‘Big players’ likely to benefit most from new greyhound industry initiatives

This week the IGB announced a number of initiatives to be implemented in the greyhound industry this year.

Firstly, breeders will receive €15 “for all winning greyhounds” which are “whelped in Ireland and registered in the Irish Greyhound studbook”, presumably, though not expressly stated in the press release, this will apply to winners at Irish tracks.

Also, €800 will be paid “to all trainers public, private or owner-trained for every 100 dogs raced or part in excess thereof”.

Some public trainers expressed immediate concern this might replace the current “run money”, which, effectively, this is – only for the bigger training outfits.

A “New Race Ready Scheme” is also being introduced, in which the IGB will provide €50,000 support to the scheme in the hope of “encouraging ownership and syndication by creating three new stakes for unraced greyhounds sold at special IGB sales events to be held in Shelbourne Park and Cork later this year.”

The “24 highest placed greyhounds during the sales trial” will be eligible to run in one of these €10,000-to-the-winner stakes. There will also be €4,000 and €3,000 stakes for other dogs sold at these sales.

It’s something of a risk to run the sales at two of the fastest tracks in the country, as attracting the desired number of dogs may prove difficult.

The dates of these sales and subsequent stakes have not been revealed, but will be interesting as there is plenty of potential for a clash with the leading unraced stakes which are already on the calendar.

It will be a fine balancing act to get the dates right, as one can assume some owners will keep greyhounds for the sales, hoping to sell at inflated prices. That could have an impact on the Kilkenny Future Champion Unraced and the recently announced stake in Curraheen.

Seventy-five thousand euro is also being set aside to encourage syndicates, racing clubs, and “to provide hospitality concessions to syndicates”, while the same figure will be targeted towards track supporters’ clubs in their work in “the promotion and development of local tracks”.

An “allocation of €50,000 has been approved for the development of a new industry training and development programme” with the intention to “introduce a formal educational qualification for those in the industry, which will be recognised both nationally and internationally”.

The IGB has also announced the return of match races, which used to be quite regular sights on the tracks, but disappeared a few years ago.

This may be the most random of the initiatives, nevertheless €20,000 is being thrown at it so similarly graded greyhounds can compete to “create a new spectator event”.

Some good initiatives, but many questions to be answered.

The concern is that the total fund of €700,000 will have greatest impact on the big players in the industry, and have little impact down the line, the area which is suffering the greatest loss of personnel.

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Cast your mind back a couple of months, to January 30 at Shelbourne Park, where the final of the Joe Dunne Memorial Puppy Stake took place.

Witches Belle, sent off a well-backed 10-1 chance, proved a length and a half too good for Riverside Oscar, with favourite Droopys Roddick a length further back in third, and Clares Rocket just a neck further away, in fourth.

Back to the present, move the action to Limerick, and through four rounds of another prestigious stake, and the same four greyhounds will line-up for Europe’s richest puppy stake, the Con and Annie Kirby Memorial, worth €80,000 to the winner. Is it possible we’ll get the same result?

The book says no, as Clares Rocket is now the hot favourite to land the spoils, following his 28.00 victory in the semi-finals. Since the Shelbourne stake the Confident Rankin pup has found his trapping boots, and deserves to be odds-on for this decider.

But Witches Belle is seldom easily beaten, and she overcame a potentially difficult draw to qualify in second place behind Clares Rocket in the semi-finals. Edel Twomey’s bitch is a proven winner of finals, is second-fastest on the clock, courtesy of her 28.18 run in the quarter-finals, and has a much more favourable draw this time.

And then there is Droopys Roddick, who hasn’t set the clock alight in the stake but manages to get the job done. He lacks a touch of early pace but would have gone much quicker had he not been short of room when moving to challenge around the final bends in the semi-finals. There’s a huge run in him, although the draw hasn’t been entirely kind.

I continue, unashamedly, to bang the drum for sire Knockglass Billy, who was a brilliant tracker, and whose progeny possess the same sort of early pace and determination as their Laurels-winning sire. He is doubly represented in this final, by siblings Riverside Chip and Riverside Oscar (out of Forrachmore). In limited opportunities he has sired some very smart sorts, including these two, while the highly regarded Jalingo (out of Vickis Dream) made it two from two when winning impressively at Youghal track last Friday night. If either Chip or Oscar could prevail, it could only provide a great boost to Knockglass Billy’s stud career. Chip is well drawn next to the rails, and could prove a thorn in the favourite’s side, while the orange-jacketed Oscar produced one of his best efforts at Shelbourne from trap five and could lead Droopys Roddick to the turn.

Maytown Eclipse, a half-brother to Vans Viking, posted a flying 1.20 sectional when leading a long way in the semi-finals, but was caught late by Droopys Roddick. He has a terrific card – five wins and six runner-up finishes in 13 outings – and is a proven breaker from the widest box.

* Shame to hear that Quietly’s career is in doubt following an injury sustained in last weekend’s final of the Treaty Cup in Limerick. The three-and-a-half-year-old looked in better shape than ever when twice breaking the track record in Curraheen and once in Limerick, so let’s hope he can get back on track to finish off the season and his career in the style it deserves.

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