SIS ADDITIONAL TRIALS
I’ve been contacted this week by numerous trainers attached to SIS tracks with regards to the extra trials being stipulated above and beyond the minimum required levels set within the GBGB rules.
Whilst I respect the intentions behind this and that SIS want to ensure that they are offering their customers the very highest assurances of competitively graded racing, I do feel that such a request is in the very vast majority of cases wholly unnecessary given the high levels of experience held by the racing office staff whom they have in employment at their venues and also given the extremely high levels of professionalism held by the trainers whom are contracted to supply runners for their races.
Racing managers and staff at SIS venues are amongst some of the most knowledgeable people in the world with regards to the sport of greyhound racing, their level of knowledge and experience is simply second to none and cannot be called into question.
I would call into question the need to enforce these extra trials onto racing managers and their staff as a requirement rather than an option, with their level of experience I would safely assume that in the huge majority of cases they can make an extremely informed view on which grade a greyhound should race after two trials over the respective distance.
I would like to see racing managers at the SIS tracks given the opportunity to grade based upon the minimum levels required within the GBGB rules, thereby allowing them to utilise the vast experience they hold and the very reason why they’re employed in their positions at the SIS tracks.
There will be cases where another trial is needed, as they sometimes are at other tracks in the sport but this call should be made by the racing manager who in every single case will hold the vast experience and knowledge to decide whether that is needed. In times of such economic hardship for many trainers and owners involved in the sport, we really do need to get away from unnecessary costs.
At an average kennel fee of £8 per day and with 7500 greyhounds coming into the sport each year, if every greyhound in the sport were to be asked to incur an extra week’s kennelling fees, the total cost to owners would be £420,000.
Admittedly at this stage this extra trial requirement isn’t affecting every greyhound in the sport but this is why this needs resolving now as such a cost is both unnecessary and should be easily avoided simply by retaining faith in the ability of those in the tracks employment to make the correct call after two trials over the distance.
If cases do arise where a greyhound would appear to have found an unacceptable amount of improvement upon its trial times, then the rules are already in place to deal with this.
Practitioner Director (Trainers) GBGB
SIS spokesman Richard Brankley said: “We have not changed any rules, we are simply seeing some tracks enforcing the operational standards that have been in place since January 2018. We believe it is in everyone’s best interests in there being robust formlines.”
There are clearly two sides to the argument here. At one level, the SIS insistence on more trials to ‘protect the punter’ will irritate and infuriate owners and will not help stem the exodus from the industry.
On the other hand, nobody forces a track to sign an SIS contract (they are generally more lucrative and pay better prize money) or makes any owner race their dogs there. ‘He who pays the piper. . .’
It was GBGB who changed the qualification criteria, presumably due to concerns on dog shortages.
There is an additional angle to this that hasn’t or won’t be raised. The betting industry has always and will always do its best to protect itself, particularly with unexposed runners. That burden then falls on the track, and then on the racing manager. With one extra line of form, there is less justification for outgrading or ‘boxing up’ a debutant, particularly a puppy. – Ed
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
I’m old enough to remember the halcyon days of greyhound racing when going to a track was an event and the noise and the atmosphere generated a nervousness that could only be dispelled by loudly cheering on your fancy until all greyhounds had crossed the line and your fate was known.
In those times you were well looked after by smart, well informed and genuinely interested staff who’s sole purpose was to make you feel comfortable and were keen to impart knowledge to those who were new to the sport.
The all important presentation of the race itself was done with military precision. The paraders wore their white coats and bowler hats and there was even a member of staff walking behind the dogs with a bucket and spade ready to clean up after a dog had emptied out. The tracks were immaculate and no matter how old they were you felt comfortable and the ambiance lent itself to customers returning again and again.
There were no pictures being broadcast in those days other than video through the stadium and the effort that was made to make greyhound racing a spectacle was purely for those in attendance. A far cry from what is being served up today!
Promoters of the sport, and I use the word promoter cautiously, don’t feel the necessity to put on a show anymore. The presentation of a race is in my opinion a disgrace. Six paraders generally in mixed unkempt attire ambling around a track that appears to need painting and weeding with greyhounds being placed in traps that are rusting and in need of repair does nothing for the image of greyhound racing. The impression this projects to not only those on course but to those watching around the world doesn’t bear thinking about.
