Dogs’ last stand at Forbury Park today

About 3.10pm tomorrow, the Otago Greyhound Racing Club will not have a home.

While harness racing had its big farewell — in front of a boisterous crowd — from Forbury Park, the greyhounds have quietly made plans to say their own goodbyes to a ground that has been home since 1980.

Forbury Park is set to be mothballed then sold, a victim of a major review that determined maintaining it as a racing track was economically unsustainable.

The last dog meeting tomorrow could also spell the end of the Otago greyhound club, which has been a tenant at the ground, if it cannot find a new venue.

"We’ve got nothing to celebrate, to be honest," Otago Greyhound Racing Club manager John Carlyle said yesterday.

"It’s more a commiseration for us because we’re still in limbo, not knowing what out future holds.

"It’s pretty frustrating, to be honest, but it’s totally out of our hands."

The final 11-race meeting will end with the appropriately named Farewell Forbury Park Sprint.

Like the harness racing community, greyhound people in the South would experience mixed emotions on the last day, Carlyle said.

"It will very sad. I know our local people are feeling sad about it. Because our future is so uncertain, there is some frustration there as well."

The Otago club has long ruled out the idea of building a new track at Wingatui, which seems likely to end up a dual-code horse racing venue.

Instead, Carlyle hopes the powers that be will give serious thought to the club’s proposal of relocating to Oamaru, closer to where most of the major South Island dog trainers are based.

"That’s our desired objective, if you like. It’s on our wish list.

"We’ve gone down that road and done quite a bit of preparatory work on it. We’ve done some costings, and surveyed the land and everything, and designed a track.

"But that’s in the hands of Racing New Zealand and the Government, at this stage.

"If it’s not allowed then, yeah, this is probably the finish of our club, after 47 years."

The Otago club held its first meeting at Tahuna Park in 1974.

Its first meeting at Forbury Park was in January 1979, and its first totalisator meeting there was a year later.

At the peak of the sport, there were 19 trainers in the Dunedin region alone.

"We’re down to three now, and three in North Otago. It’s dropped away, just like harness racing."

Greyhound racing had a history rooted in blue-collar workers, Carlyle said.

"Thoroughbred racing was perhaps for the wealthy, the upper echelon, harness racing was somewhere in the middle, and greyhounds were for your ordinary Joe Bloggs.

"You could house a dog at home, it was easy to transport and to prepare. You just feed them and give them a run.

"A lot of the dogs are just treated as pets. Your smaller trainers, and your owner-trainers, treat dogs like they’re one of the family."

The first race at Forbury Park tomorrow is at 12.08pm.


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