Weblog: Our chief correspondent on the topical issues
Bridge-building required before sanity can return
WHAT a tremendous week’s racing we’ve seen and how good to be able to focus, initially at least, on the things that really matter our sport, the greyhounds themselves.
Olympic winner Ballymac Eske is a superstar, plain and simple. To give a sizeable start and a beating to on-the-bunny Bridge Honcho was one thing, but to do it in 29.40sec was another altogether.
I remain unconvinced about his ability to survive the hurly-burly of a Wimbledon Derby, but it will be exciting to see him try and there are so many other major prizes surely at his mercy in the meantime.
His trainer Barrie Draper was also on the mark in the Henlow Derby with Farloe Warhawk, whom lest we forget beat Ballymac Eske in the Puppy Derby final, but I’m still happy enough with ante-post pick Bush Bandit there. Tune into RPGTV on Thursday for three seriously hot semi-finals.
And it’s good racing all three nights on the channel this week with Glanmire Lad returning to the scene of his Romford Puppy Cup victory on Friday, then a stunning double-header on Saturday with the All England Cup, starring Bubbly Phoenix, and Northern Puppy Derby getting under way at Newcastle, and Crayford hosting the Kent Leger semis.
On Tuesday it was good to talk to Bryan Turner, trainer of Nottingham Produce Stakes finalist Story Time but in a previous era the owner of such top class greyhounds as Foretop, Long Spell and Olivers Wish.
He is delighted to have steered Story Time through to the £15,000 decider and thinks the race might not be as clear-cut in favour of Romeo Recruit as the betting suggests. He could well have a point as lid-pinging Story Time has claims of leading, but don’t rule out a big effort either from Gemstone Jack who finished third behind her in the semi-final having done an awful lot of running after bad first bend trouble.
This is set to be the final Nottingham Produce Stakes, a competition first staged at Harringay when won by Glatton Grange in 1983. Since then it has had something of a nomadic existence at Wembley, Hall Green and ultimately Nottingham, but it remains an important event.
Given worries about the number of greyhounds being bred and subsequent pressure on kennel strengths, it does seem strange timing to allow the competition to wither and hopefully it is not too late for a rethink.
In the grand scheme of things, funding should not be a major issue and I suspect a few tracks would be willing to take the Produce on if they were guaranteed some help with administration.
On the greyhound political scene, news of a constructive meeting between GTA chair Ricky Holloway and Peter Laurie, chief executive of the RGT, was encouraging although there are still bridges to be mended before Holloway can be embraced by other sections of the greyhound hierarchy.
Of course, the undercurrent to this is the possibility of a concerted campaign of resting greyhounds to potentially disrupt the racing schedule. This came about following a GTA meeting last week when frustrations about the lack of progress in securing representation on various GBGB committees came to the fore.
Any owner can choose to rest a greyhound, and with trainers owning so many themselves these days so can they, so the threat is a real one although it will be a brave decision to do so by those at the better-funded bookmaker-owned venues.
Hopefully it will not come to that and the possibility of action will merely focus minds, although it would probably do everyone a bit of good if some of the heat was taken out of the frenzied claim and counter-claim about just who is benefitting from various Fund-backed projects.
It’s a distraction from the real issue of struggling trainers and, to a lesser extent, struggling owners. I still maintain the first port of call should be Bags to push for a minimum percentage of a track’s contract to be guaranteed to be paid out in prize money and not just apparently creamed off into profits as is the case now.
Promoters deserve the chance to make a profit, but not an excessive one at the expense of those supplying their product.
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