The long term outlook for the continuation of straight track racing in Australia, be it coursing or Straight track full field events, is in some doubt after the number of tracks conducting these meetings slowly decline.
While the premier racing state of Victoria continues to enjoy huge nominations and strong support for the revamped Healesville venue, interstate contemporaries do not seem to enjoy the same enthusiasm for straight track racing.
The falling popularity of coursing is also of great concern, with only Victoria and South Australia conducting coursing events. The stakemoney for these coursing events, other than the Classics, is poor. Without a renewed vigour from Greyhound Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing South Australia, these once popular events may be consigned to history.
The powers that oversee Greyhound Racing in these two states have already shown their hand to some extent, offering only modest increases in stakemoney for coursing events in recent years. Without a decent jump in returns to participants, coursing in Australia may cease to exist, which would see the end of some 140 years of history.
Some would argue coursing is from a bygone era and should be wound up because coursing fixtures do not directly raise revenues for their State controlling bodies due to being non-tab events. It could also be argued that this is the reason behind the seemingly indifferent attitude to these events shown by GRV and GRSA. For mine however, there is still a place for coursing on our racing schedules and it should not only be preserved and protected by GRV and GRSA, it should be promoted and supported as well.
With regard to normal straight track racing, we have seen the demise of the once popular Wyong (NSW) and Wentworth (NSW) tracks, while most recently Appin (NSW) has also fallen by the wayside, conducting their final race meeting on December 15th, 2013. The final closure of Appin has left the once revered state of New South Wales with no straight race track racing venue, while in South Australia Kulpara ceased to race in June 2008. So at is stands in 2014, just two straight racing venues survive, Capalaba in Queensland and Healesville in Victoria.
Capalaba has been resolute, surviving floods and a show cause notice, among other perils. It still continues to be popular with owners and trainers in the Sunshine State.
The Capalaba Club race each Saturday afternoon throughout the year and their Melbourne Cup Day fixture is always very popular and remains their biggest revenue raiser. The returns on offer for participants at Capalaba continue to be reasonably low, thus the quality of the fields are fairly average apart from special events. The Club has continued to meet every challenge so far in an effort to stay relevant and viable.
In 2009 the Management of Capalaba was handed over to the Brisbane Greyhound Club to ensure the club remained operational. Then in March 2011 Capalaba was issued with a show cause notice by Greyhound Racing Queensland. Despite this, the Capalaba Greyhound Racing Club has continued to work hard and have survived not only as a racing club, but as a training facility as well.
Healesville in Victoria is a different scenario altogether. Beginning as picnic meetings, the Don Road venue has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Originally a grass track racing over 340 metres on a right side lure, recent upgrades have seen two distances installed, the grass removed and loam installed, a revamped pavilion area, upgraded kennel block and the lure being switched to the left hand side of the track. Along with these enhancements the club also attained full TAB and Sky Channel coverage, which has markedly raised the profile of the Healesville Club. Perhaps the only criticism of Healesville may be the question of why, if the club has full tab and sky channel coverage, do they continue to race for Half-Stakes, or Tier 3 stakemoney. Surely with the quality of fields usually as good as any other provincial club, it’s time Healesville went to full stakes, and rewarded those who continue to support the venue.
Appin in New South Wales has been a curious case. The Club has been closed once before and re-opened by GRNSW; however the closure this time around looks to be final. Any loss of a track is always sad, especially for those who have frequented the venue over a long period of time and utilized the track not only for racing, but as a training tool as well. At least Appin is still available to owners and trainers for trialling, so at this stage, the venue is not lost completely to the industry.
The long term future for straight track racing and coursing is far from assured. It would be a travesty should these options disappear from the racing landscape completely. We can only trust the authorities in each state work hard, along with owner and trainer groups to retain the spectacle of straight track racing and coursin, for the benefit of all involved in the sport of greyhound racing in Australia.