Friday, July 30, 2010

Thing 108 Greyhound Racing

In the many days to come, when I'm putting myself through some ridiculous torture in the name of The Project, and when I'm sore and cranky or cold and weary I'll remember greyhound racing in Galway. And I'll probably smile.

If you've been reading this blog, then you already know I'm a terrible gambler. I don't know enough about gambling, and when I tried to learn about horse racing for the festival in Galway, I lost my money and tore up many stubs and was unhappy with the world. Packed it in after the second day to dress up like Mr T. Much preferable. Still have the mo-hawk by the way...

So the idea of heading back to Galway for more gambling, but this time on dogs, didn't exactly tickle me. I was unimpressed at the idea of losing more money and standing around watching animals I'd bet on fair poorly. I kind of felt responsible, like their losing was somehow my fault. If it is then there are some horse trainers in the west of Ireland that hate me right about now.

But I was interested to see what the story was. Cue Dave Griffin from Loughrea, who's Dad knows nothing about dog-racing (his Da told me himself), but who has learned for himself how to train a good dog. With his help, his family's help and the help of Fintan (the boss man at the Galway dog track), I get to see how it all goes down.

Awesomely is how it all goes down.
Dave's current dog is named Ben. His racing name is Forty Two Fifty - there's a funny story to that name, but we haven't time to get into it. That's me and Ben taking a walk on the track. It's the parade before the race. Before the parade though there's other stuff...

The dog's got to be weighed. Claire the Secretary in Galway wouldn't let Dave check in the dog. Since I'm the guest trainer I had to do it. Class. I'm a greyhound trainer now. After weigh in, Ben gets a bit of kip in a kennel - he's not going to hit the track till the ninth race. So we pop up for a bite to eat. Chips and a burger? No thanks. Steak dinner please. Fancy restaurant, overlooking the track. Tote Officers stroll to the tables and take two euro bets on each race (you can do more than two euro if you like, but with my luck this week, I just didn't feel like throwing away more money). Still... Token Northy fancies North Gold, so we'll put money on anyway. More lost money. I'm starting to think I'm cursed here.
So when the time comes to spring Ben from his kennel, I get to put on my trainer jacket and parade him out for the punters to get a look at him. Rearing to go isn't even the word. For all the leanness of him, Ben's a big powerful dog. Can't wait to go running. The stadium's buzzing, the whole Griffin family's turned out (and kind of adopted me and Token Northy) and Paddy Gorman who's seen more dog races than I've had hot dinners is getting the dogs ready (Paddy's been at the track for literally decades - he's part and parcel of the races there). I can't resist. Five euro each way on Number 2.
Ben bursts out of his trap like a bullet. In front from the start. Then he kind of gets bored a little and slips back into second, and I'm thinking that my bad luck is affecting Dave's dog. Second to last bend and Ben decides it's time to put on the speed again... He bunches his back legs and tears into the track. First place by half a length!! Get in there Ben!! What a dog!!

I'm done with horse racing anyway folks. Done and dusted. Roll on the opening of the new Limerick course. What a seriously great night.

Honestly, this is the kind of thing I could do more often. It was a fun night out. Not the normal pubs and the normal routine. It was full of characters and banter. I love characters and banter. Bet small if you like. Bet big if you prefer. Have a bite to eat inside, or pop down trackside to watch the dogs cross the line. No wonder Token Northy likes it so much. It's kind of intoxicating. I know I'm not going to get to parade a dog out every time I go, but I don't care.

Every so often this Project is very good to me!


  1. Bravo Dan, very entertaining reading. I was there last night too, but I work there. You must have come in the back gate, eh?
    This thing will read like propaganda for the track, they'll lap this shit up!

  2. The greyhound racing was good, but the donkey derby at the end was the most entertaining event of the evening. Especially when the donkeys decided they'd rather be somewhere other than on the racetrack...

  3. I flipping love that dog. Go on Ben!!!

  4. Fair play to you for showing the positive side of dog racing - its a great sport to be involved in and really addicitve. so when will u be getting ur first dog !!!! From Lorraine Trainer/owner of many a slow greyhound !!!