Greyhounds action. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Greyhounds are known to be taken out for a gallop around 8 o’clock in the morning. Indeed, when the sun was shining with some strength in the summer gone by, trainers were on the beach for well-watered gallops with their charges even well before that, the idea being to prevent them from becoming stressed or dehydrated, which is always a possibility in very warm weather.
Galloping is an essential part of a longtail’s training regime, and giving them a run in the morning before their brekkers is recommended. There’s also walking (sometimes on a machine), massaging, grooming and, when they’re being prepared for a race, trialling.
I‘m speaking here from experience, having at one time had a fairly active kennel down at the bottom of the garden. Success was mixed with failure, but what was indisputable was the degree of fun myself and the others about the place got from what was essentially a pastime.
I was reminded of the early-day regime by the news last week that there’s to be racing at the Kilkenny and Waterford tracks at around 8 in the morning. Beginning later this month, the dogs are due to go to traps for the first time at Kilkenny at 8:18 on Wednesdays, and then in the new year, at the same time at Waterford on Thursday mornings. As my pal, Peter, says: Live long enough and you’ll see everything.
It’s all designed to provide betting fodder for more than 4,000 UK-based betting shops and also the Asian and Australian markets, the pictures from the Irish tracks coming in via satellite. Betting offices in this country won’t be able to fully benefit - the law doesn’t allow them to open most days until 10 o’clock, and by then most of the races will have been run off.
Daybreak racing, we’ll call it, is not new. It’s already part of the UK schedule, having been introduced a few months ago. How many punters and bookies attend these meetings is not known, but there must be enough of them there to create a market.
As these words trickle on to the screen, my mind goes back to the 1980s when a race was run at the old Dundalk track at 1 o’clock in the morning. No, the hare didn’t break down or anything like that causing a delay; it was a carry-over from the big International meeting run the night before.
The Hughes brothers, Kevin and Colm, well known in the bookmaking industry, came up with the idea of running a sweepstake involving twelve local GAA clubs. Each club had its name attached to a runner, and whichever of them won would receive a set of jerseys.
Two semi-finals were run off on the completion of the International programme, with the first three in each going through to the final. As the qualifiers would need time to recover, the final wasn’t scheduled to go off until well after the witching hour.
Well-known television racing personality, John McCririck, was MC for the International meeting, and he stayed at his post until the GAA final was decided. I don’t remember the name of the winner, but I do know that, lucky as ever, Sean O’Mahony’s were running around the San Siro in spanking new green-and-gold jerseys a few weeks later.