Good as old cheese

A hot day in winter, the vagaries of the racetrack and the complexities of the Totalisator Agency Board almost cost David Loughrey $20 this week. He went to bear witness to the lure of the greyhound and the mind-set of the gambling man. Only the absurdities of luck saved the day.

Scratched in the white paint above the men's toilet at Forbury Park is the most enigmatic graffiti.

It may be the work of an absurdist; referencing the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find it.

Then again, it could be a Dadaist or surrealist statement.

Whatever, it reads: ''I AM A CHEESE SANDWICH.''

In its own small way, it sets the scene for an afternoon at the dogs; the Otago Greyhound Racing Club's Tuesday meeting in the heart of South Dunedin.

Winne Willow was probably left pondering the absurdity of existence, and the surreal nature of greyhound racing, after the Otago Bitches Feature Sprint this week.

Winne has the light, jaunty walk of an athlete; whippet thin, she trots by with a cheeky, almost flirtatious curl of the tail and a hungry glint in her eye.

She is a champion, and looks well worth $5 for a win at the TAB.

There is plenty of barking and howling out the back of the greyhound building, but once the animals are leashed and ready to be walked out to the traps they are quiet, pensive and still.

White-shirted, black-panted handlers perform a solemn procession round the track, walking the hounds past the neat South Dunedin bungalows, towards the advertising placards and the starting boxes.

Eight handlers bend and fuss over their charges, as they guide them into the traps.

''They're boxed up,'' says the commentator.

''They're ready to jump.''

Each race is preceded by the echoing rattle and hiss of the lure (colloquially known as the `bunny') as it rockets towards the greyhounds on its steel track.

The gates lift, and eight animals explode from the traps.

Winne Willow is towards the rear of the field, but heading into the turn is still in the pack, with time to turn on the pace.

Then things go awry.

Two, maybe three dogs come together in the streaking canine blur, and Winne ricochets out of the pack.

In the language of the commentator, ''It was chaos out the back; Winne Willow was spat out.''

Bless her fast-beating heart, Winne doesn't give up, but it is too late to make up for lost time.

The sprint is won in ''a good time'' of 18.49sec by a greyhound not named Winne Willow - $5 down.





















• It was warm at Forbury Park.

Dunedin, in fact, was the warmest place in the country.

The sun is low and bright, and hurts the eyes.

The city's hills wrap the flat in their hulking darkness, and together with the Frances Hodgkins Retirement Village that looms nearby, they look down with an air of judgement.

In the grandstand half a dozen cops sit in a huddle, laughing and taking selfies.

The rest of the grandstand is empty.

There is a friendly gentleman, who says he loves the Otago Daily Times, and who gives just the sort of helpful information a fellow needs at the track - a tip.

Tracey runs at number three in the Brian Bagley Driver Licensing stakes.

Tracey has the light, jaunty walk of an athlete; whippet thin, she trots with by with a cheeky, almost flirtatious curl of the tail and a hungry glint in her eye.

She is a champion, and looks well worth $5 for a win at the TAB.

But Tracey faces some tough competition in race three. Opawa Messini and Botany Liz are no pushovers.

She bursts from the traps, and shoots down the track in a furious blur of legs, paws and tail.

Just a head behind Opawa Messini, Tracey uses every last bit of her energy - she really, really tries.

She comes second.

''Tracey put in a big effort,'' the commentator says - $10 down.
















• In Wobbly's Bar, under the main stand, three jokers share a jug, a couple of young blokes play pool, and the attire de jour is work boots, check shirts and T-shirts.

An older gentleman leans on the bar and passes the time of day with the barman, while others drink and chat.

''Hi Burt.''

''I'm good, how are you?''''She's in day care.''

''I'm going to the hairdresser.''

Photos of horses and jockeys grace the wall, and the bistro sells mushroom soup, roast beef and pork.

On the screen by the TAB in the corner, race four, the Green Island Barber Stakes, features Fancy Kiwi.

You can't see Fancy Kiwi, but you can imagine the light, jaunty walk of an athlete; whippet thin, trotting by with a cheeky, almost flirtatious curl of the tail and a hungry glint in the eye.

Clearly a champion, and well worth $3 for a win, and $3 for a place (in case of a second or third).

''Race 4, number 6, please.''

But not stipulating which meeting you want to bet on is a trap for a young player - the ticket is for Bowman in the Christchurch Greyhounds Vital Petfood Sprint.

''You want to cancel?'' the guy asks.

''Hang on, though,'' he says, ''it's closed.''

The Green Island Barber Stakes hasn't closed, though, so its $2 a win and $2 a place on Fancy Kiwi.

In this race the field is spread down the track, with the last greyhound a good 10 lengths back, happily lolloping along with a playful gait.

Fancy Kiwi wasn't last - just third last - $20 down.

But Bowman - what a dog.

Third in Christchurch, paying $4.10, and bringing home $12.30.

Well, I'll be a cheese sandwich.

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