Leading trainer the target of undercover investigator

WITH a second Four Corners program focused on greyhound racing expected to air in the near future, there is speculation Animals Australia, Animal Liberation Queensland and the RSPCA might have further footage of trainers engaging in live-baiting activities.

Now, a leading Victorian trainer has confirmed to Australian Racing Greyhound that their training establishment was targeted by the same undercover spy who appeared in the ABC’s Four Corners program focusing on live-baiting.

The trainer, who has not been named due to the serious circumstances of the live-baiting saga, said a woman known as ‘Jane’ was working for them at the end of 2014 for a short period.

They were told ‘Jane’ had worked for her family on a farm in England before meeting her at a racetrack where she asked for weekend work. She was given normal duties such as feeding pups and cleaning kennels before suspicions grew when she begun asking about their bullring and how the dogs were taught to chase.

But that wasn’t the only strange thing about ‘Jane’…

“Even on really warm days she would be covered in clothing and wearing a hat and we used to say that she had a hunchback,” the trainer said.

It is unknown whether the clothing may have been worn to conceal a camera or recording device, while the trainer is still unsure as to whether any secret surveillance cameras were ever set up or still remain on their property.

“It is hard to know (whether cameras were set up) but hopefully she has gone away satisfied that everything is alright here.”

The trainer says there is no doubt in their mind the woman working for them was the same person who went undercover at the property of Zeke Kadir, despite the fact her face was blurred on the Four Corner’s program.

“We recognised her on Four Corners, it didn’t show her face but it was definitely her,” they said. 

The trainer said that irregardless of whether trainers are obeying by the rules of racing or not, it acts as a reminder for all participants to be wary of who they allow on their properties.

“You have got to be carful of who you have around, we will be very careful of anyone we have around here from now on.”

The trainer says that the covert investigations, conducted by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland, which have targeted multiple training establishments around the country, had the wrong intentions from the start.

“It has been bad for the whole industry the way that it has all been done – they want to get rid of greyhound racing completely, they are not interested in just trying to catch those people doing the wrong thing.”

Australian Racing Greyhound is led to believe that no further footage has been handed to Greyhound Racing Victoria. It is hoped this indicates any additional surveillance gathered during the investigations of other premises showed no wrongdoing by those trainers. If further damning footage does come to light, it may raise question about the motives of the animal welfare organisations and as to why it was concealed for so long. 

NSW Government form Special Commission of Inquiry

THE New South Wales Government moved to secure the future integrity of its greyhound industry today, announcing a Special Commission of Inquiry to investigate issues of animal welfare and integrity within the sport.

Troy Grant, the NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for racing announced the establishment of the investigative team, which will call upon the heavy hitters in the police, greyhound and animal welfare industries.

The names attached to the inquiry at this stage include the CEO of the RSPCA NSW Steve Coleman; NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins, Chair of the Greyhound Racing Industry Consultation Group Ron Arnold; and the interim CEO of Greyhound Racing New South Wales, Paul Newson. Stephen Rushton has been appointed counsel assisting the inquiry.

Mr. Grant said the NSW Government was focused on cleaning up the sport and ridding it of the people and practices that tarnished the code in recent weeks.

“The Baird Government takes very seriously the issues facing the greyhound industry in NSW,” Mr Grant said.

“I told Justice McHugh to leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the problems facing the industry and offered whatever powers and resources he needs to get the job done.

“Justice McHugh came back to me and said he required these powers and that’s exactly what we have delivered – he now has the same wide-ranging powers as a Royal Commission.

“Today’s announcement underscores the NSW Liberals & Nationals commitment to rid the industry of ‘live baiting’ and ensure animal welfare and integrity are at the heart of the greyhound racing industry.

“The Inquiry will provide a final report by September, ensuring we have a roadmap for the future of the industry in NSW.”

The announcement was also welcomed by the interim CEO of Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW), Paul Newson.

“The Special Commission of Inquiry will allow for a full analysis of the nature and extent of welfare and integrity issues and how existing systems may have undermined the regulator’s effectiveness,” Mr Newson said.

“The inquiry will review the management and governance of Greyhound Racing NSW including the circumstances that contributed to serious failures in industry supervision.

“Inquiries into allegations of misconduct including mistreatment of animals will continue to be the responsibility of the RSPCA as well as Greyhound Racing NSW overseen by me as its interim CEO.”

The announcement of the Special Commission in NSW comes just days after Racing Queensland welcomed an independent review into the animal welfare issues within the greyhound industry by the Queensland state government.

Victoria is also looking to strengthen welfare and integrity issues, with Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, and Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, announcing a broad investigation into animal welfare and allegations of animal cruelty in the greyhound racing industry by Dr Charles Milne, Chief Veterinary Officer of Victoria, last month.

Also in Victoria, Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna has launched an independent investigation — with cooperation from Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) — into industry participants. Perna will also oversee GRV’s investigation into breaches of the racing rules and assist Victoria Police and the RSPCA with their investigation into criminal matters involving animal cruelty.

The Victorian Government will additional allocate up to $3 million from the Victorian Racing Infrastructure Fund towards strengthening GRV’s animal welfare and integrity measures.

Supreme Court rules Awesome Project can start in Aus. Cup heats

After six hours in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday night, Awesome Project has been given the all clear to start in Saturday’s Group 1 Australian Cup heats at The Meadows.

It was announced early on Friday that Awesome Project would be ineligible to compete in the series after the Board of Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) met on Tuesday and resolved to amend the existing local racing rules and introduce a new rule which prohibits greyhounds to be transferred from a suspended person to a registered person who resides on the same property. 

The Board of GRV amended the Local Racing Rule (LRR) 11.7 and introduced a new LRR 11.8 to directly address the situation that would allow a suspended person to transfer greyhounds into the name of another registered person living at the same address.

The rules came into effect at 9am Friday (February 27 2015) however the Board decided that the transfer of greyhounds from suspended former trainer Darren McDonald into his wife Joanne Gane’s name was to be voided. This struck many people by surprise, given the fact that Awesome Project was transferred into Gane’s name on February 14 2015.

It is the second time in as many weeks that Awesome Project has been withdrawn and re-instated from a feature race. Last week, Greyhound Racing Victoria stood down all greyhounds which were owned or trained by the persons suspended on Friday February 13, which meant that the black dog was taken out of the Group 1 Temlee.

It was later decided by GRV, after Canty threatened them with an injunction, that Awesome Project could line up in the race and he justified that ruling, running a terrific second behind My Bro Fabio for Gane. 

The action continued in Victoria after the running of the Temlee, with GRV Chairman Peter Caillard resigning on Monday. 

Ahead of tomorrows Australian Cup heats, Canty was informed on Thursday night that his greyhound would be withdrawn by stewards acting under their amended and new rules. Canty immediately sought legal advice which resulted in Friday’s after hours Supreme Court hearing.

GRV confirmed in a press release on Friday night that the Supreme Court of Victoria had granted an interim injunction allowing Awesome Project to take its place in the Australian Cup heats. It is still to be determined by the Court whether the injunction should be extended.

“Although we are disappointed with the outcome of this evening’s hearing, and respect the decision of the Court, we will continue take all available action to eradicate the practice of live baiting and take all available action against any individual involved in the practice of live baiting,” GRV’s CEO Adam Wallish said.

Canty on the other hand was understandably relieved to see his star chaser back in the field for the Group 1 Australian Cup heats.

“I think the right decision has been made …. he is back in the race,” Canty said.

Awesome Project will jump from box eight in race 11 at The Meadows on Saturday night for his new trainer Elizabeth Lloyd and will progress through to the following week’s $250,000 final if he is able to win his qualifier. 

Baiting saga update: Brad Canty takes matters to Supreme Court

A NEW welfare levy is being imposed on greyhound prize money and subsidies by Racing Queensland, with it set to raise more than $1.6 million in additional funding as a part of a plan to improve integrity and animal welfare measures.

The new levy comes into effect from March 1 and coincides with Racing Queensland plans to implement a series of changes to the sport’s practices, such as stricter training regulations in regards to the use of lures.

The new levy will be imposed on all feature and base level prize money in addition to incentive and subsidy schemes.

RQ CEO Darren Condon said the changes were being pushed through as a way to improve the greyhound racing industry.

“The greyhound industry is being challenged and we must work together to completely eradicate this type of conduct from the industry forever,” he said

“Racing Queensland has a zero tolerance and will do everything it can to stop it.

“I recognise there are people in the industry who have not been involved in animal cruelty practices, but tough decisions are needed to be made around the way this investigation and our future welfare strategies progress.

“As a result, the levy has been implemented to ensure this contribution is made by the industry.”

Condon further enforced Racing Queensland has zero tolerance for animal cruelty.

“We have made it clear there is no place in the industry for people who engage in animal cruelty practices and while the new measures mean reduced returns to participants, animal welfare must be our number one priority.”

The authority body has outlawed the use of dead animals and animal products for training greyhounds as a part of a new local rule which relates to the types of lures used in training.

“Under the new rule, any lure or similar apparatus used in the training of greyhounds must be artificial and must not carry any organic product, including blood,” Condon said.

As a further rule, Queensland trainers must also provide copies of all invoices relating to the training of greyhounds for this financial year as part of RQ’s current investigation into animal cruelty allegations. 

Another rule has also been implemented, giving Racing Queensland the right to take and retain possession of any greyhound they believe may have been involved in an act of animal cruelty or whose owner or trainer they believe has been involved in any act of animal cruelty.

In further news from Queensland, the lawyers of suspended trainers issued show cause notices as to why they should not be banned from all racetracks for life, in the wake of the Four Corners live-baiting investigation, have made their first submissions. The submissions have reportedly suggested that a lack of action by the racing officials was central to the scandal.

The deadline for trainers to show cause to Racing Queensland as to why they should not be warned off passed on Thursday.

In New South Wales, Harry Sarkis had his license re-instated after GRNSW Stewards received advice from the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory in regards to the analysis of substances confiscated from his kennelling establishment on February 18, 2015. He will be able to resume training greyhounds until further inquiries are carried out.

In Victoria, the Board of Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) at its meeting on February 24 resolved to make amendments to the existing local rules and introduce a new rule which will now make it prohibited to transfer greyhounds from a suspended person into the name of another registered person residing at the same property.

The board made amendments to LRR 11.7 and introduced LRR 11.8 to address the issue of transferring greyhounds into the name of a registered person residing on the same property.

The amendments came into effect at 9am on Friday morning.

The Board resolved on Friday, in accordance with new rule LLR 11.8 that the transfer of greyhounds from suspended trainer Darren McDonald to his wife Joanne Gane on or after February 14 are voided.

Resulting from this, greyhounds which are engaged in the following events have been withdraw by stewards:

– Urban Cargo from Race 5 at Geelong on Friday February 27
– Awesome Project from Race 11 at The Meadows on Saturday February 28

Brad Canty, the owner of Awesome Project, is unable to comment on the situation which would see his greyhound ineligible to compete in a heat of the Group 1 Australian Cup, with the matter in front of the Supreme Court at present time.

Live baiting saga update: Legislation to go before SA Parliament

A SOUTH Australian politician wants action on the live baiting saga with legislation set to go before parliament which will see harsher penalties for anyone found to be violating animal welfare laws.

Michelle Lensink, a Liberal frontbencher, said she was approached with animal welfare concerns in the wake of the ABC’s confronting Four Corners program, and after consideration she believes the higher controls are now required in the industry.

The new greyhound training bill would require all training bullrings used in the state be licensed with those operating unlicensed venues facing harsh penalties of up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. 

In addition, anyone found guilty of live baiting could face up to penalties as harsh as jail terms and $50,000 fine, with those who knowingly provided an animal for live baiting facing two years and a $20,000 fine.

Lensink’s party is in Opposition in South Australia, so the legislation will be put to senior greyhound officials and the SA government.

Penalties have also been increased for live baiting in WA with those found guilty to be disqualified for no less than 10 years with a fine of $50,000. In addition, those guilty will not be able to make future applications for registered involvement within the sport of greyhound racing.

There will be no distinction between possessing any live animal and actually using it as live bait when it is clear the animal is not a domestic pet. 

No Significant Updates from Queensland

Racing Queensland (RQ) confirmed to Australian Racing Greyhound on Wednesday no greyhounds had been returned to their owners after the authority body seized approximately 100 dogs from the properties of suspended participants last week. 

RQ will still not reveal where the greyhounds are being kept, but did dispel speculation one greyhound had died.

Victorian report to strengthen greyhound racing

A final report will be provided within two months which will detail how to improve animal welfare standards, governance and compliance within the greyhound racing industry in Victoria.

Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, said the Andrews Labour Government would stamp out live baiting when announcing the terms of reference for the Investigation into Animal Welfare and Cruelty in the Greyhound Racing Industry in Parliament on Tuesday night. 

The investigation is set to be led by Victoria’s Chief Veterninary Officer, Cr Charles Milne, in partnership with Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV).

It will include:


A review of the industry codes and standards in relation to the protection and welfare of animals within the industry
  • A review of the animal welfare governance systems and the strategies for compliance and enforcement.
  • recommendations on how these animal welfare standards, governance and compliance can be improved.

Preliminary reports from Milne and the Racing Integrity Commissioner will be delivered within the next two weeks before the final report is handed to the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for racing no later than April 30 this year.

“We are serious about animal welfare. We are taking immediate action to address these disgusting acts of cruelty,” Pulford said.

“Live-baiting is barbaric, abhorrent and illegal. It has absolutely no place in Victoria’s racing industry and it must be stopped.”

“We want to send a strong message to the community and the industry that this sort of horrific behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Sweeping changes need to be made from the top down

FORMER US president Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk which read “the buck stops here”. Although far from being the originator of the phrase, Truman displayed the sign to make it clear he was the person ultimately responsible for running the government. Basically, the person at the head of any organisation who should shoulder the ultimate responsibility for any failings within that organisation. Those at the top are usually only too ready to accept the acclaim and the kudos for doing things right, and are happy to be paid pretty well for their endeavours, so it only stands to reason they should also be the first to put their hands up when the system fails, especially when it fails in such a dramatic way as we saw last week.

Yet, as the live-baiting scandal moves from the initial shock and awe stages into the internal inquiry stage there is the very real chance those at the absolute top will manage to keep their jobs, despite the overwhelming evidence of systemic failure to address what is clearly an issue that’d hardly been a secret to those on the front lines of animal welfare. After all, the key words here are “internal inquiry”, basically mates and colleagues going about the task of supposedly uncovering what their mates and colleagues have been doing.

The NSW government essentially did the right thing by disbanding, sacking, or removing – you pick the word you want – the GRNSW board. There was and isn’t, as I understand it, any suggestion any of the members of that board were involved directly in the live baiting of greyhounds. The point the NSW Premier and Racing Minister correctly made, in my opinion, is that, collectively, these were the people charged with overseeing greyhound racing in NSW and, essentially, they failed. That is, the buck should have stopped with them, and so it has.

Unfortunately, in Victoria and Queensland, those at the top of the racing tree remain virtually unscathed. Certainly the chairman of GRV, Peter Caillard, did the honourable thing and resigned from his position. That action showed a measure of integrity, no matter what pressures were being brought to bear behind the scenes.

