WHEN Ashley Baker took the reins at The Meadows midway through 2019 he sold the club’s board an ambitious vision for the future.
And last Saturday night that vision took a giant stride towards becoming a reality with the unveiling of ‘The Phoenix’ – greyhound racing’s first race of it’s kind in the world.
“Before I started at The Meadows my background was in thoroughbred racing so I’d watched the progression and success of The Everest closely,” Baker said.
“When I joined the club I planted the seed loosely that this concept was something I was keen to explore.
“A lot of the preliminary work was done last year but COVID put it on the back burner.
“To be able to bring it to life with the announcement on Saturday night is not just huge for The Meadows and GRV (Greyhound Racing Victoria) but greyhound racing overall.”
Last weekend’s Australian Cup winner Tommy Shelby (blue) is sure to be popular among ‘The Phoenix’ slot holders. Photo: Jason Mckeown.Source:Supplied
The inaugural ‘The Phoenix’ is slated to be run at The Meadows on Saturday, December 18.
Themed largely on The Everest which has proven to be a resounding success in thoroughbred racing, eight slots will be sold at $75,000 apiece.
Total prizemoney for the event will reach $1.145 million with the winner to take home $750,000.
Scaled payments will be paid through to fourth while fifth to eighth will take home $37,500, half the entry fee.
And with a frenzy of early interest in respect to acquiring slots, Baker is well aware applications will outweigh slots available.
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“We are in the process now of releasing the application process,” Baker said.
“The selection committee will be a combination of representatives from the MGRA (The Meadows), GRV and integrity – it’s paramount that the process is completely transparent.
“What that exactly looks like right now hasn’t been finalised but what I can say is the full terms and conditions will be out by the end of this month with applications to be open from May 1 to May 21.
“From my point of view, the applications will mean far more than just putting up the $75,000. It’s what the successful slot holders can bring to making the event the pinnacle greyhound event on the calendar.”
When quizzed about what The Phoenix concept can do for greyhound racing Baker is matter-of-fact.
Million Dollar Chase winner Handsome Prince is another expected to be popular with slot holders. Photo: Jason Mckeown.Source:Supplied
“The vision and objective is simple,” Baker said.
“It’s to reach a new generation of greyhound racing followers by capturing their imagination with something fresh and new.
“This isn’t a new concept, just new to greyhound racing.
“So for people on the fringe of the sport that enjoy it but haven’t necessarily engaged, we’re confident The Phoenix will provide that opportunity.”
Baker said he expects a naming rights sponsor to be announced in the coming weeks, blown away by the level of interest in being involved in the inaugural staging.
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“The response has been overwhelming,” Baker said.
“The commercial response for sponsorship or procuring slots has been significant. And it’s generated great hype and discussion and I understand not all of that will be positive.
“The sooner we get the finer details in the public domain the better.”
With slot owners permitted to trade, sell or broker for their place in the race, there will be a frenetic lead up to the event in December with the expectation it will generate never before seen coverage for greyhound racing.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, the amount of media and hype the race will create,” Baker said.
“It’s far more than just the eight dogs that go around in the race on December 18. It’s the commercial opportunities and exposure it will generate.
“That’s why running it in December was the perfect fit. It’s out of AFL season and not buried away in winter either. We’ve got some clear air to really promote it before Christmas and drive engagement.”
And the name The Phoenix?
“We fleshed that out internally with the help of a few media types,” Baker said.
“It represents the rebirth of the industry in recent years. We’ve got a fantastic product full of amazing people.
“The Phoenix will go a long way to showcasing that.”
Originally published asIntroducing The Everest for greyhound racing
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