By Andrew Thomson
Geelong Greyhound Racing Club has decided to take a fresh approach to attracting the best possible chasers for its $50,000 cup.
The cup will be run in mid-October hot on the heels of the Million Dollar Chase and Adelaide Cup.
New Geelong club president Brian Parkinson is hoping the change to the 520 metre format is a boost for the prestigious group 2 event.
He said the club would be hosting two cups over the next 12 months – over 520m in October and over 460m in April next year in line with the Western Carnival.
That carnival, similar to the successful Gippsland Carnival, will involve cup meetings at Ballarat, Horsham and Warrnambool.
Parkinson, 68, a retired union organiser, previously spent a dozen years on the board at The Meadows before being headhunted for a berth on the Geelong committee during February this year.
He said the club had invested in a new $250,000 catching pen after previously ending races on the lure and the safety statistics had dramatically improved.
The new boss said he wanted to attract the best greyhounds to race at the Beckley Park venue and was willing to be innovative to improve the club on and off the track.
\”Our first concern was for the greyhounds racing and we wanted to improve safety,\” the Lara-based breeder/owner said.
\”The new catching pen was brought in for a purpose and that was all about the safety of greyhounds.
\”As a committee we\’ve had some frustrating periods, we were a bit rudderless for a while, but we\’re working through that.
\”Clearly our track – design and surface – was a priority. We\’re got two tracks and we\’re pretty unique having a horse-shoe and two turn tracks.
\”We want to invest in having the best track surfaces and we\’ve done that.
\”In four months I believe we have achieved that goal. The tracks are as good as any other surface anywhere.
\”Our injuries per 1000 dogs have reduced dramatically, and we\’re now the third safest track.
\”Safety is paramount and has improved dramatically.\”
Parkinson said finish on the lure for the past four years led to discussions with Greyhound Racing Victoria about changes.
\”Finishing on the lure has been supported by some trainers and owners, but certainly not by others,\” he said.
\”There have been discussions about leading greyhounds being injured as later dogs come in.
\”The reality is that significant trainers in the Geelong district, who have a lot of dogs, will not use our facility, particularly with their 500m dogs, because of the finish on the lure.
\”I went and talked to those trainers and after those discussions, we as a committee, are shifting away from finishing on the lure.\”
Parkinson said if the club was to run a prestigious race then you wanted to attract the best greyhounds.
\”A lot of pundits said we won\’t get eight heats, but we think it\’s worth trying something new and then reviewing the outcomes,\” he said.
\”We\’ve tipped in some extra cash to make it a $50,000 race and we hope that will attract a better class of greyhound.
\”Yeah, we are copping a bit of flack, but people know my number (0419 555 352) and I\’m always happy to talk and have a debate.
\”People asked why we got greyhound racing veteran Ronny Hood in to give us a hand and advise about the track.
\”He\’s been around greyhound racing for 50 years and has an enormous depth of knowledge.
\”He\’s been fantastic, provided some advice to our trackmen and our track has never been better.
\”I do love a bit of confrontation.\”
Parkinson said the club was also in discussions with GRV about how the club best uses its facilities after COVID.
\”We want to be the leading provincial club,\” he said.
\”This is a unique facility because we are part of a community at Beckley Park, there\’s markets, go-karts and racing. We are different to the norm and that can work for us.
\”We want to be innovative and think about doing things we\’ve never done for years.
\”We want information, data from users and potential users because we don\’t really know who we are targeting.
\”We may not get people here every Friday night, but we want to attract community involvement, attract people and we\’ve already started sponsoring local sports clubs.\”
Parkinson retired in 2014 after starting in 1973, representing municipal employees through the 1980s through to the Australian Services Union, which was more about social and community service union members.
\”I enjoyed all the people I dealt with and represented; members and employers,\” he said.
\”Looking forward I would like to see Geelong be the leading greyhound racing facility in regional Australia,\” he said.
\”We want to supply an opportunity for people to come and enjoy themselves, starting with the local crowd.\”
The former union rep has also been a successful breeder/owner, racing the four pup Brett Lee-Cosmic Goddess litter.
That litter was headlined by Cosmic Chief who won 23 races from 55 starts, collecting $212,000 in prize money.
Those wins included The 2010 Shootout and Warrnambool Classic.
All four littermates made the Warrnambool Classic final.
In total they won 87 races and $421,000 in prizemoney.
Parkinson said he and trainer Peter Brown were great mates.
\”We were like brothers,\” he said.
\”Cosmic Diva would have been a better result in the classic because we backed her at $11 for the final.
\”We had a half-brother to Cosmic Chief by Bobniak who was four lengths quicker at the same stage, but he died after getting a twisted bowel when we were about to name him.\”
Parkinson said the loss of Brown to a heart attack was a bitter blow.
\”I irritated him. He had no patience, and I was always, habitually late,\” he said.
\”He would drive off and leave me,\” Parkinson laughed.
\”He would ring me when he thought he could win and say \’you have got to come to the dogs\’. We would never back them until they came out of the kennels and Peter said they were right to go.
\”We did very well on the punt. Peter was an exceptional judge.\”
Parkinson said he was looking forward to the future of the Geelong club.
\”I live local and I\’ve got time on my hands. The committee members are thinking about innovation, different ideas, it\’s exciting,\” he said.
Caption: Geelong Greyhound Racing Club president Brian Parkinson with Collingwood AFL champion Dane Swan