GREYHOUNDS WA is confident the teething issues at new Cannington track will soon be a thing of the past, just under two months after the $16 million facility, entirely funded by Racing and Wagering Western Australia, held its first race meeting.
Since racing kicked off on March 23, 20 meetings have been conducted on the two turn circuit including the Group 1 Perth Cup series which featured some of the best greyhounds from across Australia.
Greyhounds WA Racing and Sponsorship Manager Dennis O’Brien said staff are still working tirelessly to ensure the venue becomes a fair and safe course for greyhounds and participants.
“The track is still in its infancy so while it is settling down there are still a few issues to sort out,” O’Brien told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“When we put the new surface of the track down we were instructed by the stewards to make the track a little bit softer to hopefully make it a lot safer for the greyhounds to race on.
“Due to this we have had a few issues with kickback which is when sand gets kicked into the dogs’ eyes – something we don’t want to happen – so we are trying to find the right balance between the softness of the track and not getting the sand kicking up in the dogs’ faces.
“There has also been a bit of a perception that it is a leader’s track and I think as it has settled down you certainly have to be in the first three or four dogs to win the race – there are not a lot of dogs coming from last or second last to win.
“It does have a bias towards the leaders, but so do a lot of tracks.”
Despite the kickback problem, O’Brien noted that injury rates had fallen with the softer surface as the industry strives to ensure animal welfare is at the forefront.
“The stewards take note of all the injuries on race day and we have also been providing them with information regarding any injuries we have seen on a trial day and at this stage the injury rate seems to be considerably less than tracks which are prepared a lot harder.
“We have seen a difference particularly with injuries such as fractures – they are noticeably less – whereas there has probably been a little bit of an increase in muscle injuries due to the softness of the track.”
The track hosted it’s first major carnival last month, with the interstate raiders flocking to Perth for a crack at the Perth Cup and Galaxy finals over 520m and 715m respectively.
The sprint feature was dominated by locals, one of which, Ima Wagtail, landed the $140,000 winner’s purse for veteran trainer John Iwanyk.
“It was a good mix,” O’Brien said.
“We have had a lot of good dogs come over and race on the track during the series and we found that some can handle it while others can’t.
“The track has had a lot of racing on it in a short amount of time but it has held up pretty well. We tried to replicate the Burrumbeet sand which they have over in Victoria with a bit of clay content.
“Over here it has been hard to get the balance of water right – obviously because it is a hotter climate – and that is the trick to getting the track right.
“On the nights that we have got the track right we have noticed that dogs were able to come from behind, but it will take a while for the track to settle and also for us to work out how to get it right with the new sand and the conditions over here.”
The track will host it’s second feature event this Saturday night, with the running of the Group 2 WA Derby (520m). Four heats of the feature were conducted successfully over the weekend, the fastest qualifier being Shell Shocked for local trainer Enzo Crudeli.