Trainers boycott club after dog's death

MATT MARKHAM
Last updated 05:00 07/09/2012

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Canterbury greyhound trainers will boycott Southland Greyhound Racing Club unless future meetings are shifted to a different venue, after a series of equipment malfunctions this year that culminated in the death of a top dog this week.

The Craig and Di Roberts-trained Badja Bale was sent crashing into, and over, the running rail on Tuesday when the lure, which the dogs chase, suddenly stopped after 200 metres of the race.

The injuries sustained during the incident were so severe Badja Bale had to be destroyed by the on-course vet, leaving trainers and greyhound enthusiasts from around the country angry.

Badja Bale had won 17 of his 79 career starts, picking up a further 21 placings for stake earnings of more almost $50,000, and was on the cusp of retirement.

After the malfunction, trainers with dogs entered during the remainder of the meeting were given the option of withdrawing their runners without penalty, and several did so.

The incident follows issues with equipment on six other occasions this year, and trainers have had enough.

The boycott was instigated following an urgent meeting held to Wednesday night to discuss the issue. It was attended by 40-45 trainers from around the Canterbury region.

“It was really pleasing to see such a strong turnout of trainers," Craig Roberts said.

"We as trainers are really concerned about the safety of our dogs and their welfare.

"But this has also gone on way too long, and everyone is getting really frustrated with the lack of attention that seems to be getting given to providing a remedy to the situation."

The meeting, which Roberts organised, resulted in a letter with 37 signatures being forwarded to Greyhound Racing New Zealand board, stating that they would not be nominating greyhounds for any meetings held by the club unless they were shifted to either Dunedin's Forbury Park or Addington in Christchurch.

The letter also said the trainers would continue to refuse to nominate until the problems were fixed and a delegation of trainers was satisfied with the improvements.

"Everybody was of the same opinion that again this has gone on too long and that the board haven't acted strongly enough. Personally I would like to see the meetings shifted to Otago.

"What happened to Badja [Bale] on Tuesday was a catastrophe and it is a real shame that it has taken something like this to really get things into action."

In a statement on their website, Greyhound Racing New Zealand said that they and the Southland Greyhound Racing Club were taking the malfunctions very seriously.

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Following an incident in August when the lids on the starting boxes opened too early, Greyhound Racing New Zealand employed an independent consultant to inspect the lure and evaluate the club's maintenance and testing procedures.

The consultant was satisfied that the club were being proactive in their maintenance and that the new lures which had been installed were functioning well, with extensive testing undertaken.

Now, following Tuesday's incident, the national racing manager will visit the track to evaluate all track facilities before reporting back to the board.

The Southland Greyhound Racing Club's next race meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 18.

- Canterbury

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