Sunday, 29 April 2018

2018 Scottish Greyhound Derby

Shawfield Stadium

April 14th 2018

This visit achieved one of those two-birds-with-one-stone things; allowing me to tick another sporting-event box by attending the Scottish Greyhound Derby (of more anon), whilst simultaneously taking a long-overdue gawp at the former home of Clyde F.C.

Clyde, (or to use their unfathomable nickname, “The Bully Wee”) were formed way back in 1877, achieving Scottish League status some fourteen years later.  They were for a period, just after the last war, quite a force in the land.  Their name was carved on the Scottish Cup on three occasions: in 1939, 1955 & 1958, and as (relatively) recently as season 1966/67 they finished third in the Scottish League top flight.

They  played their home matches at Shawfield Stadium during this period, indeed had done so since 1898.  But once the large attendances for both the football, and the greyhound racing also held at the venue, tailed off, Shawfield's owners decided selling the site off for housing development would bring a far better return on the old place.  So in 1986, Clyde FC were unceremoniously shown the door, to begin a nomadic existence at first Partick Thistle's Firhill and then Douglas Park, Hamilton before finally settling down in 1994 at that soulless, wind-swept horseshoe-shaped arena Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld, some 16 miles north-east of Shawfield.

In the event, planning permission was turned down for the land Shawfield stood upon (contaminated by chromium, apparently), and thirty-odd years on the place still stands.  Although the impressively crumbling terracing and rapidly disintegrating shelter are, perhaps not surprisingly, out of bounds to spectators these days.

The whopping tote board which had still stood when I captured a few minutes camcorder footage of Shawfield in 1998 is now long gone though, having been pulled down in 2004.

This long sealed-up entrance to Shawfield is remote from the currently used entrance,
and I wonder if it was where football fans entered back in the day.

I poked my camera through a hole in the surrounding wall on Shawfield Road.
This looks another out-of-use entrance. 

Shawfield Stadium, strictly speaking is in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire, not Glasgow.

The Scottish Greyhound Derby was first run in 1928 at the nearby Carntyne Stadium.
It moved to Shawfield in 1970 and has been housed there since, 

apart from a couple of years at Edinburgh's Powderhall Stadium. 

Shawfield Stadium.

The former (although I suppose it still is) terracing at Shawfield.
The record attendance at the ground is a mind-boggling 52,000 set in 1908.

Roof falling in.

This is/was the East Terracing.  
The boarded up area once housed what looks on old photographs to have been a glass fronted press box.

More decay.  I would have loved to have been able to nose about in there.

Panorama of Shawfield Stadium.

Greyhound racing I am aware exists primarily to support the associated betting activities, so I felt I would have a (rare for me) evening of financial jousting with the bookies.  The Scottish Greyhound Derby is the most lucrative race on the Scottish calendar, with a whopping £20,000 prize for the winning owner.  It was listed as the 10th race of the evening, so I decided I would judiciously limit myself to £5 on each of the ten races.  And NO MORE.  

£50 may appear a whopping sum for a casual gambler to waste, but a cheque for £100 had just dropped through my letter-box courtesy of Bathgate Thistle's monthly draw, so I felt I could afford it.  I should, of course, have realised that that draw win would have hovered up all my luck for the month.

Knowing nothing about greyhound racing, and unable to make any sense of the myriad columns of data associated with each of the dogs listed on the race card, I decided a random approach was just as likely to yield a return as any targeted betting on my part.

Race 1 had a dog called Bluebell Harriet running, and as I have a work colleague called Harriet, my initial £5 went on that one to win.  It did not.  Some scamp by the name of Notonyournellie finished first, with my choice padding in a leisurely fourth.

I decided a broader brush stroke was required for the next few races, so put the an identical bet onto Races 2-4; this being a type called a Reversed Forecast, whereby one chose two dogs to finish in  first and second places in either order.  My choice in all three races were the dogs in Traps One and Two.

Number One won a couple of the races, but his (or her) companion failed to come up with the goods on each occasion, and by the end of Race 4 I was £20 down.  This business, if I needed any reminding, was clearly a rather effective way of turning a moderately-filled wallet into an empty one.  Nevertheless, I decided to persevere with my system with Races 5-7, but choosing dogs Three and Four this time around.  