Yet in Queensland the only senior person to have been removed so far is Wade Birch, the general manager of Stewarding and Integrity Operations, and he’s only been “stood down” at this stage. One has to wonder whether there’s been a bit of a quiet word along the lines of, “look, this will all blow over in a few weeks, and it’ll be business as usual here in the Sunshine State. We’ll throw a few of those that were sprung under the bus, but all our mates will be back in the saddle before you can say Fine Cotton and cobalt”.

Am I being cynical? Maybe, but then you have to wonder how it is at all possible that those at the top of what is now called the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board can possibly remain in place given the story broken by journalist Brad Davidson in the February 18 edition of the Gold Coast Bulletin where he claimed, and I quote, “Racing Queensland have conceded they received an email detailing concerns about live baiting in October [2014] from the animal welfare group which helped expose the illegal act … But RQ officials have blamed an ‘administrative error’ for not looking into the matter further.”

The article went on to say, “The Bulletin yesterday [February 17] obtained an email addressed to Racing Queensland chief executive Darren Condon from Ms Cotton on October 29, 2014, requesting a meeting to discuss ‘a number of animal welfare concerns I have, including … cruel training methods such as live baiting’. The email was addressed to Mr Condon’s office but the chief executive said yesterday an administrative error meant he never personally saw the email and that his assistant forgot to organise a meeting with Ms Cotton.”

Yet, in the first annual report delivered by the QACRIB the same Darren Condon notes: “Welfare continues to be a major focus for Racing Queensland across all its animal participants.”

Elsewhere in the same report comes the clearly fatuous statement: “We set the standard worldwide in the humane treatment of our animals and champion their welfare. We treat our animals, which our sport is totally dependent on, with the same respect and dignity we treat all our sporting legends.”

On Sunday, the ABC Offsiders program hosted by Gerard Whateley covered the story. After outlining the basics of industry participants suspended, greyhounds seized, sponsors pulling out and “ambassadors” leaving their posts came the “but” comment: “Rather incredibly the racing has gone on, unabated…”

Francis Leach, from ABC Grandstand, chimed in, “It beggars belief there hasn’t been a moratorium on the sport just to take stock, because this is obviously endemic and widespread industry practice. It’s gobsmacking.”

Whateley noted, “So the first line of defence was, this is a rogue minority within our sport. How did government not say to them, go away and prove that, because as of yesterday you claim not to have even known this was going on? How do you stand there with the motherhood statement and say, no, no this is not common practice? You, frankly, wouldn’t know.”

Whateley agreed with those who said the sport should have been stopped, for a short period of time. He felt racing should have been suspended for seven days. Fellow panellist Richard Hinds wondered, “Is this a practice that’s been going on and has got worse because the money’s come in, or has it always been there?”

Leach answered with the interesting point, regarding the high level of prizemoney now available, “The bigger the ‘pot’… the bigger challenge it is to people’s moral authority to do the right thing, and they really should have stopped it…”

“The staggering turnaround from Greyhound Racing Victoria,” said Whateley, “was they’d initially banned dogs from the affected stables (sic) from racing for the time being and then under threat of a Supreme Court challenge, which, frankly, they should have met, from owners they asked the owners to sign Statutory Declarations that they had no knowledge that their dog had live baited, which was absurd, and then in the Group 1 race last night which was at The Meadows, the Temlee, one of those dogs ran second, so it’s a purse of $30,000 and … so the trainer affected has been stood down, he was able to transfer all of his dogs into his wife’s name, the environment is absolutely unchanged, the owner was able to threaten the sport to get his dog to be able to run and they picked up their $30,000 …”

And yet, as I write this, the board of GRV remains steadfastly intact.

Final note

I would like to address a couple of points made by those who took the time and effort to comment on my first article on this subject.
Dale Hogan wrote: “Why not mention Sweet It Is since your bringing up dogs mentioned to rubbish them? What, is that a dog you have an interest in so you sweep that one under the rug? I have interstate friends that sent there dogs here to Victoria to compete in Group level racing and are now suspended even though only temporarily staying at ppl who were considered of high standing in racing the dogs hi or low lvl are not at fault so stop rubbishing them or at least mention them all because to me it seems like u just have your own agenda not the sports best interest…”

As I recall there was no mention in the program that Sweet It Is had been given live baits or been broken in using them, so I left it out of the equation. No, I do not have any kind of interest in Sweet It Is, nor, for that matter, do I have any financial or personal interest in any greyhound, anywhere. I have not owned, or part-owned, a greyhound since about 1992. I do not know any of the trainers or any of the people interviewed by, or who appeared on, the Four Corners program. Hence my error in the statement at the end of my piece regarding Amanda Hill, assuming she was still employed as a steward in Tasmania.

The reason I pointed out the overall poor performance levels of both Cee Cee Quoted and Dorak Dessa was not to denigrate those greyhounds per se, it was to make the argument that live baiting did not help either of them go from being slow to fast conveyances.

The best interests of greyhound racing at this juncture are to make sure absolutely every aspect of breeding to rearing to breaking-in to training and retirement is done completely transparently. No excuses.

Live-baiting scandal update: Caillard resigns, Birch stood down

GREYHOUND Racing Victoria chairman Peter Caillard has quit his post in the latest twist in the live-baiting saga.

Caillard informed Martin Pakula, the Victorian Minister for Racing, on Monday he has chosen to resign from his position on the board.

Nearly 40 registered participants have been suspended nationwide so far, including 15 from Victoria, after an investigation by the ABC’s Four Corners. Working with the RSPCA, Animal Liberation Queensland and Animals Australia, it exposed trainers using live rabbits, possums and piglets to train their dogs.

Caillard said in a statement he believed it was in the best interests of all involved for him to step down and that he was confident the required changes would be made for the sport to continue.

“Since the Four Corners program and subsequent discussions and developments, I have made the personal decision that I cannot remain as chairman,” he said.

“I believe in accountability for a chairman of an organisation and that it is in the best interests of the industry that a new person be appointed to this position.

“I wish to emphasise that I am firmly of the view that the new team that has been put in place at GRV are the right people to work with the RSPCA to stamp out this activity once they are given the appropriate powers to do so.

“As a final comment, I will remain available to work closely with the Government and the RSPCA to bring those responsible to justice. I am pleased this activity has been discovered and have no doubt it will be stamped out.”

Caillard also maintained he did not believe the practice was widespread, however, he said he could no longer be satisfied it was restricted to just those caught at the Tooradin trial track. He finished his statement by congratulating the government on its swift action to try to eradicate live baiting.

Also in Victoria and three Group 1 races were run and won at The Meadows on Saturday night with no major incidents to report after it was initially thought a large number of anti-racing protestors would be at the meeting.

The feature events – the Temlee, the Rookie Rebel and Zoom Top, were taken out by My Bro Fabio, Cosmic Wise and Space Star respectively.

Awesome Project, formerly trained by Darren McDonald, was on Friday given the all clear to take his place in the Temlee for McDonald’s wife Joanne Gane and finished second.

There was doubt as to whether the son of Collision and Honour Phase would run after he was suspended from racing earlier in the week when McDonald was stood down due to alleged baiting offences.

RQ Integrity boss on the outer

Racing Queensland has announced the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board has stood down the general manager of Stewarding and Integrity Operations, Wade Birch.

Kevin Dixon, chairman of the QACRIB Board, said the action was taken following recent evidence which suggested procedures of the integrity department need to be addressed.

“Information that has to come to light in the past week suggests there are procedural issues within the integrity area of the business,” Dixon said in a press release on Sunday.

“As Mr Birch is the officer responsible for that department, the board has taken the decision that it is appropriate to stand Mr Birch down while those shortcomings are further understood.

“There is no allegation of improper conduct on Mr Birch’s part, however, in the board’s view, it was appropriate he be stood down until the review is completed.”

In total, 13 trainers have so far been stood down in Queensland for alleged live-baiting practices.

Also in the Sunshine State, Australian Racing Greyhound has requested an update in regards to the greyhounds removed from the properties of suspended participants, however, Racing Queensland was not able to provide further information by the time of publishing.

It is understood some owners have lost patience and are considering legal action. RQ has put the number of dogs seized at 100 but it is believed to be much higher than that.

Lavender says standing down was right call

In NSW, Greyhound Racing New South Wales board member Megan Lavender has publicly spoken about her decision to step down.

The entire board and CEO of GRNSW were asked to stand down or be fired by NSW Racing Minister Troy Grant last week.

Lavender, while disappointed, conceded it was in the best interests of the sport for them all to step down.

“It was in the public interest and in the interests of the greyhound racing industry as a whole that I offered my resignation as a board member of Greyhound Racing NSW to the Deputy Premier, Mr Grant,” Ms Lavender said.

“The only other alternative for the Government would have been to call an immediate halt to greyhound racing in our state. This was an option which I was not prepared to countenance because it would have resulted in the immediate unemployment of thousands of innocent NSW residents associated with greyhound racing – from the ladies serving at the tuck shop to the blokes sweeping out the kennels.

“It was for the greater good – the sacrifice of the few to protect the many – and, to quote Sydney Carton, ‘it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known’.”

Lavender said she in no way supported the actions of the trainers depicted on the ABC’s controversial report.

“What we saw on Four Corners is not just abhorrent. It is revolting. It is vile. It is a crime predicated on evil,” she said.

“I hope that each and every one of the depraved individuals involved is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, which, in this case, can mean nothing short of a custodial sentence.”

Live-baiting scandal: The darkest week in an industry’s history

JUST a week has elapsed since the nation was shocked by revelations of live baiting in the greyhound industry broadcast on the ABC’s investigative program Four Corners. The week has seemed more like a month as the hits kept coming in all three states affected by the raids. Here is how the scandal unfolded:

RSPCA and police raided five properties in Victoria, NSW and Queensland on February 10 and 11, after Four Corners, in conjunction with Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland, handed over details of its investigation into cruelty in the sport to state-based RSPCAs. The raids were driven by the RSPCA and targeted alleged use of live-baiting methods. Four Corners screened an episode entitled “Making A Killing” last Monday night (February 16) at 8.30pm, including hidden-camera footage of industry participants engaging in live baiting.


Breaking-in establishments in the Londonderry area were raided and the registration of the Box Hill Trial Track was suspended. Five participants were immediately stood down for alleged live-baiting activities. Another person, Congewai trainer John O’Brien, was stood down after a property inspection allegedly discovered eight live European rabbits. After Four Corners screened, northern NSW trainer John Thompson was also stood down. Greyhound Racing NSW announced a taskforce with wide-ranging powers to investigate the extent of live baiting in NSW, headed by former High Court justice Michael McHugh. The board of GRNSW was later stood down, as was chief executive Brent Hogan. Paul Newson, head of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, was installed as interim CEO. The NSW Greyhound of the Year awards night last Friday was postponed. GRNSW stood down three further registered participants for alleged live-baiting offences.

Licensed persons stood down:

John Cauchi: Box Hill Trial Track in the Hills District.

Tony Cauchi: Box Hill Trial Track

Donna Grech

Zeke Kadir: Wilshire Park, popular breaking-in facility near Richmond. Has broken in notable dogs such as Keybow.

Ian Morgan: Sydney trainer with the notable “Quoted” greyhounds. It is a successful line including Best Quoted, which was part-owned by Morgan and won five group races, including the Sandown Cup, SA Distance Championship and Easter Chase.

John O’Brien: Trainer from Congewai in the Hunter district.

John Thompson: Trainer from Shannon Brook near Casino in northern NSW.

Majella Ferguson: Popular Sydney conditioner who won the 2008 NSW Trainer of the Year Award.

David Sundstrom: Trainer.

Bruce Carr: Trainer from Londonderry stood down after stewards allegedly found four live rabbits on his property.


After raids by RSPCA and police, the Tooradin trial track near Cranbourne had its registration suspended and 10 industry participants were quickly stood down. Their names were finally released by Greyhound Racing Victoria last last week. It also moved to suspend any greyhounds owned and/or trained by the 10 stood-down participants until after investigations were complete. GRV later stood down five additional persons for alleged live-baiting offences at the Tooradin track. Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, announced an Own Motion Inquiry into live-baiting practices, while the Victorian government also announced it will allocate up to $3 million from the Victorian Racing Infrastructure Fund towards bolstering GRV’s animal welfare and integrity measures. On Monday, February 23, Peter Caillard resigned as chairman of the board of GRV.

Licensed persons stood down:

Darren McDonald: Arguably Australia’s No.1 trainer. McDonald has prepared champions headed by the outstanding Brett Lee, which won 31 of 39 starts with eight placings and was inducted into the AGRA hall of fame.

Chris Connolly: Assists McDonald preparing his champion team of dogs at Devon Meadows.

Stuart Mills: Part of the Mills family, which is greyhound racing royalty in Victoria, and runs the Tooradin trial track. Trains greyhounds in his own right. Brother Andrew is head grader for GRV and a former deputy chief steward.

Tony Mills: Father of Stuart and veteran trainer who won the Ken Carr medal in 2013. The medal recognises outstanding contribution to a greyhound club or clubs. Mills has had a long association with the Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club and the National Coursing Association.

Kerry Chalker: Veteran trainer from Pearcedale.

Paul Anderton: Well-known Devon Meadows trainer and lifelong participant in the industry. Anderson has formerly driven the lure at Cranbourne and was a former GRV Steward. Shifty Sticka is his most recent star, though the dog suffered a career-ending injury before it could reach its full potential. Anderson has also been the “slipper” at coursing events.

Dennis Dean: Well known for having the “Hand” dogs. One of the best-known was Henry Hand, which won $113,000 in prizemoney in the mid to late 90s, with 17 wins from 31 starts.

Neville King: The Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club president. Has prepared such stars as Return The King and Boomeroo.

Bob Smith: Former GRV integrity and racing operations manager.

Laurie Cunningham: Long-time trainer.

Kenneth Hodges

Brett Mackie

James Reynolds

Jon Roberts: Trainer who owned and prepared the 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Lord Ducal.

Eric Sykes


The raids in Queensland centred around an unregistered greyhound training track at Churchable, 65km west of Brisbane. Seven trainers were immediately stood down for allegedly engaging in live-baiting offences. They have been given seven days to show cause why they should not be warned off Queensland tracks for life. Six others were later stood down and their greyhounds suspended from racing. Racing Queensland on Tuesday seized more than 100 greyhounds. On Sunday RQ announced it had stood down chief steward Wade Birch.

Licensed persons given show-cause notices:

Tom Noble: Owner and operator of the training track at Churchable.

Reg Kay: Champion trainer based at Lowood. Racing Queensland has said Kay will be removed from its hall of fame.

Debra Arnold: Trainer based near Tom Noble’s track at Churchable.

Tony McCabe: Coominya trainer.

James Harding: Coominya trainer.

Michael Chapman: Trainer.

Greg Stella: Trainer.

Licensed persons stood down:

Stephen Sherwell

Gerri Crisci

Anthony Hess

Stephen Arnold

Mick Emery

Samantha Roberts

Amanda Hill stands by her decision to speak out on Four Corners

FORMER steward Amanda Hill is standing by her words despite backlash following her appearance on last Monday’s controversial Four Corners program focusing on live baiting.

