It has been a busy 24 hours for greyhound racing in NSW with a number of significant announcements relating to new racing and City prizemoney opportunities for all participants.

This is the next phase of our re-emergence from enforced restrictions due to COVID-19, and although the new schedule opens the door on options for participants, we stress that all biosecurity and health and safety measures remain in place in line with Government directives.

The changes have been well publicised across our media platforms, but following feedback we have received I thought it was appropriate to publish an edition of the Question and Answer column, specifically around the recent announcements, for you to consider over the weekend.

Yesterday we announced a return to racing at Wentworth Park on June 6 as well as changes to the regional zones that will see City Prizemoney distributed among those zones which won’t enable trainers to race at Wentworth Park.

The new zones will become effective for the meetings which have nominations closing on Thursday May 21.

This morning, having released the new racing schedule for June, I now answer some questions around these new announcements.

1. Q: I had a look at the new calendar and while there is City prizemoney for the other two regions that don’t race at Wentworth Park, it stops at June 15. Is there going to be more after that? I thought you said it was going to be every week?

A: We wanted to get the new calendar out as soon as possible so people could plan their programs under the new regional model. We as yet haven’t settled on the City prizemoney venues beyond June 15, but if we continue in this same format I can assure you there will be those additional prizemoney meetings as promised.

2. Q: So is it right that zones have merged and we now have gone from six zones to just three big zones?

A: Essentially that is correct. The Riverina Zone has now joined with the Western Districts zone, the Northern Rivers zone remains intact, while the other zone is now made up of the Metro/Southern zone, the Hunter zone, and the New England zone. Trainers can nominate and race their greyhounds at any track within one of the three zones depending on their location.

3. Q: If I am in the Hunter zone, what tracks am I able to race at now?

A: You are able to race at all the tracks open in your old Hunter region: Ladbrokes Gardens, Gosford and Maitland, and you are now also able to race at tracks in the Metro/Southern region: Richmond, Bulli, Dapto, Nowra and Goulburn, and Gunnedah in the New England region. You will now also be able to race at Wentworth Park.

4. Q: I was right on the border of a zone and was told to pick my zone and stick to it. I chose my region then, can I change now the regions have expanded?

A: No, the zone you have been racing in, must remain your zone.

5. Q: My dog goes better at Wentworth Park than it does at Dubbo, so because of that I’m less chance to win a Saturday City Prizemoney race at Dubbo, than I would be if I could go down to Wentworth Park. Will there be any exceptions given?

A: No. Everyone must stay and race in their regions for the time being. While your dog may not prefer Dubbo, Saturday City Prizemoney meetings will be held each week in each region, so hopefully one of the other venues in your region will suit your dog.

6. Q: With Wentworth Park now back, does this mean that feature races return?.

A: While we are about to return to racing at Wentworth Park, no decision has yet been made in regards to feature racing.

7. Q: Can someone explain how changing Lithgow area to Wagga is good? Now I have to drive five hours to Wagga three hours to Dubbo which do not have 700 metre races, when I can drive two hours to Wentworth Park one hour to Richmond. If we cannot all race at Wentworth Park don’t open it at all. Just because the big trainers whinge they get their way again. All we want is a fair go.

A: Thank you for your question. As Lithgow is on the border of the Western and Metro zones, you would have had the option to choose which zone you raced in at the start of the regional zoning, and you have chosen the Western Districts region. We have added the Riverina to your racing options, but not said you must race there. You still have the Bathurst - around 50 minutes away - and Dubbo, the options you originally had, and we have announced we will be racing once a week in each region for Saturday City Prizemoney. We are certainly not favouring the “big trainers” and have tried to spread opportunities across the State, and for all participants – including bringing City prizemoney into all zones, not just Wentworth Park.

8. Q: This latest announcement is just a kick in the guts for country trainers not letting us have city racing and prizemoney. Can someone answer me why?

A: It is true that some regions will not be able to race in the city at Wentworth Park for the moment, but country trainers are not being deprived of prizemoney. As we announced yesterday, each of the other regions will race once a week for City prizemoney.

9. Q: 10. Will all the same social distancing and kenneling protocols remain in place from GRNSW and GWIC, including all safe and healthy of temperature checks?

A: Yes, this is critical. As we all know, we have secured venues under the strictest biosecurity measures. So please remain vigilant and observe all the hygiene advice and use common sense. We have been able to continue to race through this pandemic because we have done the right thing. As we expand options from six controlled regional zones to three bigger zones, please keep up the good work and strong disciplines that have so far protected our industry, participants and communities.

The new racing schedule is now available on thedogs.com.au and can be viewed by clicking here.

For those who are racing around the State this weekend, I wish you good luck. There looks like some great racing action is scheduled.

We will be back to the Q & A once a week during this upcoming week, but like we did with the Wentworth Park and new racing schedule, if there are any significant announcements to be made, these will be done on all our media and social platforms.

Please don’t forget we are as an industry all in this together, so I urge you to pick up the phone and call a fellow participant to make sure they are doing ok as well.

Do not forget if there is anyone who may be struggling at the moment and wanting somebody to talk to, you can do something about that. If you do feel the need to talk to someone about your situation, please do not hesitate to call. You can speak with a qualified counsellor at any time by calling 1300 687 327.

Keep yourselves and your families safe, and importantly be vigilant in these difficult times.

Tony Mestrov.