THE Southland Greyhound Racing Club hopes to celebrate 30 years of racing at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill this month.
Although the club has been in existence for 49 years, its first race day at Ascot Park Raceway was held on Saturday, September 14, 1991.
Depending on the Covid-19 lockdown level, club members hope to celebrate this milestone almost 30 years to the day when they host greyhound racing on Sunday, September 12, at the raceway.
After the club was established in 1972, greyhounds were originally raced at Trevor Robinson’s property at Woodlands with the first official meeting taking place there on November 9, 1974.
Fun days at the same venue in the mid-1960s preceded the formation of the club.
The club then moved to race at the Invercargill Showgrounds from March 20, 1976, until 1991 with the first restricted tote meeting held on November 15, 1978.
While races were held at the showgrounds, the track was being established at Ascot Park Raceway in time for the September 1991 debut.
Southland Greyhound Racing Club secretary Bronwyn Eade said it was done on a shoestring budget of about $67-$70,000 and much was achieved with voluntary labour.
“The lure system was from Noel Bramich in Australia, while my dad, Les McLeod, through his business Les McLeod Contracting, put the track in.
“The track was grass until 2007 when, with the help of a grant from the ILT, sand from Oreti Beach was put in by Noel McIntyre Drainage to make it the safest track surface in New Zealand.
“It is the only track in the South Island with one big bend and long straights, plus it is the only track in New Zealand which operates as part of a Tricode facility with greyhound, harness and thoroughbred racing all held at the course,” Eade said.
To celebrate, the club will hold the 30th Anniversary of Racing at Ascot Park Invercargill Cup for a stake of $10,000. Other races on the programme on the day will be named after dogs which won on the first race day at Ascot.
Some pet greyhounds which are part of the Greyhounds As Pets programme (GAP), which rehomed greyhounds after their racing days were over, will also be at the raceway for members of the public to interact with.
There will also be a tote operator on-course, Mr Whippy, free pies, sandwiches, savouries, cakes, tea and coffee as well as a lolly giveaway for the children and the club will also reveal details of a competition for the public to be held in the near future.
The weekly Southern Farmers Market will also take place at the course on the day and the club welcomes market-goers to take in some races while there.
The club has some memorabilia on the wall of the north grandstand at the course outlining part of its history and journey to establish greyhound racing at Ascot Park Raceway.
The club intends to unveil a plaque at the September 12 meeting to mark 30 years of racing at the venue.
Members of the public are encouraged to come along and join the club in celebrating the milestone.
The action will start at noon with free admission.
- Lindsay Beer, on behalf of the Southland Greyhound Racing Club