But then I made the mistake of wandering into the main Betting Arena to see how that worked (I had been using the the tote windows beforehand). 

This clearly was where the real bookmakers operated.  Serious looking chaps who stood on a raised platform in front of a board, chalking up swiftly changing odds in response to the notes being handed over.  They operated win-only betting here, with a £5 minimum stake.  I stood and watched as folks wandered up handing over fistfuls of currency, which were then casually dropped into an open briefcase; generally in exchange for a small ticket, but often with just a trusting nod between bookie and punter.

I found it all fascinating - and not a little hypnotic - and just before Race 5 commenced I deviated from my carefully thought-out scheme and self-consciously wandered up to one of the stalls and placed £10 on the greyhound in Trap Four to win.  This would return me, I was pleased to note, £50 if my doggie (with the odd name of Haliska Rubra) came up with the goods.  

Unfortunately it in came second, behind Dog Three – and it was only when the tote payouts came up on a screen did I realise I had fucked up big style.  Had I stuck to my original plan, my Traps Three and Four Reverse Odds bet would have won me somewhere between £70 and £80.  Shite!!  

Down-heartened and pissed-off, I boycotted Race 6 in protest, but returned to my system for Races 7-9: £5 Reverse Forecast bets, this time choosing Traps One and Four.  But again, three losers.  I really should have noticed a pattern here. 

I have no idea who is being interviewed here, but the piper's role was to
pipe the winning dog from the kennels to the podium after each race

Race 1.

The Race 1 dogs approach the Finishing Line.  Winner Notonyournellie is in orange to the left.

Winner of the first race Notonyournellie gets the musical treatment.

.....and here he/she is on the winner podium, the prize for which was £46

Panorama of Shawfield Stadium.

And so to the 2018 Scottish Greyhound Derby – it's total race prize money of £24,350 in stark contrast to the paltry £122 which had been up for grabs in the previous race.

What to do?  I was £45 down, with just £5 left in the allocated gambling fund.  The bookmakers up on their podia were offering enticingly long odds on one of the dogs (Dropzone), and I knew a win with this un' would certainly recoup the majority my losses.  But in a six horse (or greyhound) race, odds this favourable suggested to me this animal may not have quite the same number of legs as it's rivals.

And anyway, having a friend with the surname Farren, I had already decided the mutt in Lane Two  called Black Farren was the one for me.  Although I was touch puzzled to read in the programme that the dog possessed “lid-pinging possibilities”.  What on earth were they?  And were they good things for a dog to have?

So, inevitably, I did what gamblers, to the delight of bookmakers everywhere, have been doing since time immemorial, and threw bad money after good in order to attempt to recoup my losses....and shoved £25 to win onto my choice at odds of 4/1.

The bookie man took my hard-earned with barely a flicker, giving me a wee ticket after gabbling to his colleague “Five pony on two dog ninety three”.  Or some such arcane incantation.

This was by far the most I had ever bet on anything, I think, and with a grim inevitability, my dog came in last.

From being Mr Smug at the start of the evening, having laid down my own inviolate rules of engagement, I had allowed myself to be effortlessly seduced by the prospect of easy money and, as a consequence, had ended up skulking out of Shawfield Stadium with my wallet £70 lighter. 

We live and (one hopes) learn.

The pre-Big Race scrum in The Betting Area, as folks (including me) battle to pay the bookies' mortgage for them.

2018 Scottish Greyhound Derby Winner, The Other Reg.


Protest banner by CAGED - Campaign Against Greyhound Exploitation & Death

Just after I had arrived at Shawfield the banner above was placed just outside the stadium by, I assume, members of CAGED.  Upon seeing it I realised I had, rather ashamedly, had never really given much thought to the welfare of the greyhounds either during their career (if that is the correct term) or afterwards.

I got chatting to a couple of dog owners/trainers in the car park from, coincidentally, my mother's home town of Stockton-on-Tees, who acknowledged there were, as in most areas of life, instances of both bad and good practice.  But stressed those few rogue trainers were far outnumbered by responsible ones, they taking pains to assure me they ensured all their dogs were appropriately re-homed once their racing days were past.

That being said, and I had no reason to doubt these chaps, even the most cursory perusal of the CAGED website (link below) brings up some harrowing stuff:

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