THE future of country racing in NSW remains bleak, despite the recent introduction of travel subsidy for non-TAB racing, according to trainers.
On July 1, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) began paying trainers $20 for every greyhound engaged to race in a race at a non-TAB meeting.
However, prize money levels remain woeful, with many tracks paying as little as $210 to the winner of a race, as the non-TAB sector continues to be starved of financial support.
Hunter Valley trainer James Porter, who won just $375 at Muswellbrook with a first and a second on Sunday, says the financial landscape of country racing is woeful, with most trainers struggling to cover costs.
“The unplaced money is a good initiative, especially for the people just in the industry for the fun of it, but realistically $20 isn’t going to cover the food for a dog for the week,” Porter told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“A lot of work goes into each dog getting it ready for the track – it doesn’t matter if they are a city dog or a bush dog – they all get treated the same.
“By the time you take into consideration feeding the dog for the week, fuel driving to the track, paying to get in, getting some food and drink you really need to win a race just to break even.
“When you consider that there is only 10 races on at each meeting that means that a maximum of 10 people are going to break even for the week – the rest are paying out of their own pocket.”
Porter believes it is a deliberate move from the authorities to phase out country racing, by depriving the clubs financially so that they are forced to close down.
“Every other competitive sport in Australia – whether its AFL, rugby league or soccer – is pouring money back into their sports at the grassroots level,” he said.
“GRNSW are trying to do the opposite – they are taking money from the bush through the prize money paid and cutting back the meetings in an attempt to starve country racing.”
With the spotlight on animal welfare, Porter says the regulators should be trying to support bush racing which gives many greyhounds, which otherwise wouldn’t be racing, the opportunity to extend their careers.
“Everyone is worried about animal welfare, but what they don’t understand is that a lot of the dogs up bush need country racing – they aren’t good enough to race TAB.
“I understand the whole idea was to originally close some tracks and to have these mega tracks – centres of excellence – and it’s not that I don’t support that idea, but if we shut down our bush tracks where are the slow dogs going to go?”
Despite the dire situation, Porter says he will continue to support non-TAB racing with his team of greyhounds.
“I really enjoy racing in the bush. It is a lot more relaxed and you have a great day out,” he said.
“I have some dogs which are owned by my kids which are limited to bush racing at this stage of their careers.
“I don’t race them to make money – I do it because they love it and my kids love seeing them race.
“It’s just a shame I have to dip into my own pocket to do so.”