Why The Phoenix Is Moving Into Dangerous Territory

WHEN The Phoenix was first trumpeted it was sold as being The Everest of greyhound racing, creating unprecedented hype and interest for the sport.

Adam Dobbin

19 September 2021

WHEN The Phoenix concept was first trumpeted it was sold as being The Everest of greyhound racing.

A fresh and innovative event aimed at capturing the imagination of a whole new audience to generate unprecedented media exposure for greyhound racing.

Eight slots at $75,000 apiece which, akin to The Everest, would generate a flurry of terse negotiations and bartering to establish which eight greyhounds would assume their place in the $1.1m event at The Meadows on December 18.

What has made The Everest so successful is the engrossing jostling for places in the months leading up to the $15m race.

At every turn and negotiation there’s another level of interest fueling the theatre of the event.

That organic publicity is worth its weight in gold – the race ultimately sells itself.

Which brings us to last Sunday night’s announcement of the eight successful slot holders for The Phoenix where you can’t help but feel the race regressed from where it initially started.

Fourteen applications were received which was whittled down to eight by the selection panel chaired by former Victorian Premier Dr. Denis Napthine.

Slots were awarded to Tabcorp, Sportsbet, Sports Entertainment Network and Ray Borda, while the remaining successful applicants were racing bodies NSW GBOTA, Racing Queensland, Greyhound Racing NSW and The Dogs WA.

 

The provision of slots to the four interstate racing bodies could prove unsettling to the objectives of the race.

With the early indications that those four spots could well be decided by state qualifying events it begs the question: Is The Phoenix going down the path of becoming a half-baked version of the Nationals?

And even if the slots aren’t awarded through qualifying series, how do racing regulators navigate through negotiations in fear of being favourable to one participant over another?

Throwing it open to the public is another option but even then how do you ensure the most worthy suitor fills that slot?

It really is dangerous territory no matter what direction you take.

It’s worth noting that the 12 The Everest slots are comprised of wagering operators, a sales house, breeders, owners’ and training operations.

The Australian Turf Club has on sold their slot in recent years so there has been no racing body directly involved in picking a runner for the race.

With four of The Phoenix slots allocated to racing bodies and Ray Borda rightfully poised to use his slot, it leaves just three spots – Tabcorp, Sportsbet and Sports Entertainment Network – open for negotiation.

So we assume, anyway.

For The Phoenix to be the raging success the industry wants it to be, it’s imperative that the eight best fit and healthy greyhounds take their place in the $750,000-to-the-winner event at The Meadows on December 18.

Anything less than that does a disservice to the race and the new audience it’s trying to capture and resonate with.

The fear of half the field being decided through qualifying races almost guarantees that objective is compromised.

Everyone wants The Phoenix to be a runaway success – and it has the potential to do so.

But running a watered down version of The Nationals isn’t going to achieve that.