispute over whether or not he fought in the 1993 English Derby quarter finals. Santanita was disqualified during Derby trials and was never heard of again.
However, Davy writes: “Pineapple Magic was not put to sleep and enjoyed many wins on the flaps the owner cared for his dogs like his children would never put dogs to sleep if humanly possible.
“Santanita was sold to Scotland where he won opens from 280 to 640 he was runner up to his kennel companion Final of Wallyford Derby broke 460 track record in Blackpool. As Mister Green he was one of the few dogs to break 30.00 Bolton on grass 535 yds”
“While for most part the findings of the analysis raises serious issues, on the other hand nothing was identified which could not be fixed and there is every reason to believe that IGB could, within a short number of years, become a financially viable entity drugs free and with an impeccable record on animal welfare. The future now depends on the choices made by the organisation”
Recognise the quote? It is taken from the executive summary of the report used to flail the Irish greyhound industry in last week’s RTE report. Obviously (!) it wasn’t used in the programme.
I hadn’t read the report when I ran the Editors Chair last week which was written before the programme was broadcast. I have now read the report, and quite honestly, I am staggered by its ineptitude.
For a start the figures are so old as to be worthless.
The reports adds and averages litters numbers born between 2009 and 2015 and reaches an average figure of 2,952. A more honest approach would be to note that litter numbers are in continuous and steady decline to a point that the 2018 figure was 2,344 litters. (I realise that the report was published prior to that date, but the decline could have been estimated).
That miscalculation makes a first dent of 21% error in the total number of greyhounds being assessed. All their calculations are based on this fundamental flaw.
They also underestimated the number of dogs coming to Britain. GBGB registered 6,392 Irish dogs in 2018, the estimate was 6,250.
No mention of exporting anywhere else. One minute Pakistan and China are up to their ears in exploited Irish greyhounds. You really can’t have it all ways guys.
The problems start early in the report of “1,000 more greyhounds each year than required to sustain a greyhound racing industry”.
To a certain extent, that statement gives a clue to what the report seems to be trying to achieve.
Forget, exporting to Britain, or anywhere else. Forget coursing, the report is saying ‘this is our view on how many dogs would be required to service Ireland’s greyhound tracks.
I stand by all my points in the previous article and will try not to repeat them here. However, some clarification might help. Just one example. In my previous article, I noted that roughly half of all Irish greyhounds born come to Britain.
(That should be good news. . . as the report states: “On a positive note, dogs exported to the UK are accounted for and likely to be looked after”.)
So half gone. Take out hare coursers (the report estimates 15% which seems fair) and pup mortality (5% seems very low), the biggest hole, by far, relates to dogs who spend their entire racing careers in Ireland.
Now I don’t know how many dogs we are talking about, but there are some clues. For example, last week, there were 358 races in Ireland. I don’t have the resources to check out every runner, but let’s assume they are all six dog races. That is 2,148 runners.
Of the winners, 5 were 2014 whelps, 27 were 2015 whelps, and 100 were 2016 whelps. Proportionately, is it wrong to assume that those aged groups would be spread across all the runners, instead of just the winners? They contribute to 37% of the wins
Now those estimated 795 greyhounds (37% of 2,148) are extremely unlikely to come to Britain, or anywhere else. They are past their likely sale date.
While the remaining 63% of 2017 and 2018 whelps must include greyhounds destined for Britain, surely many must inevitably remain in Ireland as next year’s older crop?
How many? I truthfully wouldn’t want to guess. Nor would I want to estimate how many available greyhounds were sat in the kennels last week unable to get a race. This is just a snapshot of available greyhounds in a single week.
Moving on – the report makes assumptions that ‘all young greyhounds must be on the RMS’ (Race Management System). But only “66% of the pups which in theory should be available for registration were actually registered for the five years 2011 to 2015.. . .”28% of them have no race records which means they have never raced. Once again some will no doubt have been sold to the UK but the variance is far too large to be explained by that item alone.”
PLAIN WRONG! – many of Ireland’s leading breeders including the Sean and Michael (Droopys) Dunphy , Ian (Swift) Greaves and Liam (Ballymac) Dowling frequently sell pups with no Irish form.
There is SO SO MUCH MORE that is nonsensical, illogical and just wrong about this report, but I will spare my weary reader.
To be charitable – the authors were struggling to comprehend the complexities of the greyhound industry.
However, the greatest mistake belongs to IGB.
They shouldn’t have binned the bloody thing, they should have burned it first.
Peter Laurie also took issue with a previous Editors Chair when I asked whether Battersea had put to sleep more ‘Pit Bull types’ than the entire greyhound industry.
In fact, Peter highlighted one particularly sad fact, the charity’s dismay regarding the Dangerous Dogs Act. It was introduced in 1991 and led to many perfectly fit animals being needlessly destroyed.
In a 25th year anniversary survey, 74% of professional canine behaviour experts reckoned a dog’s breed was ‘irrelevant or slightly important’ in determining the animal’s aggression level.
Moving onto the numbers actually put to sleep in 2018, the number was 682 or 17% of the dogs who came into the kennel.
He noted: “We never put an animal to sleep unless, after expert assessment, it is found to have untreatable medical problems, or to have behavioural issues so severe that we believe we will be unable to safely rehome it or redeploy it to a working environment, or if the animal is of a banned breed.”
Incidentally, the charity took in 125 greyhounds, off which 123 were re-homed with one destroyed on veterinary advice and another died under anaesthesia.
Finally, another video highlighting a very serious issue – the exploitation of greyhounds to run in extreme weather conditions.