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The hidden giant of WA sport celebrates its big day

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The hidden giant of WA sport celebrates its big day

Saturday night races in Cannington.

Saturday night races in Cannington.

Henry Sims

Saturday night races in Cannington.

Henry Sims

Henry Sims

Saturday night races in Cannington.

Henry Sims

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On Saturday night in a quiet semi-industrial suburb in the South-Eastern corridor, Perth played host to two high-stakes events in one of Australia’s most financially powerful sporting codes.

Most people would have had no idea.  

The Sky Racing Perth Cup and the Sky Racing Galaxy Cup both jumped on a cool night at TabTouch Park Cannington in front of a larger-than-usual crowd of around 1,000 punters. 

The two Group 1 (G1) races – a designation given to the top-level greyhound races in Australia – saw over $375,000 of prize money handed out to the winners and place-getters (greyhounds who run 2nd or 3rd). 

With eleven races on the card for the night, the crowd built up steadily before the Galaxy Cup jumped in the third race just before 8pm. 

The race ended with a famous upset as the Paul Stuart trained $31 long-shot Patriot Rockstar fought off the red-hot favourite Tornado Tears who got squeezed early jumping out of box four and could never fight back to the front. 

You could feel a genuine sense of excitement as the night went on, as the crowd looked forward to the most lucrative greyhound race in WA – The Perth Cup. 

At any greyhound race in Australia, the cameras focus on the trainers as they walk the dogs from the kennels near the entrance of the racecourse and around the course proper and into the kennels. 

A G1 race, such as this, has a unique quirk – with each trainer coming around the track dressed in a full tuxedo with their dog on leash. 

The Perth Cup was a more predictable race, with the NSW raider and odds-on favourite Orson Allen finishing strongly for trainer Corey Grenfell to take out the 2019 edition. 

With a cover band playing under the floodlights, face painting stalls and even kids rides set up trackside, Greyhounds WA had put on a very family-oriented atmosphere that went against the stereotype many people would associate with the greyhound racing. 

While many would think of problem gamblers and a dour atmosphere, there were plenty of families with young children enjoying brought-from-home dinners and snacks all around the racecourse.  

With that being said, it could be argued this was an outlier.  

In the 2017-18 financial year, WA was home to 317 race meets, with over 3,700 individual greyhound races taking place over the same time. 

The usual atmosphere at the three WA tracks – Cannington, Mandurah, and Northam – are often far more subdued and without the fanfare and family friendly attractions promoted for what many people in the WA racing industry would see as its biggest night of the year. 

Although greyhound racing remains an enormously lucrative industry, it enjoys very little media coverage and often elicits groans due to its poor reputation for animal abuse and problem gambling. 

Greyhound racing in Australia generates over $4 billion in gambling revenue each year – and although that seems like an astronomical sum of money it pales in comparison to the $19.5b generated by thoroughbred horse racing around the country. 

Australians lose more than $3.3b gambling on racing each year, with the amount lost per capita sitting at $174.96. 

The sport suffered a black eye in 2015 when a joint ABC/Fairfax investigation found that “live baiting” – where greyhounds are trained to race by running down live rabbits, possums, and piglets – was occurring in NSW, Queensland and Victoria. 

The practice of live-baiting is believed by some trainers to give the dogs more motivation to chase the lure in an actual race meet, although there is little evidence to support the claim. 

In response to the investigation, then-Premier of NSW banned all greyhound racing in the state – only to sensationally backflip three months later.  

In 2015-16, gambling revenue made up 7.7% of state and territory taxation revenue – making the racing codes a hard target for governments. 

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The hidden giant of WA sport celebrates its big day