LEADING greyhound identities in Western Australia have defended the decision to crown disqualified Linda Britton the state’s no.1 trainer.
Britton, who was not allowed to attend the function on Sunday night, continued her stranglehold on the mantle as WA’s leading trainer despite being disqualified for 18 months by Racing and Wagering Western Australia on January 18.
Britton was sidelined from the training ranks after her star greyhound Zelemar Fever was found to have a prohibited substance in urine samples taken after she won the WA Sprint Championship and then placed third in the Group 1 National Sprint Championship last August.
While Zelemar Fever was disqualified from both events, Britton still managed to train 299 winners from 1,285 starters throughout 2014, a feat which saw her claim the title of leading trainer.
RWWA’s Manager of Greyhound Racing, Mark Bottcher, told Australian Racing Greyhound that they never questioned Britton’s eligibility for the award despite the fact that she is now a disqualified person.
“No, not really especially given that the award was for the 2014 calendar year based on the number of winners she trained across the three tracks, obviously Linda was not disqualified until this year,” Bottcher said.
“We didn’t feel it was appropriate to take that award off her because it was something she has achieved by training all throughout that year while she was a licensed person.
“As far as that award is concerned we don’t really have any criteria in there that we wouldn’t award it to someone that became disqualified at some point.”
Britton has won the Leading Trainer Award every year since it’s inception – she also won the Cannington Trainers’ title for a record 16th time in 2014 while she took out the Mandurah Trainers’ title for the seventh time.
Britton was unable to accept the award on the night that saw her two of her former chasers, Zelemar Fever and Star Recall, fight it out to be named greyhound of the year, with the latter ultimately victorious.
“Because she is disqualified and it was a RWWA official function she couldn’t be there, so she couldn’t accept that award or the accolades of having two greyhound of the year contenders including the greyhound of the year winner,” Bottcher said.
“I was at the evening and the response was quite good, there was a reasonable amount of cheering in the audience when her name was mentioned. Obviously she had some kennel staff and people connected to her which were there, there wasn’t much negativity.”
Australian Racing Greyhound attempted to contact some of WA’s other leading trainers to get their thoughts on Britton taking out the award. While several declined to comment, John Iwanyk said the legendary Britton deserved to be named WA’s leading trainer despite the ban.
“I think she won it fair and square, I don’t think it should be taken off her,” Iwanyk said. “She had two positive swabs but that doesn’t paint the picture of her full year, her dogs would have been swabbed hundreds of time. I am fully behind her, I think she deserved to win it.”
RWWA Chief Steward Carlos Martins told Australian Racing Greyhound on Tuesday that Britton has lodged an appeal against her disqualification with a date for the hearing yet to be decided.
Until then, she will remain unable to train greyhounds with all prohibitions placed upon her applicable.
Britton failed to return Australian Racing Greyhound’s calls, but previously said she does not want to comment on her disqualification until all avenues of appeal had been exhausted.
When contacted just after her disqualification was announced, Britton mentioned she was thankful for the support shown by her family and friends during this arduous period.