Trainers bring back their dogs after race 2 at the Grafton Greyhound track.
Trainers bring back their dogs after race 2 at the Grafton Greyhound track.

SURVIVAL MODE: Grafton Greyhounds track hub for region

GREYHOUNDS: Grafton has become a regional hub for greyhound racing as the sport goes into survival mode in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Grafton Greyhound Racing Club president John Corrigan said measures which come into force today, making Grafton the only Northern New South Wales track ­allowed to hold race meetings, was “a case of survival”.

“This is all greyhound racing can do to try to get us through this pandemic,” he said.

“For the bigger trainers this move is a lifeline.

“Racing is their only source of income.”

Corrigan said the ­Greyhound Racing NSW directive had split the state into regions with a single track ­designated to hold race meetings.

“There won’t be racing at Wentworth Park because it’s in the city,” he said.

Instead, GRNSW has limited racing to 10 tracks.

The other tracks are: Bathurst, Bulli, Dapto, Dubbo, Richmond, The Gardens (Newcastle), Goulburn, Gunnedah and Wagga Wagga.

GRNSW boss Tony Mestrov said strict biosecurity measures would also be ­stringently enforced and no more than 50 people would be allowed at venues at any given time.

Corrigan said at Monday night’s meeting at Grafton, which had locked out owners as well as spectators, there were just 38 trainers and their dogs.

“That would be a pretty normal night for Grafton,” he said.

He said trainers who ­travelled from across the Queensland border would not be able to race, since the border was closed.

“They’re encouraging only people from within the area to race here,” Corrigan said.

He said the restrictions could encourage more people to come here from Casino and Lismore, where their tracks have been closed.

Mestrov said the new measures were designed to limit travel around the state as dogs would only be allowed to race in their designated zones.

“Like every business across the country, we have had to be decisive and do everything possible to continue operations while protecting the safety of all concerned,” he said.

“We feel the plan we are putting in place serves two very important purposes.

“Firstly, it strengthens our biosecurity measures significantly, in the battle to contain the spread of Covid-19. Right throughout this worrying time for everyone, our number one priority and focus has been the health and safety of our participants and staff.

“Secondly, this allows our participants to continue to race, which means they can continue to work.”

Mestrov said the contingency plan also was important for greyhound welfare.

“Another important part of being able to continue racing operations is the ability to support our commitment to rehoming programs, which is vital,” he said.

“The tracks we have chosen for our contingency plan have been strategically selected so that we can cater for the participants in those regions, and they must race in their region to limit the amount of travel our participants need to do.”