The ABC, working with the RSPCA, Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland, launched an investigation into live-baiting practices within the greyhound racing industry and caught a large number of trainers red-handed through the use of secret surveillance cameras. 

Hill has received a mixed reaction to her interview on the program where she spoke out on the deplorable practice used by some participants within the sport. 

Some critics accused her of being bitter on the industry after she was forced out of her role in Tasmania.

“People are looking at me thinking I am one of the animal activists, but anyone that knows me knows that I’m not,” Hill said. 

“I didn’t do this for any status or any form of money, I was not paid, I did it because anyone that knows me knows my thoughts on live baiting.

“I didn’t do this to come back into the industry or get a job out of it – I did it because it broke my heart to think that an industry I loved was about to come unstuck in such a catastrophic way. When you know they have this sort of calibre of evidence you think to yourself, ‘What do you do?’.

“I didn’t crucify the industry but unfortunately what I saw as a good deed has bitten me on the backside. I don’t regret it, not for one minute, because I was trying to balance a show that I thought was going to be really hard on the industry.”

Hill has a diverse background in the greyhound racing industry. Starting off as an owner, she also worked as a vet nurse at the Sandown Vet Clinic before becoming a steward in both Victoria and Tasmania. 

“I don’t bet, I don’t gamble, I don’t punt, my involvement with racing is purely because I love the breed. I used to say to Jim Gannon, who was on the GRV board, ‘What they should do …’ and I used to be at him constantly saying they should do this and they should do that.

“Jim came into me one morning and handed me a clipping from The Age and said, ‘What you should do, Amanda, is apply for a job with the regulatory body’. That was the start of it, that’s how I became a steward.”

Hill, who has a Graduate Certificate in Animal Welfare through Monash University, said she found it challenging when working for Greyhound Racing Victoria which ultimately led her to taking a job as Chief Steward in Tasmania. 

“In my time as a steward I found it frustrating in Victoria – we were on different pages. While I understand the marketing and promotion of the sport was important, I also thought that the animal welfare was just as important,” she said.

“When I took the job as the Chief Steward in Tasmania, I did it because I thought that from a position of higher standing, that I could do more to promote animal welfare. 

“When I got to Tasmania one of my first challenges was to re-write the rules and I put in very, very strict animal welfare policies. In my time there, I prosecuted cases of animal welfare.”

Hill said she never had any trouble with animal activists when she was in Tasmania, despite confronting some serious animal welfare cases.

“When I prosecuted live baiting in Tasmania in 2008, Lyn White (from Animals Australia) was quite well aware of it. I didn’t see her make a huge deal about it,” Hill said.

“I had no problems with the animal activists jumping up and down saying, ‘see, it does go on’. I think that was because we were showing that we were proactive on it, if you did something wrong and you got caught, you didn’t participate in the industry.”

Hill said a lot of the problems the industry is facing is due to the fact that the relevant state authorities are not proactive enough to stamp out misconduct.

“My personal opinion on what has happened here is that the regulators have let the industry down. For whatever reasons, I don’t know, was it lack of resources? Lack of knowledge? I can’t say.

“Their approach to animal welfare is all wrong. You don’t ring up a trainer and announce that you are going to be there at 10 o’clock next Wednesday to do an inspection. When I got to Tasmania that is what they used to do, I stopped that. I think that is where the regulators have failed, if you are announcing that you are going there you are not going to be successful.

“Animals Australia went straight in and did what they did, and I know and understand that stewards don’t have that type of power, but it makes my blood boil when you listen to some of the hierarchy say, ‘We had no idea it was going on’ because if they can’t work out why they had no idea, you really have got to question why they are in the positions of power that they are in.”

Hill said she also believed the authority bodies were not working together with the participants to form a mutually trusting relationship, something she feels is extremely important for the industry to operate smoothly. 

“The sad thing is that people in the industry felt that there was no one that they could report this to and that is quite apparent when they (the authorities) said they had no idea it was going on.

“They (the authorities) failed, because you need someone in your ranks that the industry feel they can approach and know that their confidentiality will be protected.”

Hill said the issue needed to be faced as it was never going to just disappear. 

“I can understand why the industry is mad at me, they think I joined in on tarring the (entire) industry with the same brush, but I just tried to be as open and honest as I could be based on my experience.

“Unfortunately a lot of that ended up on the cutting-room floor. No one wanted to speak about it, but it wasn’t going to go away or be buried.”

Hill emphasised the Four Corners program should not brand the entire greyhound racing industry as there are a lot of decent trainers and participants involved for the love of the sport and their dogs.

“The thing that didn’t come across that I was trying to portray is that I don’t believe that it is systemic and until someone can actually give me the evidence that it is, I won’t accept it.

“I am not blind to it, but I don’t believe in alleging things that you haven’t got the hard facts to support and to balance it.”

Moving forward, Hill is adamant things need to change to ensure that greyhound racing survives.

“I don’t blame the industry because there a lot of good people, I blame the regulators because they are the ones that failed.

“I am not saying that I know the answer and I know that there are a lot of people standing around now scratching their heads – but I know that what has been happening hasn’t worked. Unfortunately it had to get to this stage before anyone stood up and took notice. 

“The industry can’t be self-regulated, in the last 10 years I have watched GRV turn into this massive media circus and animal welfare has been missed. In Tasmania the regulation is separate to the promotion and it seemed to work.”

Despite the chaos, controversy and carnage the greyhound industry is facing, Hill remains optimistic the sport will survive and will have a bigger and brighter future.

“The industry is going to take a long time to recover and I am not saying it is going to be overnight but I think when the industry does recover, it is going to flourish, it is going to blossom.

“Did I foresee it going like this? Absolutely not. 

“I wasn’t a whistleblower, the regulators have just failed the industry. That is my opinion and I am happy for people to challenge that.”

Rookie Rebel: a stellar career in three states

HE IS rated as one of the greatest chasers of all time, yet, unlike Chief Havoc and Zoom Top, his complete racing record is not known. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, and a year later a Group 3 race was inaugurated in his honour and run, fittingly, over the 600 metres trip at the Meadows.

Rookie Rebel, a white and fawn dog, was whelped in December 1954, sired by Dream’s Image out of Lady Janellan. His litter included such outstanding greyhounds as Sunview (a top class racer and later a leading sire), Smooth Event (who won the Vic Peters Memorial Classic at Harold Park) and Sunmarker (later to be exported to the United States as a sire).

Rookie Rebel raced between 1956 and 1958 and in many races gave away starts to opponents. The state of Victoria was Rookie Rebel’s main hunting ground and handicap racing was a central part of the overall format.

Rookie Rebel began his career in October 1956 by winning a maiden event at Wagga. I don’t know much about what happened between then and early 1957 but he next popped up in the Hobart Thousand series, winning his way through to the final (held in February), only to be checked in running and beaten a nose by Rising Ace.

On 6 April 1957 he had his first start at Wentworth Park and scored a brilliant 10 lengths win over 580 yards (530 metres), running 31.50, just 1/10th outside the track record. He then went to Victoria where he won three of his next four starts before disappointing and being sold.

In June 1957 he was back at Wentworth Park but ran only fourth behind his litter brother Sunview. He again finished fourth at the track on 6 August. Apparently he was sold yet again and reappeared in Victoria.

Following a series of wins and placings in handicap events at Ballarat and Sandown Park over 496 and 565 yards respectively, Rookie Rebel won at the new North Melbourne track on opening night, 7 October, scoring by five lengths over 675 yards (617 metres).

On 8 November he defeated the very smart Cantee by four lengths in a heat of the Melbourne Cup over 565 yards at Sandown Park. Three days later he scored by seven lengths at North Melbourne before going under by three-quarters of a length to the classy Style Bird in his Melbourne Cup semi-final. Nonetheless he made it through to the final, scoring a brilliant victory on 29 November.

Wins and placings at North Melbourne followed before Rookie Rebel came back to Sydney and contested his first race at Harold Park on 11 January 1958. The 500 yards was not really to his liking but, after being forced wide he finished fast to be beaten only a neck into fourth place behind Fine Earl and Magic Babe in a quick 26.78.

Six days later he blitzed a field at Sandown by seven lengths and then won narrowly over 425 yards at North Melbourne. Returning to Harold Park on 25 January he finished a one and a half lengths second to Red Namoi.

He had a second crack at the Hobart Thousand and went through the series undefeated, winning the final on 15 February by an emphatic eight lengths in a speedy 29.80.

His next major assignment was the inaugural running of the Australian Cup, a handicap event conducted over 675 yards at North Melbourne. Rookie Rebel, off the backmark, won his heat on 17 March. Four days later he downed Lucky Bingo (who had won 16 of his previous 18 starts) by a length over 565 yards at Sandown Park in 30.14/16, a new track record. Magic Babe was third.

Three days after this he won his Australian Cup semi-final by eight lengths.

In the final of the Australian Cup on 31 March, Rookie Rebel was checked at the driving tower yet still managed to career away from Magic Babe and Idle Mate to win by four lengths in a track record time of 36.2/16. The win earned him the princely sum of £800 ($1,600).

He won his next start at the track by seven lengths before suffering interference when beaten into second place twice at North Melbourne. Following a third at Bendigo over the shortcourse, Rookie Rebel bounced back to his best with a five lengths win at Sandown Park on 23 May.

Then it was off to Sydney for a highly-publicised match race with the great sprinter Top Linen. The match race was scheduled to be the first of two between the champions. The 31 May event was over 500 yards at Harold Park (where Top Linen had swept all before him and held the track and world record) while the return match was to take place over 675 yards at North Melbourne.

The match race proved a no-contest as Top Linen made every post a winner, downing Rookie Rebel by six lengths. Victorians firmly believed the tables would be turned when Top Linen came to North Melbourne.

That return match never took place as on 9 June 1958 Rookie Rebel broke two toes in valiantly finishing second in a 675 yards race at North Melbourne and was forced into retirement at the age of three and a half.

He remains the only greyhound to have won the Australian, Melbourne Cup and Hobart Thousand and run second in another Hobart Thousand.

GRV publicity officer Neil Brown believes the dog raced 67 times for 36 wins, 17 seconds, and six thirds. The Greyhound Recorder believed he had notched 35 wins. No matter, Rookie Rebel’s three major race wins are collectively worth $745,000, based on 2014 figures.

Hallinan confirms Zipping Willow will not compete in 2015 Temlee

ZIPPING WILLOW is back in the Richmond Vale kennels of her original trainer, Jason Mackay, after a tumultuous week in the lead-up to the Group 1 Temlee at The Meadows.

After drawing box one in the invitation-only feature, the New South Wales superstar was being prepared in Victoria by Darren McDonald for both that event and for the upcoming Australian Cup series.

But, after just one week in McDonald’s care, her quest for Group 1 glory was halted as she became one of the many chasers suspended across the state when her new trainer was stood down for alleged live-baiting practices on Friday, February 13. 

Zipping Willow’s owner and breeder Martin Hallinan found out on Saturday that McDonald was in trouble with the authorities.

“I only found out through word of mouth, nothing official,” Hallinan said.

“On Saturday morning I got a call to say that Darren was in trouble and that his licence was suspended, but nothing from Greyhound Racing Victoria to say that owners must move their dogs, no email at all.

“I got a hold of Darren and we put her in Joanne’s (Gane, McDonald’s wife) name and we thought everything was cruising along good until the Four Corners program came out. 

“Then I heard they were going to scratch us all if they stayed in Joanne’s name, so I rang Glenn Rounds (prominent Victorian trainer) on Tuesday and said, ‘Please, Glenn, can you go and get my dogs? I don’t want to be scratched’.”

Rounds quickly collected Zipping Willow and transferred the daughter of Goodesy and Sirocco Lass into his name while Hallinan made plans to travel down to Victoria.

“I was going to drive down and check her over because she went extremely well in a trial at The Meadows on Monday night and I was going to stay down there until Friday and then head home,” Hallinan explained.

“I left at 2.30(pm), it’s a 10-hour drive, and it was probably 5.30(pm) when Brad Canty (owner of Awesome Project, also trained by McDonald) rang me to say that we were going to be scratched from the Temlee.”

“About 7 o’clock Glenn Fish (GRV chief steward) rang me and said that there had been a board meeting and it was decided that all dogs that had gone into Joanne’s name were going to be suspended.”

“I said, ‘That’s all right but that there was no notification for me to move that dog out, you could have given me 48 hours and I could have done it officially’. He said the board had spoken.”

After his solicitors sent letters on Tuesday night requesting that Zipping Willow be allowed to start, Hallinan received an email on Wednesday morning to advise that his star performer would not be starting in the Temlee.

“We were sent a slip that was sent to everyone saying that Darren McDonald was suspended on Friday the 13th at 12 o’clock at night. I rang back and said, ‘Glenn, I don’t want that, I want you to tell me Zipping Willow will not start on Saturday night’.

“He then sent me another email that said ‘Zipping Willow is suspended’. I called him back and said, ‘Glenn, just tell me in your terms that she is scratched, because when I go I am not coming back with her’. That’s why she was down there, she doesn’t travel good.

“He told me, ‘Martin, head for home, you will not start’.”

Hallinan then started the long and arduous trip back home to NSW with Zipping Willow. 

“I was driving for home on Wednesday and I was back at Albury when the solicitor rang and told me that all the letters had been sent in and that there was a big possibility that she may get a run,” Hallinan said. 

“But I was headed for home, I had already driven five hours.

“Yesterday (Thursday) Glenn Fish rang me and told me that he thought I was going to be back in because they had lots of complaints.

“I told him to scratch Willow, because she went to my house on Wednesday night and then to Jason’s house on Thursday to get her back in training ahead of the Easter Egg.

“We all got notified last night (that Zipping Willow was back in the race), but we have to file an affidavit to allow her to start again.”

Hallinan is adamant Zipping Willow will not be taking her place on Saturday night.

“We cannot drive back down there in Group 1 racing taking on Free For All dogs to make her look ordinary – you’d kick yourself all the way back home on Sunday for being so stupid.

“It would be different if she was a great traveller, I wouldn’t hesitate to drive back down there today, but I weighed her when I got home and she was 0.6kg down.

“She hasn’t had the normal week that she needed in the lead-up to a Group 1.”

Despite his disappointment, Hallinan has remained understanding in what has been an extremely difficult time in the greyhound racing industry.

“Realistically, what’s happened has happened and I just want to move on. Everyone is saying to sue or do this, do that, but it has been a traumatic week and I just want to move on and live with it and go from there,” he said.

“Everything has gone wrong but sometimes you have just got to turn the other cheek and that is my attitude with it all.

“I would love for Willow to be in it, I have never had a Temlee starter and I don’t think I have had a bitch as good as her for many years. It has all been a bad dream, but I just want to move on.”

GRV released a statement on Friday afternoon explaining that the suspension had been lifted on all involved greyhounds, meaning that technically Zipping Willow and Awesome Project could rightfully contest the race.

Awesome Project will still jump from box four in the Temlee on Saturday night for Joanne Gane.

“The Board of GRV yesterday received a report from the Chief Steward in relation to the progress of that inquiry,” their release said.

