The new Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) zone racing strategy, implemented as a COVID-19 counter measure, has taken a huge hit in its first few days after at least nine winners over the weekend were actually ineligible due to their zones. The greyhounds were all trained by trainers who should not have been allowed to race at the venue under the zone racing strategy.
At The Gardens on Saturday there were three winners trained by trainers who were clearly out of their zone. At Bulli the same day, four winners trained by three greyhound trainers were racing out of their zone. At Richmond yesterday, another two winners were racing out of zone.
There were many more examples at those three meetings of greyhounds and trainers racing out of zone that did not win their races. Due to the vagueness of the zone maps there may be up to another 10-20 greyhounds that should not have been racing.
Several of the trainers were racing at Bulli and Richmond, and others raced at Richmond and Bathurst in consecutive days. This alone should have alerted GWIC and GRNSW, as the two sets of tracks are differently zoned.
The embarrassing gaffe comes at a time when other trainers are having their dogs scratched for being entered in events at tracks out of zone. Greyhound participants are crying foul due to the perceived inconsistencies of some being allowed to race and others being scratched.
Last Monday GRNSW CEO Tony Mestrov announced the new zone racing strategy saying, “The tracks we have chosen for our contingency plan have been strategically selected so that we can cater for the participants in those regions, and they must race in their region to limit the amount of travel our participants need to do.”
Mestrov further elaborated a day later saying that they were aware of greyhounds racing out of zone by mistake, and that they “would be scratched without penalty”. He added that they were “attending to that right now” on the 25th March 2020. Mestrov said that “any greyhound found to be contravening the new zoning restrictions will be withdrawn. We will be vigilant with the nomination process to cut down on these instances happening.”
Since the 28th March there have been at least nine winners racing out of zone and countless starters.
Greyhound participants are confused and angry about the inconsistencies of the approach as some have had their greyhounds removed from races while others were allowed to race. One participant said, “We nominated out of zone, contacted GRNSW to confirm if we would be scratched without penalty, I was told yes we would be so they scratched me there and then so I wouldn’t miss noms for our zone. There are still others racing that are out of zone. If GRNSW say they are going to scratch dogs then they need to do it so it is fair for all.”
Another participant pointed out that “dogs were scratched on Friday for being out of zone. They are just picking who they want to scratch.” Several Hunter Valley trainers had dogs removed from the Saturday Bulli meeting, while greyhound trainers from the Richmond zone were permitted to race out of zone and won four races.
Yet another participant was unhappy about the chaotic approach to zone race saying “my dogs were also scratched ….because I live just over five hours outta (sic) the new zone but still other dogs from different zones was still allowed to race… it’s wrong some dogs were scratched and some allowed to race”.
AustralianRacingGreyhound.com understands many trainers have questioned GRNSW over the confusion and are yet to receive answers. As all nine of the ineligible winners will benefit from the non-penalty status attached to zone racing wins, it will be interesting to see if GRNSW disqualify the winners as ineligible and reprimand the trainers or if they take action against the GRNSW or GWIC staff that allowed the greyhounds to race.
Today at Bathurst one greyhound trainer who enjoyed a win at yesterday’s Richmond meeting will line up with another starter. Bathurst and Richmond are not in the same zone.