Pete Harnden

Greyhound racing is going through turbulent times.  There is no getting away from that.  We can paint pretty pictures and pretend everything is rosy , but if we are to have any future then we need to wake up, smell the coffee and fight for the sports future.  I am devastated that Betfair have yet to commit to paying into the greyhound levy. 

The requested amount is just 0.6% of their turnover on the sport.  Yes it would be better , much better , if we had a mandatory levy , however as it stands we don’t so we are reliant upon the good will , ethical and moral business practice of the firms to do the right thing and make their contributions.  I’m obviously aware of the Pay Up Betfair campaign which has been set up by Carl Harris and my good friend Mark Pierrepont.

Mark would be the first person to admit that we don’t always see eye to eye on things and maybe with the campaign there are certain things that I personally might have done differently.  There is no getting away from the fact though that the mood of the campaign is generally the mood of the greyhound racing fraternity.  It’s just some are better at hiding their feelings than others.

One thing is for sure , Carl Harris and Mark Pierrepont are two people who have the sports long term future at heart , they are both fanatical about the sport and will do everything in their powers to ensure that the sport does have a future.  It is pleasing to see that many big names in the sport have come together to support the campaign , it is sticking together like this and speaking as one voice that might , just might make the difference of us being heard.  We could all very easily take the easy option and say that we’re doing alright here , let’s just keep our own council and ride this one out.  It has been well proven over many years that this route doesn’t work.

Support your sport , support your fellow owners and trainers , believe me , you’ll wish one day that you’d spoken out when you had the chance.  This isn’t about one owner, one trainer or even about one track. This is about our whole sports future.

You cannot race against yourself. You cannot be successful with only one track left in the country.

I’m delighted that Skybet have agreed to meet myself and Mark Bird at GBGB headquarters next month.  It’s just an initial meeting but it is a start. Art this stage I must say , Richard Flint and the team at Skybet are showing all the right signs of wanting to do what’s right for the welfare of our greyhound. Let’s hope we can show them how important their donations would be to the fund and in particular how important they are to welfare.

On a personal level we had quite some ride with our Salacres Vincent reaching the quarter finals of the Star Sports English Greyhound Derby.  Vincent is a good dog who we hold in high regard at our kennel.  He’s never been the easiest dog to train , he’s a thinker of a greyhound , in human terms he’d be a quiet gentleman who likes his own company and thinks a lot.  He’s a character though and once you get to know him he’s a very loyal friend. 
We reared Vincent ourselves after he arrived over to us at 3 months old from our friends in Ireland the Comerford family.  To have a dog that you have reared from such a young age , go through to the quarter finals of The Derby , it’s what the sport is all about , we’re not in it for the money , what money is what I always say , we’re in it for moments like this.  They’re what the sport is all about.  I must take this opportunity to thank Ben Keith and his team at Star Sports for everything they’ve done for the sport in the past few years.
I really do dread to think where we’d be without the support of people like Ben and his company.  I know Ben thrives on his battles in the ring , he gets a buzz from it. I must say that it was a pleasure to both take part (thankfully nicking a few quid) and also watching Ben in action against some mammoth punters.
Anybody who thinks the bets he mentions are fabricated, next year head to the track and take him on. Bring plenty with you though!

Now on the subject of Towcester I have been a very vocal and public supporter of the track , the management and the work they do there.  On the flip side though , it would be hypocritical of me if I were to not mention a feeling of real disappointment I’ve felt for the past few weeks. 
We entered Salacres Vincent for the invitation race on Derby final night.  Sure division A of this race was full of superstars. As for division B? I was extremely disappointed that a place in this race wasn’t found for Vincent in this race.
Towcester in my view need to ensure that they try and look after as many people and as many groups of owners as possible on big nights.
Sure , you want the best dogs in the races. But we’re talking here of a dog, and a set of connections, who had supported you all the way until his appointment in a Derby quarter final.
We can come up with as many reasons as we like that another runner might have been a length or two quicker on times at your track. This is irrelevant in my mind. It is about being right with people and to not include him on the big night. It left a sour taste in my mouth if I’m totally honest and I know a fair few other sets of connections were left feeling the same.
How about a small competition to give more dogs a chance of getting a place on the big night? If you don’t qualify from those then if you miss out then you’ve had your chance. However I feel that the 24 Derby quarter finalists have the right to expect the chance of a run on the most important night of the year.
I’m not turning my back on Towcester for a second , they do a lot more right than they do wrong , but come on , let’s not be distancing yourself from the rest of the sport. We’re a team and if we act like one then we have a chance of taking this sport forward.
Nobody should begrudge Towcester the chance of being the leading light of our sport  but I was brought up not to forget my roots and if I could give Towcester one bit of advice , it would be just that , don’t lose sight of where you come from.  I look forward to attending the track there again soon
It is a wonderful place and anybody who says otherwise clearly hasn’t been there.

Thanks for taking time out to read my thoughts , as ever if you have any problems at all don’t hesitate to give me a call or see me at the track.  I’m always there for you.
Pete Harnden