The Sunday Afternoon "Finish On"

PATIENCE is the word of the day when it comes to the return to racing for Queensland's all important Albion Park and Capalaba tracks.

Peter Davis

27 March 2022

PATIENCE is the word of the day when it comes to the return to racing for Albion Park and Capalaba.

Keeping owners and trainers informed via social media, the team at Capalaba, on Friday, provided an insight into the scope of work required to have the straight track operational.

Sand was delivered for the catching pen late last week and will be reinstated by Tuesday, the kennel block has been deep cleaned three times and will again be attended to this week.

Electrical works have commenced but that’s reliant on parts while the lure driving motors (including the return arm mechanism) will be installed in the next few days.

IT systems are to be rectified while the walls of the veterinary room must be replaced and power has yet to be returned to the start precinct.

An irrigation pump and paneling for the stewards and veterinary rooms are on back order while a new cold room motor needs to be installed.

There’s much to do and the availability of tradesmen is another intangible.

Meanwhile at Albion Park, replacement of the racing surface (sand content) has been approved by Racing Queensland and is set to be laid on Monday week (April 4).

Repairs to building infrastructure is still required and works have no fixed date but temporary dwellings will allow for the return to racing once the track is up to speed.

Access to power remains the major hurdle, however. The floodwaters have severely disaffected underground cabling and short-term fixes (generators) will be in place in the for the resumption of trials/races.

The new lure motor gets installed this week but there is no way the club can estimate a return to trialling let alone racing.

It’s four weeks since the rain event and Albion Park’s inoperable status has compromised trialling sessions at Ipswich.

Ipswich is racing seven days a week and by means of demand, limits have been placed on the number of trials (three per person is the latest update) a trainer can book a single session.

And there is only one trial session (on Thursday morning) a week – and they’re primarily solo trials!

Trial sessions need to be added after race meetings on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays to keep racing stock numbers statics.

Just what contingency does RQ have if something goes completely awry at Ipswich? On Saturday night, the final four races (all over 431m) were abandoned due to a malfunction with the starting boxes.

On that basis, does RQ have a spare parts inventory in place for all tracks?

An immediate and easy fix would be for Racing Queensland to invest in the revitalisation of Beenleigh as a trialling facility. There is no trialling facility whatsoever on the south side of Brisbane and the future proofing of greyhound racing would get a boost if RQ ‘bit the bullet’ and spent (not a lot of money) to have Beenleigh operational.

The new track at Purga – first announced in October 2019 – was to be completed by the end of 2023 (with soil to be turned at the start of this year) but RQ is still waiting final Government approvals for the $40m spend.

The latest news on RQ’s website is for project completion in 2024 yet community and industry engagement has only just concluded and the commencement date is reliant on a ministerial decision in coming weeks.

OPPORTUNITY

The lack of trial sessions is not restricted to south-east Queensland.

With Cranbourne and Traralgon out of play, trainers are struggling to get trials for their ‘race’ dogs while pre-trainers are increasingly frustrated … some are reducing their numbers or deciding not to pre-train saplings at all.

Like Ipswich, some Victorian clubs have introduced limits (of six trials) to trainers and that has an impact on cost (travelling) and time. Some trainers are forced to trial twice (on successive days) rather than make one trip with, let’s say, a litter of eight pups.

GRV has been consulting with GOTBA regarding the opportunities for trainers (to trial) and some good news may be exposed in coming days.

Nonetheless, more trials need to be programmed after the last race at most meetings and or additional trial sessions be immediately introduced.

Considering all track maintenance needs to be conducted to ensure track integrity, the prospect of trial sessions being available is limited should after-the-last opportunities not be presented.

In Victoria, many tracks utilise Burrumbeet sand (Sale and Cranbourne are different) and there is a short-term problem sourcing that product at the moment.

The use of the Sale sand (from a quarry in the Gippsland precinct) on all tracks in Victoria is possible but the mixture of two sands is beyond this writer’s scope. That’s for a soil science company to think about yet a contingency plan is urgently needed.

In short, GRV needs to invest in a dedicated trial track facility for the education of pups and trial sessions for race dogs.

It’s about future proofing greyhound racing much like GRNSW has done with the upgrade of the Thirlmere trial track, the old Cessnock Showgrounds site (with new boxes and track surface upgrade) and Muswellbrook.

Trials are expected to commence at Cessnock in a month or so with a local committee handling the restart. Further rain delays aside, Richmond is likely to return towards the end of April while the Thirlmere trial track gets full attention thereafter.

The missing element in NSW and Victoria especially is a dedicated training precinct where, from a secure location, trainers can rent kennels (of up to 20 let’s say) and have access to a straight track for conditioning work.

The concept works for the thoroughbred industry (Randwick, Warwick Farm and Rosehill in NSW for example) and, with vast outlay required for the establishment of a kennel (capital) aside, investment in infrastructure needs to be at the forefront of greyhound racing’s decision makers.

Affordability of engagement is now gravely stressed by fuel prices, the escalation of feeding costs and, in NSW, there’s no reward for excellence to breeders whatsoever.

This sport ‘of the people’ is quickly becoming problematic for hobbyists.

$1M CHANGE

With Lismore presumably out of play as a racing venue and persistent rain delaying Richmond’s return, the Million Dollar Chase has lost two heat venues.

Those slots will be added to the prelude series at Wentworth Park on April 23.

The series still commences on April 7 with heats at Casino, Gunnedah and Dapto and conclude at Gosford on April 19 (heats April 12).