Are efforts to increase track safety having a reverse effect?

AS a greyhound owner I know there is no greater joy than my dogs. Waking at the crack of dawn, exercising dogs, cleaning kennels, grooming and feeding until sundown and beyond is a way of life for thousands of trainers, owners and kennel staff right around the country.

These trainers are held accountable for every single movement concerning their dogs. Every gram of food is weighed, every vitamin and injection is tracked and the highest level of care is employed to make sure these gentle creatures are all at their peak, both inside and out on race day.

With all the blood, sweat and tears that go into looking after greyhounds, you can understand the anguish trainers feel when they believe that authority bodies are not doing their job.

Recently, since the live-baiting scandal, the sport has been under the microscope nationwide, with every state implementing reforms which have been established to maximise the welfare outcomes for all greyhounds.

One of the major focuses has been on improving track standards to reduce injury rates — but recent events have led this writer to ponder whether this is actually happening?

Every trainer dreads bringing home an injured dog, it is a heartache which comes second only to not bringing home a dog at all.

There would not be a trainer registered within the sport who isn’t in support of safer racing, but the authority bodies, even though the intentions are right, seem to be missing the mark entirely.

It is no secret that tracks in NSW have come under fire in recent weeks.

Times at Wentworth Park have been regularly around the 31 second mark, Maitland is currently closed due to track maintenance issues and Gosford lost a meeting due to surface problems just two days after its Cup heats program.

Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) stewards made the decision to abandon the meeting at Gosford, just over an hour prior to the first race, citing the track was too hard which could jeopardise the welfare of greyhounds.

Alarmingly, in the two meetings which have since been held at the Central Coast circuit, 12 greyhounds have been injured and issued incapacitation certificates.

Two of those injuries were fractured offside hocks – career ending injuries – and another greyhound is unlikely to race again after a nasty back muscle injury requiring a 56-day incapacitation certificate.

Additionally, four dogs sustained lacerations, one injured elbow ligaments, two suffered Achilles injuries – with one of those also hurting its stopper.

There were more, but you get the point.

The majority of those injuries were sustained last Thursday (January 5) – with stewards deciding just over half way through the meeting that the track was once again too hard.

All races were pushed back two races whilst the surface was watered, not that it really mattered for five dogs which were all injured in the latter half of the program.

It left people wondering why it took six races to figure out the track was unsuitable – when it was clear to everyone at the track after the first two races that the track was fast and hard.

Now let’s look at other venues around the state. In total, between December 31 and January 7 (inclusive) 18 TAB meetings were held across NSW. All up, 43 greyhounds were injured including six hock related issues, at least two of which required euthanasia soon after the race.

Also worth noting is that 12 of the aforementioned injuries required incapacitation certificates of 21 days or more – so in laymen’s terms they were substantial.

Obviously, in some of these cases interference and bad luck must be taken into consideration, but by anyone’s standards, these injury rates are far too high.

Last year, GRNSW commissioned a research project into greyhound race track safety. The project is being carried out by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), with GRNSW and Greyhound Racing SA (GRSA) supporting it with $325,000 funding.

The project is expected to be completed some time around May – but that’s still five months away meaning there’s more than 3,500 TAB races between now and then in NSW alone.

So what is the plan for now? If this research is going to pave the way for safer racing, then why are GRNSW taking it upon themselves to be fiddling around with the tracks before there are definitive answers on how to make them safer?

With such an intense spotlight on the sport is now really the time to be trialling new methods of preparing tracks, just months out from a probable restructure of how tracks are surfaced, particularly when these new methods seem to be causing nothing but injuries, heartache and concern for many participants?

In September 2014 GRNSW also employed a Track Maintenance Manager to oversee the preparation of all the tracks within the state – meaning they are giving directions to race clubs on how tracks must be maintained. Tracks are now being prepared less firm, but many trainers are now claiming the surfaces being used are not holding water and are too shifty underfoot.

Almost a year later, in August 2016, GRNSW announced the injury incidence rate had fallen to 24.2 per 1000 starters during the April 1 – June 30 quarter in comparison to 27.1 per 1000 starters for the previous quarter.

While any reduction is positive, this was hardly earth shattering and, without sounding brash, surely we should have seen more significant improvements between then and now.

The point of this article is not to point fingers at the curators – but we do need to start asking serious questions about what we can do to protect our dogs – whether it’s reverting back to the former surfaces which were used or providing more training for staff in regards to how to prepare the new surfaces.

