IN SEPTEMBER 2013, Racing Queensland launched a new marketing campaign titled ‘We Run As One’ which was aimed at developing sense of positivity and unison between the three racing codes, but it now appears that you can only be a part of this movement if you are not involved in the greyhound racing industry.
This was made clear when the authority body scrapped the greyhound component of the upcoming ‘Girls on Track’ series. Initially planned to run across the three codes, the series was launched to promote the rising roles of females in the racing industry and was set to feature three special races for greyhounds — the Girls on Track Classic, the Winged Runner Trophy and the Female Trainers 5th Grade, with all finals to be run at Albion Park on March 26.
However, due to the recent live baiting scandal, Racing Queensland CEO Darren Condon confirmed to Australian Racing Greyhound that there would now be no Girls on Track series held for greyhound racing participants.
“The greyhound element has been removed from the Girls on Track promotion in-line with the board’s recent decision to cancel the RQ Greyhound Awards,” Condon said.
“This is not a time to be celebrating and it was felt the bonuses on offer would be best directed to RQ’s animal welfare initiatives. Races will proceed as scheduled, however will not carry the Girls on Track brand or the bonuses.”
While no one can dispute that the greyhound industry is experiencing some very dark times at present, the feeling is that Racing Queensland is trying to distance itself from the sport which they run in a time when participants need its guidance and support the most.
Sarah Johnson, who was locked in as one of the greyhound ambassadors for the Girls on Track promotion alongside Christina Harman, is disappointed to see the sport being shunned for the wrongdoings of just a few participants.
“I can understand their (Racing Queensland’s) reasoning but I don’t agree, I think it is a good time to be showing everyone that there are good people in the sport, because there is,” Johnson said.
“There are people that are really suffering because of all the negative publicity that we have had and I think we need some positive publicity to even it out and to stop everyone feeling like we are not being supported — I think a lot of people feel like they should give up because they don’t feel like they have any support.
“It is the wrong thing to do (to remove greyhounds from the promotion). Really they should be promoting it more and they should be trying to let everyone know that the people who are left are doing the right thing. The dogs shouldn’t have to suffer and the trainers shouldn’t have to suffer — we should be supported more than usual.”
Johnson and Harman have both been removed from the ‘Girls on Track’ promotional image and all mention of them and the sport of greyhound racing is absent on the series’ information page on Racing Queensland’s website.
Johnson is one of the rising stars in the greyhound game. The 26 year old is the partner of Geoff Uhrhane, who won last Saturday’s Group 2 Vince Curry Memorial at Ipswich, and is the niece of legendary Queensland trainer Tony Brett.
Johnson said she was disgusted by the vision shown on the ABC’s Four Corners program last Monday, but feels that the entire Queensland greyhound industry should not have to suffer as a result.
“I was horrified when I saw it,” she said. “I have never seen anything like it and it was terrifying to me. I knew when the story was coming out that it was going to be bad but I didn’t know it was going to be that bad and that graphic.
“I had to go racing the next day and I didn’t want to go. I was terrified about what was going to happen when I got there and everyone seemed very down on everything, no one wanted to be there and there was media there — it made us feel like the rest of us were in the wrong when really we had nothing to do with any of it.
“That’s the point of it all — the people that are still around and still racing, we haven’t done anything wrong and it feels like we have all been put in the same category because everyone thinks the whole industry is doing all of this when it’s not.”
Johnson said many trainers are beginning to fear for the future of the sport, including herself.
“I’ve spoken to a couple of people that have been in the industry a long time who are worried that we won’t come back from this and other people have said that it will take at least 10 years.
“For somebody that is young, to be sticking around in a sport that is going to take that long to recover or possibly not recover at all, it has put the dampener on it.
“Even Geoff’s big win on Saturday night — it didn’t feel like we could celebrate as well as we should have been able to. It just comes back to everyone having to suffer because of a minority of the sport that are not doing the right thing. The rest of us that are doing the right thing now cannot make the most of our success.”
However, despite the scrutiny of the public and media, Johnson said she believes the sport which she loves can recover if participants and the authorities are willing to work together to repair greyhound racing’s tarnished image.
“I think if we can continue to support each other and stand by the sport then we will come back from this stronger than ever, but it will take persistence and strength because I feel like it will take a long time for that to happen.
“I think there should be more publicity about the people who are doing the right thing and succeeding from all the hard work they put in. It is only the minority who have been caught and the majority of us only want to do the best for our dogs and get the most possible from the work and time and effort we put in.”