New IGB incentives suggest greater changes may be coming down the line

Earlier this week the IGB revealed the introduction of some incentives which will come into effect from the start of next month.

The first will “provide for a payment of €100 for greyhounds who commence their racing careers prior to reaching 19 months and complete their first five races at IGB licenced tracks. This incentive would apply on completion of the greyhound’s fifth race.”

The purpose, the statement revealed, is to “encourage owners to retain pups for participation in greyhound racing at all venues and contribute towards the costs of rearing quality greyhounds.

“A further incentive will include a €20 payment in respect of the fourth, fifth and sixth place in all races at Shelbourne Park Stadium.

“The IGB is conscious of the necessity to encourage participation in races at the premier track and recognises, in particular, the current difficulties in accessing the venue due to significant road works on main access routes and general traffic congestion in the city area. The proposed payment should assist in alleviating some of the costs incurred by owners, breeders and trainers in attending Shelbourne Park.”

The second incentive is, effectively, appearance money for running at Shelbourne Park, something which is not universally popular and is flawed if the reason given is to be taken at face value.

Both incentives give the impression there’s an inevitability we’re going down the road of contract trainers, which would represent a sea-change in Irish greyhound racing.

I was a small bit puzzled by the fact the IGB, in revealing an interim 2017 statement this week, felt the need to focus on the fact that the closure of Shelbourne Park for 22 weeks had a significant impact on the overall performance of the industry in 2017.

Without wishing to cover old ground, the disruption to racing at the venue was due to strikes arising from the closure of Harold’s Cross stadium, which was done in a manner which clearly upset racing folk.

There wouldn’t have been much point in those people trying to get their point across by picketing Youghal, Enniscorthy, or Kilkenny, would there?

All I picked up from the insistence on pointing out that overall attendance fell by 98,000, and that Tote income fell to €15.9 million from €19.5 million in 2016, is that the course of action taken by the picketers had some degree of impact, even if it didn’t have the desired effect of saving Harold’s Cross.

Amongst the key financials revealed in the statement was the fact “the period of closure of Shelbourne Park resulted in the loss of 123 race meetings affecting 1,147 individual races,” and “attendance was reduced by circa 98,000 customers directly reducing consolidated track profit by €1.225m.”

In a busy week of IGB statements, yesterday afternoon a change to the racing schedule was announced in a release titled “New racing schedules confirmed to ensure every greyhound valued”.

Proposing the introduction of a race for “senior greyhounds (at a minimum of four years old)” and one for bitches at all IGB licenced stadia, the statement explained: “Extending the racing life of greyhounds will result in a reduction in the numbers retiring from racing at a young age and will also ensure that more greyhounds are available for racing schedules.

“To work towards this objective, the IGB is now focusing on including a race for senior greyhounds (at a minimum of four years old) and a race for Bitches on all race cards at all IGB licenced stadia. These proposals will ensure that older greyhounds, and bitches, become a recognised part of the racing fraternity.”

Whatever about confining races to bitches, does the grading system not work to cater well enough for veterans? Surely that’s the purpose of the system – for all greyhounds to find their level. At the moment the IGB is working to introduce numerous ideas, incentives, etc, along with its five-year strategic plan.

There are some laudable introductions, but previous experience tells me this one could have been brushed aside.

On the positive side of on-track action, Butterbridge Bex is continuing to prove quite the star. The Kieran Lynch-trained runner is a finalist in the Treaty Cup, which takes place this Saturday night at Limerick, where the second round of the Con and Annie Kirby Memorial is also on the card.

Should he win the sprint final it will be his eighth consecutive victory, and tenth in his last 11 outings. He has looked badly drawn on occasion, looked beaten on others, but the will to win is what makes him such a great greyhound for owner Fintan Lawlor.

Winner of the Night of Stars Sprint at Shelbourne, the Southern Sprint at Youghal and the Supersprint in Curraheen Park, success on Saturday night would cap a remarkable four-timer.


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