Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for their understanding during the recent five-day snap lockdown. It was very reassuring that all the clubs were able to quickly implement all needed lockdown protocols and keep racing. It is good to know we have this rapid response capability in place although hopefully we won’t need to use it again. GRV and the clubs/GCV are working through the complex details of getting everyone back on track and we are almost there. For example, it was heartening to see so many people trackside for the 2021 Australian Cup final at the Meadows last Saturday, cheering on a great run by Tommy Shelby. It was fabulous to have crowds back at the track too, albeit under COVIDsafe conditions.
Something else we can look forward to this year is the new VicBred Pink Diamond series which will provide an additional $900,000 in prizemoney for Victorian-bred greyhounds of various ages and abilities. This new series is all about acknowledging and encouraging the vital role of our breeders in maintaining a strong pool of racing dogs for the sport’s long term future. It will feature 48 heats across regional tracks culminating in 12 feature finals, some of which will offer $75,000 to the winner. All the heats will also carry a $1,000 VicGreys Bonus with 50 per cent going to the breeder and the showcase finals night will include more than $80,000 in breeder-only bonus payments. The inaugural Pink Diamond heats will be on 10-11 June at Shepparton, Warragul, Ballarat and Geelong with the finals at Bendigo on Friday 18 June and, in following years, the heats and finals will be rotated through all the other regional clubs.
We also have the $1.1 million Phoenix – the world’s only Greyhound Slot Race – coming up in December at the Meadows and we have also announced plans to inject $900,000 into distance racing. So exciting times ahead.
I am also pleased to see that wagering on Victorian greyhounds has continued to perform strongly with total turnover for January growing by a phenomenal 47% with an additional 12 meetings and 111 races conducted compared to January last year.
We continue to see total turnover and average turnover per race growth across all days of the week, all venues and timeslots, with an unprecedented level of customers staying engaged with betting on Victorian greyhounds. We do expect though to see some slowing in these growth rates over coming months as we cycle through to the 12-month mark since COVID-19 hit Australia and restrictions started around the country in late March last year.
In other news, I’d like to congratulate Brian Parkinson, John Hutchison and Steve Clarke on their appointments as Greyhound Clubs Victoria’s (GCV) Deputy Chair, Treasurer and executive Board Member respectively. GCV is a highly effective advocate for Victoria’s greyhound clubs and I look forward to continuing a very productive relationship with the new committee. I would also like to acknowledge the outgoing GCV Chair Adrian Scott for his great work in getting GCV up and running as one of the sport’s key stakeholders.
Speaking of clubs, GRV has launched a $2 million Infrastructure package which is being rolled out over the first half of 2021. It is focused on water management and includes funding for new water carts, tractors and irrigation. All clubs will receive these new resources between now and the end of the financial year. This roll out will build on the major track renovations at Warrnambool, Shepparton, Geelong and Bendigo over December and January.
Looking ahead, I am pleased to note that work on the new Traralgon track is now well underway and generating more than 200 jobs during the construction phase. There will be several Open Days in coming months so that participants and the general community can see at first hand the development of what will be one of the world’s most advanced greyhound tracks. At this stage it is on schedule to open for racing this October and I hope to see many of you there for the opening day and the start of an exciting new chapter for our sport in Gippsland.
Finally, as Covid restrictions are being eased, GAP is very much back in business as the demand for greyhounds as pets continues. Many participants have been doing a great job of preparing their dogs for life after racing and if you have a dog you’re planning to retire, please start thinking about this now and about booking a GAP pre-entry assessment if needed. The more people who discover what wonderful dogs they are, the better for our sport.