Dog Day Afternoon

Somehow sports are now bracketed with Major Events. They require promoters, “entertainers”, packages and media/celebrity angles. Ticketek. Racing’s just had its turn. The Golf’s on. The Ashes are starting. Soon enough there’ll be the tennis, the GP and then a resumption of the winter footy codes.
Our bucket-lists are glorious – Lords, Augusta National, Royal Ascot, Anfield. Who’s not been to Flemington and the mighty MCG?
It’s a competitive market for the “consumer” and some old stalwarts seem to have been left in the past….skeletons from another era.
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There’s no sign of tottering tarts or Betstar brouhaha when you roll up for the Wednesday afternoon Dogs in Broady. The Meadows is Greyhound Racing Victoria’s HQ, a purpose built facility amidst an Industrial Estate off Camp Rd that was part of a forced relocation when the Burnley Tunnel scythed through the old Olympic Park. Apparently Monday night at the Dogs was big in the 70s. The “dishlickers” and the “red hots” were amongst the first to promote nights out under lights and each flourished for golden eras. But the trots have moved to Melton and I’m amongst about 100 people gathered for the regular midweeker (they also race here on Saturday nights with a pretty healthy response from social groups and diehards). They’re here for various reasons. Some might own a few. Trainers make up a significant core but they’re mostly over in the kennels. It is an old crowd, sitting around and chatting, waiting for the next, which is never far away. Some community groups drop by for an outing but there doesn’t seem to be fervent punting and the absence of a bookie is unusual for me. The dogs parade, are “boxed”, the bunny “rolls” and another race is run.
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It was all races and trots when I was a kid, but I recall times when the dogs had their day. Angle Park converted from a Trots trials venue into a prized Thursday night slot (first crack at the wage) and big crowds came to the track where I’d score a job on the bag or sheets. It was a novelty and the bookies made plenty.
I’ve leaned on the royal box to watch the dogs at Wembley, had a night at Wimbledon, worked behind the tip at Port Lincoln and fielded at Strath and Gawler. Before Sky TABs and punting apps it was a quick turnover feedbin for punters. But the good times passed and habits changed.
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The days of cultural significance and a strong working class identity – of Andy Capp and scallywags and desperates on the punt – might be gone but the Greyhound Industry insists that it has found a niche and is flourishing. The attractions are obvious. For owners the costs are low. Trainers (like Darryl Kerrigan!) can operate from the backyard or build a professional stable. Punters don’t have to wait long and don’t have to trust a human to steer (or not). Field sizes are limited so you get a lot of collects (and, I suppose, ultimately lose). It tends to be a numbers game for pub patrons – the red, the check, the squeeze, the pink…
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The richest Greyhound race (Melbourne Cup Final, R8, 515m,9.56pm) in the world is on tomorrow night( Thursday) at the “other” metro track in Melbourne, Sandown Park (over the train line from the horse and car racing facility). Sheikh Mohammed won’t be there, but the $500,000 prize will be a lifechanger for the winning connections. Black Magic Opal (the check) is odds on. The red is next in markets. The prizemoney for the rest of the card is impressive. And the “no rip-off” mantra extends even to this “Night of Nights”. Free admission.

Comments

  1. “Ouch” your line about “first crack at the wage” still stings 30 years after those half-shickered Thursday night sojourns out to Angle Park.
    Will you let us in on the secret of why you were at the Meadows on a Wednesday afternoon when there was no bookie fielding??

  2. Good story Crio- bought back a few memories

  3. Good old Thursday nights working at the dogs, a good forerunner to a Friday of golf and race form.
    The biggest night at the dogs was in fact a day, the Thursday before Xmas with all the punters who were paid cash, 3 weeks holiday pay, sadly a few holiday plans must have been left on course.

  4. naively, I don’t recall that meeting. In retrospect it was shooting fish in a tank but it never seemed that…especially working for Bertie or Lester (as I did) who were no form guns and had very limited banks.
    Friday at the Port Noarlunga beer garden or water skiing on the Murray are other great memories.

  5. Cliffy, the Dogs. Is there a better way to lose?
    Sat in the Emerald for a couple of hours one Thursday afternoon. Wall to wall dog races. My system was to back every emergency [$2.50 ew]. A few places kept me afloat. As I drained my last pot I noticed no 9 in R10 at Dapto or some far flung outpost. I decided to give it a swerve. As I paid my respects to the bar staff the said race jumped. You know I should have bolted, however I paused and watched the inevitable. It saluted at the outrageous price of $50.25 the win.

  6. I too was lucky enough to work at angle park about 78/9. Back then it had a strong ring with Ron Forster, Lou Habib, Ross Gill amongst others involved and rails bookie Tony Hains punting!.and losing.
    There was a fair bit (read lots) of horticultural money being washed/rinsed around then which boosted turnover and profits.
    I loved it as I wasn’t a dog punter and invariably got a generous sling from from my wonderful employer who excelled at the dogs and especially on quinella markets when there was a very short favourite involved.

  7. Mick,
    What about that lone phone box outside the gate?…I reckon blokes guarded it so it could be used to relay SPs.
    The bookies had a cartel, especially the appropriately named “cons”, whereby they’d put up a fav short and take in turns laying it. Money for jam.

  8. One of your best, Crio. God bless the pan lickers, especially those that fall out of favour.

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