16th June 2020
(Opens to a third party website)
The big news from the first two weeks back racing since the Covid 19 enforced break was the re-opening of Towcester Racecourse on Sunday afternoon. Although we didn’t get too close to getting a winner from our 8 runners it was good to see all the races go off without any disasters. The tough 500m certainly takes some getting and like most tracks a first or second bend lead is essential, of course I don’t want to put a dampener on the opening of a new track but it’s still a work in progress, promoter Kevin Boothby deserves the upmost praise for taking this venture on, especially in these difficult times, and as we move forward he will take in all the feedback. My personal gripe was that the wide runners seemed at a bit of a disadvantage, there were no winners from trap 6 and only one from trap 5.
I’m still being questioned on why we returned to Towcester when I clearly stated that I would never set foot back in the place whilst we were still owed so much money (over £20,000) from when it closed in 2018. It’s known that the new owners Fermor Land LLP, who Kevin Boothby leases the track from, are family members of the previous owner Lord Hesketh and yes that is a bit of a kick in the teeth but my overall feeling was that we must show support to Kevin Boothby above all else. If we can help him by bringing some of the better class dogs to his track then that’s what we will do, no matter what people think, in Kevin, we have a total greyhound enthusiast who has been a massive help to our kennel, especially, when giving us a contract at Henlow when Towcester shut. The venue could still be a massive boost to the sport as well where we have suffered seeing three tracks close in the last few weeks, Peterborough, Poole and last week the sad news that Belle Vue is destined to not to see greyhound racing action again despite Arc saying its a temporary closure, yer right! I have said enough times in the past until I’m blue in the face that the domination of our sport from bookmakers and promoters to provide, in their eyes, a viable product, will mean that if tracks didn’t have a good contract they could not survive, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the GBGB who only regulate the sport.
In Peterborough the owners, the Perkins family, decided that the grandstand facilities were more important than a decent track and their attitude of taking home a huge percentage of the profits rather than reinvesting a good portion back into their business (like most true greyhound people do) like building a safer track and paying better prize money and not paying trainers peanuts was, eventually, going to shoot themselves in the foot. The dropping of all their major competitions (nearly all sponsored) to have more mediocre racing meant personally I have no sympathy for them, and if I hear former racing manager Con Baker criticise me once more I will scream. Con, was at the helm when all what I’ve said above started, he said nothing until after it all went pear shaped. Incredibly, quite often, at the request of Con Baker, I supported every major competition and Sky meeting Peterborough ever had over the years bringing some of our top class stars along despite it being a hold your breath at the first bend type track! Three Peterborough Derby wins amongst other good winners showed we always brought the right type of dog, we would have jumped at the chance to train there if they had a better track and payed prize money and trainers in line with other top tracks. Over the years Peterborough have had numerous projects paid for when money was dished out willy nilly in grants from the fund, how come when tracks close or are sold these are never paid back!
Poole is a million miles from ourselves and I can only remember us entering in the odd competition there over the years and is another track that’s unlikely to reopen again, owned by the BS Group, who have a history of closing the tracks they own, almost certainly means it’s the end for them. The lack of imagination and occasional deceitfulness from the BS Group is well known, I will be amazed if they are still in greyhound racing by the middle of this decade. Swindon is just hanging on by a thread and needs huge investment into its facilities to bring it into the 21st century, if you had Swindon’s track and Peterborough's facilities together wow! We can but dream!
Now don’t get me started on the GRA, oh sorry Arc now. For years now the GRA have tried to off load Belle Vue and it hasn’t taken long or much of an excuse for Arc to finish the job for them. Since we started our website some 14 years ago I’ve constantly spoken about the threat GRA supremo Clive Feltham had on our sport and though he’s technically gone the legacy he has left on greyhound racing is one that will not bring a services to the industry award too soon. Nothing personal and he was probably only doing his job but Wimbledon, Hall Green and now Belle Vue have bit the dust. All great greyhound tracks steeped in history that had huge crowds on a weekend, they could have not only been huge assets to our sport, if the right investments in facilities were made, but also had great long term profitability if they were run properly, just like Walthamstow could have been but Clive and his bosses just wanted to sell us all down the river. I was told by my good friend Richard Birch (Racing Post) way back in 2002 that we would only have 12-15 tracks left by 2020 and he was not far wrong, Arc have absolutely no interest in the future and longevity of our sport and you have to worry how many tracks the new Arc boss Rachel Corden will have left to oversee in 2 or 3 years time.
Now asked what can I or any other trainer or owner do about the situation, well not really anything as they are all management/promoter/owners of the tracks decisions and totally out of our control. The calendar each time it comes out tells us that for years trainers being granted licences is substantially less than ones packing the game in and when one of the the tracks closes these days many trainers simply call it a day with the ones left easily fitting into other tracks' training ranks. Overall our sport continues to suffer from a lack of enterprise, funding and more importantly vision to see it prosper again. I applaud the GBGB and all stakeholders involved for getting the show back on the road so quickly so every contract trainer can start earning money again and if we can get the open race show going as a matter of urgency the sport wouldn’t take such a bad financial hit like other industries have. When this pandemic crisis is over, in my humble opinion, it’s time for a major stakeholder discussion. I would love to see a major seminar that had the top people from the GBGB, SIS, ARC, promoters, a selection of trainers, breeders and owners as well as representatives from all the major bookmakers that pay into the fund as well as some independent ones, a selection of press, vets and yes the top people from the GT (if they could be bothered) with one sole aim, to stop the demise of our sport further, to look and learn at how the likes of Australia can run such a successful industry and bring a new vision that everyone involved can aspire to - better financial rewards for those that supply the product and total transparency in the funding of the sport, a new commercial strategy that is modern and run by a younger generation and anything else that we can do to be proud to be a part of. I personally am getting older by the day and would dearly love to see my children have a prosperous future in greyhound racing and not just listen to my stories of when the sport was great and in a better place.
Incidentally we still haven’t received a single penny from the liquidation and sale of Towcester Racecourse nor has any other contract trainer or staff that worked there before I believe. I’m sure there would have been a lot more investors and shareholders from the previous regime who would have been owed substantial amounts, none of them have said if they have received any payments the truth is none of them would probably give the likes of myself a single thought. It’s nothing to do with Kevin Boothby. Unlike other people that were left in the mire I’ve phoned and emailed the liquidators KPMG a number of times over the last year to try and get all the trainers and staff some sort of payment back and it’s incredible how small someone like me must be in their multi billion pound organisation because they haven’t even bothered to return a call or answer an email back. We all filled in the relevant forms well over 18 months ago and the re sale of the track went through in November 2018!
Not such a great week for winners for the kennel but it will come. Towstar Izzy looked like a bitch to follow as she won well on Thursday and gets our vote.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
GRADED - TOWSTAR IZZY