GRNSW CEO UPDATE - 20/04/2020

GRNSW CEO UPDATE - 20/04/2020


I would like to thank everyone for their contributions to this Question and Answer column which has now been going for a month. I hope that it has been beneficial to all participants, not just those who have emailed questions.

I feel that we have handled the changes and dealt with the adversity extremely well, and I applaud you all, as well as my staff, the GWIC staff, and also those working at each of the race clubs.

It is, and will continue to be a difficult time for everyone, but as I have said from day one when the industry in NSW started dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, our first and foremost concern is for the health and safety of our participants and staff.

These Q & As began, and will continue, because I believe it’s crucial to keep all participants up to date on all news involving the industry, and I encourage everyone to keep sending in their questions pertaining to the COVID-19 situation, and I will do my best to answer them, and then publish those questions and answers across our website and social media platforms.

If you have any questions, please email them to the following address:

As the case has been with any important announcements or developments, we will publish those across our GRNSW network as required.

Here’s the latest round of questions sent in to GRNSW.

1. Q: Tony, I was told that there are about 5,000 dogs racing in NSW at the moment, and I beg you to consider this in your thinking when making a decision about the Million Dollar Chase this year. I’m in favour of cancelling the event and using that money to support the 4900 dogs and their owners and trainers that wouldn’t even be in the running for that kind of race. Surely now is not the year for $1 million dollars to go to one person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept and think it’s probably the best series in Australia, but I think it’s just better to keep things ticking along at the moment and regroup for next year. Even if we come out of restrictions sooner rather than later, I think looking at some of the answers to your questions in this Q & A that money is tight for a while - maybe a long while.

A: Thanks for your opinion. We have not yet made a decision on the Million Dollar Chase series. It’s not just about the top tier of dogs in the country, the series is also about showcasing regional clubs in the lead-up heats before the semi-finals and final. It’s also been a wonderful platform to promote our Greyhounds As Pets program and also unite the industry under a marquee event. It’s very hard at the moment to predict where we might be after a long Winter but hopefully we emerge in Spring with a better scene in regards to health of our nation and industry. Currently our team has been working on keeping prize money levels up at those venues that continue to race under the strict biosecurity protocols, and I do agree that our thinking needs to revolve around as many greyhounds and owner-trainers as possible under unprecedented times. I hope you are keeping well, and I’ll update the industry on the Million Dollar Chase and other events when we are in a better position to make a calculated call.

2. Q: Tony, this is not really a question but an observation. I have read all of the questions with interest over the past month or so and there has been a siege mentality by some and others very appreciative. You have said from the outset that all decisions would be not only considering right now, but also about sustainable future coming out of COVID-19. I have looked at the recent racing schedule and if you actually do the numbers there are more TAB race meetings than we have had for some time, so prizemoney is really being spread for all and giving everyone an opportunity to be sustainable during these tough times. You also indicated from the outset that you would review the situation constantly, and from my point of view GRNSW has really done this and has been making continual changes to deliver opportunities.

A: We said right from the start that this is a constantly changing situation and we have to continue to adapt to that. We put the restrictions and zoning in place immediately to set the process up for us to continue racing. We are not relaxing any of those restrictions, and will tighten them if we are advised to, but we have been able to make changes to our schedule to help accommodate and cater for as many participants as possible, to keep people racing and earning a living.

3. Q: Is GRNSW going to apply the same rules as other states in restricting interstate trainers from travelling here to race. Trainers are losing dogs interstate because of their prize money and group and feature races they are having. Can we get more clarity on when our group and feature races are coming back? Seems other states are planning their group and feature races with our trainers not being able to compete. What’s good for them should be good for us. I would bet it would be a different story if they couldn’t come to compete in our MDC.