If we aren’t asking questions the blame simply gets passed around. If clubs aren’t fulfilling their duties of preparing safe tracks, it is the responsibility of GRNSW to come down on these venues to ensure the appropriate standards are being met.

It is becoming abundantly clear that the trial-by-error approach seemingly being employed by GRNSW at the current time is not working. Trainers are held accountable for every single aspect of their dog’s lives – it’s about time the authority body and race clubs stepped up and took responsibility for what is happening to dogs racing on their tracks.

It is important to note there is not currently any information for the latest quarter in regards to injury rates, however when trainers start to express increased concerns about putting their dogs around for safety reasons, alarm bells start ringing.

Most trainers don’t have engineering or landscaping expertise, but surely we should be taking their opinions and feedback on board, after all they are the ones who are putting their dogs on the line and trusting that tracks are up to standard.

We can’t wait any longer, the sport needs action now because every greyhound lost or injured on our tracks is one too many.

Past Discussion

  1. Katherine, my total concern when i nominate my dogs is “safe track”.  My favorite track is a regional track i do not consider how much prize money is on offer ( only half the city money) this particular track has a bend radius over 70 mtrs, which i consider the key to track safety.

    One dog i could name but won’t is 3 years old races exclusively on this track and has raced week to week for over 90 starts essentially injury free and still racing.  I know this is a one off instance but messing around with the surface will not fix it.

    Unless we go back to turf.

  2. Katherine, go and watch the replays from gosford last thursday, and note where the majority of the injuries occurred. The track appeared to be 99% safe, 1% deadly.

    Articles such as this are pointless if the journalist has made no attempt to establish and report the basic facts pertaining to the injuires.

    One would hope that before tonights meeting stewards pay close attention to the section of the track just past the changeover, that they monitor this section throughout the night, and if dogs are again getting injured or start easing due to what is likely a shifting surface, as opposed to a hard surface, take action.

  3. The INDUSTRY needs to grow a set of balls and stand up for yourselves. What are you scared of? A fine?

    Stick together, stand as one. What will they do? Call off the whole meeting? They can’t fine and suspend you all. These idiots in charge don’t know a dogs head from its tail. The BS with the water buckets prove that.

  4. A  5 ton water truck watering the track won’t  help either  and since when  are stewards track surface specialist  and I’am LOL watching replays to see if the track appears 99% safe,  is in fact is a  pointless  argument or is it the noise the lure makes when passing over the changeover ,which can cause a greyhound  to shift ground or ease  on the track in that particular area .Kathrine its pleasing  that a Racing Greyhound Journalist has taken a positive approach to look at our present day problems with our tracks. Take a look at Race 4 Gosford last night why did the checks ease  when leading the race and four dogs fell in the same area last week ,Why because one dog shifted ground and took the running of the others .While i have not been racing over the last few years  i made it my business   to go to the three tracks up here and watch what happens to dogs when going past the change over  . Kathrine my observations over those years has found  that some dogs will shy at the changeover causing problems for over runners  .Maitlands changeover is after the winning post and dogs will shift ground, but their problems are else where on the track, The Gardens is just after the winning post and i believe that most of the interference and injuries happens at first turn from the 515 boxes with dogs shifting ground and Gosford over the back straight near the changeover. I first became aware of this with my own track over the last ten years with break ins with shying at the changeover  with the change of noise, and it makes a loud bang when crossing over the changeover . I’ve tried different approaches in this area and i’ve  had limited success i have been using a louder simulator and a longer lure at that the point  of the run up to the changeover this change in operation has helped in that area of the changeover with less dogs shifting ground during their course of education. As i”ve said before our infrastructure is way out of date to suit the modern Greyhound  for safer racing.

  5. jeff holland Your on the money according to Gillette. Gillette’s website ids http://www.sportsVet.com. He has constantly updated the science and states that the racetrack reported matters are only one feature of the science. The below cut and paste is from his 12 page document in 2002, MY guess to the spate of injuries generally is that greyhounds are required to race more often under pressure than they were in earlier days and the grading policy favours fairness for the owner and trainer in regards to being drawn (ballot) but does not take into account the welfare of the greyhound.

    Gillettes up to date science is very affordable Cd’s around the AUS mark so it would be  great savings if it was used. I could not get either the Control Board or any of the Participant’s groups to recognise it previously but maybe things are different now.

