In a radio interview prior to Miata’s failed attempt to win the Sandown Cup, interviewee Greg Fahey was asked where he placed the Western Australian bitch in terms of the greats.
Fahey’s response was measured and sensible, pointing to the fact there are currently five stayers included in the AGRA Hall of Fame, namely Zoom Top, National Lass, Lizrene, Bold Trease, and Chief Havoc. He noted they were all entitled to be classified as superior to Miata, at this stage of the latter’s racing career.
Fahey’s comments started me thinking about the Hall of Fame. Established in 1998, this worthy showcase to the deeds of our greats has, I hate to say it, turned into a bit of a joke.
People might recall AGRA originally intended to only admit greyhounds that had performed under the Group system, that is, from 1990 onwards. For some reason best known to them, the boffins in charge wanted to simply erase 63 years of racing history.
Thankfully, this errant nonsense was rectified and so-called honorary inductees are allowed. It is my understanding Neil Brown had much to do with this change of policy. At least there was one sensible and logical mind floating around the rarefied atmosphere at AGRA.
Sadly, it seems as though the Hall of Fame has been turned into a backslapping and navel gazing guzzle fest.
Why do I say that? There are currently 46 Hall of Fame inductees. Of these 26 are officials, trainers, breeders, administrators, or medical personnel. There are just 18 greyhounds and two broodbitches representing the four-legged Hall of Famers.
I do not have any issue or argument against any of the 46 inductees. Absolutely every single one is worthy of the honour that has been bestowed upon them, be they upright on two legs or more horizontal on four.
Where I do have an issue is with the incredibly small number of racing greyhounds who are represented. Just 18, in the almost 14 years since its inception. That is glacial.
If you think I’m being harsh, consider this. The Australian Horse Racing Hall of Fame started in 2000, two years after AGRA’s. There are currently 42 (yes, forty-two) champion racehorses in their Hall of Fame. That’s alongside 31 jockeys, 31 trainers, and 24 others.
AGRA might argue that to permit more than a few inductees each year would somehow dilute or lower the standard they have set for the Hall of Fame.
My retort to this is that you have 63 years of racing to catch up on first. That’s 63 years with some incredible greyhounds that deserve to be recognised for their achievements, now.
If you decide you will limit entries from the honorary division to say one or two per year, it will be 2030 or 2040 before those who should have been honoured will have been awarded their rightful place in the pantheon of stars. That is ridiculous.
Starting now, if not yesterday, I believe the people charged with determining the credentials of honorary inductees should start looking, in the first instance, for worthy candidates from about 1965 onwards.
The reason I suggest 1965 and beyond is twofold. First, the decade from 1965 to 1975 -give or take a few years either side- is arguably the Golden Age of greyhound racing in Australia. There were literally so many puppies and competition was so fierce you had to be good to get to the top ‘in town’.
Second, and more importantly, there would be a lot of former breeders, owners and trainers who would still be alive and what a great thrill it would be for them to see their former stars acknowledged among the champions of the sport.
Miata’s heroics over the past few months might well have introduced a lot of new people to the sport. Some of these may even want to know more about the past ‘Miata’s’.
The Hall of Fame isn’t a bad place to start, but it’s a long, long way from being anything like a decent repository of our rich history.