What you may have missed: National Championships taking shape

THE Nationals puzzle is almost complete, with the representatives from Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania all locked into place after various qualifiers have been run around the country over the last week.

The winners from each state qualifier will head to NSW with the finals of the Group 1 and Distance Championships to be run at Wentworth Park to be run on August 22, 2015.

So far, the Championships look as follows:

Group 1 National Sprint Championship

Victoria – Run at Sandown Park last Thursday, Margins caused a major upset in the Victorian Sprint Championship when defeating superstar sprinter Fernando Bale. Beginning fairly from box three, the -trained chaser sat behind Fernando Bale, Ronray Spirit and Kayda Shae throughout the majority of the race before railing underneath the leading trio on the home turn and shooting clear. He scored by two-and-a-half-lengths at the finish ahead of Ronray Spirit, with Fernando Bale finishing third.

Queensland – Ultra consistent sprinter Keybow booked his spot in the National decider with a tenacious performance at Albion Park on August 6. Despite an ordinary beginning, the son of and Key Exit barged his way underneath the early leader Annie Benz running through the first turn and never looked in danger from then on. The two-time Group 1 winner strode clear to score by two-and-one-quarter lengths in a terrific 29.74.

South Australia – In a wide open affair, Alex's Entity provided young gun trainer Ben Rawlings with arguably his biggest thrill to date, coming from behind to score a sensational 29.86 success at Angle Park last Thursday. A winner of 14 from 32, the black and white greyhound has excelled since joining Rawling's kennel, winning five from 11 with four minor placings.

Western Australia – The WA features were held at Mandurah in 2015 with the Cannington track closing earlier this year. The sprint decider went the way of Nick Minutillo's Nero Bolt which weaved its way through the field to score a solid five-and-one-quarter-length win in 27.62.

Tasmania – Prominent Tassie trainer Gary Fahey will get a crack at the big time with his sensational speedster Breaker's Tip scoring a deserved victory. Despite being drawn awkwardly in box seven, the son of Mogambo and Dennes Point was too classy for his opposition, cloaking a handy 29.87 over the 515 metre trip at Launceston on Monday night.

AGRA Wildcard – As the nation's highest ranked sprinter to have made his state final, Fernando Bale was guaranteed a start in the National decider irregardless of where he finished last Thursday. The seven-time Group winner will be looking to extend his winning affinity with the Sydney track where he has won nine in a row, including three Group 1s this year.

Group 1 National Distance Championship

Victoria – Sweet It Is became the first greyhound to break the $900,000 mark when taking out Saturday's Victorian Distance Championship at The Meadows. Greyhound racing's highest stakes earner, last year's victor and already a Group 1 winner at Wentworth Park is the one to beat in the National final on Saturday week.

Queensland – In a race that changed complexion numerous times, Mullaway emerged victorious for Joanne Price in the Queensland Distance Championship at Albion Park. The son of Velocette and Halzini has experience at the Glebe circuit which will work in his favour, having run second in this year's Group 3 Gold Cup over the track and trip.

South Australia – While Grifter Bale was the favourite for the SA qualifier, when the lids flew open, Placid Planet set the pace. Despite setting up a handy break down the back, Ben Rawling's charge ran out of steam towards the end over the gruelling 732 metre journey and was grabbed right on the line by Petar Jovanovic's Pyscotic Gold in a respectable 43.48.

Western Australia – Punters were on the money in the WA Distance Championship, with favourite Deadly Boy scoring an easy win over the 647 metres at Mandurah. Trained by John Carmody, Deadly Boy clocked 36.97 and brought up his 22nd career victory at start 72.

Tasmania – Lillycette will get her chance to mix it on the big stage once more after winning the Tassie qualifier on Monday night. Trained by Ted Medhurst, the black bitch has already made three Group finals during her career, two of those being over the staying trip, including the Group 1 Association Cup at Wentworth Park.

AGRA Wildcard – Lady Toy has proven to be one of the most consistent stayers in the country and, despite failing to win a Group 1 thus far, she will be a major threat in the final. The unfashionably bred daughter of Our Toyman and Railway Shiraz has been the runner up in four Group 1 features – could the 2015 National Distance Championship be her race?

The last spots to be confirmed are from the home state, with the NSW Sprint and Distance finals being run this Saturday night in the Harbour City.

In the stewards room

Stuart Mills has been banned for life for his involvement in the live baiting scandal. Mills was the manager of the Tooradin trial track where hidden surveillance cameras captured Mills and other prominent greyhound racing identities baiting greyhounds with live rabbits and piglets.

Mills' case was heard before the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board () last week where he faced a total of 15 charges relating to Local Racing Rule 18.5 and Greyhounds Australasia Rule 86(af).

