"When regional racing is strong, greyhound racing is strong."
The words of Greyhound Racing NSW's (GRNSW) chief, Tony Mestrov, came on Friday when he visited Gunnedah for the regional launch of "the richest greyhound race in the world".
Gunnedah Greyhound Racing Club is preparing to host the first heat of The Million Dollar Chase in just two weeks and Mr Mestrov said GRNSW had "put together a star-studded entertainment program to create a true festival atmosphere", featuring country music artists Travis Collins and Adam Harvey.
"[We] made a deliberate decision this year to really boost the involvement of the regional NSW areas in the Million Dollar Chase event ... to acknowledge the central role that regional trainers, owners and breeders play in the greyhound racing industry of NSW and give them every possible chance to qualify for the semi-finals," Mr Mestrov said.
"We wanted to do our bit to support regional communities at a tough time by showcasing what regional NSW has to offer by putting on great racing and great entertainment so people will visit, spend money and give regional economies a real boost."
Mr Mestrov said between now and the final at Wentworth Park on October 18, "all eyes will be on the 14 regional towns and greyhound tracks as the best dogs in the country race for a semi-final berth".
Minister responsible for racing, Kevin Anderson, said there was "no doubt" that hosting the first heat was a "extraordinary for Gunnedah".
"This industry is absolutely on a trajectory now to be the best it possibly can with welfare and integrity at the top of the tree when it comes to greyhound NSW," he said.
"What we are trying to do ... is to get regional NSW firmly entrenched in greyhound racing so it becomes the platform from which everyone wants to springboard from.
"To have a dog come out of Gunnedah, if they get all the way through, would be very special."
Locally-based Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association (GBOTA) director Geoff Rose said after the recent upgrade, the Gunnedah track was "one of the safest" and a key reason why trainers, owners and breeders were now travelling to town to race.
Mr Rose said he had "heard the whisper" that prize-winner Feral Franky might compete in the first heat, which was sure to create a buzz.
"If you're going to draw a dog, which is rated the best dog in Australia today, that's going to draw quite a few people to the heat, and that's what we want to do - we want to bring people into the town," he said.
"That's what this is all about ... We've been in a bad drought, but this will help."