The disqualification of greyhounds for deliberate interference has been, and will always be a topic to raise as many passions in owners and trainers as the dogs who were ‘marked’ (pre-electronic form), with red ink in their identity books – writes Floyd Amphlett.
Since the dawn of the sport, major competitions worth thousands, and bets running into tens of thousands, let alone reputations and stud careers, have been decided on the subjective intervention of the stewards, possibly watching a race or trial from a couple of hundred metres away.
Indeed, while attempting to write this piece as a fact based article, it is impossible to avoid some subjective comment, if only to highlight the background and riders to the apparent ‘facts‘.
Some may view a track with a large number of disqualifications as being ‘too harsh’ or ‘unsympathetic to owners’, or one with a low number as being potentially, ‘stewards too idle to do their jobs’, or ‘tracks turning a blind eye for fear of their racing strengths’.
Trainers rep Peter Harnden has gone on record in print and TV over his demand for a review system for ‘DQs’. Given the original rules were formed long before video replays were available, why not ask for the help of technology and an appeal system? Conversely, should the views of connections be taken into account at all, given they are, by definition, going to be biased?
Should inexperienced puppies be exempt from disqualification, or at least have a probationary period – given the decline in the number of schooling tracks? Many British bred pups in particular, are now forced to learn their trade in the public gaze and may err once, never to do it again. King Turbo!
Who is the disqualification rule for anyway? It isn’t the dogs, since most ‘fights’ are hardly worthy of the name, more of a nudge or two. It is surely a decision based on placating the punter. This would have certainly been more important in the early days of the sport when most racers were failed coursers and many barely chasing the fake lure at all.
Then why not disqualify dogs who ‘hang around?’ and refuse to pass. Just as frustrating for a punter.
This is no simple debate.
The first question is how many dogs are we talking about?
Between 2015 and 2019, there were between 246 and 283 disqualifications – and we are referring to the initial ‘yellow card’ offence, for which dogs are able to re-qualify after three clearing trials. Last year, 28 runners received their subsequent red card.
So do tracks vary in the number of DQs?
Quite clearly they do as the table shows. There doesn’t appear to be any sort of pattern.
It doesn’t seem realistic to suggest that Newcastle and Hove attract six times as many fighters as Sheffield.
So are there different interpretations of what constitutes a fight? If GBGB are to enforce the rules, and stand by the decisions of the racing offices, what protocols are in place to ensure consistency?
It is a bit like having cricket umpires with different sets of views on the rules of LBW. Or football refs interpreting the offside rule differently.
Is there a connection between grades of greyhound?
There is some data available that shows that the majority of disqualifications are in the A5-A8 group, around 20 per group, compared to five in A1 and four in flat opens.
However without the data to crunch the numbers, much of that may be down to sheer volume of mid-low grade races.
There is also data to break down disqualifications for kennel. Again, with recorded of the numbers. For example it can be no surprise that the most DQs at Romford were trained by Paul Young (4), the trainer with the biggest kennel strength.
The only bizarre one is Henlow’s Vicki Lea with four of the track’s 12 DQs.