“Following receipt of that information, the Board has resolved to lift the suspensions provided that it receives a statutory declaration from the owner stating that, having made reasonable inquiries, they are not aware of the relevant greyhound having been trained using live baiting.

“Needless to say, the suspension may be reinstated if subsequent evidence has been received that the greyhound has been trained in such a manner.

“Suspensions under this Board resolution will be lifted in relation to greyhounds only. The 15 alleged offenders suspended by GRV in relation to live-baiting offences remain suspended.”

Board reform – the chance of a lifetime

THE NSW government is proving to be far more aggressive than Queensland or Victoria in attacking the live-baiting scandal.

While the others have enforced lots of suspensions, the NSW Racing Minister (and Deputy Premier) Troy Grant has quickly removed the board and CEO of GRNSW, at least for the moment. The indications are that he expects to hear some radical recommendations from Justice McHugh’s task force.

The wording of the announcement is interesting. “Mr Grant, who is also Racing Minister, announced on Thursday morning that the GRNSW board had agreed to “formally disband” and refer their powers to an interim chief executive, Paul Newson. Mr Newson is currently head of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and replaces Brent Hogan who has also agreed to step down”.(The Australian, February 19).

What this means is Newson, a public servant, is effectively the new “board”. Under the Act it is the board alone which has the authority and responsibility of looking after the industry. The senior bureaucrat, whatever his title, has no authority other than that delegated to him by the board. We have no idea what that is because these boards never publish that sort of information. He may be limited to buying a box of paper clips or he may be able to spend $50,000 on track repairs – we just don’t know.

In any event, it points up one of the major weaknesses of the typical racing authority – and they are all much the same. The ability to act – to make management decisions – is always tempered by the speed with which the board considers a proposal, perhaps once a fortnight. Even then, that decision is made by a “committee” so the lowest-common-denominator effect is in play. In those circumstances, excellence can easily run a long second.

Justice McHugh is also to look at the organisational structure of GRNSW so he might find it intriguing that the CEO has four general managers reporting to him, including one specifically responsible for stewards. Not just managers, please note, but general managers. Under the quasi-public service conditions applying to employees this would mean they would get a bit more pay, even though each has only a handful of staff in their unit. Such title manipulation is typically reserved for large companies such as Woolworths or BHP where thousands of staff are involved.

Unfortunately for the people who have “stepped down”, GRNSW and its immediate predecessors do not have a great management record. Millions of dollars have been spent on poorly designed changes to tracks and to the building of new ones – for example, among several others, both Gosford and The Gardens have significant shortcomings which contribute to race disruptions. Big investments at Dapto and Richmond simply repeated past errors.

GRNSW also strongly opposed the arrival of betting exchanges and online bookmakers, only to be forced to change its mind when it became impossible to ignore the push from rank-and-file punters. That opposition was led by former GRNSW chairman and former public servant Professor Percy Allan, who still officiates on the Wentworth Park Trust as well as on the panel selecting current board members.

Yet another furphy was the plan by GRNSW to shift the Border Park operation at Tweed Heads from NSW into Queensland. The full board thought that was a great idea, as did the local MP, the mayor and officials at Racing Queensland. Yet the prospect of massive constitutional and legal changes needed to bring that about was apparently ignored. No doubt they also forgot to sound out the NSW treasurer to see if he did not mind losing a valuable chunk of tax income to Queensland. Or to ask Tabcorp if it would mind altering its contract to service NSW racecourses. Further, the ability of Tatts to get the law altered to allow it take bets on a NSW racecourse also remains a mystery. And so it goes on.

The strangest thing about the whole process is that no reason or justification was ever advanced. And not only was it the subject of two media releases but the project was also highlighted in the 2012 annual report.

Nothing since, though. Perhaps sanity returned.

Its new Ozchase formguide and results service now compares badly with alternatives in Victoria and, in particular, with the local WA products which it replaced. Results can be accessed only one race at a time and print out poorly. It offers no data-processing facility to customers as the output is deliberately designed to delete important information if anyone attempts to use it.

Anyhow, such is the evidence of the convoluted goings-on in the GRNSW bunker – hardly encouraging.

The McHugh review will overlap with the current statutory review of the Greyhound Act, which has now been extended for another two weeks after the original February 13 deadline, following intervention from the Premier. This will give the government an opportunity to reform the current authority structure by creating one which is more compatible with the needs of modern society and more able to compete with other recreational pursuits. Two good starting points would be the elimination of “committees” of management and the removal of public service conditions for employees.

In passing, greyhound folk (even GRNSW) will have been delighted to see that the Opposition leader has confirmed that, if elected, he will reduce the tax on NSW wagering from the present $3.22 to $1.28, as applies in Victoria. While Labor has little chance of reaching power, it leaves the Libs and Nationals with little alternative but to bite the same bullet.

And again, and again

After reading comments from colleague Dominic Ciconte about his interview with GRV vet Linda Beer I can only repeat what I have said numerous times. The quote was: “With the greyhound industry facing its darkest hour, Dr Beer said the Greyhound Adoption Programs would spend countless hours dispelling the myths surrounding the breed. Some of the biggest barriers to new adoptions are the public’s misconceptions about the activity levels, feeding requirements and typical temperament of the greyhound.”

Exactly, but does she realise where it all starts? The inability to build accurate and favourable public opinion remains the biggest single failure of the industry. Every aspect, from the GAP to betting to live baits to misleading media comments, is affected by the lack of genuine knowledge of the breed. It means that for every dollar spent you will get back 25 cents, if you are lucky.

Whatever else happens, fixing this is the first priority.

More suspensions in NSW and Vic; Qld greyhounds impounded

LEADING Londonderry trainer Harry Sarkis has been suspended immediately by GRNSW stewards following an inspection of his property and kennels.

Sarkis is no stranger to trouble with GRNSW stewards and has been stood down after the inspection revealed vials of substances permanently prohibited under the rules of greyhound racing.

The substances found have not been confirmed but were believed to be growth hormone. If that’s the case Sarkis would be the first trainer in any racing code in Australia to have been found to have used growth hormone, despite decades of its rumoured use in all codes.

GRNSW board member Peter Davis feels like a victim

Sacked GRNSW board member and Fairfax journalist Peter Davis on Thursday told Sky Sports Radio he “feels like a victim”, adding he “was in the right place at the wrong time”. Davis, who once owned and raced a greyhound named Amongst Thieves which was trained by Darren McDonald, says his greyhounds have “never seen a bunny … or anything else” and that “Brent Hogan is the best racing administrator racing has ever seen”.

Davis and his fellow board members were reportedly given the option to stand down or be sacked on Wednesday night.

Seized greyhounds in Queensland have uncertain future

Racing Queensland has confirmed to Australian Racing Greyhound it now has approximately 100 greyhounds in its care following a series of raids. The greyhounds were seized on the basis they may have been exposed to a practice which could compromise their welfare.

Veterinarians have inspected each greyhound to ensure the animals’ health and well-being. RQ will continue to have oversight of the welfare of any greyhounds seized.

RQ said “any owner, whose greyhound has been seized, and who wishes their dog to be returned to their ownership, is encouraged to contact RQ’s licensing department”.

The fate of high-profile and high-worth greyhounds such as Happy Haswell, owned by Reg Kay, is as yet unknown.

GRV names 10 and stands down a further five

Late on Thursday afternoon Greyhound Racing Victoria confirmed the 10 suspended registered greyhound participants and alleged offenders as: Paul Anderton, Kerry Chalker, Chris Connelly, Laurie Cunningham, Dennis Dean, Neville King, Darren McDonald, Anthony Mills, Stuart Mills, and Bob Smith.

Notably, as reported earlier, Anderton is a former GRV steward; King was at the time the Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club president; Smith is a former operations and integrity manager of GRV; and, McDonald has been considered one of the most successful trainers of the past two decades.

GRV also announced another five participants have been stood down following review of video footage, but has declined to name them.

Close to 40 participants have been stood down nationwide, including some of the sport’s most prominent trainers. It is not yet known exactly how many registered participants will be implicated in total, however, Queensland Animal Liberation, which conducted the live-baiting investigation in conjunction with the RSPCA and Animals Australia, has estimated the figure to be 70.

Huge fines and jail terms are possible for those found guilty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

GRV announces only artificial lures permitted

The board of GRV has resolved that only artificial materials are permitted for use as a lure for the purpose of training a greyhound. This is effective immediately.

The decision means trainers will no longer be able to use dead animal carcasses or skins on the arm of a lure as a reward for their greyhound.

Controversy surrounds Temlee night at The Meadows

Brad Canty has threatened to put an injunction on The Meadows racing on Saturday night if his greyhound, Awesome Project, is not reinstated in the field for the Group 1 Temlee.

Trained for most of his career by Darren McDonald, Awesome Project was one of the greyhounds stood down from competing after his trainer was also stood down for alleged live-baiting practices.

“If the dog is not reinstated, we’ll be getting the race stopped and pretty confident that will happen,” Canty said.

“No one rang us … we heard nothing … they [GRV] have no idea what they’re doing.”

Also implicated by suspension is NSW star Zipping Willow, which was transferred to McDonald’s kennel just days before he was stood down in order to compete in the lucrative Australian Cup carnival. She had drawn box one in the invitation-only Temlee.

Staying on Temlee night, and it is expected a large group of animal activists will be holding a protest at The Meadows on Saturday. GRV CEO Adam Wallish said they were preparing for action such as this with increased security set to be in place.

”There has been a lot of planning and investment [that has gone into the carnival], it is an event that is steeped in history and some of the best greyhounds from around the country will be participating,” he said. “We are hopeful that it will be an uninterrupted and successful event.”

More sponsors pull the pin on greyhound racing

The list of sponsors which have pulled their sponsorship for greyhound racing has continued to grow. Mazda, Schweppes, Hyundai, Autobarn, Bendigo Bank, Century 21 and Macro Meats have all reportedly cut ties with the sport after the damning live-baiting footage that was shown on the ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday night.

As greyhound racing continues to lose valuable sponsors, Greens MP John Kaye has called for an immediate suspension of the sport.

“Trainers live-bait their dogs to give them a winning edge. All races must be suspended to stop these participants profiting from their unconscionable behaviour and the opportunity for any incentive for the practice to continue,” he said.

Amanda Hill stands by her statements

Amanda Hill, the former GRV steward who appeared on Four Corners, stands by what she said in the show despite a backlash from many greyhound racing participants. Australian Racing Greyhound spoke with Hill and on Friday will feature a full interview about her decision to appear on the ABC’s program and her thoughts on the future of greyhound racing.

Victorian Govt waiting on inquiry before acting on GRV board

THE Greyhound Racing Victoria board will not meet the same fate as its recently-sacked NSW counterparts.

For now.

Speaking exclusively with AustralianRacingGreyhound.com, Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, dismissed speculation of a potential GRV clean-out on Thursday.

Perna, who announced an Own Motion Inquiry into live-baiting allegations on Tuesday, said he believed the Victorian Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, would not act before that inquiry was complete.

“The only person who can sack the board is the minister and, to the best of my knowledge, he won’t be pre-empting the inquiry just days after green-lighting it,” he said.

Perna, the man charged with getting to the bottom of the live-baiting debacle that has crippled the greyhound racing industry, said his office would be working alongside GRV and the RSPCA to ensure every guilty party was brought to justice.

“The way I look at it is, at the moment we are dealing with an absolutely disgusting, sickening act,” he said.

“We have to investigate whether it is isolated or widespread and if it’s actually worse than we know.

“We have Greyhound Racing Victoria, which will focus its resources on investigating the breaches to its laws, and the Victorian RSPCA, which will work through the cruelty-to-animals issues.

“We expect those two bodies to work quickly and thoroughly to ensure the right people see justice. While they work, we will be operating in the background on a broader perspective of the whole saga.

“Did GRV know about live baiting? Did officials turn a blind eye? How far does the corruption go? These are the questions that will form our investigation. They will take longer to sift through as we gather all the information.”

Perna acknowledged the pressure was on his inquiry to deliver results quickly, but said the investigation could not afford to be rushed.

“I am not going to run a half-baked inquiry. The worst thing we can do is act on knee-jerk reactions before we know all the facts and have collected all the evidence.”

Perna refused to put a timeline on the inquiry, but speculated that with the amount of evidence being introduced, it could take up to two months.

The Racing Integrity Commissioner did not know the reasoning behind the NSW Government’s decision to immediately dump its greyhound racing board, but said Victorians shouldn’t expect the same approach.

The Greyhound Racing NSW board resigned late last night after being threatened with an immediate dismissal by the New South Wales Government.

Following a shocking Four Corners report on Monday night, the topic of live baiting has flooded newspapers, social media, talk-back radio and other national media.

Perna said he was not shocked by the story’s effect on the public.

“I’m not shocked at how the story has been received around the country because it is a highly emotive issue.

“You could have governing issues, drug issues or race-fixing issues and the only people who would care would be those inside the industry, but the moment you have cruelty to animals it becomes a social issue and everyone is incensed. Rightly so, too.”

Live-baiting scandal: more suspensions on way in Victoria

GREYHOUND Racing Victoria CEO Adam Wallish has told Australian Racing Greyhound that it expects to stand down more registered participants in coming days as the live-baiting saga intensifies. 

The state body suspended the registration of 10 participants and the Tooradin Trial Track last week for alleged baiting offences after it was advised on Wednesday that the RSPCA had been investigating alleged illegal activity at the track.

After receiving further information from the RSPCA and the Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, last Friday, GRV made the decision to instantly suspend the registrations. 

While GRV is yet to formally disclose any names, shocking vision on the ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday seemingly identified many of the implicated trainers, including one of Australia’s top mentors. 

On Wednesday, Wallish said more suspensions were on the way, while he would not divulge when GRV would confirm the names of all suspended participants.

“We are still acting in accordance with our legal advice at the moment not to make those names public so until that changes we will keep them within GRV,” he said.

“We are going through the process at the moment and within the next day or two it is likely that [more suspensions] will happen.”

Wallish went on to say GRV had no tolerance for those who engaged in live-baiting activities. 

“We are all disgusted by the footage and the criminal behaviour that we saw on the Four Corners program on Monday night, it was despicable. Make no mistake, it was criminal behaviour and I am sure that the RSPCA and GRV will prosecute as hard as we can.”

While there has been speculation the sport may be suspended following the shocking Four Corners vision that depicted participants training their dogs by allowing them to maul rabbits, pigs and native possums, Wallish also said he believed that was highly unlikely.

“I don’t think it is warranted (suspending racing) and I think that it is over the top and I think it would be very unlikely to happen,” he said.

“Greyhound Racing employs directly 3000 people in Victoria and 20,000 people are involved. We have an economic impact in Victoria of $350,000,000, it is an important business, so I think it would be unlikely.”

In other developments:

  • Greyhound Racing NSW has stood down another three participants for alleged baiting offences. Trainers Majella Ferguson and David Sundstrom have been stood down pending further investigation. GRNSW’s actions follow property inspections by RSPCA NSW in connection with alleged live-baiting activity at the Londonderry property of Zeke Kadir last week. Kadir was one of the five participants stood down last Friday. GRNSW said it felt confident it could identify another seven people who are of interest in relation to the footage captured on the property between December 5, 2014, and January 29, 2015. Licensed trainer Bruce Carr has also been suspended after GRNSW removed four live rabbits from his property.

