We are already, unbelievably it seems, six months into 2018. Are we where we thought we’d be in the sport? Are things as bad as some predicted they might? Or are things not quite so bad?
Personally I think we’re somewhere in the middle. I think tracks on the whole are doing a good job in not asking our greyhounds to over race. We’re seeing a fair few vacant traps at some tracks but that in my view is much better than asking too much of the dogs.
I still stand by the opinion that the current media rights battle isn’t sustainable in the longer term. It does nobody any favours and the sooner a few heads are banged together the better for all concerned. Talking about ‘banging heads together’ that’s exactly what needs to be done in various sections of the sport.
As most of you will be well aware, there has recently been a campaign being run by two good friends of mine in Mark Pierrepont and Carl Harris.
Both of these lads are not afraid to say what needs saying if it means a better future for the sport, in particular for the greyhounds.
The campaign was told from some sectors to ‘leave it to the authorities’. That route would have been a good one to take. But after five long years of trying to be diplomatic and attempt to get the bookmakers to do the right thing and pay the 0.6% levy
By now though, many greyhound folk had simply lost patience and I really don’t blame them!
People who have been involved in this sport for most of their lives, are simply not going to sit back and watch this sport be destroyed due to those who make huge profits from it refusing to do the decent thing. We hear a lot of people talking a good game, but let’s see a few more people putting their necks on the line and being proactive about getting things done.
It’s not like we’re talking about a great deal of money here to the companies involved, They should be paying it with a smile, not dragging their heels.
As I said in a recent article in the Racing Post, money from the fund should never have been given to tracks to spend on such things as restaurant improvements etc.
Things like that should not have come from money given to the sport via the fund and if some tracks simply couldn’t afford the improvements, then maybe an interest free loan should have been the way to go.
The current GBGB board is now a very different board to that of just twelve months ago.
We now have a man at the helm in Mark Bird who quite frankly I wish was in charge five, even ten years ago. Mark is a fair man but he’s also a man who is nobody’s fool and isn’t afraid to make tough decisions if it benefits the sport.
I’m also 110% sure that any money now donated to the fund will be spent in the correct manner, that is towards areas that will benefit the welfare of our greyhounds, that is a view that I know is shared by my fellow board members.
I hope that those in charge of the purse strings at the bookmakers can see that the greyhound board is now a very different place that it has been previously
The current board has many great ideas on how to take this sport forward and improving and maintaining welfare within it, that does require a great deal of money however, so I hope that the bookmakers can all come to the table and do what’s right.
If they do, it will not only benefit the sport, it will also benefit their businesses.
Thankfully Skybet have agreed to a meeting with the GBGB, where I hope they will be as impressed as I have been with Mark Birds plans for the sport.
Betfair have also agreed to discuss ways around the current impasse. Let’s hope we have some good news soon.
Although, as I say above, I have a lot of faith in the board, I do wish that the process in making decisions was a little quicker than it currently is.
I’m hopeful that the disqualification rule changes that I have been fighting hard to have implemented for so long now will soon be in place. I have every faith that they will be brought in, but in this day and age there is no need for things to drag on as long as they have done.
We’re in a modern, technical era now and it’s about time that we were using modern capabilities to ensure that important decisions are made swiftly, without complication and without things dragging on needlessly for weeks and months on end.
I do see decisions reached quickly by the board at times, but we need to ensure that quick decisions are the norm throughout, not just the occasional exception in certain departments.
Personally the last six months for my own kennel has been a bit of a transitional stage. We’ve had a fair few older dogs retire and a fair number of pups just beginning their careers with others still to do so.
The leading dog in our kennel is without doubt Salacres Vincent. He’s a character is Vincent to say the least, a quiet gentleman who does things his own way in his own time. Most dogs we find love the walking machine for instance, not Vincent, he will not go near it and we’d never ask a dog to do something that they’re not happy to do.
Vincent will not even walk past the walking machine on the same side as it. He has to walk on the other side of whoever is bringing him out or back in to his kennel else he simply doesn’t budge.
Keep him happy though, do things his way and Vincent is an absolute pleasure to be around. He gave us a fantastic ride throughout the Star Sports English Derby, reaching the quarter finals.
I’ve made my thoughts on him not being accepted for a race on Derby final night perfectly clear to the team at Towcester, but it’s now time to move on.
Towcester is a fantastic track with good people running the place, I am looking forward to being back there with runners shortly.
Talking of another fantastic track that we haven’t visited for a while I really will have to make the effort to get down to Henlow shortly. Kevin Boothby and his team do a fantastic job at Henlow, the running surface is usually second to non, the track isn’t as difficult to run as some would believe and they deserve all the support they get.
As far as facilities go, sure it’s not Towcester but where else is? That’s not to say you won’t be looked after though, the restaurant is absolutely top class and there is always a good time to be had in the bar there.
If you can, support Henlow and the other so called grass roots tracks as much as you can whenever you can. We really do need all of our tracks to be successful if the sport is to flourish into the future.
We’ve a few pups currently going through schooling with at least a couple showing decent pace to give us a bit of hope.
Salacres Barley who has run well for us at Nottingham in his fledgling career to date will be heading to Swindon next week along with his sister Salacres Flyer for the Produce Stakes.
They’ve both trialled well enough so hopefully they’ll give us a run for our money during the competition. I note that the competition received just 57 entries from an advertised 72.
I’d put this down to a lot of trainers leaving mid to lower end graders at their home tracks in order not to leave their tracks short of runners during the current media rights battle. The overall quality of the entry though looks good and is sure to produce some very decent dogs to follow.
At Nottingham we see the 2018 running of the RPGTV Select Stakes this coming Monday. It’s a shame to see the event containing just five runners, this becoming to case after the withdrawal of the wide seeded Whoops Jack.
With no suitably seeded greyhound amongst the reserves, under the current rules there was no option other than leaving the trap vacant. It’s too late for this year but I’d certainly be thinking about introducing a couple of changes for 2019.
Firstly I would introduce a ruling whereby rather than leaving the race short of a runner, the next best greyhound should take part in the competition, regardless of seeding and a complete redraw to take place.
I’d also introduce a rule whereby any greyhound selected as a reserve for the race, must stay as a reserve to ensure that there is full cover in case of any withdrawals.
Connections of any such greyhounds should of course be financially compensated for this should they not be called upon.
The other way to look at it however is that connections of course want their greyhounds to be racing, especially connections of good dogs, they obviously want their charges running on big nights such as the Select, so to expect them to leave their greyhounds just sat on their beds for ten days on the off chance that they might be called upon, that’s not right either. There are some tough decisions to be made but we cannot allow our stand out Invitation race of the year to be reduced to a five runner affair due to technicalities.
I’d like to welcome Mark Lowther to Nottingham as a sponsor. Mark and Katherine Lowther have been dear friends to my family for many years, going back to when I trained record holder Cybele Fields for them.
Mark will be bringing his Lowther Stakes event to Nottingham this year from it’s former home of Towcester and he will also be sponsoring the former Betfred Eclipse. Mark will be a very welcome addition to the sponsorship set up at Nottingham
He’s a great man and has always been a huge supporter of the sport. The media rights battle has obviously played a big role in Betfred stepping away from their sponsorship of the Eclipse.
Betfred have been huge supporters of racing at Nottingham over the years and I would like to thank them for that and hope that they can get back involved soon.
In the meantime I just hope they can continue supporting greyhound racing in general, we need as many big event sponsors as possible and they have always done the sport proud with the manner in which they have presented and promoted their events.
Thanks all for reading, if you can do, get yourselves to Nottingham on Monday, it’s sure to be a terrific nights racing.