IN fine form before the Covid-19 lockdown, east Cork trainer Denis Fitzgerald is excited about getting back racing.
Racing has been suspended in Ireland since the fixtures at Shelbourne Park and Tralee on March 23, and as it stands, greyhound racing isn’t set to return until June 29.
Speaking to The Echo, Fitzgerald commented: “I definitely thought we would be back before June 29. We were the last finish up and social distancing worked well in previous meetings.”
He added: “I have a lot of nice pups, they are in great order, we haven’t missed a day with them. They have got plenty of galloping, every second day, we are rearing to go.”
Prior to racing coming to a halt, Fitzgerald was in superb form. The likes of Butts Bound, Cash Ready, Knockadoon Bawn and Senahel Butch all producing stunning efforts.
Trainers are always looking for the next big star.
“I’m expecting good things, we have some very nice youngsters. Mick Crotty has a lot to look forward too, he is a great owner and I hope he will be lucky. I still think Senahel Butch is the fastest dog in the kennel, I keep telling the lads that. We will probably see the best of him over 550 or 575.”
In recent times, trainers have found it difficult to get open class racing at Curraheen Park. “Cork track needs more open class racing. It’s very hard to get open races in Cork and then you have owners who are not happy when their dogs aren’t running. Hopefully, there will be plenty of races for dogs when we get back.”
The greyhound community were disappointed on Friday as horse racing got the green light to return on June 8. The IGB has sought full clarity from the Department in relation to the decision.
Frank Nyhan, chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board stated: “Greyhound racing has proven its ability to run ‘racing behind closed doors’ and successfully complied with all COVID-19 protocols when operating on a closed doors basis during early March 2020.
“The strict enforcement of a ‘one person, one dog’ policy with a small number of regulatory personnel on site ensures a well-managed activity with all risks minimised. The extensive outdoor areas at our tracks enables social distancing requirements to be fully met without difficulty. The protocols operating during March have been enhanced and physical alterations are being undertaken at our stadia to further facilitate compliance with these enhanced protocols.
“The IGB is at a loss to understand why, on a risk basis, greyhound racing is not assessed as being capable of operating behind closed doors from 8th June next as it is clear that all necessary protocols can be fully complied with.
“The IGB is absolutely intent on ensuring that all of its tracks and stadia operate to the necessary standards while COVID-19 remains with us. The arrangements already in place, and the further enhancements proposed ensure that the greyhound community can safely participate in racing behind closed doors and enable the greyhound racing industry to be restarted and provide an outlet for the health and welfare of our greyhounds.
“We are taking the matter up immediately with the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine to obtain clarification on the overall situation.”
In other news, GAIN, the animal nutrition business, has pledged a matched donation to the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust (IRGT) to bolster the funds raised through their ‘Walk With Us’ event earlier this month. Their matched donation will result in a fundraising total of €4,000.
Hosted virtually over the May Bank Holiday weekend, the IRGT appealed for supporters to walk or run over the May Bank Holiday Weekend in their own local area to reach a target of 500km. The event is aimed at raising funds and spreading the word on how greyhounds can make great pets. The fundraiser was supported across the island of Ireland with almost €2,000 in donations being received.
GAIN have also pledged 60 bags of their retired greyhound feedto be awarded as prizes to 12 retired greyhound owners who participated in the ‘Walk With Us’ event.
This donation from GAIN is the latest in a number of collaborative initiatives and events between the Irish nutrition business and the IRGT. GAIN were honoured for their support of the charity by becoming the first company to receive the Greyhound Welfare Award. They are also heavily involved in events, such as the Strolls to GAIN Homes which aims to showcase retired greyhounds in a public setting to improve their profile as family pets.
The Irish Retired Greyhound Trust (IRGT) is a charity was established by the Irish Greyhound Board in the 1990s to help find suitable homes for retired racing greyhounds.