CAPTION: This month’s Ekka Sweepstakes gives the public the perfect opportunity to learn more about greyhounds and their loveable natures.

By Racing Qld’s Darren Cartwright

Trainer Corey Mutton’s ‘bench’ at the Ekka, where he waits to exhibit his racing greyhounds, has become a pseudo information booth for curious showgoers keen to know more about one of the oldest pure-bred canines in the world.

Corey, along with his very eager blue-ribbon-winning handler daughter Elizabeth, has entered racing greyhounds in the Sweepstakes several times.

Elizabeth has shown their former chaser Magic Sparkle, a four-time race winner, who claimed two titles in 2018 and another in 2019 at the Ekka Sweepstakes.

This time around their greyhounds are among 63 entries for the 2022 Sweepstakes to be judged on August 7 at the Ekka, the highest number of applications in five years.

Even Elizabeth  has some stiff competition trying to earn another blue ribbon herself, with half  a  dozen fledgling competitors vying for Sweepstakes’ Young Handler title.

In front of a packed grandstand, greyhounds will be judged in Ring 1 of the Canine Pavilion and it’s while waiting to parade their dogs, Corey, like in years past, expects to field an array of questions.

“A lot of people come around and ask questions, like ‘what are they like as a pet’ and ‘are they alright with other dogs?’,” Corey said.

“Greyhounds are like any breed when they see another dog, there is a curiosity factor and they are inquisitive, but never aggressive.

“Because they chase and wear a muzzle they are perceived as vicious.

“There is also the misconception that people think they need a lot of exercise as pets”.

There are six Sweepstakes classes overall, with five divided into bitch and dog categories.

Racing Queensland has bolstered the prizemoney across all categories, and, for the first time, exhibitors will receive an appearance fee of $100 for every entry.

The winner of each category receives between $200 and $500 with their blue ribbon.

Racing Queensland’s event organiser Nicola Hardman had planned for about 50 entries and has been pleasantly surprised with the number of entries.

“To have our largest number of entries since 2017 is a welcomed surprise, and the payment of an appearance fee has helped offset travel costs and parking,” Ms Hardman said.

“We encourage everyone to go visit and interact with the greyhounds which are from all stages of their career, from pre-race, racing and retired.”  

By visiting them, it’s where the public will see Elizabeth in charge and realise how gentile, obedient and placid greyhounds are, Corey said.

Corey will be on hand to supervise proceedings on August 7, but it’s Elizabeth, who will handle and present their canines.

“It’s her only chance to handle the dogs in the public arena,” Corey said.

“The dogs are on show and the children are too because when the public see racing greyhounds being handled by children, it changes their perception of the breed.

“The interaction with the public is very positive and no longer are they are thought of second-class pets.”

Greyhounds are turning heads, as more animal lovers warm to their obedient and placid nature, said veteran judge and show dog owner Di O’Donnell.

“The change in perception from being purely a racing dog to a household pet has been gradual but notably significant,” she said

“People now actually stop and ask where the greyhounds are and a lot of them are children.

“We are most definitely changing people’s opinion.”

At the Ekka, the greyhounds will be scrutinised on their muscular physique and broadness of their back, Ms O’Donnell said.

“People do accept them as a show dog but to some people, they are not as attractive as an Irish setter or Afghan, or another breed, that is elegant,” she said.

“I used to show Irish Setters years ago, and I know what you can do with their coat and what you can hide.

“But with a greyhound, what you see is what you get.”