This is part of the ‘Miracle Team’ at South-East Queensland’s Capalaba Greyhound Club. They have helped turn the struggling historic straight track into a roaring TAB success story. From Left: Track Manager Trevor McSherry, Starter John Solis, Bruce Gordon (maintenance), Ben Rigney (track maintenance), Erin Cameron (Track Operations), Hayley Smith (kennels), Tricia Fuller (Office Manager), Chloe Medcalf (kennels), Chris Georgiou (committee member). Photo: Just Greyhound Photos
By Chase Editor PAT McLEOD
Capalaba club boss John Catton is putting the entire greyhound industry on notice: “Straight track racing is going to a whole new level!”
In fact, the passionate club president says the straight track version of the sport will have a Group One race within five years, and that race should be at Capalaba.
“Why not!” he demands.
“There have been some fantastic innovations in our sport in the past couple of years – the Million Dollar Chase in New South Wales and The Phoenix coming up at The Meadows are just two examples.
“The timing is perfect for a straight track spectacular … in Queensland at Capalaba.”
Catton’s comments come on the eve of that track’s highlight, the Capalaba Cup (heats October 3 and final October 10).
It will be the second running of the Cup this year (won in March by track specialist Columbian King). The race was shifted to October due to an almost annual battle with Queensland wet season flooding.
The upcoming Cup has Group status for the first time – the Group 3 race offering $37,500 in prizemoney with $25,000 to the winner.
That may be a long haul from the heady heights of Group One, but Catton refuses to flinch.
“People may laugh at the Group One suggestion, but we will see who’s laughing in a few years,” he says.
“Straight track racing is the purest and safest version and is exploding in interest. The recent Healesville Cup has just raced as a Group Two. Straight tracks are back in NSW (Richmond) and South Australia (Murray Bridge).
“I have no doubt Western Australia and Tasmania will follow suit.
“More and more trainers are ‘getting’ what straight track racing is. There are the animal welfare aspects, the safety of the straight track race. It is also such a proven avenue for dogs coming back from a lay-off or to prolong the careers of older or injury-plagued chasers.
“But there is also something else. The punters love it. In our first year of operation as a TAB venue, Capalaba attracted $52million in betting turnover. Last year, the second year, that jumped to $90million.
“Outside of the welfare aspects there is something extremely unique about straight track racing, particularly at Capalaba.”
Catton knows there is just one thing that will allow the straight track floodgates to open – increased prizemoney.
He applauds recent changes in the Sunshine State which have seen hefty prizemoney boosts, infrastructure improvements at all six tracks (including Capalaba) and the gradual unfolding of plans for the Greater Brisbane Greyhound Centre, west of the city.
However, he says as mindsets change towards straight track racing, so will prizemoney and then so will participation levels of trainers and owners.
Catton says the installation of lights to allow twilight racing at Capalaba would be the perfect platform for a prizemoney splurge at the historic venue.
“The club has been pushing for lights for years,” he said.
“To us it is a no-brainer. Already the ambience at the track is amazing. A great, relaxed feel, but so close to the city. You add lights and a twilight timing … that would be even more incredible.
“Give it Group One status and you have the attention and envy of the entire greyhound world.”
Capalaba operations manager Erin Cameron said the Covid-19 ‘threat’ was the only down-side to what is expected to be a very successful running of the Capalaba Cup.
She said there was a very strong local interest in the Cup however Covid had basically eliminated any across-the-border participation.
“It is difficult to plan anything too big on the day when things can get shut down at a moment’s notice,” Cameron said.
“It will still be a very important day for the club. It is the first time the race has been run as a Group 3 event and the change to an October date is significant.
“The track and surrounds are looking really good and that’s due to the very hard work by everyone involved at the club.
“There is no better place to enjoy greyhound racing than Capalaba.”