After many months of build-up, anticipation and excitement, the 93rd running of the £175,000 Star Sports English Greyhound Derby Final at Towcester Racecourse is hours away.
It is with no doubt in my mind that everyone reading this message will share my excitement and enthusiasm for Saturday’s showpiece event where UK greyhound racing will be portrayed at its very best.
Not only do we have six very worthy finalists all less than 29 seconds away from etching their name into sporting history, but also a superb undercard and a fantastic programme of family-friendly activities lined up.
The very best of luck to everyone fortunate enough to be represented on the night.
Of course, this year’s competition has attracted additional attention owing to Animal Rising’s very public plans to disrupt the Derby Final.
Their unlawful and reckless intentions for Saturday night have already come at a significant cost to our operation. Tens of thousands of pounds have been invested in additional security measures which will be noticeable on the night even to the casual racegoer.
We kindly ask those attending to be patient and respect our colleagues from Northamptonshire Police and our security operations team during routine checks at our entrance points. They are there for your safety and to make the evening as enjoyable and safe for everyone as possible.
Building up to Saturday’s final, we accepted an invitation to meet members of Animal Rising so they could communicate their plans for the evening while we had a platform to reiterate our core concerns.
Firstly, Animal Rising made it clear under no circumstances would any of its members trespass onto the track in the process of a race taking place. Behaviour equivalent to what happened at the Epsom Derby would have catastrophic – and likely fatal – consequences, so it is with a degree of relief to learn those actions would not be repeated.
We are, however, expecting attempts by Animal Rising to disrupt racing outside of the mentioned timeframe. In this example, Towcester Racecourse must be clear that under no circumstances is it acceptable for any racegoer to leave our public enclosures and assist with the operation to remove individuals protesting unlawfully.
We have every faith in the ability of the police and our security team, and we request those in attendance to respect this by resisting temptations to be lured into conflict.
Our meeting with Animal Rising only confirmed to us their existence is dependent on media attention that is secured by acting in a manner that is not only unlawful, but also incredibly reckless and ill-considered.
Our questioning confirmed Animal Rising is using greyhound racing as a soft target in a far wider campaign where everyone is required to live a plant-based lifestyle and no activities that expose animals to risk of harm are permitted.
This includes all animal-based sports – professional and amateur – from canicross to lure coursing, flyball, dog agility and pigeon racing.
Confusingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, activities which contribute to the deaths of animals which serve a convenient purpose to Animal Rising and its members are not on the list of aspects they wish to be banned. This includes driving motor vehicles and the harvesting of crops via combine harvesters.
We sincerely hope no animals are harmed, or killed, by Animal Rising’s members via their methods of transportation to Towcester Racecourse on Saturday.
Lastly, it came as a shock to our team that Animal Rising’s representatives had not even read the Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s latest welfare strategy prior to our meeting. This critical strategy demonstrates clearly how welfare standards at all stages of greyhounds’ lives are the number one priority of licensed greyhound racing.
It’s ignorance on this scale coupled with members’ severe lack of understanding and knowledge of the sport and the greyhound as a breed that only underlines our belief that Animal Rising poses zero threat to the future of the industry.
Saturday will be an occasion to remember. But, we again request our racegoers to behave responsibly and in a way that is representative of the true spirit of our great sport.
Kevin Boothby, Managing Director at Towcester Racecourse.