    RacetrackAnalysis by Injury Reports

    No racingrelated injuries should be the goal of any racing facility.  The track management program should be designed to meet this goal.  Once thisgoal is accepted, it should be recognized that injuries can occur in anysporting or working environment.  In a survey reported by Bloomberg andDugger, there were 761 injuries reported for a total of 47,323 races ran atsixteen racetracks between the years of 1984-1990.  Eight Greyhounds runin a race, so the total number of greyhounds competing one time or moreincluded in this survey were 378,584.  This means that the injury ratio is0.2%. 

      When a comparison is made between human athletes and canineathletes, it shows that Greyhound racing is a very safe sport.  Thisshould not change the goals of management, they should still strive for zeroracing-related injuries.

    Eachracing facility regulatory veterinarian should keep a record of racinginjuries.  If a sudden increase in numbers occur, the racing surfaceshould be evaluated for surface alterations.  There can be seasonalvariation in injury numbers, but these will be documented by the injuryrecords.  Certain track conditions will produce injuries related to thatcondition.  Table 2 describes the types of injuries related to certaintrack conditions.

    Table2.  Injury types seen with certain track conditions

    Track Condition

    Hard Track

    Soft Track

    Inconsistent Track

    Related Injuries

    • Toe  (Hard Track)
    • Metacarpal (Hard Track)
    • Carpal (Hard Track)
    • Shoulder (soft Track)
    • Muscle   (soft track)
    • Traumatic Injuries (soft track)
    • Toe, M/C, Carpal (inconsistent track)
    • Shoulder, Muscle (inconsistent track)
    • Balance Related injuries (inconsistent track)
    • More Severe Traumatic injuries (inconsistent track)

  6. jeff holland Your on the money according to Gillette. Gillette’s website ids http://www.sportsVet.com. He has constantly updated the science and states that the racetrack reported matters are only one feature of the science. The below cut and paste is from his 12 page document in 2002, MY guess to the spate of injuries generally is that greyhounds are required to race more often under pressure than they were in earlier days and the grading policy favours fairness for the owner and trainer in regards to being drawn (ballot) but does not take into account the welfare of the greyhound.

    Gillettes up to date science is very affordable Cd’s around the AUS mark so it would be  great savings if it was used.  neither the Control Board nor any of the Participant’s groups to accepted the report previously but maybe things are different now.

    Racetrack Analysis by Injury Reports

    No racing related injuries should be the goal of any racing facility.  The  track management program should be designed to meet this goal.  Once this goal is accepted, it should be recognized that injuries can occur in any sporting or working environment.  In a survey reported by Bloomberg and Dugger, there were 761 injuries reported for a total of 47,323 races ran at sixteen racetracks between the years of 1984-1990.  Eight Greyhounds run in a race, so the total number of greyhounds competing one time or more included in this survey were 378,584.  This means that the injury ratio is 0.2%. 

    When a comparison is made between human athletes and canine athletes, it shows that Greyhound racing is a very safe sport.  This should not change the goals of management, they should still strive for zero racing-related injuries.

    Each racing facility regulatory veterinarian should keep a record of racing injuries.  If a sudden increase in numbers occur, the racing surface should be evaluated for surface alterations.  There can be seasonal variation in injury numbers, but these will be documented by the injury records.  Certain track conditions will produce injuries related to that condition.  Table 2 describes the types of injuries related to certain track conditions.

    Table 2.  Injury types seen with certain track conditions

    Track Condition

    Hard Track

    Soft Track

    Inconsistent Track

    Related Injuries

    • Toe  (Hard Track)
    • Metacarpal (Hard Track)
    • Carpal (Hard Track)
    • Shoulder (soft Track)
    • Muscle   (soft track)
    • Traumatic Injuries (soft track)
    • Toe, M/C, Carpal (inconsistent track)
    • Shoulder, Muscle (inconsistent track)
    • Balance Related injuries (inconsistent track)
    • More Severe Traumatic injuries (inconsistent track)


  7. John Tracey jeff holland I’am glad someone  kept records of injuries as GRNSW  records where all over the shop. I remember at the inquiry when the CEO was ask about dogs that were lost due to injury in races or in their life time since whelping , he took a guess on the numbers, as he did not know ?

