Brinkleys Poet was returned at 4-7f when landing Sunday’s Betfred Gymcrack. Three months earlier you would have been quoted shorter odds on the event being cancelled altogether.
Like many of the tracks, Kinsley have received a double whammy from the current media rights battle.
Firstly, the feature event sponsor Betfred is in the ‘alternative camp’ to Kinsley and does not take the ARC service for its betting shops. Secondly, the SIS breakaway from BAGS meant the latter is no longer able to bankroll the SKY schedule. Effectively, one more reason for a sponsor to drop out.
Kinsley’s John Curran said: “I sat down with Keith (Murrell – fellow director) and we looked at the costs. Staging the Gymcrack costs somewhere between £26,000-£28,000, everything included.
“That is financed very roughly three ways through the sponsor, the SKY facilitation fee and the amount that we, the track, put in. To have any chance of staging the event, we desperately needed to have the sponsors on board. Despite there being no guarantee of them being able to bet on it, or having the publicity of the TV coverage, Betfred didn’t walk away.
“We continued to have dialogue through their representative Steve Jones, without whom, the competition simply wouldn’t have taken place. As an organisation, Betfred were superb.
“But without the SKY fee of roughly £7,300, we were still a long way short of making it work and we were both determined that we would rather cancel it, that make it a poor imitation of previous years.
“We devised a plan to reduce our liability to around £17,500. The fact that we were able to stage all three meetings, heats, semis and final as part of our ARC betting shop coverage, rather than putting on an extra stand-alone meeting, brought in some significant savings.
“So we ended up with five supporting opens instead of seven, and they were between £300 and £500 to the winners. But we kept the Gymcrack prize money the same. In fact, the heat money was slightly higher.
“The rest of the races gave us an opportunity to engage the local owners and trainers. All the graded races were for a minimum of £200 to the winner plus a £500 Mini Owners Bonus Final.
“That meant that instead of just being spectators when all the big name trainers and top class greyhounds turned up, our locals were in the paddock and experiencing it all at first hand, which was a big winner.”
In addition to the financial cost, the time and effort in staging an event like the Gymcrack is colossal.
For the racing office, there is facilitating all the additional trials and form the outside runners.
Rather like the Wembley groundstaff prior to a cup final, the Kinsley track staff spent many hours on extra preparation including rebuilding cambers and re-turfing.
For the catering staff – there was the not inconsiderable task of maintaining Kinsley’s reputation as the industry’s no.1 venue for hospitality.
In the days leading up to the final, John Curran personally led the 5am raiding parties to the catering suppliers. On G-day, they would feed 473 racegoers.
The net result was a fantastic spectacle, with the track in pristine condition leading to two track records.
So was all the time, money and effort worth it?
Curran said: “It was the most intensive meeting I have ever been involved with and certainly had repercussions the next day. I was really struggling healthwise. But it was a tremendous occasion and great credit to all the staff for their monumental efforts.
“I think it is very important for the industry, that days like Sunday exist. If we are going to want people to breed dogs like Brinkleys Poet – who is a hell of a greyhound by the way – and ask people like Nick Jeal, to buy them, we have to give them something in return.
“But this isn’t just Kinsley. Every track loses money when they stage these major competitions.
“I have many colleagues among the promoters who understand their responsibilities to this industry, yet that is seldom acknowledged.
“There is some terrible stuff written about track promoters and much of it isn’t fair or accurate.
“I remain hopeful that a SKY deal will be concluded very soon. There is tremendous goodwill among the various parties to make it happen.
“I am disappointed that it didn’t include us this time, but my colleagues understand the importance that they resume as soon as possible.”