A Simple Primer On How Racing Works

It never dawned on me that many people who have adopted retired racing greyhounds, don’t entirely understand how racing works.

Of course, it starts with the greyhounds themselves, and the people who breed them. Racing greyhounds are all registered with the National Greyhound Association, of which their breeders are members.

There are some breeders who keep and control very large colonies of breeding females and sires, and who raise hundreds of greyhounds each year. There are others who have much more modest operations, and there are others, still, for whom breeding is not the sole source of their income, and who may have second careers, apart from racing.

Some breeders have contracts to race at certain tracks, and breed mainly to supply their own racing enterprises. There are others who don’t have racing enterprises, and who breed to “lease” their dogs to a racing kennel(s), which may or may not be a subsidiary of another breeding operation.

The typical leasing agreement is 35% to the kennel, 35% to the owner, with the rest kept by the kennel for training services, upkeep and veterinary costs. Owners do not pay a weekly or monthly fee to the kennels they race with.

Twice a year the NGA holds a competition for sapling greyhounds, who are almost ready to go to the racetrack and begin their careers–after which an auction takes place. People who are not breeders, as well as breeders, can bid on any greyhound they like, and if they are the highest bidder, they purchase that greyhound for themselves. They may have their own racing enterprise, or they might be an independent owner. It doesn’t matter.

All racing greyhounds are owned by either a racing kennel, a group, or by individuals.

The racetracks do not own the greyhounds.

The racetracks simply contract kennels to supply them with greyhounds, and ordinarily provide housing space on premises, for which the kennel ordinarily pays to rent/utilities as part of the deal. When a kennel owner signs a contract to race at a track, he/she guarantees that they will keep an “active list”—which is a mandated number of greyhounds, fit for racing at all times. Failure to sustain that active list can be cause for the track to revoke the kennel’s contract to race.

So the kennels are responsible for providing the greyhounds, and the tracks provide the kennel space, security and the racing venue—the racetrack itself.

It is the job of the racetrack management to actually manage the racetrack and the racetrack surface, as well as the lure, and whatever outbuildings there are for the dogs. The kennels have no access to the racetrack, other than to provide greyhounds to race on it. The racetrack management is also the entity who promotes and advertises what they offer—or not.

The racetrack also handles all the money the public wagers on the races. Here in the US, we use the Pari-Mutuel system of wagering, where all wagered monies are pooled, and where the public bets against one another. The racetrack has no interest in whether you win or lose your bets, they simply handle the pools, sell the tickets, and pay out to those who hold winning tickets after the race is official. The more money that is wagered, the more money the tracks, kennels and states make.

The odds you see on the tote board, reflect what they call the “takeout”. They are not fixed, and they fluctuate as betting ensues. The “takeout” is a pre-deducted percentage of each dollar wagered, from which the track, the kennels and the state derive their income. The takeout is split—usually unevenly—among the track, the state and the aggregate kennels, with the larger percentages ordinarily taken by the state and track.

The state is the regulatory authority. They inspect the kennels and the racetracks, via appointed Racing Commission or other Gaming Commission officials called “judges”, and the office of the state veterinarian–who usually consults with the track veterinarian on matters of greyhound well being. The racing judges have the right to fine and suspend, via commission hearings, for any alleged rule-breaking, either on the part of the tracks, their employees, the kennels, and their employees and associates, the latter of whom are those persons who own dogs which are leased to a kennel.

The greyhound trainers all work for the kennels. They are not track employees, and they are licensed by the state. The “trainer of record”–the one listed in the racing program–is the legal “sole insurer” of the dogs in his kennel. Which simply means he is the responsible party for seeing to it that all rules, welfare protocols, environmental mandates and procedures are followed, to a “T”.

The Racing Secretary is employed by the track, and he is the person who “cards” the racing performances, draws up the races, and insures the impartiality of competition, and the drawing of post-positions.

The track General Manager and/or Director of Racing is the person who sets the agenda at the racetrack, and who can ultimately exert great influence over which kennels will have their contracts renewed, which might be told to move on, and which kennels might replace them.

copyright, 2014