After one of the most controversial weeks in NSW greyhound racing, it appears the dust may finally be starting to settle after three successful meetings having been run at the Gardens, which is now under the management of the NSW Greyhound Breeders Owners and Trainers Association (GBOTA).
It was announced by Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) late last Friday night, that the National Coursing Association (NCA) had it's registration as a greyhound racing club cancelled and as such it would lose control of the venue which then fell into the hands of the GBOTA from midnight on Sunday.
Chairman of the GBOTA, Geoff Rose, said that they were happy with the transition, which appears to have happened as smoothly as possible.
“I have talked to Kayla (Spliet) and Brenton (Scott) and everything is going quite well, no problems”, Rose said.
“There are always going to be a few little hiccups but that's greyhound racing. We are still working out suppliers and what we need for the track”.
The news was met with mixed emotions throughout the week, some happy that the NCA had got the boot, others disgruntled. Nonetheless the differences in opinion were put aside on Wednesday night, which saw a full ten race card held at the Birmingham Gardens circuit. In the lead up to the meeting, it was questionable whether the GBOTA would receive any backlash from participants after GRNSW's decision, however the local greyhound racing community in general did not seem very phased.
“I think the greyhound community just want racing”, Rose said.
“The majority don't care who in particular runs it as long as they do it properly and they can compete and race their dogs”.
The operations of the track are now under the control of Kayla Spliet, who has a proven track record of successfully running the Maitland and Gosford facilities. The remainder of the staff from The Gardens have had an anxious wait as to the future of their positions , however it appears that most will retain their employment at the venue
“Kayla has obviously taken on the managerial role”, Rose stated, “Kayla is a very capable young woman”.
“Brenton Scott is presently working with Kayla to decide which staff we need to retain. A lot of the staff works at Maitland, Gosford and The Gardens so Kayla will absorb most of the people working there”.
Rose was quick to add that the GBOTA are only at the premises temporarily until December when GRNSW will have the final say as to what happens.
“What many people don't realise is that we are only there until December and are just acting as a caretaker until that time”.
If one thing has become apparent since the decision it is that NCA president Kevin Gordon will not let the long term control of the track be lost without a fight. The NCA still own 30% of the complex and with their attachment, there is no doubt that Gordon will be trying to fight his way back before the final decision as to the track's future is made at the end of the year.
“Kevin is a good businessman and a very intelligent man who inherited many of the problems and I have no doubt he will be working with people to find out what works best”, Rose said.
As for the future of the track over the next few months it does appear bright, and despite the controversy, the main thing is we will still be able to enjoy the one thing we love about the industry; racing.
“The Gardens is the main cog in the wheel so it has to keep going”, Rose said.
“We couldn't just walk away; we need the 130 meetings to remain in the Hunter Valley”.
“I'm not saying that it wasn't already but the Gardens can be made into quite a profitable track”.
There is no doubt that the GBOTA are the leading association within the state. Not only do they manage many of the tracks in NSW but they also do it very well. What will be interesting to see is how The Gardens operates over the next few months and whether a change of hands can restore the facility, and the reputation of the local greyhound racing community to its former glory, after a tarnishing few months in the Hunter Valley.