Decision Looms On TAB Million Dollar Chase

LATER this week the Greyhound Racing NSW will make a definitive call on the future of the fast approaching TAB Million Dollar Chase.

Adam Dobbin

2 August 2021

LATER this week the management and board of Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) will make a definitive call on the future of the fast approaching TAB Million Dollar Chase.

The flagship event was slated to begin this weekend at Temora but with the Covid-19 crisis in New South Wales showing no signs of abating, GRNSW made the decision recently to push the series back a week and commence at Dubbo on August 14.

That move was designed to hand GRNSW more time in the hope that some ‘green shoots’ would begin appearing in the always changing Covid-19 landscape.

Sadly, those green shoots have not been forthcoming, and if anything, the situation has worsened with no end in sight.

Make no mistake, GRNSW are hellbent on staging this year’s TAB Million Dollar Chase in some capacity.

But whether that desire can overcome the sheer significance of the obstacles before them is at best problematic and at worst impossible.

The last thing GRNSW wants to do is run an abridged version of the race and unravel all the hard work that’s been achieved since the inception of the world’s richest race in 2018.

Frank Hurst following Good Odds Harada’s MDC triumph in 2019

There seems to be a sense of inevitability that if the race is staged in 2021 the final won’t be at Wentworth Park.

No clear timeline has been established for a return to racing at Wentworth Park but while Greater Sydney is in lockdown it’s understood the famed Glebe circuit will be sidelined.

At the moment, lockdown is in place until at least August 28 but the common thread of thinking is that it will almost definitely drag on deep into September.

If not further.

For GRNSW, the optics of the decision they make is just as important as the decision itself.

It will never be fully understood just how close racing in NSW came to being halted in recent weeks as the Covid-19 crisis heightened.

Best rest assured it was on a knife’s edge.

Peter Lagogiane after Handsome Prince won the 2020 MDC

Industry leaders have done a fantastic job to maintain racing and keep the wheels turning during this current Covid-19 outbreak, albeit in testing circumstances for participants.

Maintaining racing in some form is one thing. Staging the sport’s flagship event is another.

Especially a series so unique in nature like the Million Dollar Chase which is built on regional travel and Australia-wide participation over a six-week roadshow.

It’s different. Which is why it’s been such a success.

While the race is important for participants in terms of opportunity, it’s also hugely important in projecting the image of the sport, generating significant mainstream media while raising awareness for Greyhounds As Pets.

In the absence of a miracle, the challenges GRNSW faces in staging this year’s TAB Million Dollar Chase are profound.

Think zoned racing greatly limiting travel.

Think state border closures which only continue to tighten given the recent Covid-19 issues Queensland are facing.

Think little to no interstate representation and the absence of trainers even if the greyhounds are shuttled and participate.

Think Wentworth Park being out of play and even if it isn’t the race being staged in front of an empty grandstand.

The challenges are real on two fronts – optics and logistics.

What makes the TAB Million Dollar Chase unique is that it’s open to every greyhound in the country – there isn’t an owner or trainer that can’t dare to dream.

Above all else that needs to be preserved. Running a handful of smaller events limited to different zones – which has been proposed – doesn’t achieve that.

If anything, it just cheapens the brand and works against all the great work that’s been achieved in recent years.

GRNSW are well aware they can only kick the can down the road for so long before making a definitive decision.

Expect that to come later this week.

It’s almost unimaginable to think that the 2020 MDC was successfully staged during the heights of Covid-19 but here we are 12 months later in a far more perilous position.

But here we are.

Anyone got a crystal ball?