Why I Will Never Bet on a Greyhound Race

Jill Wood By Jill Wood, 14th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Sports>Spectator Sports

Racing punters like to think that they stand a decent chance of backing a winner. Here's a true tale of one race, somewhere in The North, sometime in the 1970s, the result of which almost caused a riot.

Horses for Courses

Much has been said over the years about cheating in horse races. Has the jockey failed to encourage the horse to try his best? Some steeds are known to get upset and even refuse to run if the rider pushes him too hard. Has he been secretly pulling the horse back? Holding the reins tightly while giving the appearance of urging him on? Has he been swapped for another, less able animal? Is he wearing the right shoes? Heavy or light? With or without grip? Has he been drugged? Run the wrong kind of race? A sprinter won’t last the distance of a long race, and a distance runner will just be getting into his stride when the sprint is over. It’s the same with steeplechasing and hurdles, left and right tracks, and so on. Horses for courses, literally.
Not every rider is out to win, every time, and racing stewards are wise to all these tricks but is it any different with greyhound racing?

Enter Fred, the Least Favourite

Here’s a true tale of a race which surely must still get talked about today, even though it happened way back in the 70’s, when I was a young kennel maid.
Now, despite the fact that a greyhound does not have a jockey, I discovered that there were still drug-free and undetectable ways to gain some control over how a dog performed. It was a simple matter to give a dog a big, heavy, carbohydrate dinner on the afternoon of the race. He just wouldn’t have the energy to keep up with the others.
On the other hand, if the dog was fed a light lunch of best raw mince, and brought up to the house to get a look (only a look, and even then on a tight lead), at the family rabbit, then he’d probably do better than his bloated kennel-mate.
I say probably. To understand how this race went so, so wrong, we need to learn a little about the nature of a greyhound.
These noble, intelligent creatures hunt by sight, and by instinct. We had strict instructions to never, under any circumstances, let them off the lead – local cats, squirrels, rabbits and so on all had a right to a peaceful life. The only time a dog did not have a collar and lead on was when he was either in the kennel, van, trap or on the race track itself. The only other exception was the training run. This was a long strip of land about 12 ft wide and several hundred yards long. It was securely fenced off, and the grass cut short. One of us girls would stand at one end, with the ‘trainee’, while the boss-lady (it had to be a lady) stood at the other. Boss-lady would then whoop and yell in a high-pitched voice, and the dog would be let off the lead.
If all went to plan, the greyhound would race towards the sound, and was caught, and rewarded, at the other end. This not only gave the dog a chance to run flat out, but it also taught him to go willingly to his handler at the end of the race. One hound, bless him, never learned to turn corners and ended up at the top of the stands after the first straight and had to be retired, but that’s another story.
Another greyhound trait is that they can be quite lazy. They love nothing better than to loll about and doze, and young Fred was a prime example. It was embarrassing. He refused point blank to walk anywhere. He would stand with his head down and feet firmly planted. He had to be carried onto the track and pushed, gently but firmly, into the trap. The odds against him winning his first ‘proper’ race were high, to say the least. Punters took one look at this sorry scenario and backed one of the other five. It looked as though Fred just didn’t ‘get it’.

Hare Today...

Fred didn’t like to walk, but he could run when it suited him, so despite the fact that he’d merely tried to make friends with the house bunny that afternoon, owner and trainer were still confident that he could surprise everyone. He did that alright.
The race was three and a half laps long. In those days, and at that track, the ‘hare’ – a scruffy-looking acrylic-covered lump on a rail – would come up behind and past the dogs, who, on being released from the traps, would chase blindly after it until the end of the race when an official would stop the hare, come out from his hut and put a cover over it. The dogs would then mill around aimlessly until claimed by their handlers.
The experienced dogs were wise to this, and at first sight of the official they would stop running. Sometimes this meant a youngster would end up doing an extra lap as he would still be in ‘race-mode’, and hadn’t connected the two events. It was never a problem until Fred’s race.

We never discovered why, but the man came out of his hut a few seconds early, just as the runners were passing. True to form, they all stopped. All except Fred. He was still running hell-for-leather. He completed the extra lap, and technically, won the race.
Almost immediately the stadium erupted. Chairs were thrown onto the track and of course the race declared null and void.
And Fred? He was carried off, none the wiser, and went on to have a successful career – after a bit more training.


Betting, Dogs, Greyhound Racing, Greyhounds, Horse Racing, Horses, Humour, Humourous, Humourous Stories, Humourous Story, Racing

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author avatar Jill Wood
I've been writing and editing for years. My specialist subjects are health, animals, crafts and housekeeping.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
15th Jul 2011 (#)

Very interesting. Great share. Thank you, Jill.

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author avatar Sinei
23rd Jul 2011 (#)

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author avatar Farmer
1st Aug 2014 (#)

hongkongese are pigs.

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