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WHEN GREYHOUND RACING CAME TO WALES

By Brian Lee

Brian Lee is writing and researching above book on the history of greyhound racing in Wales and
would like to hear from anyone with anecdotes, photographs, press cuttings etc.

Please write to Brian Lee, 13 Felbrigg Crescent,Pontprennau,Cardiff,CF23 8SE.

Tel : 02920736438

Or email him on brianlee4@virginmedia.com
                                      

Eighty years ago, on April 7th 1928, greyhound racing (which had been introduced to Britain two years earlier at Manchester's Belle Vue Stadium) came to Wales. The first meeting took place at the now long gone Welsh White City Stadium at Sloper Road in the Grangetown area of Cardiff. Owing to the persistent rain that fell that historic Easter Saturday only 9,000 spectators turned up. And when the first hurdle event was declared a no-race (because the dogs were so busy fighting each other that none of them completed the 470 yard track) the future of greyhound racing in Cardiff didn't look too promising.
However, fine weather on the Easter Monday saw some 25,000 people paying either 2s 4d or 5/- to get into the stadium, which before the Second World War had been a venue for football, rugby, speedway, athletics and other sporting events. The Greyhound Racing Association (South Wales) had erected six kennels with accommodation for 180 dogs and under the grandstand there was spacious accommodation for its members who were provided with a lounge, bar, ladies room and cloak room all for just two guineas  a year.

Owners who intended to race their dogs at the track paid just a 1  a week and they could select any of the following trainers Paddy Fortune (Cork), William Baldwin (London), Albert Carter (Somerset), D T Edwards (Wattstown) and T Phillips(Cardiff). In those days, the greyhounds raced on turf, not sand and this had  been brought from Caerphilly Mountain. The stadium was said to be comparable with the big London tracks like Wembley and White City and 'the dogs'   became so popular  that soon afterwards another greyhound track  was  opened at  then world famous Cardiff Arms Park.

Mick The Miller, the most famous greyhound in the history of the sport, set a world record of 29.55 seconds for the standard distance of 525 yards when winning the 1930 Welsh Greyhound Derby at the Sloper Road stadium. Another famous greyhound to race there was Beef Cutlet  trained by John Hegarty, who later became the racing manager at the Cardiff Arms Park track. Beef Cutlet won the 1933 Welsh Greyhound Derby, clocking 29.56 seconds, just .01 slower than Mick's tremendous time.

The opening of the greyhound track at the Cardiff Arms Park  was reported to have been, "A triumph of pluck and perseverance.''  Men  were still working on the track a few hours before the public were admitted and it was, not until 6 o`clock that the hurdle trials were held. Despite the hustle and uncertainty the meeting went off without a hitch and 5,000 fans are said to have had an interesting evening's sport,  even  though the grading of dogs was not what it might have been.

A band played during the intervals as the dogs paraded and a new  type trackers-hare proved most satisfying. When greyhound racing came to Newport's Somerton Park Stadium in the November of 1932, several thousand people waited an hour,  after  the fifth race, while  electricians tried to remedy a mechanical defect in the flood-lighting. Earlier, Alderman Fred Phillips formally opened the ' most modern Welsh track' and the South Wales Argus reporter wrote: "Whiz went  the hare, fleet-footed sped the dogs after it, their legs and  bodies  craned to see those wonderfully intelligent animals jockey for the position near the rail. There were gasps of wonder and astonishment as newcomers to the sport saw the fastest animals trained on four legs leap gracefully  over the hurdles.'' The fault, however, could not be  located and  officials had no alternative but to abandon the rest of the card.

Greyhound racing came to an end at the old Sloper Road track  during  the war years and at Somerton Park, it finished  in 1963 after the twice-weekly meetings attendances every Tuesday and Friday had dropped to hundreds rather then the 3,000 after-the-war crowds who had supported  it. A crowd of  700 gathered to witness the  death nell of the sport in Newport and it was the mechanical  hare that  had raced around the track a million times since 1932, which had the last  laugh, for as the final race was about to start, the traps opened  too soon before the dogs with the hare chasing the dogs for a  change! Len  Davies, secretary at Somerton Park, told a local newspaper: "Some of the best dogs in  the country have raced at Somerton Park.  Perhaps the best of them all was Antartica, a white bitch which set a track  450 yards  record  in a Somerton Stakes heat in 1958.'' He also recalled that during the same year three dogs, Combined Hope, Finnerty and Maglin Breeze-ran a triple dead heat, a very  rare occurance indeed. Sadly, greyhound racing at Cardiff came to an end on July 30th 1977 because the Welsh Rugby Union needed the track to extend  terracing  at the National Stadium. 1,128 fans saw Lillyput Queen, owned by Cardiff butcher Malcolm Davies and trained by Freddie Goodman,win the last race.Cardiff City Council   had taken less than ten minutes to reject a plan to switch   greyhound racing to Maindy Stadium. And no longer would enthusiasts flock there to see well-known greyhounds such as Shaggy Lass (1945), Trev's Pefection (1947), Ballylanigan Tanist (1951), Endless Gossip(1952) Mile Bush Pride (1959) and Patricia's Hope (1972) who all won the Welsh Greyhound Derby. Now fans in Wales have only three flapping (unlicensed) meetings  to attend at Swansea, Bedwellty and Ystrad Mynach to witness their favourite sport.


                                        

 

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