  • One of the sport’s biggest sponsors – meat provider Macro Meats Gourmet Game – on Wednesday withdrew its support. Macro Meats boss Ray Borda told the Sydney Morning Herald: “It’s not just a business decision, it’s a personal decision. I’m as appalled as everybody else. It sickens me, my staff and a lot of people in the public.” Borda said the company, which sponsored Albion Park in Brisbane as well as races such as the Golden Easter Egg, could return as a sponsor but “they’d have to address animal welfare issues, that’s the No.1 problem, and change the image of what it is”.
  • Animal Liberation Queensland has renewed calls for the state government to scrap its planned $12 million track at Cronulla Park at Logan. And former Brisbane Lions AFL superstar Jonathan Brown has stepped aside from his role as an ambassador for Queensland greyhound racing.
  • Former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, famously one of Australia’s leading greyhound owners,  told News Limited via email: “Greyhounds have been a part of my life from my earliest memories and I’m devastated that the industry has been smeared by the actions of a minority. I’m horrified by the revelations.’’
  • Trackside whispers a stark contrast to the horrific truth

    CEE CEE QUOTED and Dorak Dessa, alongside Keybow, were the greyhounds named in the damning Four Corners program aired on Monday night, February 16. That date, to borrow Franklin Roosevelt’s famous phrase following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, “will live in infamy”.

    And so it should. I have followed and loved this sport/industry since I was an early teenager and was disgusted and reviled by each and every person caught on camera committing and condoning acts of outright evil.

    Three or four occasions a couple of decades ago I would be at the track and the “whisper” would go around that such-and-such “has been given a kill”. True or not I don’t know, because I didn’t know the trainers or owners to confirm or deny the rumours. But I do know one thing: not one of those greyhounds ever won their race.

    I looked up the records of Cee Cee Quoted and Dorak Dessa and it came as no surprise to me that between them they have raced 23 times for one win. Basically, they appear to be quite average-to-ordinary conveyances and yet the hidden cameras showed a pair of prominent industry people trying to basically turn water into wine.

    Not one of those caught on camera, or anyone else who may later be found to have actively participated in these vile acts, should ever be allowed near a greyhound, or any other animal for that matter, ever again.

    I can only agree 100 per cent with Kevin Pitstock that it is time for a fresh start. As Kevin wrote, “Swift, dramatic and conclusive changes must take place, and they must take place immediately. Those who led us here, whether through ignorance or apathy, must be removed…”

    Surely the most immediate change that can take place is to close every private trialling establishment and do what they do in Tasmania, conduct all training at public courses, under proper supervision.

    Basically, when actions can take place behind closed doors as it were, then given the amounts of money available in the sport nowadays, skulduggery will inevitably take place.

    There has clearly been a lack of resolve across all sectors of the industry. Incompetence rules, that is obvious. Rigorous enforcement is just a buzzword, a phrase to be trotted out to keep people happy.

    Are we seriously meant to believe that not a word or a hint about these disgusting practices had leaked out? Not a word? And yet a couple of anonymous calls to those who were prepared to take action led to the damning footage we saw on Monday night. I’m surprised those caught blatantly lying to camera about concern for “animal welfare” didn’t burst into uncontrollable laughter.

    A couple of young writers for this website have penned passionate defences of the sport and the breed in recent months. Both come from deep greyhound backgrounds and I believe represent the vast majority of those within our sport/industry. Sadly, they, and others like them, will now be tainted alongside those shown on the Four Corners program.

    The enemy is within our own ranks and they extend from the perpetrators of these sadistic, inhumane practices to those who have either turned a blind eye to what has been happening under their very noses for so long, or, as appears to be the case in some instances, been willing participants despite having held down senior positions.

    I hope justice will prevail and they will face the full weight of the law as well as the opprobrium of their communities.

    To my mind the only industry participant who came out of the program with any kudos was Amanda Hill, the former GRV and now Tasmanian-based steward. What this industry/sport needs right now, not tomorrow or next month, or after some fumbling in-house inquiries, is a dozen or 24 Amanda Hills.

    Racing Queensland hits seven trainers with show-cause notices

    A DAY on from the screening of the Four Corners investigation into live baiting in greyhound racing, the hits keep coming for the besieged industry.

    Authorities in the three states affected by the scandal tried to present a united front amid a climate of anger and disgust over the acts of cruelty by greyhound participants in footage presented by the ABC.

    There were widespread calls for life bans for anyone found guilty of live-baiting offences and a push to prevent trainers accused of serious offences from transferring dogs into the care of others so they could continue racing.

    Other developments included:

  • In Queensland, seven trainers – Tom Noble, Reg Kay, Debra Arnold, Tony McCabe, James Harding, Michael Chapman and Greg Stella – were issued show-cause notices as to why they should not be warned off Queensland racetracks for life. A further six were stood down by stewards.
  • In NSW, trainer John Thompson was added to the list of those stood down, bringing the number in that state to six.
  • In Victoria, a former Greyhound Racing Victoria integrity and racing operations manager was identified as among those in attendance as live baiting was employed at the Tooradin trial track.
  • NSW and Victorian industry awards nights set down for Friday have been postponed, as has an awards night in Queensland.
  • Federal politician Andrew Wilkie has called for greyhound racing to be suspended nationally.
  • The Racing Queensland board met at Deagon on Tuesday afternoon and six trainers were added to the list of those stood down. “The other six trainers also remain suspended and their greyhounds suspended pending the outcome of the investigation,” chairman Kevin Dixon said in a statement. “Those individuals are Stephen Sherwell, Gerri Crisci, Anthony Hess, Steven Arnold, Mick Emery and Samantha Roberts.”

    Dixon said it had also been decided Reg Kay would be removed from the Queensland Greyhound Hall of Fame.

    GRV has resolved to suspend any greyhound trained and/or owned by the 10 persons suspended by the board, on Friday, February 13, in relation to live baiting. The dogs will reportedly not be able to race until investigations into the allegations are completed.

    Integrity Commissioner reacts to public outrage on live baiting

    THE crime has been exposed, now it’s time to find all of the culprits.

    Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, has announced an Own Motion Inquiry into live baiting practices exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners report on Monday night.

    The aim of the inquiry is to investigate the integrity of the greyhound racing industry and the failures of the industry’s governing bodies to identify such widespread cruelty and criminal activity.

    The Victorian Government also announced it would allocate up to $3 million from the Victorian Racing Infrastructure Fund towards bolstering GRV’s animal welfare and integrity measures, including:

  • Four extra greyhound welfare compliance and education officers, on top of GRV’s existing two officers, to inspect trainers’ premises more regularly.
  • Increased resources for GRV’s Investigations Unit including an additional full-time investigator.
  • A dedicated trial track steward to inspect and monitor the 15 private trial tracks registered with GRV.
  • Introduction of the latest surveillance technology to assist with detection and prosecution.
  • Commissioner Perna said the report into live baiting had come as a shock to him and his department.

    “I’ve been in this role for five years and I’ve certainly not seen anything like this before,” Perna said.

    “Like anyone else who has seen the footage, I was sickened and angry at what I saw.”

    Perna said he had spoken with the Victorian Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, and both had agreed the Own Motion Inquiry was the best course of action.

    “I hold the racing industry in high regard and questions over the integrity of racing must not be left unanswered,” he said.

    While Perna could not put a timeline on the results of the inquiry, he did admit he had concerns that it took an animal welfare group and a television program to unearth the criminal activity before his office.

    “It is a worry. In my own view, the culture of the industry is good. I have been involved for five years now and we have had just one anonymous call and complaint on live baiting in that time.

    “There have been a lot of improvements made across the three racing codes over the past give years, but if there are things that need to be fixed, we will fix them.

    “The questions I ask are, how widespread is this? Should they have known? Did they know?”

    Perna also flagged reform for greyhound sanctions after it was revealed that Darren McDonald and Paul Anderton had transferred greyhounds into their wives’ names before investigations into their actions had even begun.

    “There is reform needed for sure. When you look at sanctions, the thing you need to look at is proportion and effect.

    “What effect does it have on the person receiving it?

    “If the sanctions have no effect because they can move a dog to somewhere else and continue to be doing what they did, then the sanctions are not working and need to be addressed. The legislation needs to be addressed and the rules need to be addressed.”

    Perna pleaded with anyone with information on live baiting or other illegal practices in the racing industry to contact his office. You can phone (03) 8684 7776, fax (03) 8684 7778 or email: enquiries@racingintegrity.vic.gov.au.

    Elsewhere on Tuesday, the fall-out from the live-baiting expose on Four Corners included:

  • Shannon Brook trainer John Thompson was stood down after featuring on the ABC investigative program.
    GRNSW boss Brent Hogan told Fairfax Radio: “We only became aware of John Thompson’s involvement through the broadcast last night. He’s registered in NSW, he’s been suspended and we’re now working with Racing Queensland in relation to that matter.”
  • The NSW GBOTA has applauded the immediate establishment by GRNSW of an independent taskforce to investigate the extent of live baiting in the state. The taskforce will be headed by former High Court justice  Michael McHugh AC, QC.
  • NSW GBOTA boss Brenton Scott said in a statement: “Live baiting is an illegal practice and represents animal cruelty at its worst. Despite considerable funds being expended by controlling bodies across Australia on animal welfare, integrity and rule compliance grounds, the Four Corners program has shown extreme weaknesses exist in current regulation processes.

    “Given this, the independent taskforce, which will assess training methods and arrangements and controls that need to be in place at trial tracks, is welcomed and supported.”

    Spend money on the public, not just the bad guys

    ACROSS the country, greyhound racing authorities have been galvanised into action following the appalling reports of live-animal baiting by a few trainers.

    Task forces are being set up with high-profile leaders, media statements made, money is being set aside and stewards armed to race around the country looking for law-breakers. This is wonderful news but it is all too late, chaps. The horse has bolted. The bird has flown.

    The mechanical bits will be sorted out, offenders prosecuted, more media releases issued and jail sentences are possible. But the mud will stick, particularly among the general public.

    As this column pointed out several times during the heavily biased ABC 7.30 Report episode some 18 months ago, where official responses were virtually ignored, the industry must start being proactive, not reactive. Once the deed is done, it’s a waste of time trying to recover the lost ground.

    The reason is straightforward. A minority of people have a neutral attitude to greyhounds and greyhound racing. A majority don’t like either. Only a tiny few support the sport, and most of those hope only to make a quick buck. The end result is that when a problem emerges the code cannot win, only go backwards.

    The absence of public support exists primarily because of a lack of knowledge of the canine athlete, its unique and ancient history, its careful breeding and, to a lesser extent, because of the failure of authorities to get across the message that they have made strenuous efforts to eliminate drugs and other abuses. In total, the industry is far too introverted and has failed to look outside the square to learn what people really think, and then to react to those findings.

    The last information about public attitudes to greyhound racing came out more than 20 years ago in a survey conducted by Ernst & Young for the Queensland authority. It was not pleasant.

    Anything that has been done since remains a secret, including last year’s research by GRV. It must remain “commercial in confidence”, says GRV, for reasons that are hard to understand. Who else would benefit from that knowledge? Our competitors? But who are they? Poker-machine owners? The other two racing codes, both of which are in decline and have comparable problems? Major sports? The argument is specious and, frankly, it is doubtful they would even care. Meantime, that knowledge is denied to business proprietors and participants concerned with the progress of greyhound racing. And to the public itself.

    Now comes the hypocrisy

    Queensland, where things have been going downhill for the past decade (betting turnover, meeting and dog numbers, race quality), has suddenly decided to allocate $1 million to a task force to seek out and destroy those responsible for live animal baiting. Yet it already knows several offenders, but will not name them.

    Besides that, why is the current batch of stewards and other employees not capable of doing what they are paid to do – identifying and prosecuting offenders? And would a task force be able to come upon any new offenders when they are hardly likely to be continuing their illegal activities for the moment. The search will be even more confusing because dead baits are not illegal, only live ones are – a curious policy. The whole deal smacks of a PR exercise.

    But there’s more. Magically, Queenslanders have found another $1 million to launch a program aimed at more re-housing of retired racers. That’s terrific, but why now? And where is this money coming from, especially at a time when a new government is barely into stride? The state is near broke and has yet to front up with the $10 million promised for the new Logan track project, supposedly to commence in mid-2014. Its new Racing Minister, Bill Byrne, will also be looking after the Prisons portfolio, which is an interesting combination.

    Much the same might be said of NSW where authorities have already been pounding out lots of words about stewardship and welfare matters, themselves initiated only following evidence produced at the parliamentary inquiry. That was launched in late 2013 but is still subject to possible government action.

    On the other side of the coin, authorities have been actively engaged with community groups (particularly in Victoria) in joint promotions – the Pink Dog, etc – but while these are helpful they tend to be passing wonders and to concern limited numbers of the public (added to which, Glenn McGrath’s mob failed to turn up at the final award presentation at Wenty – not a ringing endorsement).

    A major reason for those good efforts producing relatively little is that the message is falling on deaf or unreceptive ears. The groundwork has not been done. Basic support is not there.

    So, while we are bandying around all these million-dollar efforts we have forgotten what should precede them.

    The first million should go into a co-ordinated national program to educate the public and establish a positive image of the greyhound. That would embrace advertising (now virtually non-existent), billboards, point-of-sale material which explains the greyhound’s history, its capabilities and how racing is conducted, concerted efforts to take the greyhound into the community physically (something Uncle Ben’s travelling road show once did), and, within limits, public visits to kennels and studs (one to Sam Cauchi’s Rocky Ridge stud was a brilliant success). And so on.

    A second million would be far better invested in conducting studies of greyhound tracks and setting up good design principles to replace the guesswork that now dominates the scene. That would be aimed at reducing interference and disruptions, and therefore the chance of injuries, and at providing the customer with a more reliable product to bet on. Such an amount, incidentally, is small beer compared with the multimillion-dollar investments that go into new and re-built tracks every year. The arithmetic is obvious, as is the potential return on the outlay.

    Both programs would give the industry positive stories to relate to the public. Importantly, once done, it then gives the media a hard platform on which to consider how it should treat the occasional abuses. The “I hate greyhounds” lobby would be sidelined.

    The only constraint on creating such programs is the lack of vision and the cumbersome nature of authority boards and the bureaucracies that support them. Those that concentrate on processes rather than outcomes will be the losers. The Four Corners program offers both the proof and a fresh hurdle to jump over.

    Note: On this subject, only NSW, Victoria and SA took the trouble to show media releases on their websites. Queensland apparently issued a release to selected people but failed to print it on its website (which includes menu categories such as Latest News, Announcements, Industry News and Racing News) – so much for communicating with the public. WA and Tasmania had no comments at all.

    Time for a fresh start: ARG responds to live-baiting crisis

    MAKE no mistake, greyhound racing in Australia is teetering on the brink of destruction.

    The calls for an end to greyhound racing are coming from far and wide in the aftermath of the Four Corners expose originating from Animal Liberation Queensland’s efforts.

    Over the past eight years of Australian Racing Greyhound, we have observed, heard and frequently been on the end of abuse and “requests” to stop the sport.