  8. lone widow We should all take on board what Bluestone is trying to say ,but it will never happen i’am sad to say many have tried and only to be ridiculed for their effort  and to be flogged off as riffraff by authorities.With whats gone down here it NSW i think the Participants finely have a chance to state their case in all area’s of the Greyhound Industry .I’ve taken time to look why we are at where  today ,since the live baiting issue brought us  tumbling to our knees. We had a board removed, and a CEO sacked ! Hence  we have the Minister Grant appointed a interim CEO  a Mr Paul  Newson from the department of Gaming & Racing who knew nothing about the Greyhound Racing  here in NSW  when appointed and was given the task of rebuilding our industry in the eyes of the Public .In the early stages he had shown some intelligence where he stated the biggest problem in the industry was the lack of FINANCES with in the code which i thought  this fellow could be a asset to our demoralise  code.How wrong i was ,he switched from the FINANCIAL woes of the code to ANIMAL WELFARE and i believe from that day to now there was POLITICAL interference at the top level (BAIRDS BAN)  why, you might ask they thought we were a soft target ,   how  wrong were they. ? Welfare is at the center of the debate at the moment and many changes are happening and we must get it right and track safety is paramount  for future of racing here in Australia .What i find strange under GRNSW rules i can be given a shown cause if i present a Greyhound for racing and don’t the requirements i can be fined or suspend . Now if the officials who are controlling the race track for a meeting  for the  dogs to compete on, are not held accountable for their failure to provide  a safe environment  for all concern.Now i believe in this area of Track surfaces for being right to race on the participants should have a say in the final result on the track surface. Example on race day two trainers should be selected prior to the meeting taken place, and with the stewards  and the curator inspect the track prior to any racing on the day and should time allow for adjustments to the surface and their opinions recorded  and published for all to see and i can not see what the purpose of a vet is with his or her view on the the track surface.Now if a trainer brings his Greyhound to the track and there is a change in the weather or traveled  badly because of changing weather conditions  ( thunderstorms,as a example) or the report on the track surfaces is 50/50 he should be able to scratch with out penalty and have the reserves on stand by as most trainers are trailing with them anyway at the track ,if the TAB can adjust  for a late scratching  they also adjust for a reserve to get a run ,its 2017 not 1997 .Yeah NEWSON got it right the first time FINANCES to address all these problems, the rest has been all down hill since.

  9. BobWhitelaw lone widow 

    Bob, it was not my intention to be flippant about Bluestones comments. My point was that we have very little to bargain with.

    I agree with your comments on scratching without penalty, which is what Bluestone was suggesting but first we need the ‘no penalty’ to be negotiated.

  10. lone widow BobWhitelaw You are probably right  in some  sense but what he saying has always made sense but the Participants  WONT band  together and i believe they never will, it would  be good if they would  ?

  11. BobWhitelaw lone widow 

    I have never known the participants to band together on any issue other than the greyhound ban.

    Why don’t we have a boycott on bend starts for example? I have even seen a leading trainer with starters at Ipswich 431….i just cannot work them out.

    Maybe we do need the ACTU to organize this lot.

  12. @BobWhitelaw @lone widow

    lone widow I would like nothing more than see a Union of some kind be established (existing or new) that MUST by statute be consulted by the governing body before any rule amendments etc can be introduced. Right now it is open slather and all one sided with GRNSW adopting a dictatorship mentality. YOU WILL COMPLY with us, hidden under a thinly veiled premise of Animal Welfare is their mantra.

    Well guess what? There are hundreds of people that have been in this Industry for a long time and I’d rather those long serving men and women have an input on policy and rule amendments around animal welfare than some Vet with little Greyhound experience or another who has seemingly lost the plot.

    The latest changes surrounding the introduction of water buckets in race day kennels based on a concept used in Vietnam is laughable. Yes, Vietnam. The same place the industry is no longer permitted to export greyhounds too because of Animal Welfare concerns. So now the NSW greyhound industry is adopting the practices of a third world country in Vietnam. Genius.

    Unfortunately as usual the participants feel quite overwhelmed and with no where to turn for moral or representative support they will blindly accept the new changes and on and in it will go. Where is the great white elephant the GBOTA to put forward members concerns? Silent as usual. Why anyone is still a member of such organisation defies logic to me. They have absolutely no voice. They are a toothless tiger.

    Like Bob said, many have tried to organise true participant representation but alas too many self centred individuals have made this an impossibility. I like Bob, would love to see the unification of all participants.

    Sadly, we may be waiting a long time.

