The long history of controversy over the selection of greyhounds for the 2012 Topgun continued yesterday when complaints from connections forced the Melboure Greyhound Racing Association (MGRA) to include a further seven greyhounds in the "invitee list" just three days as after the original list of 23 was announced.
MGRA Manager Marg Long explained the decision behind the late entries saying “Trainers were welcome to put their case forward for greyhounds that weren’t in the original list of 23, and we decided that another seven greyhounds should be placed on the list after discussing their names with the panel.”
The seven greyhounds added to the original list of 23 invites were Bogie King, Don Chendo, Coal King, Mepunga Geordie, Proven Nitro, Ritza Ryder and Transcend Time.
How greyhounds the calibre of 2012 Canberra Cup winner Mepunga Geordie or 2011 Topgun placegetter Bogie King could be left out is anyone's guess? Or even Transcend Time, whom the MGRA's own AGRA just named Australia's best greyhound for the month of September 2012.
But the "selection panel" of the Topgun have a long history of "not quite getting it right".
Fundamentally the panel process is flawed as the MGRA continue to place "media personalties" and club officials in to the panel, not, as one would expect, form students or greyhound analysts.
And of course any omissions or perceptions of bias are magnified, as the Topgun is the only group 1 race on the Australian greyhound racing calendar worth $150,000 to the winner that is not run on a qualifying heat and final basis.
Incidentally of the other three "by invitation only" group 1 races on the calendar, the MGRA are responsible for all three.
Many in the industry are critical of the group 1 status allowed for these races where greyhounds are placed in to a one in eight chance of winning $150,000 by any other process than by merit through a heat and final.
No doubt the fact the MGRA are one of only ten greyhound racing clubs that form the AGRA is a significant factor in why these "straight out" races are allowed to be awarded group 1 status.
Far from being a representative body of all greyhound racing clubs, the AGRA is dominated by metropolitan greyhound racing clubs, and of course the two dominant greyhound club factions in NSW greyhound racing, the GBOTA and the NCA. Not surprisingly most of the group races revolve around these ten clubs and their racing schedule.
The AGRA has assumed the role of organising the group racing calendar, and in the absence of any other truly representative national body this situation is likely to continue for the near future.
Perhaps when calls for a representative national board or commission to steer Australian greyhound racing are finally heard, then that body might be better placed to administer the group racing calendar more effectively.
In the interim, these perceptions of unfairness and bias will continue to proliferate.
According to MGRA Manager Marg Long "We now have 30 of the best greyhounds in the country vying for a spot in the Group 1 showdown on October 27.”
That may or may not be the case but between now and then how many other trainers and greyhound connections will take advantage of the little known "protest option" to get their greyhound included in the invitee list? And what is the appeal process if your protest is denied?
The Topgun panel will meet again on Friday, October 12, to cut the field down to eight from the list of trainers who have accepted the first round invitation sent out on Friday.
The 2012 Topgun field will then be announced on Sky Racing’s The Catching Pen on Monday October 15th, not surprising when you consider the "selection panel" is almost certain to be dominated by Sky Racing talking heads.
The box draw for the 2012 Topgun will take place trackside at The Meadows on Saturday October 20th 2012.