    In the past two years those voices have grown louder and the support base has spread from the fanatical animal welfare “professionals” to those further from the fringes.

    In the past 12 hours, those voices have been joined by many sensible, reasonable-thinking Australians who have quickly taken to social media to express their outrage – and justifiably so.

    What was shown on Monday night in the living rooms of Australia is indefensible.

    There are no words which can placate those assaulted by the images or mitigate the reactions to the vision.

    Greyhound racing has reached a crossroad – it can continue on in a whole new form with new leadership and a new set of values; or it can go the way so many have before it.

    To survive, greyhound racing will require strong, transparent leadership with a strong focus on integrity and welfare – we do not have that currently. It could be argued all racing codes suffer this dilemma, and recent fiascos in AFL and NRL demonstrate integrity is not an issue reserved for the racing codes, but greyhound racing has suffered from a terminal lack of “backbone” from its leaders who are all too happy to hide behind “incidents” and “ongoing investigations” than to put forward the brutal truth.

    In the lead-up to the most destructive media event of the year, our leaders seemed to be more concerned with controlling the message than providing that transparency. It was difficult to extract comment from GRV, and the fact we are the only independent media organisation devoted to the coverage of Australian greyhound racing online should not be lost in the noise. This is the same group of people who invited the ABC journalists in on the pretence they were doing a positive story on increasing popularity and TAB turnover in the sport. The words naïve and inept come to mind.

    Due in no small part to the short-sighted dealings of the Greyhound Action Group in New South Wales, who got into bed with the Greens and animal welfare groups to get its facile NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the sport off the ground last year, the bright light of the animal welfare and anti-racing groups was already shining on greyhound racing. After Monday night, that spotlight has turned supernova and includes many who the sport may have considered allies. The heartland of greyhound support, the blue- and white-collar families of suburbia, have turned on the sport in numbers; and the horse racing crowd and their high-profile names have lent their support to calls to ban the sport.

    Clearly greyhound racing is on the wrong path; the vast and overwhelming venom and disgust for the sport are palpable.

    Swift, dramatic and conclusive changes must take place, and they must take place immediately.

    Those who led us here, whether through ignorance or apathy, must be removed for there to be any hope that confidence in the sport will return.

    Australian Racing Greyhound is calling for the chairs of the three boards concerned – Greyhound Racing Victoria, Greyhound Racing New South Wales and Racing Queensland – to stand down or be removed at once.

    Australian Racing Greyhound is calling for the chief executive officers of the three racing authorities concerned – Greyhound Racing Victoria, Greyhound Racing New South Wales and Racing Queensland – to stand down or be removed.

    Australian Racing Greyhound is calling for the chief stewards of the three authorities concerned – Greyhound Racing Victoria, Greyhound Racing New South Wales and Racing Queensland – to stand down or be removed.

    Australian Racing Greyhound is calling for life bans for those identified in the vision as perpetuating these acts of extreme animal abuse.

    Australian Racing Greyhound is calling for an end to the revolving door of suspensions and disqualifications being subverted by authorising the transfer of greyhounds from the offending trainer to their spouse.

    Only clear and decisive actions such as these will even partially restore faith that our authorities can properly administer the sport.

    Australian Racing Greyhound fears it is too late.

    ABC live-baiting investigation draws blood

    “This is the vision the greyhound racing doesn’t want you to see.”

    Powerful opening words backed up by a horrific image of a terrified live rabbit on the lure.

    In the lead-up its screening on Monday night, ABC’s investigative program Four Corners promised to expose “the gruesome underbelly of greyhound racing” in its latest episode, Making A Killing, following last week’s co-ordinated raids by police and RSPCA on multiple training establishments across the country, which found illegal live baiting occurring on-site.

    CEO of Greyhound Racing Victoria Adam Wallish called the story, which started with findings from Four Corners in conjunction with Animal Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland, “explosive, emotive and extremely damaging to the future of this sport in Australia.”

    What was delivered is a serious wake-up call for regulators and a shocking look into the illegal practices of some trainers – one that can be used as a vehicle for change.

    Queensland wrap-up:

    • Prominent greyhound breeder and trainer and president of the United Queensland Greyhound Association Deborah Arnold allowed her 70 greyhound puppies and racing dogs at her property ‘Dessa Downes’ in Churchable to be filmed by Four Corners. “The kennels have to be RSPCA QLD-approved,” said Arnold. “It definitely meets the requirements.” When questioned on the practice of live-baiting, Arnold denied any knowledge of it: “If they do I don’t know about it, and I don’t really want to know about it.”
    • Undercover footage from Animal Liberation Queensland and Animals Australia earlier filmed a training track in Churchable, Queensland, across the road from Arnold’s property. On film, it captures Arnold and her dog Dorak Des chasing a live pig on the lure while Arnold asks “what’s the quickest been today” before being informed her dog is. Arnold is later asked by Four Corners what mantra is at the forefront of greyhound racing in 2015, to which she states, “animal welfare.”
    • Professor of animal behaviour and animal welfare science Paul McGreavy offered his comments on the matter of live-baiting coming from a decade of research into the breed, insisting there are breeds far more dangerous and that greyhounds are simply “chasing to catch, not to kill”. He emphasises the dogs “love racing, they love moving around that speed – they’ll be getting off on this,” and that they “are so sedentary when they’re not exposed to this stimuli.”
    • Animal Liberation Queensland investigator Hailey Cotton reveals the first tip-off regarding live-baiting in Churchable was passed to her: “Their words to me were ‘something really bad is going on there,’ and they said ‘it smells like death’”.
    • Undercover cameras were placed in the property of prominent Queensland trainer Tom Noble, a celebrated, award-winning greyhound trainer with almost 50 years in the game. His break-in centre is the epicenter of greyhound training in Queensland, and the live baiting footage of Deborah Arnold’s dog occurred on his track.
    • More than 40 owners, trainers and handlers are recorded on camera while live baiting occurs on Tom Noble’s property. “These people are leading trainers, they’re training their dogs with these methods,” said Cotton. “They’re then going on to win races using these methods, so the whole integrity of greyhound racing is really brought into question here.”
    • Footage confirms four times a week, piglets and later possums are flung around Noble’s track 26 times at high speed. The piglet is shown squealing with a man on the camera swearing at it, and one or two dogs are let loose to chase, grab and maul the possum while it’s still alive. Some 56 minutes later, the lure stops and the possum is snapped in half, the corpse still attached by its spinal cord, with the men in the footage making light of the situation.
    • Discussion of dumping dead dogs is captured on film, leading the investigation to ask NSW greyhound trainer John Thompson about the issue. Animal Liberation Australia links him as the man in the footage telling others to smash a baby possum’s head in so the live baiting of its mother can begin. “They ripped the baby from the mother, they tied the mother on the lure, and they then stick the baby’s head in the sand to kill it while its mother is watching on, all the time laughing and joking on how amusing it is,” said Hailey Cotton.

    Victoria wrap-up:

    • In mid-November 2014, Lyn White of Animals Australia simultaneously led an investigation at the Tooradin Trial Track in Victoria after a tip-off. Considered to be in the heart of greyhound racing territory in the state, the track is run by owner operator Stuart Mills, whose brother is Andrew Mills, former deputy chief steward for Greyhound Racing Victoria and now the regulator’s chief racing grader for the entire state.
    • Lyn White reveals 17 people were captured live baiting the first time undercover footage was recorded. The first trainer identified is former steward of Greyhound Racing Victoria Paul Anderton, who arrives as Stuart Mills attaches a lure on a wooden plank with leather straps, before returning with a live rabbit and stretching it out tightly as he buckles it down flat. The rabbit is shown returning five minutes later, mauled but still alive and twitching in agony. “It tells me this is a practice that has been going for an acceptable level to trainers for years and years,” White said.
    • Anderton’s dogs went on to win three races days after being captured on the footage in Tooradin. President of Cranbourne Racing Club Neville King is also filmed on camera live baiting two days before Christmas at Tooradin.
    • Trainer Dennis Dean and a young girl watch as live rabbits are leashed and thrown to the dogs to kill. CEO of Greyhound Australasia Scott Parker was questioned on his thoughts of live-baiting behaviour during the revelations of the footage and the discovery of children being brought to watch while it occurs: “I think that’s ridiculous and abhorrent. I don’t support that at all. I’m not aware of it, and never heard of it, live baiting is illegal as well as being wrong and against the rules of greyhound racing.”
    • Footage of dogs on the Tooradin track is shown, encouraged to savagely kill several rabbits, which are skinned or tied as they maul them.
    • Former steward at Greyhound Racing Victoria Amanda Hill says there was a problem inside GRV regarding regulators failing to pick up and follow on rumours of live-baiting in the state: “Lack of resources, lack of funds, lack of knowledge, or plainly, they don’t want to accept that it’s a possibility.” She believes some trainers are “doing it to try and get an edge. It’s probably harder to get caught live baiting than what it is to using performance-enhancing drugs.”
    • Hill left GRV in 2004 and became the Chair of Stewards in Greyhound Racing Tasmania, where she was able to do better in stopping live baiting. In 2008, Hill caught a female trainer red-handed live baiting a possum. Possum carcasses were found all over the track, and it remains one of two cases in the past decade where a steward has followed through and successfully convicted a live baiter.
    • Hill identifies two-time Australian greyhound trainer of the year Darren McDonald as one of the figures caught on film three days before the 2014 Melbourne Cup, engaging in live baiting at Tooradin alongside handler Chris Connelly. He is shown on camera carrying a sack with a tiny pink piglet before placing it on the lure. The two men remove the muzzles on their dogs after two laps and the dogs maul the piglet, heard squealing as it dies off-camera. McDonald has since transferred all of his greyhounds to his wife’s name.

    New South Wales wrap-up:

    • McDonald’s top sprinter Keybow is revealed by Four Corners to have been broken in across the border in NSW at Londonderry by Zeke Kadir.
    • Four Corners received a tip-off within the industry that Kadir was rumoured to be the best live baiter within the state, and that it occurred at his property as part of his training purposes. “He mentioned that he broke (in) Keybow, and he talked about how he gets live rabbits from a person he knows, and he gets about 30 a week,” a private investigator for Four Corners confirms.
    • Footage shows Zeke Kadir using the rabits tied to a hand-pushed lure, controlled by Kadir. They’re dragged along the ground at speed pursued by dogs in training. On January 12, 2015, the footage captures Ian Morgan arriving at the venue for a private session, where a native possum is strung to the lure struggling to escape as two muzzled greyhounds attempt to bite the possum. Four minutes later, the muzzles come off and the cry is captured off-screen of the possum’s demise. “I am fearful at how widespread this is, and the consequences for literally thousands of animals each year,” said Lyn White.
    • Morgan is later seen removing the dead possum from his greyhound, Cee Cee Quoted. Four days later, Four Corners catches him leaving his Western Sydney home bound for an afternoon race meet in Newcastle, where Cee Cee Quoted places third. John Cauchi, of Box Hill, was also caught practising live baiting by hand.
    • Aftermath:

    • Four Corners notes requests for interviews with the regulators in all three states caught live-baiting were declined, deferring comment to CEO of Greyhounds Australasia Scott Parker. “I don’t suspect this is a systemic problem at all,” Parker said. “It’s illegal, abhorrent, and totally rejected by the industry.”
    • When asked about how three tracks have been confirmed to have had live baiting occurring on site that have not been detected by regulators, Parker surmises “our controlling bodies do a great job, but it’s a big industry and a lot of these facilities are a long, long way away from Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane – and that’s why compliance officers are employed to get out there.”
    • In Queensland, RSPCA caught the live-baiters at Tom Noble’s establishment during their follow-up raids and saved a live piglet tied in a sack moments away from being bound and baited. Tom Noble was on-site, as well as his staff James Draws and Tony McCabe. They denied any wrong-doing despite being caught on film. RSPCA eventually found a second piglet hidden inside a shed on the property, wounded from a previous live-baiting session.
    • At Tooradin, Stuart Mills was watched closely, but no animals were caught on-site. Four Corners visited him the next day of the raids, and he’s clearly shaken as he maintains his denials about live-baiting.
    • Zeke Kadir’s property was visited, but he refused to answer Four Corners’ reporters on live baiting.
    • Four Corners’ investigations are now a criminal matter, with state charges imminent.

    Post program:

    • In Victoria, GRV chair Peter Caillard has welcomed a $6 million government investment for investigative resources for GRV to help detect and prevent practises such as live-baiting from occurring in the future. In addition, GRV have also announced that dead animals will no longer be allowed to assist in the training of greyhounds. “The use of live animals is already outlawed. GRV will also outlaw the use of dead animals in greyhound training whether on private premises or registered training premises,” Mr Caillard said in a press release. Caillard has also agreed to cancel the Greyhound Industry Awards night, which was to be held this Friday night, after instruction from MP Martin Pakula. The Darren McDonald-trained Sweet It Is was the frontrunner to take out the highest honour, 2014 Victorian Greyhound of the Year.
    • In New South Wales, GRNSW have announced that a taskforce has been established to investigate the extent of the live-baiting practices in the state. The taskforce will be led by former High Court justice and eminent legal practitioner, the Hon. Michael McHugh AC, QC. The taskforce will look into the training methods used in NSW and will arrange for trial tracks and training facilities to be monitored. It is also set to examine whether GRNSW and relevant agencies such as the RSPCA NSW have the necessary powers to correctly investigate animal cruelty allegations. “We need to stamp out live baiting once and for all. Not only is it illegal but it is sickening and we are disgusted with what we have witnessed on air,” GRNSW CEO Brent Hogan said in a press release. “GRNSW welcomes Michael McHugh’s acceptance to head this taskforce and is committed to working closely with him and the taskforce as quickly as we can. The taskforce will help ensure that live baiting and other acts of animal cruelty identified in NSW are eradicated as quickly as possible.”

    Industry can emerge stronger and better from latest scandal

    BY NATURE, greyhounds are predators. It’s their instinct to chase, catch and kill.

    This natural tendency was widely put to use in Australia starting in the 1860s and continuing until live coursing was made illegal in 1985.

    Since then, it appears the authorities have turned a blind eye to the fact some trainers within the sport still use live baiting as a method of training their greyhounds to chase the lure.

    The live-baiting issue has burst back into the spotlight during the past week. Five properties were raided last week by the RSPCA in conjunction with the police in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales after Four Corners, which was working with Animals Australia and the Animal Liberation Queensland, presented the results of an investigation into greyhound racing to the state-based RSPCAs.

    The raids have resulted in 23 people being stood down immediately, with desperate calls from the RSPCA and animal welfare groups to put an end to the sport. To make matters even worse, the industry’s darkest secret is set to be exposed on a gritty episode of the ABC’s Four Corners program titled “Making A Killing”.

    The question that needs to be asked is how can the respective greyhound racing authorities have stood back for so long and let it continue? Surely they would have known the live-baiting problem still existed. Now it has been neglected for so long the RSPCA has dragged the industry’s skeletons out of the closet and into the spotlight for mainstream media and a horrified public audience to gawk at.

    It is not good enough.

    There is no denying it is a serious issue and GRNSW alone invested $1.3 million into welfare during the 2014 financial year – so shouldn’t this have been something that was investigated heavily?

