Category Archives: Greyhound racing
Swann looks like he was a greyhound. Painted in watercolour by Queen Victoria in the 1850s – the original can be seen in Kensington Palace. I would have taken better notes on its provenance but I was being hustled round the palace by a pre-teen who I thought would enjoy the fashion exhibition. How wrong can you be? Anyway, the watercolour of Swann was painted when Prince Albert was still alive. I found myself wondering if the Queen painted much, if at all, once she was sewn into her widow’s weeds in perpetuity.
I think she has done a good job – the anatomy and musculature of the hound work well and she has the head. It’s a shame if she gave up painting. I bet she could do a good pony as well.
I have taken some liberties with Her Majesty’s original work, adjusting the brightness and contrast levels, as the photo was poor, and the shot quickly taken in a very dark room. They keep all those rooms dark; dark and very, very hot. This was a pre-Christmas, pre-storm hitting the country the following day trip. It’s a shame when these things arrived at for the enjoyment of all miss the intended spot, but as well as learning Queen Victoria had a dog that looks awfully like mine, I also spotted some green parakeets on Bayswater Road. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the little things that come up unexpectedly, rather than the big ones you planned.
Note to self: eldest daughter detesteth history…
Down by the sea…
The dog decided, for reasons best known to himself, to charge up and down in excess of 25 miles per hour. He repeated the feat more than once, for me to capture his top speed antics, but this was the best I could do.
“Dog Days” (Latin: diēs caniculārēs) are the hottest, most sultry days of summer. In the northern hemisphere, they usually fall between early July and early September. In the southern hemisphere they are usually between January and early March. The actual dates vary greatly from region to region, depending on latitude and climate.
Dog Days can also define a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by dull lack of progress. The name comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, in close proximity to the sun was responsible for the hot weather.
Jamie, a friend and contributor on the comments here, asked me yesterday about the English Greyhound Derby which starts this Friday night at Wimbledon. Specifically, he wanted, not unreasonably, a dog or two to have an interest in through the competition.
Well that got me thinking a bit. First I thought: I have absolutely no idea. Then I thought: how did that happen?
Used to be, I followed the dogs properly. One New Year the Racing Post’s dog man Jim Cremin sent me a bottle of champagne for a short piece I wrote proposing Spiridon Louis as the 2007 Greyhound of the Year. The six-bend Spiridon Louis went on to take the title over four-bend sensation Barnfield on Air. That was four years ago for goodness sake. Where has the time gone, I wonder? Now I can’t even come up with one vaguely hopeful ante-post dog!
Back in the day I went to Wimbledon to see the great Westmead Hawk in the preliminary heats, before he took his second Derby title in 2006. Going to the dogs at the Plough Lane track is a proper cage fighting atmosphere, nothing like the much-missed art deco class of the Stow. Now I have watched this victory plenty enough, it might even have been on the blog before, but watching it again I still cannot get over how the dog reads his way through the race.
Drawing Trap 4, as Westmead Hawk had, is simply asking for trouble. If you want to back a skimpily priced favourite in a dog race (The Hawk was 4/7F for this gig) you would want to take the Red Jacket, Trap 1 on the rail. You would be backing the One Dog to ping the lid, grab the rail, job done. Or, you might take the Stripes of a Wide Runner to at least stay out of the potential for general scrummaging on the bends and then pick up off the last. You would not, unless you were backing Westmead Hawk, especially want the Trap 4 where all kinds of squeezing, bumping, baulking and checking of runs awaits the Mid runners.
And then you watch this race and he sets my heart in motion every time.
The Hawk traps fast, about level, then he comes into the rail, but no he’s back out wide, and then he makes his move and blasts his run through the middle of the Orange and Blue Jackets to win by three-quarters of a length on the line. And the last bit is my favourite, not on the line, but the bit where he powers into that nearly non-existent gap between two tightly-packed greyhounds, and then there is nothing else but the hulk of his shoulders devouring the track until he noses through the laser beam, certain in the knowledge that he is the fastest dog in the land.
Ah, I was gone for a moment there… When I was lucky enough to see Westmead Hawk a few weeks before this final, he made it even tighter on the line, but he was still there when it counted. And now I have my own dog who runs in the belief that he is the fastest dog in the park, but is so nervous that when gets tired he, rather than fronting up to his invited pursuer, hides in a shrubbery and waits for me to rescue him.
So Joe, I ain’t got no dogs just yet for you but, when I do, there is a good chance their dad will be this lad…
Firstly, it came to my attention that the other week, down the road at Romford Dog Track, there was a triple dead heat in a greyhound race. This hardly ever happens, hence the millions to one quoted as the odds. Fortunately for the books this was not an offer they had chalked up on the boards and heavily promoted beforehand, because if they had, people like me might have thrown a quid at it and been happy to settle for the maximum payout quoted.
Before I got to write that paragraph though, I began watching the Australian Open Final: what a disaster that is and I don’t mean Murray’s tennis in the second set. The blue squeaky court, the discordant product placement all over the shop (the one that offends me most is the lurid pink mineral water sign behind the umpire’s chair), the yellow-to-tangerine colours the ball people and line officials wear, and their hats! Why hats? You aren’t outside you muppets, there’s no sun in your eyes. In a final humiliation, the kids fetching balls are forced to wear not just the baseball cap, but the cap with a flap, as if they were little desert rats. And I have observed the shame of their outfits has caused them to keep tripping over each other as they hurry out of the camera’s glare…
Then there is Andy; never the best dressed, but Andy, the green with the black and the black boots? He looks like he’s off to play 5-a-side football. Djokovic is giving a better account of himself sartorially, but again he is compromised by one of his legs hanging off below the knee and his need to tip great quantities of eye drops into his dry eyes with his gob hanging open as the camera does a close-up. I will say though he’s playing great tennis for someone who can’t see.