    I do not agree however we have very little to bargain with. The participants are the custodians of the sport. GRNSW are the regulator.. WE should not be accepting that they are all powerful. WE must work as one to force negotiation and consultation between both parties. GRV are leading the way in Victoria, with valuable participant workshops having been conducted on various topics. This shows what can be achieved by working collaboratory. By all means GRV and racing in Victoria is not perfect, but both parties are willing to work together to enhance and improve. None of that is present in NSW.

    Now please don’t believe am I an anarchist, who is anti change. Not at all. Much change is necessary to secure the industry’s future and higher standards of Animal welfare are welcome in most areas as long as those changes are well thought, measured changes that are practical to implement and based on experience.

    For example, some recent changes in the Hot Weather Policy. Being able to scratch non penalty if the temperature exceeds 32deg is a good move.

    I do hold out hope that a group such as NGRU may be able to unify enough of the industry to at least force a seat at the GRNSW table so WE can at least have a voice, but my hope is fading fast as we draw closer to 30Jun2017.

  13. Bluestone I’am hearing you, but most of what you are saying has been tried before with little or no success.Back in 2012  i spoke to a leading Union official about forming a greyhound branch of the United Services Union here in NSW the first question he ask what award does the Greyhound industry come under ,i advised  him none ,his reply was because of that ,there is not much we can do for you.However he did suggest of becoming Politically active and suggested to seek a party that suits your agenda and is willing to take up your cause or form your own party which would cost a lot of money, time and effort and money is one thing that was lacking in the code.So we, on the advise of the State Secretary of the USU to approach the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party who before the last election held the balance of power in the Upper House here in NSW  our first achievement was The Select Committee inquiry into Greyhound Racing here in NSW and our focus was around funding and corruption and others tried to hijack the committee  with anti greyhound racing  agenda.The end result was recommendations to the government that would  take the industry  into the future as a sustainable viable industry,but the government got stood over by the other two codes and done nothing to solve the problems in the industry,hence what we have today .The Participants supported the SF&F party at the Orange by election and on the back of the backlash of shutting down the industry  and they won the seat with a massive swing against the Government .As i must say i still think we must become political active! The Greyhound Industry is forming a branch of the SF&F party which will give us a voice in the Policy  making decisions of the party which will support the Greyhound industry and i also hope the newly  formed  Australian Sport & Racing Party gains momentum as it is a slow process getting a political party up and running and i hope all greyhound participant get behind these people so we have voice in deciding our future  

  14. Thanks for the info Bob. I am aware of the involvement of the SF&F and their support for the industry. Unfortunately, they can have no influence over the discrimating and victimising policy being currently rolled out by GRNSW. I know no other animal based activity with the amount of unessacary, ill informed regulation than the current greyhound industry, but alas it is merely a dream that the INDUSTRY may finally stand up for their civil rights and fight back against Big Brother. The participants have proven time and time again they have got no STONES.

  15. http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2017/01/19/mike-baird-to-retire-from-politics.html?ref=BP_HERO_SKY_mike-baird-announces-retirement-_180117

    DING DONG,THE WARLOCK IS GONE……

    interesting times ahead.took a long time for his own CREW to get the message across that he had stuffed up the party.

    had his xmas break to gather himself,and confide in his CANADIAN religious guru,who obviously had no answer other than MIKE, RUN FOR IT….NOW.

    good riddance to a bad premier,second only to Victorias own champion of never being around when trouble arises…..DANIEL ;DANNY-BOY ANDREWS.

  16. lone widow Bluestone  if my gremlins are true to there word,your dream of straight tracks,beginning with one,will come to fruition.

    and not the obvious one either.

  17. spyman lone widow spyman, that would be a dream come true. I remember fondly many great afternoons racing at Wyong up the straight. Even if it’s only D class prizemoney, a straight track option in NSW would be most welcome.

  18. spyman lone widow Bluestone 

    The obvious one Gale would be a combined TAB venue at Richmond.

    However a straight anywhere would save a lot of dogs some serious pain. Bring it on.

  19. Bluestone spyman lone widow After talking to  Morris Iemma straight racing is on his agenda  if not why did he ask us for our thoughts  on it!

  20. BobWhitelaw Bluestone spyman lone widow 

    Straight track racing is the safest form of greyhound racing, the powers that be cannot dismiss the straight track option.

    Track injuries are the biggest welfare issue we have and with only Healsville and Capalabah out there it’s a disgrace.

    Every state should have at least two straight track venues with a TAB licence.