Last week GRSA released details of a decision to do away with the finish-on lure (FOL) at Angle Park for all meetings come July 1, with construction of a catching pen and run off to commence shortly. Understandably, this has opened the proverbial ‘can of worms’ in regards to who, and what, the priorities are for GRSA, with seemingly every participant in the state having an opinion.
Before we explore the sentiments from those on the ground, let’s review the facts at hand.
GRSA recently undertook a survey to gauge opinion on the FOL system. Details of this process were made known via the following statement;
“The Management of GRSA recently undertook a comprehensive survey of industry to gauge the current thinking of the industry in relation to this particular aspect of our racing operations”
“The process generated a response rate of 36%, fairly exceeding any recent comparable exercise with industry, in addition to which a number of written submissions were also received.”
“Despite the general preference for the FOL amongst the state’s leading trainers, the Board has a fundamental obligation to govern in the interests of all participants, on which basis it was difficult to ignore a nominal preference for Catching Pens evident on a ratio of almost 3:1.”
We approached GRSA CEO Matt Corby to expand on the press release and he provided the following statement –
“We would like it noted that in addition to the other stats that were provided in the press releases, we also looked at the rate of interstate transfers to SA and they didn’t change in the years since the introduction of the follow on lure. The conclusion that we draw from that is that in measurable terms, the FOL hasn’t had an impact on those rates.”
“While we know that a number of dogs have been transferred into SA because of the follow on lure, the numbers indicate that a number of people aren’t transferring to SA because of the system.”
“What we anticipate is that the type of dog coming across will change. It will in fact net out to a neutral result for GRSA. The evidence says that although people bring the dogs because of the system, it’s counteracted by those that aren’t.”
GRSA also state that the statistical and anecdotal evidence of racing manners and greyhound injury/welfare were taken into account when making the decision.
Furthermore, being such a contentious issue, the FOL lure will only be removed from Angle Park, with Gawler to retain the FOL to provide an alternative for those that wish to utilise it. Mount Gambier’s fate will be decided once the committee have their say in the near future.
Now, the above process raises many questions, in regards to the survey process, the weighting of opinions and any evidence publicly presented to support the decision.
Leanne Fagan has been very supportive in regards to the removal of the follow on lure, but questioned the decision to retain the lure at Gawler. “I have never liked the follow on lure, it results in more injuries than using the catching pen. I don’t necessarily agree with the retention of the follow on lure at Gawler. In my opinion this will create more problems down the track”, Leanne explained.
The first area of concern is that only 36% of participants chose to respond on the issue. The reasons for the small percentage would either be a lack of knowledge that the survey was being conducted, a substandard level of interest by those invited to respond, or a belief that the survey is not going to impact the decision by the powers that be.
Either way, 36% of participants was enough percentage for GRSA to deem the results accurate and valid on this occasion.
Moreover, there is a distinct lack of published, hard-fact, statistical evidence in relation to both racing manners and injury.
The above statement addresses these matters, but as yet, no-one can comprehensively prove whether the FOL lure reduced injuries, improved keenness or extended a greyhounds racing career.
If there is statistical evidence as stated, where is it? What are the numbers? What are the trends across the timeframe the FOL has been in place? Even if these questions were answered adequately enough for GRSA’s liking, what are the reasons for not making this information public? Unfortunately, we are all left wondering.
Prominent local trainer Lisa Rasmussen is a vocal supporter of the FOL system. Her belief is that welfare and attitudes of her runners are greatly improved, and will now be in jeopardy from this decision.
“I have had numerous dogs injured in the catching pens, from running into the gate, to being fought into the outside fence. Also timid bitches that refuse to go into the pen as they are scared to death of the handlers yelling at the other dogs to stop.”
“At least 10 of the 40 dogs I have at the moment are here specifically for the finish on lure. I do think it will have an impact on future nominations. I also know of a few other trainers who have purchased or been sent ‘non chasers’ and have been able to turn them around and make a bit of money and extend the dog’s life.”
“What it all boils down to is that it has increased the number of dogs coming to South Australia that were perhaps problem dogs or not 100% trying where they came from. Therefore the follow-on effect is the extension of racing life for many, many dogs.”
“Why therefore has GRSA decided to change the lure system back at Angle Park? I simply cannot understand.”
Without a doubt there are people on both sides of the ledger and prominent young trainer Ben Rawlings was as equally vocal in his support of the decision.
“My biggest issue was that you could have a dog win by eight to ten lengths and be holding your breath as seven dog’s crash into the back of it. I’ve had an amazing amount of split webbings and scratches down the backs of my dogs.”
“I also don’t believe that it made a difference with the non-chasers. I’m happy with the decision and support the process”, Rawlings explained.
Another leading and well known trainer shed light that the FOL was just one of multiple concerns that, in their opinion, are not being handled correctly at this time.
“It’s all politics. There are a lot of issues at stake at present”
“At the end of the day, the dogs are still chasing the same thing, however every trainer should have been made to have a say in this instance”.
“Without a select few trainers in this state, greyhound racing doesn’t exist. It’s that simple”
It’s those exact sentiments that are becoming increasingly common in South Australia, as those who provide the clear majority of nominations are given as much weighting as someone who has one dog in work.
Nevertheless, the FOL debate is having no clear winner at the moment. But the decision is final, and Gawler looks to be the last bottle on the wall for FOL supporters in this country.