But the thing that has nearly made me switch off is Murray’s towel. A riot of colour that should only, if ever, be seen on a beach. The towel is so loud, you can’t just see it, you can hear it too. Anyway Murray has just broken his opponent’s serve for the first time, so I’m going to bear with it. If he loses, I’ll blame the towel.
Here is a much more aesthetically pleasing shot: Droopys Djokovic (centre) in the Romford triple dead heat. Spookily he wears the Djokovic blue like his Serbian namesake and went on to smash the other two dogs in a rematch the following week.
It also occurs to me as I watch this filthy game of tennis that, as a maths concept, tennis is on pretty shaky ground. 15, 30, 40 etc. Now what’s that about? They should score them geometrically if you ask me.
P.S. By the time I’d half-sorted out all the grammar and wotnot Murray’s riotous towel has slunk on its belly off the court…
The old dog walks looked like this: wander through hill and vale, forest and beach, swim and fetch (dogs not me) the dog in perfect harmony by my side.
My new dog walks look like this: risk assess area for 25mph running, small furry things and dogs he mayn’t like the look of before removing lead. Spend rest of “walk” running after him in fruitless fashion calling his unheeded name.
I am shortly trying a new thing this morning: a dog walk with another sighthound. A proper ex-racer with height, grace and good manners. Hopefully.
*A few hours lapse*
Faith’s Lad, the racing name of the greyhound we were with more than fulfilled his personal specification and Rudi the Dude (his racing name when he starts his glittering lurcher racing career) was well-mannered too. High class company must’ve rubbed off on him. Good.
You might remember that pain from when you were younger (in my case) when someone you had set your heart on has drifted off somewhere to discover themselves, or worse still to discover someone else. Neverthelss whilst they live you have hope. That’s how I feel about greyhound racing since Walthamstow closed.
I could go off and snog Romford Dogs, owned by Coral, or take myself to Crayford, owned by Ladbrokes but why would I when at the back of my mind is the notion that one day, one very sweet day, the lights might be turned back on at the Stow?
In the meantime, whilst I pine away, Ricky Holloway continues the fight to bring racing back with his Save Our Stow campaign. In summary, as far as I understand it, the Housing Association that own the site can’t develop it, but continue to refuse to sell it back to the greyhound industry. One suspects a dodgy covenant with the Chandlers who closed it down. Snarl.
Anyhow, the latest is that greyhound royalty in the shape of the Morton Family of Westmead ownership fame are submitting plans to the council and offering to buy out the stubborn owners. The plans propose a mixed development of racing and affordable housing, a scheme that has worked well at Dublin’s Shelbourne Park.
Bob Morton’s son Robert who manages the track at Henlow rates their chances of bringing racing back as only 40% at the moment.
*Flings self face down on bed. Sobs*
I love this photo of a greyhound at Galway track by Patrick Dinneen. I asked his permission to use it a while back when I hoped for
Greyhound Racing Returns to Walthamstow headlines, but it’s too good to sit on for whenever that may happen, so here it is.
Fingers crossed. Whilst I am waiting for a change Patrick sent me this too.
Of course, it’s not quite so bad on the deliver so little front during the football close season, unless you are Milwall or Swindon fan, but most of you will get where I’m coming from with this?
The hopes and dreams (or wishes and horses) factor is multiplied at least tenfold on a Saturday. Hopes for sporting triumphs, a big win on the nags, the lottery, bingo even and of course the chances of a Big Night Out if you have any energy left after a working week (or money after paying a gas bill).
I find myself suddenly gripped today with an urge to go to Newmarket, but I am going to sit on that off-piste urge until it gives in. Saturdays are not great days for punting – too many races to get your head round and not enough iron discipline in constant supply either.
Today, instead, I will carry on reading a book: Hackney, that Rose-Red Empire by Iain Sinclair. This book, for a Hackney refugee like me, is like gold dust. On the page I am turning into streets I know like the back of my hand but I am discovering small creases on the palm that I have never noticed before. It is a delight.
Sinclair has written about, Stephen Gill’s photography of Hackney in the book and through a circuitous route I ended up at his website last night – the link goes directly to the Series of Disappointments collection, but I loved the Hackney Wick market photographs too.
These feature the rough house market that used to take place every Sunday morning a few minutes walk from our last London flat. It was not a market such as you would recognise, taking place on the dusty dirt of the old Hackney Wick dog track and car park. It had a definite air of frontier bandit country. We went once, intrigued by the thousands of people returning laden with blue carrier bags. The Guv’nor, as streetwise as you get, bought a radio with no insides. That’s the kind of place it was. And of course, you wouldn’t be taking it back.
So here are my radios without innards for today. At least I know they won’t tune in to nothing from the outset.
Lord Shanakill 3.30 Haydock
Mureb 5.05 Newmarket
Dazinkski 4.45 Haydock
And as it’s Greyhound Derby final night I am making a mental note to back the winner (T2 Lyreen Mover out of Lyreen Diva) and then buy this book. I miss dusty old Hackney and I miss the Lowlife.