A: When we put our rules in place following the outbreak of COVID-19, one of those was that no interstate trainers would be allowed to nominate for NSW races. I see that Victoria allowed three NSW dogs to race at their meetings over the weekend, but apparently they were permitted to race because those dogs were drawn in fields, prior to GRV announcing on Friday that interstate greyhounds would not be allowed to compete in their events. To allow interstate participants to travel many hundreds of kilometres to race in this environment would be irresponsible. We - and the Government and health authorities - are trying limit the travel of people to stop the spread of this virus. We cannot have participants making trips from one state to another. We also cannot control what other states do with their feature races, but I note that both Queensland and now Victoria have stipulated that interstate dogs can race in their events, provided they are transferred to a local trainer. We have put a hold on our feature events and will make further announcements about those shortly, but if we are holding any feature events during these restrictions, then no interstate greyhounds trainers will be able to attend.

4. Q: Tony, it must be hurting us not to have Wentworth Park meetings up and running as I’m sure they turn over more in wagering than other venues. Wouldn’t it be a win-win if they were racing there again soon?

A: As I have said, the only reason Wentworth Park has not been racing is because of geography, and our early call to lock down racing into zones outside of the city for safety reasons. This was a call we made very early to have the best chance to keep racing, and that’s worked out well to date. When we were planning six weeks ago we didn’t know where we would end up, and could only plan for all contingencies. Wentworth Park on Saturday nights are in general the highest turnover meeting, however we are seeing that it’s largely because of the Saturday night factor. Our meetings at Bulli on Saturday nights in the past few weeks have in fact turned over 15-20% more in turnover, which is very pleasing. I look forward to when we are back and racing at Wentworth Park, but as I’ve said countless times, we need to get the timing right and make sure it’s all clear to do so.

5. Q: With changes to the racing calendar including extra race meetings at Maitland and Richmond will these tracks require additional attention by staff?

A: Track safety is extremely important to us GRNSW and club track staff continue to carry out regular maintenance and analyse the data to ensure all tracks are safe and maintained at an optimum level. With an increased racing schedule planned for Maitland, GRNSW and GBOTA will undertake a renovation to deep harrow the Maitland racing surface this week. The Richmond track was renovated just prior to Easter. GRNSW and its contractors also just completed a major irrigation installation at Bathurst which will hugely beneficial to the welfare and safety of greyhounds racing there. 

6. Q: It is great to see the increased city prizemoney being introduced for certain events. My question is why is it only for races over 421m? Wentworth Park held short course races regularly on Wednesday nights and even on Saturdays when short on nominations. What is the reasoning behind leaving the short course races out of the city prizemoney share?

A: I have answered this question previously, but just to recap, that on the July 1, last year, GRNSW introduced significant prizemoney levels for short course racing across the State to provide, in some cases, double prizemoney that was in C class racing. This was unprecedented at the time.

7. Q: I have asked numerous times with no answer. Why is the New England missing out? It’s all fine and dandy that Gunnedah race every week but every other zone has 2 tracks. Why can’t the New England be given Tamworth to race at as well?

A: The New England is not missing out and the once a week race meetings are in line with the traditional racing schedule between Tamworth and Gunnedah clubs. The additional race meetings at Gunnedah also have raised the prizemoney return to participants in that region.

8. Q: Hi, how does Zipping Truvy race at Bathurst today when it is trained outside that region?

A: The registered address of the kennels of the trainer of this dog is within the Western Districts region, therefore he is eligible to race his dogs at Bathurst.

Good luck to those who are racing at Bathurst and Maitland today.

As I have regularly mentioned in this column these are tough times and we are as an industry all in it together, so I urge you to pick up the phone and call a fellow participant to make sure they are doing ok as well.

Do not forget if there is anyone who may be struggling at the moment and wanting somebody to talk to, you can do something about that. If you do feel the need to talk to someone about your situation, please do not hesitate to call. You can speak with a qualified counsellor at any time by calling 1300 687 327.

Keep yourselves and your families safe, and importantly be vigilant in these difficult times.

Tony Mestrov.