Victoria’s and perhaps Australian greyhound racing’s best chance of continuing to race during the COVID-19 crisis has allegedly been binned before it even got started.
RSN’s Matt Stewart reported earlier today that Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) had been formulating a plan to isolate and quarantine a pool of greyhounds, staff, stewards and participants to a single track. The hope was that by preserving a coronavirus-free environment, racing and turnover could continue to flow for the code.
GRV were reportedly exploring “whether the Healesville straight course precinct could be cordoned off for three months”. It was reported that up to 16 caravans would have been transported to the track to provide accommodation for trainers and handlers of a small group of dogs which could race a handful of times each week in a bid to generate vital betting turnover.
Stewart suggested that “a handful of major kennels are involved in the logistical planning of the Healesville project”.
It was understood stewards and other essential staff may have been required to be on site at Healesville for three months.
GRV did not to confirm the report, but Stewart said they were “believed to have liaised closely with the state government on the project”.
Those who know me, know that I have a health background and worked at St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, in the peak of the AIDS hysteria. I have been advocating a very similar plan to GRV’s for weeks; not based on hysteria, but based on the fact it will be impossible to keep greyhound racing anywhere in Australia without a similar plan.
The turnover from the sole remaining track could have been used to help support the greyhounds, trainers, owners, and other participants who would be hurting in a shutdown. It is the only plan that will work.
As has been witnessed in Victorian horse racing, New South Wales horse racing, West Australian horse racing, Queensland horse racing and Tasmanian horse racing, a single participant testing positive has brought all thoroughbred racing in those states to a standstill. Harness racing has already had the bell toll in three states. We are hours and days away from the same thing happening in greyhound racing.
So imagine how short-sighted, self-orientated and recalcitrant you would need to be to block the only plan that gave any hope of avoiding a total greyhound shutdown, and the ensuing human and animal welfare tragedies that will play out?
Well according to a Newscorp-owned greyhound website, that is exactly what has happened.
The Greyhound Recorder has reported that the plan has been abandoned because a handful of trainers created a “furore”. The website has quoted an anonymous trainer as saying “GRV was essentially going to say to those people just sit back and watch a few major kennels continue to race each other”.
“It’s just wrong and goes against everything they are meant to stand for – they totally misread the situation,” the trainer said.
“It wouldn’t have just been Victorian greyhounds that looked terrible, it would have been the industry nationwide.”
According to the trainer who was speaking for the participants at the centre of the furore, “some serious questions need to be asked about what is going on; are we in this together or not?”
The same website claims that the Healesville COVID-19 project has been abandoned.
Australian racing in all codes is facing a nationwide shutdown. It is inevitable. There will be people and participants going to the wall. We will unfortunately see a spike in mental health issues and suicides, just as is being seen outside the racing bubble.
GRV’s plan had merit. From the limited detail we had, the plan had a chance of working. There is no other plan that doesn’t result in a shutdown of greyhound racing.
In NSW, GRNSW have locked greyhounds and trainers to racing only in their designated zones, along with a myriad of other race-day policies and restrictions. It will not work. It can’t. Coronavirus spreads too freely from person to person.
Every one of those people going to the dog races each week is bringing with them every person they have been within 1.5 metres of that week, and every person their families and housemates have been near that week, and every person those people have been near, and so on. Unless all participants and their families or housemates were to completely isolate from everyone else outside the racing bubble, the strategy is only designed to delay the inevitable.
GRV had a plan, as well as a track and location where it may just have worked. It wouldn’t have been perfect. It wouldn’t have been pretty. But it had a chance of working. To derail it before it had a chance to be even sounded out is one of the most short-sighted, vacuous protests of self interest I have ever witnessed in greyhound racing. And being racing, there has been many.