“Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists.” – American journalist Thomas L Friedman.
Greyhound racing attracts its share of both. I reckon the pessimists easily outnumber the optimists though combined they would still face a drubbing from the combined forces of the whingers and the conspiracy theorists.
Personally, I belong to the sunnyside-up camp which may reflect my views on three of the most important issues of the year.
Towcester has breathed new life back into the Greyhound Derby.
In the winter, the punter faces a dash from the windswept carpark into the comfort of the plush grandstand – but come the summer – wow!
Although some dog folk hang onto their prejudices of Towcester, as GM Kevin Ackerman recently pointed out “most of our critics have never been here.”
The 500 metre distance is a magnificent test of fast greyhounds. If you had been asked to choose the six fastest runners of the original entry, I reckon that at least two finalists would have been on that shortlist. Another, Droopys Buick, would surely have made it if he had only adapted to the starting traps.
That makes it a fair test.
There is no hiding place at Towcester. It is a gallop, like White City, but unlike ‘the City’, and more similar to Wimbledon, strong finishers can come through their field. The 4-1-1 split of the final field was predicted before the draw for the first round was made on this site.
But there is so much more to a Towcester Derby. The fairer allocation of prize money with winners collecting £250, £400, £550, £1,000 and £5,000 for their efforts.
We have new fancy timing, to create interest, a charismatic , enthusiastic, sponsor, plus an enthused racing office with a ‘can do’ attitude.
I have no doubt that irrespective of Irish calendar commitments in 2018, ‘the lads’ will be back in bigger numbers.
Personally, I also love the bravery of putting several eight-runner races on final night. One day, I would love to see an eight-race Derby final.
Eight runner fields is the future in terms of foreign gambling and huge jackpots. Not everyone agrees.
I read a Facebook comment this morning from someone slamming the idea of eight runner fields on Derby night, ‘likely to cause loads more trouble in running’.
Really? Do they say that in the USA or Australia where the tracks are no bigger – they use a chute don’t forget – they also run to an inside lure?
Crowding is mandatory and the fields are often strung out over 20 lengths. Do the people who enthuse over American and Australian racing ever actually watch it?
Sure, we can (almost) guarantee trouble free racing in a solo, but is that how we want to see the Derby become – 192 time trials?
Personally, I would rather own a dog in an eight-runner Towcester event than in a five-dog field at about a dozen other tracks that I choose not to name.
One final thought – how much crap would we be in if Towcester hadn’t come forward to stage the competition?
Sheffield was the only track even prepared to consider hosting, yet it is a pretty good bet that the prize money would have been significantly lower.
If greyhound racing’s future is built on armchair punters – which I believe it is – then we live in interesting times.
I recently attempted to explain the whole BAGS/SIS/ARC media battle and why we are at a crucial point.
Basically, although Coral/Ladbrokes (and probably Betfred) won’t announce whether they intend to break away with their own service for their own betting shops until November, crunch time is imminent.
Their escape plan is surely written – if not yet implemented.
Although Coral/Ladbrokes/SIS could produce a service by buying in camel racing or some other foreign dross, they would certainly beef it up with proven product from their own four dog tracks.
It has been suggested that tracks like Monmore could gear-up to eight meetings per week and would simply raid their neighbours for the 400 extra dogs that they would need. That is a serious possibility – but you don’t acquire and qualify 400 dogs in a couple of weeks!!
So why might they actually want a breakaway?
Apart from the fact that Ladbrokes own a quarter of SIS, so it makes good business to pay themselves for the TV pictures, both they, and their new partners Coral, have traditionally felt disadvantaged at BAGS.
The big firms are not represented on the BAGS board, and given they run 40% of all UK betting shops, they feel that the tail frequently wags the dogs.
Is there a way out?
Hopefully so. A deal, or even a part deal, for some content from BAGS, would lance the boil.
Of course, given the SIS deal was based on Coral/Ladbrokes paying themselves – might they demand more BAGS meetings for their own tracks?
Staying with broadcasting, I thought the RPGTV coverage of the Derby, prior to the arrival of the SIS cameras, was exceptionally good.
The biggest changes still required in the greyhound industry will need to be taken at GBGB headquarters.
In the first instance they need to take a long hard look at some of their rules.
Take the Derby withdrawal of Garryvoe Bobby for a positive test for Buscopan. This is a recognised treatment for urinary problem. There is no suggestion of any attempt to affect racing performance.
Needless to say the ‘antis’ had a field day. ‘Dog doped’. Bizarrely, I even saw some similar derogatory comments from apparent greyhound folk on Facebook forums.
This condition would affect this dog irrespective of whether he was racing. Should he be let suffer and possibly endure damage to his health because he had trouble urinating?
Sorry – I couldn’t ease his discomfort because it is against the rules!
Now THAT is a welfare issue.
The drug should not be banned.
There is no logical reason why GBGB’s veterinary committee could not produce a list of products that might be used in such circumstances providing they are prescribed and supplied by a vet.
There are many precedents set in other sports including the regulated use of drugs for asthma in humans.
Sadly – ‘the establishment’ cynically cops out on these issues. They expect trainers to do their best, but punish them at the first opportunity.
Sorry you had to catheterize your dog. I hope he feels better and is not a non-runner. BTW, technically, since you are not a vet, you should not be treating the dog. Not sure you should be lasering that shoulder injury either (wink wink)
Next – the rules committee need to consider deliberate interference. Nobody want to see a dog disqualified, but to allow canine brawls will ruin racing as a spectacle.
Pat Rosney had a very high profile case at Kinsley recently, and I have to say, opinion seems evenly divided as to whether the stewards were correct in disqualifying. (I have been hammered for publishing both points of view)
As for College Paradise in the Derby – the majority of opinion is that the stewards got is wrong by not disqualifying.
The rule used to say “aggressive interference” but was changed to ‘deliberate interference’ with concerns over misunderstanding when the dog was due to be re-homed. Worse still, a court action if a pet was bitten.
A group representing stewards, racing managers, owners and trainers should determine ‘what deliberate interference looks like’ and then set out to apply consistency, along with caveats for young dogs.
While they are doing it, they might want to look at the rules on seeding.
While no trainer wants to give up the right to dictate the seeding of his own dog, that can change if his dogs fall victim of someone else’s poor seeding decisions.
Lots to do but the optimist in me has faith in the Director of Regulations Mark Bird whose reputation continues to grow.
Moving from the stewards to the board of directors, I wonder how much longer they plan to pay departed chairman Tom Kelly a retainer for not delivering bookmaker contributions on off-course betting?
Apart from anything else, the whole issue has been put on the shelf for months by bookies and Government as a result of the election and suspension of the Triennial Review into FOBTs.
‘Money for old rope’ springs to mind.
Not only that, they are also paying Lord Lipsey to mediate in the talks.
Kelly was at the helm with Barry Faulkner as his CEO when it was decided not to renew the contract of track safety inspector John Haynes last year.
(Haynes had intended to retire in December 2017 anyway after giving his successor a year to learn the ropes.)
Instead, we have an industry with nobody taking care of a vital role – and all of this within seven months of the industry’s injury statistics being made public for the first time.
Faulkner, like Kelly, will of course be gone by then. . . .
A successor is being sought, though I understand the promoters cannot decide whether they want replacements or one person to handle both roles.
Whatever happens, they have to get it right this time. The GBGB appointments record is absolutely disgraceful.
I therefore have minimal faith in the appointments committee, a bit more in the racecourse promoters, and more still that the owners and trainers reps will not allow themselves to be railroaded.