I cannot think of any sport that has not improved the presentation of their product over the years other than greyhound racing. In my view it has got worse not better and for those few people who are still interested in going racing it must be a massive turn off.
Presentation is everything no matter what business or industry you are in. First impressions are a very important factor in an individuals decision as to whether to go or not. I’ve lost count of the number of restaurants I’ve gone to, taken a step inside looked at the decor taken a sniff test and turned around and walked out much to the annoyance of my wife!
Running businesses with peeling wallpaper, tattered carpets and decors out of the eighties contributes to the wildly held belief that greyhound racing is a sport of the past. Do promoters really believe that they are doing their best to attract footfall to an industry that is shrinking at an alarming rate. Where are the individuals that want to put on a show and demand focussed attention from their staff on those that step through their doors?
I fear they have all disappeared. They’ve been replaced by individuals who know that it’s the media rights deals that will pay their mortgages not greyhound owners or crowds that used to flock through the turnstiles in their thousands. Forget putting on a show and everything that goes with that just make sure there are enough greyhounds to meet the obligations of their contracts and keep overheads and staff to a minimum.
My fear is that this awful pandemic that we are going through has shown promoters that racing behind closed doors is more profitable than running a fully operational greyhound track. The loss of overhead more than makes up for the loss of footfall particularly now that there is no longer a need for paid on course bookmakers.
There is no need for owners either as promoters, in some cases, provide a steady flow of greyhounds to ensure their trainers are fully stocked and even if they don’t the remuneration provided for a runner at any track makes it economically viable for the trainers to buy their own. There are exceptions of course but they are few and far between.
The industry as I knew it fifty years ago when I bought my first racer has long gone. That was a time when you looked forward all week to go to a track at the weekend. That led to ownership and the camaraderie that brought from like minded people wherever you went. It was exciting it was a hobby that I tried to promote and it was a wonderful time bringing my children up walking our greyhounds at the weekend.
It saddens me to say that I agree with the growing belief that greyhound racing has had its day. There is far too much racing and far too many tracks to be supported by relatively poor funding. Even the latest government pandemic sport loans puts greyhound racing at the bottom of the pile.
Tracks will close once the media rights battle between SIS and TRP has been resolved. There will be winners but the losers without a media rights contract will close. Six tracks providing seven meetings a week, as some already do, provides forty two meetings a week and that will be sufficient for the bookmakers current needs without whom greyhound racing as an industry would have ended some decades ago.
There are of course many people out there that hold the belief that there can be a renaissance of greyhound racing. The GBGB have recently appointed a marketing director to address the issue of declining attendance but in my view it’s too little too late and is providing false hope to those within the industry who rely upon it for their income.
Greyhound racing will continue for as long as there is a demand from the off course industry. That need though is declining almost as fast as the industry itself as bookmakers look for other betting opportunities for their customers to bet on. It might surprise some to know the level of turnover on virtual racing, football, table tennis, basketball and a host of other sports that puts greyhound racing in the shade and it will not be long before the bookmakers will ask the question do we need this product at the price we are paying.
Eventually that answer will be no but let’s not kid ourselves the industry that has been a major part of my life both socially and professionally is on a slippery slope and in my view we must face facts and accept that greyhound racing really has had its day.
Thank you for the memories it’s certainly has been emotional.
So sad to announce that a good friend to the Star and greyhound racing (and an Arsenal fan) over such a long period is stepping away.
It always interested me when owners or trainers attacked the bookmakers, or bookmaker owned tracks and managements, they never equated Barry as one of their own. He always has been as an enthusiastic greyhound owner over decades and someone who always tried to do the right thing. As GM at Crayford, in many eyes the best run and promoted stadium in the country, and in his PR Role at Central Park, Barry was exemplary.
I find his downbeat assessment of the industry as a little too dire, but definitely take on his view about presentation. The lack of concern for the industry image can only be directed at track promoters themselves. As always, some try harder than others.
As for Barry, I expect we will catch up again some day. Sorry mate – you don’t just walk away from this game