    How can authority bodies that are meant to be devoted to integrity and welfare be upstaged by outsider groups that have invested far less time and money before finding a much bigger problem?

    Australian Racing Greyhound attempted to contact CEOs Brent Hogan (GRNSW) and Adam Wallish (GRV), to ask why proactive action had not been taken prior to the RSPCA and ABC jumping on board, but they were not willing to make additional comments relating to our questions.

    Participants have the right to be angry. Not everyone does the wrong thing, but now everyone will be tarred with the same brush as headlines emerge left, right and centre that are essentially accusing the whole industry of being guilty of the actions of a few.

    If the problem had been properly handled by the authorities earlier, surely it would not have spiralled out of control and into the public eye like it has.

    One trainer expressed to me that live-baiting was comparable to drink-driving – even though some do it, they know it is wrong. If you get caught, bad luck, you deserve to be kicked out of the game.

    People know they shouldn’t do it and so they deserve to get caught, but it shouldn’t have had to reach the stage where they are sprung by anti-racing groups. We have authority bodies for a reason, isn’t it time they started taking control of the sport they are supposed to manage? And shouldn’t they have been doing it without the pressure from the RSPCA and animal rights groups?

    No matter what your view is on live baiting, I think we can all agree it would have been far better for the investigations to be handled ‘in-house’ by our authorities rather than having their hands forced and the industry’s image severely tarnished by groups whose main objective is to end greyhound racing.

    Additionally, in a somewhat confusing turn of events, some tracks in New South Wales have also suspended finish-on trials. So now the perfectly humane and legal way to encourage dogs to chase has been taken away from trainers. Talk about mixed messages.

    I love this industry and I want it to thrive, but it is naive to carry on thinking no one is doing the wrong thing. The authority bodies need to realise this and so do participants.

    Although there may be tough times ahead, and it is certainly not something that I would ever like to see my cherished sport go through, perhaps this is the ammunition needed to incite the changes the industry so clearly needs to move forward to a bigger and brighter future.

    Fallout spreads as industry braces for Four Corners probe

    THE shockwaves in the industry from the co-ordinated RSPCA-police raids targeting alleged live baiting continue to spread and the raids may be about to net their biggest name yet.

    While the ruling body down south, Greyhound Racing Victoria, has stood down 10 participants, it has refused to name them or the offences with which they are to be charged.

    Most are believed to have been stood down because of alleged activities at the Tooradin Trial Track, an establishment run by Stuart Mills which has had its registration suspended.

    Tooradin Trial Track is a family-run operation, with the Mills name synonymous with greyhound racing in Victoria. Stuart Mills’ father Tony was the 2013 winner of the Ken Carr Medal, the highest award for excellence within the Victorian greyhound industry.

    Stuart Mills refused to comment on the allegations on Sunday, neither confirming nor denying he was one of those stood down.

    CEO of Greyhound Racing Victoria Adam Wallish said in a letter addressed to participants at the weekend that the organisation had no tolerance for people who chose to engage in live-baiting activities.

    “It is extremely disappointing that there are still people in this sport that appear to partake in this practice or are complicit in its continuation,” he said.

    “GRV has been very clear that community standards regarding the treatment of animals have changed significantly over the years and it is disappointing that some in this sport have not moved with the times.”

    In other developments:

  • A leading Victorian trainer is believed to have been stood down, though it is not yet known what any possible charges relate to.

  • Racing Queensland has set up a $1 million taskforce to be chaired by Racing Integrity Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan to combat live baiting and other animal welfare issues. It has also announced a $1 million boost to its Greyhound Adoption Program budget.
  • In NSW, GRNSW is expected to make an announcement in the next few days in regards to the establishment of an independent taskforce. The aim will be to investigate training methods used within the state and to control and supervise registered trial tracks, breaking-in centres and training facilities.

    The taskforce is also set to identify whether GRNSW and all relevant agencies have the power to properly investigate claims of animal welfare breaches and cruelty themselves and to ensure GRNSW is fulfilling its duties in regards to welfare and integrity.

    The live-baiting furore comes as the ABC’s Four Corners is to on Monday night broadcast an episode entitled “Making A Killing”, which it says exposes the dark underbelly of the sport and will change it forever.

    Wallish’s letter cautioned participants the Four Corners program would be hard hitting and potentially upsetting for some members of the greyhound racing fraternity.

    “Make no mistake, this story will be explosive, emotive and extremely damaging to the future of this sport in Australia,” he wrote.

    “As a group of people that love the greyhound breed we should all be shocked and outraged by the allegations in the story and prepared to fight the small minority that continue to partake in such practices jeopardising the future of the sport and indeed the future of the breed itself.

    “You will be emotional, you might be angry. Don’t be angry at those that attack us, regardless of their position. Be angry at those within the sport that are doing the wrong thing and undermining the values for which we stand.”

    Last week, police and RSPCA officials raided properties in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, with seven industry participants immediately stood down in Queensland, six in NSW and 10 in Victoria.

    Police, RSPCA raids in NSW, Victoria, Queensland stun industry

    THE greyhound industry has been stunned by raids by police and RSPCA officials in NSW, Victoria and Queensland in the past few days, targeting training and breaking-in establishments.

    Allegations have emerged of live-baiting practices, with the raids following revelations by investigative program Four Corners. The ABC show is understood to have captured damning footage which is set to air on Monday night in an episode entitled Making A Killing.

    A promo for the show says it is “a gritty investigation into the darkest secrets of the sport, exposing the gruesome underbelly of greyhound racing” and what it has uncovered threatens to change the sport forever.

    It is another potential black eye for an industry reeling from recent suspensions to leading trainers and positive drug tests for substances including meth.

    In the aftermath of the raids:

  • In NSW, Greyhound Racing NSW has stood down pending further investigation five registered participants – John Cauchi, Tony Cauchi, Donna Grech, Zeke Kadir and Ian Morgan – for alleged live-baiting offences under the Greyhound Racing Rules and NSW Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Box Hill Trial Track has also had its registration suspended.

  • In Queensland, seven trainers have been stood down by the RQ Licensing Committee following raids by the Queensland Police Service and RSPCA. RQ boss of integrity operations Wade Birch said their dogs had been scratched from racing and they were stood down pending further investiations. “This decision was based on further information received by Racing Queensland, the substance of which required immediate action by stewards,” Birch said in an RQ media release.
  • In Victoria, GRV has suspended the registration of the Tooradin Trial Track and 10 greyhound racing participants for alleged baiting offences at the establishment. GRV was advised on Wednesday the RSPCA had been investigating activity at the track and after receiving further information on Friday from the RSPCA and Sal Perna, the Racing Integrity Commissioner, the decision was made to instantly suspend the aforementioned registrations.

    Both GRV and the RSPCA are conducting full investigations into the alleged activity.

    GRV’s CEO Adam Wallish said in a statement the organisation does not condone the activity of live-baiting.

    “The use of live bait in the training of greyhounds is disgusting and has no place in our sport,” he said. “Any person engaged in live baiting can expect to be disqualified and prosecuted. We have zero tolerance for these individuals.

    “GRV takes matters of animal cruelty extremely seriously. Allegations of live-baiting are extremely disappointing and GRV supports the RSPCA and Victoria Police’s efforts to investigate any wrongdoing within the sport of greyhound racing.”

    He added that if found guilty, those under investigation could face some serious charges.

    “In accordance with GRV’s Animal Welfare Penalty Guidelines those responsible face a 10-year ban from the sport,” he said. “Live baiting is also a criminal offence punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) and can attract a jail term of up to two years and a fine of more than $30,000.”

    The Four Corners footage is understood to include people caught on hidden cameras engaging in the outlawed practice.

    It is not the first time the sport has been put under the blowtorch by the ABC. In October 2013 the 7:30 Report attempted to tear down the industry, suggesting that it is rife with doping, corruption and animal welfare issues.

    Similar raids were conducted on Hunter Valley properties around the same time of the controversial report, however these failed to find evidence of any wrongdoing by targeted greyhound participants.

    GRNSW’s decision to stand down five participants was made due to the seriousness of the allegations and follows raids by RSPCA NSW and police in the Londonderry area. NSW chief steward Clint Bentley said in a statement: “While the investigations are only beginning, the allegations are of such a serious nature that we felt it imperative to suspend the five participants immediately.”

    Licensed trainer John O’Brien was also stood down with immediate effect following a property inspection by GRNSW, after eight live European rabbits were allegedly found on his Congewai property.


    In the stewards’ room: Inquiry into shooting greyhounds adjourned

    THE Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board (RADB) has adjourned an inquiry in relation to Victorian trainer Simon Green, who is alleged to have shot dead two of his greyhounds, Spanish Cloud and Spanish Berry, around July 2014.

    During the investigation, stewards gathered evidence from Green and subsequently charged him with a breach of Greyhounds Australiasia Rule 86(o) in that being the owner of the aforementioned greyhounds, he did engage in misconduct by shooting them.

    The matter was heard before the RADB on February 10, 2015. While Green failed to attend the hearing, evidence was given by Greg Huntington (GRV Manager Investigations – representing the stewards panel) who provided material to the board in relation to the issues surrounding the euthanasia of greyhounds and the public perception of actions such as those alleged of Green.

    The RADB adjourned the inquiry to a date yet to be confirmed.

    Also in Victoria and on February 7, stewards conducted an inquiry into an alleged verbal altercation between trainers Joe Borg and Ben Divirgilio at Sandown Park on December 4, 2014.

    Evidence was heard from both men as well as GRV atewards Ms D.Barber and Mr I. Kennedy. Borg was charged with a breach of Greyhounds Australiasia Rule 86(q) in that he spoke in an inappropriate manner to Divigilio which was seen to be detrimental to the image of greyhound racing.

    Borg pleaded not guilty due to provocation, but was ultimately found guilty by stewards and fined $200.

    South Australia

    Licensed person Michael Stewart has been fined $400 and had a three-month disqualification suspended for 24 months after pleading guilty to improper behaviour at Angle Park on New Year’s Eve. Stewards held an inquiry on January 30 after complaints to Greyhound Racing SA Stewards about Stewart’s behaviour.

    Stewards will also be inquiring into a breath analysis reading taken at the meeting. Stewart was charged with a breach of Greyhound Racing Rules 86 (o) and 86 (p). The date of the inquiry into the breath analysis is to be advised.


    Greyhound Racing NSW have advised that they have recently received notification from the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory that four greyhounds have returned positive swabs to banned substances.

    Sandave Spirit, trained by Nathan Goodwin, was found to have caffeine and its metabolites in a post-race urine sample obtained after it won the Gosford Signs Blitz Heat at Gosford on September 5, 2014.

    On October 2, 2014, a post-race sample was taken from Paul Gallagher’s Kingsbrae County after it won the Take The Kitty @ Stud Maiden at Grafton, with the results showing a presence of both caffeine and theobromine.

    At Wentworth Park on October 10, 2014, Saffron Ice, which is trained by Lynne Aldous, was swabbed after claiming the petsnacks.com.au Stake, with the result coming back showing a positive result to diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

    Also, after winning the Battlers Trophy Final at Kempsey on November 4, 2014, the Margaret Campbell-trained Potenza has returned a positive swab sample to morphine.

    Each trainer has been notified of the readings and will have to await further action with the matter now proceeding having regard to the protocols established under GRNSW’s penalty guideline system.

    First pick a dog in the right spot

    THERE are lots of things to think about in respect to tracks and form. At its most simplistic, what dogs do and what tracks make them do are two different deals. There is a strong tendency to concentrate on the former and ignore the latter. That’s a big mistake, if for no other reason than that it skips over the real potential of a given dog – assuming it gets a fair go.

    For example, there’s the best galloper and the dog in the best position. Which do you go for? Tipsters with training backgrounds (and there are a few) will go for the dog that can scream around the track in lightning fast time. Serious punters will prefer the well placed dog, knowing the odds usually work that way.

    Whichever, it boils down to whether the dog is well placed.

    For example, in the Shepparton Cup final last Sunday, multi-Group winner Dyna Villa had to contend with box 6 and a bunch of smart sprinters. It actually began well enough but on the way to the turn it got squeezed out of contention. The figures will show a poor sectional but they were not a true reflection of its ability. It could not pour on the power because of the crowd around it. Meanwhile, Azza Azza Azza (would two of those Azzas have been enough?) motored up from the rails box to run away with the race. It did not begin unusually well but did show great pace along the rail to the turn. It was well placed, Dyna Villa was not.

    Perhaps that’s just stating the obvious, but a great many punters thought Dyna Villa could get away with it. They were wrong; $2.60 was poor value in the circumstances.

    (In passing, the Aza Aza name is a South Korean slang term and is spoken as an encouragement to competitors, as in “fight on” or “go for it”. The extra “z” may be an optional spelling).

    Over in Perth, the question in the Galaxy was whether the improving Lady Toy, nicely boxed on the rails, could run down the favourite Space Star, which was expected to lead, and did. I thought the bitch could do the job but I was wrong. Lady Toy got to the lead marginally on the home turn but Space Star was too strong in the run to the post. However, this was a fine contest; both got a terrific crack at the prize, not least because the rest of the field was not up to their standard and stayed out of the way.

    In the Perth Cup, favourite Star Recall, which is not a hard railer, got away well from the inside but fell victim to other runners trying to negotiate the awkward first turn, and got ankle tapped. That allowed My Bro Fabio to run around them, eventually recording a 30.34 win, which is a fairly average time for this class. As with Allen Deed, which bombed out in the Consolation race, this track is not ideal for such dogs.

    Then the handicap event at The Meadows on the same night proved an excellent spectacle. It had a full field but the handicaps and the individual dogs’ jumping abilities meant that they spread out very quickly. All had a fair chance and little interference was evident. The better dogs got through and the finish was very close.

    The point about all these examples is that when you keep the dogs apart you get a better race. Squeeze them up and any old result is possible. Bolters grabbed the places in the Shepparton Cup and the First Four paid $1470 in NSW and even more in Victoria. The leader was always in the clear, and perhaps also Ronray Spirit (which was disappointing) but anything was possible with the remainder. Aside from Azza Azza Azza, it was a poor spectacle.

    In total, stewards mentioned 20 names in the Cup as suffering “bumps” or “collisions”, whatever they mean, on the way to and into the turn. It was not pretty.

    So, how do you keep dogs apart? Handicap races are not a solution, just an illustration. And you can’t expect to see too many races where there are big differences in abilities. That would fly in the face of the grading system.

    The answer has to lie in the way the track is laid out. More space between boxes? Boxes positioned wider on the track (the opposite of that is a proven disaster). Different sorts of lures (including the follow-on-lure)? Better cambers and turn radii? Who can be sure?

    The challenge is a complex one so maybe there has to be a complex answer. Well, a simple answer with complex ingredients. The only way to achieve that is by conducting some exhaustive tests over a year at a variety of tracks. Three very cluey and independent people could do that.