Mill's disqualification comes after his father, legendary greyhound trainer Anthony Mills, was handed down the same penalty in June.

Seven other trainers – six of whom were already suspended – have also been charged by Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) Stewards for their alleged involvement in live baiting at the Tooradin Trial Track. The seven persons are Paul Anderton, Kerry Chalker, Diane Hodges, Kenneth Hodges, Neville King, James Reynolds and Robert Smith.

Troy Donaldson's appeal upheld in part

The Racing Appeals Tribunal has partially upheld an appeal by trainer Troy Donaldson regarding a penalty imposed by Greyhound (GRNSW) Stewards for a breach of GAR 83(2) (a).

Donaldson appealed against a 12 month disqualification which was handed down after his greyhound Ninja Turtle returned a urine sample which showed the presence of the prohibited substances and androsta-1, 4-diene-3,17-dione after it competed at The Gardens on January 24, 2015.

The appeal was upheld in part and was amended to a nine month disqualification.

Breaking Mad cleared to race

Breaking Mad has been cleared to race again by GRNSW Stewards after a sample taken at trainer Jodie Lord's kennels showed no presence of the permanently banned prohibit substance Recombinant Human Erythropoietin (EPO).

Breaking Mad had been suspended following the detection of EPO in a sample taken after it won at Wentworth Park on April 20, 2015.

Stewards are currently awaiting the results of the confirmatory testing of the reserve samples to decide whether charges will be laid against Lord and if an needs to be held into the matter.

Jannine Miggins fined for positive swab

Racing Queensland (RQ) Stewards conducted an inquiry into the finding of the prohibited substance Hydrocortisone in a urine sample taken from Make The Switch prior to it competing at Townsville on May 16, 2015

Make The Switch's trainer Jannine Miggins was charged with a breach of GAR 83 (2)(a) in that she presented the greyhound in a state other than being free of a prohibited substance.

Miggins pleaded guilty to the charge and, after considering an appropriate penalty, RQ Stewards fined her $2,500.

Darren Taylor suspended for nine months

Queensland trainer Darren Taylor has been disqualified for nine months after being found guilty of a breach of GAR 83 (2)(a). The specifics of the situation were that Taylor presented his greyhound, Sophie's Mate, to race at Albion Park on May 19, with a pre-race urine sample showing the presence of prohibited substance Hydrocortisone.

Taylor pleaded guilty to the charge and he was subsequently suspended for nine months, with a poor record of five breaches of the same rule since 2009 affecting his penalty.

Sophie's Mate was also disqualified from the event in question.

New Chief Veterinary Officer appointed in NSW

Dr Elizabeth Arnott has been appointed as the new Chief Veterinary Officer for GRNSW. Arnott is a graduate of the University of Sydney and spent over a decade working as a small animal practitioner in regional NSW. Since 2012 she has been involved in research into the working dog field and has undertaken a PhD investigating aspects of behaviour, welfare, performance and breeding of livestock working dogs.

Arnott became a member of the Animal Welfare Chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists in 2011.

The announcement of Arnott's appointment comes a week after GRNSW released a report developed by the Working Dog Alliance Australia (WDA) which is a registered non-profit organisation that works with industries to improve the welfare of working and sporting dogs within Australia.

The report recommended some improvements to the sport, specifically in the areas of rearing and training, including:

  • Greater guidance and education to be made available for all industry participants
  • Increased socialisation for greyhounds at all stages of their lifecycle
  • Young greyhounds to be provided with a structured program of controlled exposure to a range of stimuli from an early age, including likely scenarios that the greyhound will experience in later life
  • The urgent need for racing greyhound specific education packages to be made mandatory for all stages of industry licensing
  • The development of standardised record keeping which enables the sharing of data across all states and territories
  • All lures to be synthetic, of non-related animal material and not resembling an animal shape
  • All future welfare initiatives to be transparent, have responsibility and accountability attributed to individuals, as well as assigned timeframes to ensure progress is made and programs are evaluated and modified as required
  • The report also indicated further research was required in regards to lure and track designs as well as what motivates greyhounds to chase.

    Run of the week

    Consistent NSW chaser Father Skeeta finally pinched a feature race victory when taking out Saturday night's $10,000 Phil Davis Memorial at .

    Beginning well from box one, the black dog was beaten for speed in the run to the first turn by No Diggity and Blackey Streek, but managed to find a nice spot on the rails back in third spot. Down the back and the Leslie Dennis-trained greyhound started taking ground off the two leaders, hooking to the outside around the home turn and storming down the outside to score by a neck in a handy 30.77.

    The son of Aston Galilee and Madam Jessie has now won 15 races from 56 starts with just over $50,000 in career earnings.

    Check out his run below:

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