After collecting a nice return on the Melbourne Cup my jubilation was immediately shattered after hearing the news that one horse had passed away, with another critically injured. Within a matter of minutes my Facebook news feed was swamped with emotional tributes, strong opinions and genuine hatred towards the sport of horse racing. Unfortunately this rare occurrence of a horse suffering heart failure was showcased in the biggest race on the Australian calendar and now horse racing is about to face its toughest battle, with thousands calling for the sport to be banned entirely.
I for one am not unaccustomed to the slander enforced by anti-racing protestors, with phrases such as “I hope you get cancer” appearing regularly in my inbox. No matter how much money I donate to charity or the number of campaigns I enforce with regards to greyhound welfare, I’m still considered the devil that walks the earth. I hope greyhound racing never ceases to exist, nor horse racing, however what must be emphasised is the positive and necessary steps that are now being taken within our industry to ensure that greyhound lives aren’t going to waste.
Greyhound Racing New South Wales is currently advertising for compliance officers who will be responsible for conducting approximately 2,000 kennel inspections per year. Several greyhound adoption and rescue programs Australia wide are now in operation and are dedicated to rehabilitating and rehoming greyhounds that several years ago wouldn’t have got a much-deserved second chance.
I urge any anti-greyhound protester to come and spend a day with me, to see what they consider all owners and trainers to be like. I have a greyhound that raced once, ran sixth, broke down and is now retired. She didn’t just become another statistic, but rather an important member of our household. She has her own western red cedar floor boarded kennel, window air conditioner and a clam pool. She is fed whatever food is eaten by my family and goes for long walks twice a day, 365 days a year. Not every greyhound suffers the fate that unfortunately many were subjected to in the past, with the sport moving forward to combat the wastage numbers that at one point in time were appalling.
Welfare isn’t just about calculating how many greyhounds are euthanised every year from the number of greyhounds born, but rather using the world’s most powerful mediums such as social media to emphasise the positive changes that are being adopted by governing states across Australia.
One of the growing concerns amongst participants is the issue of track safety. For those unfamiliar to the sport, injuries can vary from bruised toes and lacerations to muscle tears and fractures. It’s commonly said that the first turn is no place for the faint hearted in major races, as they commonly possess greyhounds with blistering early pace. An analysis of three tracks across Australia that conduct races over short course distances and two turn distances produced some interesting results.
|Month||Distance||Number||Avg. Days||Worst Injury|
|Track One||Oct-14||400+||15||18.4||Dropped nearside pin muscle, fractured offside hind leg|
|Oct-13||400+||6||11.3||Lacerated toe, injured offside groin|
|Oct-13||500+||9||12.5||Fractured offside leg|
|Track Two||Oct-14||400+||5||17.4||Dislocated nearside toe|
|Oct-14||500+||6||19||Fractured offside wrist|
|Oct-13||400+||5||17.2||Injured offside hind leg|
|Oct-13||500+||2||14||Groin and bicep|
|Track Three||Oct-14||400+||4||16.5||Lacerated nearside forefoot|
|Oct-14||500+||7||31.3||Fractured offside hock|
|Oct-13||400+||4||14.5||Torn offside hip support|
|Oct-13||500+||4||16.5||Injured offside hip support|
From these results, 39 greyhounds that raced over the 400m obtained incapacitation certificates for injuries, with the average number of days being 15.8. In comparison, 28 greyhounds that raced over distances greater than 500m obtained certificates, with the average number of days being 18.6.
Whilst track design has been a popular topic of discussion for some time, the increasing number of new technologies now available to clubs right across Australia will only enhance the public perception of greyhound racing. There are increasing opportunities regarding the issue of corner starts over the 400m to be readdressed. Several owners and trainers I have spoken too over the past few years seem reluctant to admit that those types of races are a lottery, with whoever gets through the tight early squeeze being the likely winner.
Maitland GBOTA amended the top of their turn a few years ago, which had a positive impact on the club. Maitland now benefits from less interference over the 400m, ultimately resulting in many trainers from outside the Hunter Valley area now favouring the one turn circuit for their short course sprinters.
If last week’s Melbourne Cup tragedy taught us anything, it was the fact that freak accidents and incidents do happen. I could walk outside and be hit by a car; does that mean all cars will be banned from the roads? What about all the tragic losses of life from jockey’s suffering falls this year, I don’t recall a ban on horse racing being called for then? Yes both sports still have negative aspects and plenty of hard work to do, but the dedication and persistence by many in regards to welfare and retirement programs must be acknowledged and applauded by the general public.