    Back to Shepparton for a moment – whatever possessed punters to back Zipping Rory into $1.40 in a five-dog 650m event? Certainly, the dog has done some nice things – notably a 41.75 win at Wentworth Park – but it is one of the most inconsistent dogs racing. Its last few runs have been pretty ordinary so, even in this moderate field, on form and from an outside box I could not rate it better than a 4/1 chance. In practice, it was lucky to grab 3rd spot on the line, four lengths behind the winner in 37.87 (that winner having missed the jump by three lengths), which was slower time than run by a Grade 6/7 lot earlier in the night.

    This gets back to my comment at the top of the article about the best dog v the best placed dog. Zipping Rory was not well placed in the circumstances. Stewards did query the run but they were never likely to obtain a decent explanation – the dog’s problem is not in its body but in its head. If it leads it wins, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. In all of its 12 wins it has led or been very close early.

    Shepparton, incidentally, had seven short fields out of twelve, perhaps influenced a bit by the hot weather. Punters were a bit “off”, too, in the Sunday evening slot, which is never a good time for feature events. Strangely, the Cup final pulled in the second worst pool of the night – $6,568 in NSW but a healthier $19,362 in Victoria. Obviously, random gamblers dominated the scene.

    The competing Sale meeting was also much of a muchness with three short fields and three races with fallers, one of them involving four dogs, all on the 440m turn. GRV would be well advised to start again on re-modelling the circuit.

    Accuracy Would Help

    I did promise to lay off the ongoing series of misleading stories from stewards but this one was so silly that I had to mention it. It is one of many.

    Race 7 The Meadows 7 Feb.

    “Lucy Rae, Jindara and Smiley Sam collided soon after the start checking Bronco De Jurer. Bronco De Jurer and Olive’s Gift collided approaching the first turn checking Don’t Be Short. Chrichton Bale checked off Adam Handler on the first turn checking Olive’s Gift and causing Lucy Rae to race wide”.

    All three sentences are wrong. The collision in the first sentence had absolutely nothing to do with Bronco De Jurer. It was well clear of the others. Bronco De Juror bumped Olive’s Gift on the first turn but that had no effect at all on Don’t Be Short. Chrichton Bale did get off on the turn but never touched Olive’s Gift. However, it did crash into Lucy Rae.

    What you may have missed: New incentives for Vic stayers

    THE Meadows Greyhound Club in Victoria has introduced a new incentive for its handicapped staying events conducted over 725 metres.

    Any greyhound which wins off nine metres (with 10m being the standard in stakes races) will collect an extra $1000 for their connections, greyhounds which win off eight metres will receive a bonus of $2000 and greyhounds successful off seven metres will receive $3000.

    Dyna Kayla chalks up another win

    Successful partnership Andrea Dailly and Brendan Wheeler have another reason to celebrate, with Dyna Kayla being named The Meadows Greyhound of the Year for 2014.

    The beautifully bred daughter of Surf Lorian and Amity Bale raced 25 times during 2014, recording 11 wins, six of which were at The Meadows. Dyna Kayla won over 525m, 600m and 725m, with her biggest achievements finishing second in the Group 1 Superstayers Final and runner-up in the Group 1 Zoom Top Invitational final.

    GRV puts kennel plan on back-burner

    Greyhound Racing Victoria’s trial of a new kennel procedure, where trainers were allowed access for a short time to their greyhounds in late races, has been dismissed.

    Due to an overwhelming outcry against the procedure, Greyhound Racing Victoria has suspended the trial immediately. It will now investigate other ways to reduce the kennelling time of greyhounds.

    Worth another look

    My Bro Fabio produced a sensational come-from-behind victory in Saturday night’s Group 1 Perth Cup at Cannington, weaving his way through the field to secure $140,000 for trainer Brooke Ennis and owner Michelle Jones.

    Clocking a time of 30.34, the son of Turanza Bale and Flamenco took his prizemoney total to $369,325 as he recorded win No.24 from start 47.

    Lock in your diary

    February 9: Semi-finals, Group 2 Launceston Cup – 515m

    February 14: Semi-finals, Group 2 Vince Curry Memorial Maiden – 520m

    Hunt greyhound returns positive for amphetamine, methamphetamine

    ANOTHER high-profile trainer may be in hot water with stewards: one of Jenny Hunt’s greyhounds has returned a positive swab to the permanently banned prohibited substances amphetamine, methamphetamine and its metabolites.

    The greyhound in question, Jubilea Bale, was scratched from Sandown Park on Thursday (February 5) by order of stewards after they were notified by the Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) that Jubilea Bale had returned a positive post-race urine sample to the above substances after winning her heat of the Group 2 Warragul Cup on January 17.

    Glen Canty, GRV’s general manager of integrity, racing and welfare, said it was not uncommon for a swab sample to take that long to be tested, regardless of it being for a heat of a Group feature.

    “The time-frame can vary for a number of reasons specific to the swab taken but three weeks is not unusual,” he said.

    A kennel inspection of Hunt’s property was conducted on Thursday.

    Jubilea Bale will be unable to race until she returns a swab sample that is not in breach of the Greyhounds Australasia rules. The results of testing on the reserve and control substances from the Warragul race are not yet known.

    “It is important to note that Ms Hunt has the right to have the reserve and control sample testing done in the presence of an independent approved analyst nominated by her,” Canty said. “At the moment we do not have a time-frame, the process is in the hands of RASL.

    “The reserve and control samples are yet to be analysed and the investigations pertaining to this particular case are currently proceeding. As such GRV is unable to provide any more information on this matter at this time.”

    Jubilea Bale, which has won 14 of 44 starts, with 12 placings, ran fifth in the final of the Warragul Cup on January 23.


Hunt shot to training prominence after taking over the large team of greyhounds formerly trained by her prolific father-in-law Graeme Bate,who is serving a three-year disqualification for five offences relating to prohibited substances.

    Victoria-based Hunt is one of the country’s leading mentors, training many of her greyhounds for leviathan owner/breeder Paul Wheeler, including Dyna Villa, arguably the nation’s best sprinter.

    Dyna Villa, which has won an incredible $634,990 in prizemoney and is expected to soon become the greatest prizemoney earner in Australian history, runs in Sunday’s Group 2 Shepparton Cup final in which it has drawn box six.

    Hunt no doubt faces a nervous wait, with GRV showing little mercy for trainers using prohibited substances in recent times.

    “GRV has stated on many occasions that it has a zero-tolerance attitude to the use of drugs in our sport to affect the performance of greyhounds. Nothing has changed,” Canty added.

    It’s time. In fact, it’s overdue that bend starts should go

    LAST Thursday, Trip To Cairns (5), a 26 months old bitch, got out quite nicely in a 595m race at Sandown (R2) but was then sideswiped by another dog as they straightened up. It still had enough pace to lead around to the back straight where it pulled up abruptly with a broken hock.

    Last Saturday, Irelands Force (6), a 29 months old bitch, came out in the middle of the field in a 600m race at The Meadows (R9). It was knocked sideways as they turned into the home straight, and then continued on for a while until pulling up as they rounded the main turn. It had a broken hock.

    In essence, these experiences were identical. The bumps were perhaps no different, or even less extreme, than those suffered by half the field in many of these bend start races. But this time they had awful consequences.

    Anecdotally, a highly experienced vet has noted that many dogs are actually racing with hairline fractures evident in their legs (I do not have his permission to quote him). You might also note the rough similarity between these greyhound experiences and those of young fast bowlers – whose bodies have yet to toughen up – suffering stress fractures which put them out of action for months or years. 19-year old tennis star Nick Kyrgios has the same sort of problem with his back.

    In some cases the risk is that extra stress on a dog’s leg will cause catastrophic damage. In all likelihood, that’s what happened to the above two dogs. Both were severely spreadeagled just after the start of the race, as is obvious on the race films, but subsequent pressure caused the final break.

    More typically, hock injuries occur as the dog is coming out of the first turn in a 500m race, where entry speeds may be higher. Pressures on the turn light the fire and the explosion occurs as they accelerate down the back straight. It does not even need the involvement of another dog in the field. For example, Knocka Norris broke its hock at Sandown in a solo trial in exactly this way..

    The underlying causes of these injuries have to be due to one or more of (a) genetics, (b) early education and racing experience, (c) track surface quality and camber, and (d) the shape of the track, particularly the turns. To be more specific requires considerable scientific investigation.

    In one sense it is fortunate that some investigation is going on now, although we have no details. Initially, authorities in WA and SA combined to start assessing the number and reasons for broken hocks. That work has apparently fallen under the purview of GRV’s house vet in Melbourne, who is developing a major thesis on the subject for a higher degree. More information has yet to emerge.

    Meantime, to suggest we just wait and hope is not acceptable. Apart from the individual traumas for both dogs and connections, the major effect is to lessen the quality of the greyhound product and also to attract more criticism of the industry’s attitude to welfare – a topical subject these days but one that sometimes gets lopsided treatment.

    Because this problem is effectively man-made there are immediate measures which can be taken to improve outcomes.

    The first is to actively engage in eliminating bend starts from all tracks. They are a menace and do no-one any good. All need to be moved or replaced by shutes. It is also the height of folly that two multi-million dollar investments are now going into new tracks in Perth and at Logan, near Brisbane, and which include bend starts for middle distance races. In both cases better options are available and, in fact, were formally discussed and rejected by WA authorities. Shame on them!

    (Noting at the same time that the Queenslanders have not been able to make up their minds about how and when to start building. Work at Logan was supposed to commence in mid-2014 but the site has not seen a shovel yet. Heaven knows what the new government will do now. It holds the purse strings).

    Short of those steps, it is a simple matter to ease the burden by reducing all fields for bend start races to six runners. The big issue today is that there are eight runners trying to get into space sufficient for only four. Bedlam is the only possible outcome. Six would be a good compromise. (That is also the English solution).

    Of course, the bigger issue is how to build better turns in any races. Assessing the right track shapes, radii, cambers, surface quality and other matters must become the task of a small group commissioned to study the subject thoroughly and scientifically.

    This is a national need which should be funded by all states. We must remove the guesswork and the “she’ll be right” content of track designs. History has served the industry badly in this area. It is time we moved into the 21st century. The dogs will thank you for it.

    Incidentally, at the risk of boring readers, donkey’s years ago I was playing fullback for a rugby league team in New Guinea and roared across to cut down a flying winger near the sideline. I got him alright but connected with his hip bone rather than something higher or lower. I felt a bit numb in the arm at the time but it went away. Ten minutes later I had the ball and was cutting through the opposition when an opponent sideswiped me – not seriously but the impact broke my collar bone. Obviously it had been cracked previously. That was all my own doing but it does illustrate the possible effect of collisions. They can affect any athlete at any time.

    A Note

    The need for detailed study of track designs was well illustrated in the Shepparton Cup heats last night. No winners were affected directly, largely because they got out quickly and led all the way (barring El Grand Seal, which always gets run down over this distance). However, the chances of many runners to earn a place were significantly affected by sideways squeezing on the way into the first turn. In a 450m race you do not get a second chance. This is why longshots got up into the places in most races. Despite favourites doing well, four of the eight First Fours paid over $800.

    It is impossible to know exactly which cause has what effect in these cases. That’s why we need a proper study.

    Let’s see the last of the non-penalty races

    VICTORIA’S recent decision to dump the use of Non-Penalty racing at Melbourne’s secondary meetings each week may be returning dividends. At the very least it shows up the oddball nature of the decade old NP habit.

    A better class of runners showed up at Sandown on Sunday. The slowest of seven graded 515m races was won in 29.81. Easily the best was a sparkling 29.41 from the in-form Noosa Rocket, coming to town after winning six in a row at provincial tracks. It led all the way from box 7, recording an equally sparkling 5.02 to the first marker.

    Only one dog (My Bro Fabio) bettered that overall time at the main meeting last Thursday..

    Some Non-Penalty races are still hanging around at the provincials for reasons that are impossible to fathom. What is wrong with the (recently expanded) grading system that justifies this policy? Get rid of them all.

    Sectionals – Not a luxury but an essential

    An unannounced change, but a good one, has occurred at many NSW provincial tracks. They have finally started publishing sectional times for all runners, not just for the leader. Previously, you also had to guess which dog was actually the leader because the time was not assigned to any particular one.

    Newish TAB-clubs like Wagga and Dubbo are still lagging and none of the non-TAB clubs have taken up the new practice. But the important ones are there and providing valuable form data for punters.

    Sadly, Tasmanians still live in another world. Despite constant reminders they persist in assigning the sectional time (one only) to whatever dog won the race – irrespective of whether it led or not. Career histories are therefore distorted for evermore.

    To compound the felony, out two major form producers, GRNSW (Ozchase) and GRV, continue to copy the erroneous information into their own guides, thereby misleading punters across the nation. It would be a straightforward matter for their experts to tell their computers to ignore anything arriving from the three Tasmanian tracks, but they have not done that.

    A recent classic was the smart time of 5.11 allocated to Above All in a heat of the Hobart Thousand and later copied in GRV’s subsequent guide for the Silver Chief series. The same mob had already called for its nomination as a run of the year (with poor judgement, in my view) because the dog walked out of the boxes, fought its way through the field and eventually caught the leaders in a modest 26.16. Unfortunately, whatever ran the 5.11 will never get the credit but it certainly was not Above All.

    The same dog’s record-breaking win in the final was a different matter altogether.

    But there is more. If you wade through the Tasracing website you will eventually find a jumbled mixture of videos, form, tips and sectional histories and predictions for local races. The latter includes “Best this Box” and “Average” sectionals, but where does this information come from? Are there other sectionals nobody has heard about?

    Well, there have to be, otherwise how could they calculate an average?

    Apparently, there is one set of data for locals and another for the rest of Australia. The latter are mostly lies, so it’s best to ignore the lot.

    On the same subject but more generally, steward’s trials sometimes include sectional times, sometimes they don’t. Surely it should be mandatory to put them all in. It cannot be that hard. Even without Finishlynx, all you have to do is to look up at the semaphore board.

    What money can’t buy

    The Lismore club, which now races at somebody’s park, put on a special distance race – the “Distance Challenge” over 635m – yesterday and, following the incentive policy now in place and with some help from the park’s proprietor, offered a $3,000 first prize which is not to be sneezed at. So far, so good.

    However, it got only seven nominations but three of those scratched, leaving just the four starters to battle it out. All were well known local dogs of average quality. A similar event on the previous Friday got only five starters.

    Short fields are standard fare for longer races at the provincials in both NSW and Victoria, despite all the incentives. That’s a pity because the fans generally like longer races and it often gives the slower beginners a better chance in life.

    Clearly, the formula is not proving out in practice. Do we need a Royal Commission to work out why this is happening? There must be a better way to spend all the spare cash.

    Distance logic

    Back in town, Double Rinse put some perspective into recent results when picking up a standard Grade 5 720m at Wentworth Park in a solid 42.25. This is only fractionally different to the times Space Star ran in heat and final of the Distance Plate worth $40,000-to-the-winner.

    Certainly, Space Star has done better than that previously, but by far its better and faster runs have been over the middle distances at Gosford, Richmond and The Meadows. That’s where its real talent lies, although prize money may not be as good in that area. Like many others, such dogs can pull out all the stops over the longer trip on occasions, but not if they are asked to do it every week. Irma Bale would be a similar example.

    That’s why heats and finals in successive weeks over the 700s are a hassle for many dogs.

    Of course, luck in running plays a part, too.

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