Every sport has its pinnacle event. From the Super Bowl and the NBA Championship Finals to the soccer World Cup and the Stanley Cup, there is that one game that all aspiring sporting stars dream of competing in.
Greyhound racing may be considered rather more quaint than those showpiece occasions, but even so, it still has its own ‘major’ – the English Greyhound Derby.
Apart from a gap in the schedule caused by the Second World War, the Greyhound Derby has been run every year since 1927. To that end, it’s one of the oldest ongoing sporting events in the world. And it has the royal seal of approval too, with the late Prince Phillip owning the 1968 winner, Camira Flash.
We are deeply saddened to hear that His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has passed away aged 99
— GBGB (@GreyhoundBoard) April 9, 2021
There were fears for the future of the race after Wimbledon Stadium was sold, with no permanent home found since. However, it has now been confirmed that Towcester Greyhound Stadium will take on hosting duties for the foreseeable future, and that assurance is exactly what an occasion of this magnitude requires.
The greyhound betting odds for the 2022 Derby have been published as well, with the early favorite Explosive Boy priced at +2000, who will be looking to follow the proud lineage of Irish dogs in the race – the likes of Paul Hennessy and Pat Buckley have enjoyed success in the race in recent years.
Jackslittlething is a prolific winner on the circuit and is listed as joint second-favorite at +2500, and his connections will be hoping for a continuation of that at Towcester, while Buckley – the 2020 Derby winner – will be on training duties for Knocknaboul Syd (+2500), another that has caught the eye of the betting community.
To the victor will go the spoils – a handsome prize for first place of £175,000 ($235,000) sets the scene nicely, and of course, beyond that, it’s a chance to secure a place in the rich lineage of greyhound racing’s most prestigious race.
A Storied History
As we know today, soccer and cricket have gone on to become the sports of choice for the masses in the UK, but a century ago the landscape was slightly different.
Instead, two other pursuits ruled the roost when it came to sporting interest – horse and greyhound racing.
With the struggles of greyhound racing in recent years, which include masses of stadium closures and a general apathy that has led to dwindling attendances, it’s something of a surprise when you learn the staggering numbers that the sport enjoyed in its heyday from the 1920s to the 1960s.
🗓️ ON THIS DAY in history…
Mick The Miller became the first greyhound to claim back to back English Greyhound Derby victories when winning the 1929 and 1930 races. pic.twitter.com/7u8W31liFk
— Sporting Life (@SportingLife) June 28, 2020
Back then, it’s estimated that 70 million people would watch greyhound racing in the UK each year, and in 1939 an astonishing 92,000 spectators crammed into the now-demolished White City Stadium in London to watch the action unfold.
It was the loss of the White City Stadium, and the demolition of its successor at Wimbledon, that has partially led to the decline in interest in the sport, with fewer opportunities to watch greyhound racing locally for many in the UK. Out of sight, out of mind as the old saying goes.
But the Greyhound Derby remains one of the most iconic and storied sporting occasions for Brits to enjoy, and with Towcester on board perhaps the future is looking a lot rosier than it has for some time.