By sports editor Russell Bennett
Those with an appetite for thrilling live sport need look no further than the Sandown Park Greyhounds, with a bumper racing schedule over the coming weeks.
While physical distancing measures are in place at the track, preventing all non-essential personnel – such as crowds – from attending, there will be three Group 1 finals over consecutive weeks.
Along with the addition of a number of key support races, that means the best greyhounds in Australia will effectively call Sandown Park home right through until at least the end of June.
“The Sapphire Crown – for female greyhounds only – on 14 May; the Harrison-Dawson – for male greyhounds only – on 21 May; and the RSN Sandown Cup – for the stayers – on 28 May are three of the sport’s premier races, so to be able to ensure they can be conducted is a fantastic result for owners, trainers and fans of the sport,” Sandown Greyhound Racing Club’s racing and media manager Mick Floyd told the Journal.
“The quality of greyhound racing at the moment is outstanding, so I’m really looking forward to an exciting month of racing.
“The current situation has been tough for everyone, and every business or activity that has been able to continue is important.
“That greyhound racing has been able to continue is testament to both GRV (Greyhound Racing Victoria) for implementing strict race-day protocols and procedures, and to the clubs and participants for adapting to the changes that have been made.”
Crucially, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Sandown Greyhounds has been able to maintain its weekly schedule and prize-money structure – providing some much needed certainty for those involved with the sport.
“Everyone I speak to is increasingly optimistic that we’ll emerge from the current crisis in good shape,” Floyd explained.
“In fact, a number of very good greyhounds have been sent to Victoria – not just for the Group 1 finals, but for the opportunity to participate in our weekly racing.
“One of the great things racing has been able to do through this period is give people something to look forward too. Catching up on movies and Netflix and reflecting on ‘best ofs’ is great, but nothing beats the build-up and anticipation of a live event and we’re fortunate that we’re still able to give people that outlet.”
Tellingly, Floyd said he’d seen a genuine increase in interest in the sport over recent weeks.
“Being one of the few live events still operating, we’ve seen a big increase in the amount of interest in the sport, and not just locally,” he said.
“There’s always been a lot of interest from New Zealand, but we’re seeing increased interest from the UK as well.
“There’s a passionate group of owners in England who have bought a few greyhounds in Australia. They’ve found a couple of good ones too, including ‘Captain Dynamite’, which is among the fancied chances for the RSN Sandown Cup. They’ve certainly embraced the racing here and have brought along a number of people for the ride.”