Trainers battle as ‘big wet’ limits straight track racing

Caption: Park Ridge trainer Terry Priest, like so many in the industry, has been hit hard by the prolonged wet weather (Photo: Just Greyhound Photos)

Capalaba club news with PAT McLEOD

Terry Priest didn’t come down in the last shower … pardon the pun.

The straight track specialist trainer has weathered many storms over his lengthy career, but has been crippled by the freakish wet that has decimated the racing calendar at Queensland’s Capalaba course over the past three months.

While both Albion Park and Capalaba have been hit hard, and plenty of south-east Queensland trainers are feeling the pinch, Priest said the lack of straight track options was a double whammy for some trainers.

“It is hard at the moment to keep your head above water,” he said.

“We are all frustrated. I spoke to a couple of young trainers this morning and they were saying how they are just not earning an income.

“We are all going backwards with limited racing.

“I know it is out of everyone’s hands. It is just Mother Nature. The pity is, the game is flying at the moment, but nobody up here in Queensland is getting anywhere. Trainers are really suffering, really suffering.

“You are getting up every day, putting the work in, but the animals aren’t racing and we are not getting a return.

“No-one is to blame. The clubs, Racing Qld are doing their best, but Mother Nature has other ideas.”

Priest is a second-generation trainer, who was based in NSW’s Hunter Valley, and decided on a sea-change to the Sunshine State about three years ago after his mother and father passed away.

He is based at Park Ridge, south of Brisbane, and has built up his kennel, where he and son Josh race 27 dogs. Up to 20 of those campaign at Capalaba’s straight track

“Probably 70 per cent of my dogs are straight track dogs at the moment,” he said. “Everyone knows that I go to Capalaba every week and so I’m sent dogs from interstate and I have a 50-50 arrangement with owners. We work them up and we get our return. But that is just not happening at the moment.

“Our meat bill is about $1000 a fortnight. And of course there is the kibble on top of that.

“I normally have to bring in about $2000 a week to break even. So, at Capalaba I will usually have 20 dogs a week racing across the two days there and 99 per cent of the time we are able to cover our costs quite easily.

“But, at the moment that is not the case and I have to admit I am seriously thinking about moving back to NSW. It is just getting difficult. We haven’t got bottomless pockets of money.”

The one ray of sunshine in the recent gloom for Priest, and many like him, is the planned new state-of-the-art greyhound complex at Purga, near Ipswich.

The $39.15million project will include one-turn, two-turn and straight tracks, giving straight track specialists the option of Capalaba or Purga. By all reports, the new site has handled the recent deluge exceptionally well.

Priest has been so enthused by the Purga project he has bought a four-hectare (10-acre) block of land at Fernvale, about 30 minutes from the new facility.

With a projected completion date for the Greater Brisbane Greyhound Complex some time in 2024 Priest is now facing a literal water torture test to keep his Queensland dream alive.

“I am certainly under pressure to move (back to NSW), because we’re just going backwards at the moment,” he said. “We love it up here, however we haven’t got an endless pit of money. We’re just really looking forward to the new facility opening.”

Straight of Origin hopes

While Priest hopes for sunshine his focus is turning to the annual Straight of Origin at Capalaba.

As Chase was going to print, the Straight of Origin had been postponed to the Heats on July 24 and the Final on July 31. Track manager Erin Cameron was banking on ‘sunshine and lollipops’ to attract at least two heats for each of NSW and Queensland runners. The final will pit four Qld dogs against four from across the border.

Cameron said there had been plenty of early interest from both Qld and NSW trainers in the event. Priest said he had at least three chasers raring to have a go at the series – Fibrillation, Magical Trav and Magical Len.

“I also have people who are keen to come up from NSW and race for NSW and stay with me,” said Priest. “The programming at Capalaba is great, especially for these special events. I just hope the weather is kind to us.”

Prizemoney for the Straight of Origin is $25,000 with $15,600 to the winner.

Capalaba battles the wet

The uncertainty around the Straight of Origin at Capalaba highlights the frustrating time staff and volunteers at Capalaba have faced because of the unseasonal wet conditions in recent months.

“It has been very frustrating and very heartbreaking,” said Cameron.

“We were closed for seven weeks from late February, then came back on April 20 only to have a couple of meetings and then halfway through the meeting on May 11 it was abandoned after race five because it was like quick-sand in the catching pen. It was just awful.

“Everywhere is just so waterlogged. Normally 20 mil of rain would not affect us, but at the moment with everything so saturated even five or 10 mils really affects us.

“But the only thing you can do is keep going and hope for sunshine.”

Gracey’s farewell salute

Ironically that final race before the washout at Capalaba on May 11 held special significance for Cameron. Her veteran and beloved bitch My Girl Gracey notched her 10th win and was then retired.

“A while ago she had a wrist injury and I bought her back after 13 weeks,” recalls Cameron.

“In her second start after the 13 weeks off, she won and I couldn’t believe it. I said to my friends that if she got to 10 wins I would retire her and that is what has happened.

“I was absolutely rapt (with the win on May 11). She still wants to race, but she is on my lounge forever now. She is four and I just don’t want to risk her getting injured.

“She would still run through a brick wall. She still gets walked every day and she keeps the other greyhound in the kennel company, but now I would rather go out on a high.”

My Girl Gracey (My Bro Fabio-Ripple Eff Ex) had 72 starts for 10 wins and 25 placings and a prizemoney tally of $19,335.

 

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