Blur of colour

Greyhound racing
Shelbourne Park
Wednesday 19 October (first race 8pm)

My first view of racing at Shelbourne, home of the Irish Derby, is to see the blur of colours burst out of the boxes. Black and white, orange, red, white, black and blue, go on… I’m just in time for the first race of the night and I’m right on top of the traps.

I turn to look around the grandstand of this impressive greyhound track and by time I’ve turned my attention to the action again a couple of the dogs are trailing the leader by about 40 lengths. Don’t they grade* the dogs in Ireland? I know dog racing has a dodgy reputation but this is ridiculous. A quick look at the TV screen to watch the replay, though, shows that there was a bit of crash chaos, but more thankfully all the dogs compete the race and appear to be okay.

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I love dog racing and although I’ve never been here before it feels like home from home. The bookies and other track characters could be lifted up and dropped into a track in England but what’s this I spot in the form guide? Race distances  in yards as well as metres from this bastion of Europe, surely not?

Elsewhere I notice that some of the dogs have the same dad as one of my greyhounds. Good old Kinloch Brae, he’s been working hard. The prize money is impressive for greyhounds. Have I stumbled on a bumper prize night? Winner €650 and runner-up €220 for a race including dogs on the way up (or down)? There’s nothing like that in England. But then we are in the heart of racing.

Then a gaggle of student arrive, bubbling over with previously enjoyed bubbles. In what is a real working-class sport they seem out of place next to the grumpy old guys in waxed jackets.

I grab my waxed jacket and head upstairs. The tiered restaurant is fairly busy for a Wednesday night and the lamb shanks look good. The restaurant is large and it must be buzzing on a Saturday night. There are some decent deals on a Wednesday (€29.99 for a four-course dinner) and a good number are tucking in.

A Dutch couple, on a short trip to Dublin, and at the dogs for the first time ask for help in the betting terms and the form card. “Trio Allways,” I tell them, “that’s where you’ll make the money,” and proceed to lose every race.

Ticket: €10 entry.
Drink: the bars have a decent selection of beers under €5 a pint.
Getting there: the nearest DART station is Grand Canal Dock.
Score: I didn’t lose too much.

* Dogs are graded in racing in an attempt to make each race competitive, a bit like the handicap system in horse racing.