The Sandown Greyhound Racing Club – how it all began


In 1933, two prominent coursing identities of the day, Jack McKenna and Roy Maidment colluded on an idea to promote Plumpton Coursing and Track Speed Coursing at the site now occupied by the Sandown thoroughbred course.

With the assistance of some influential coursing enthusiasts, the existing horse training establishment lease was relinquished and despite the wettest winter on record, speed coursing commenced in September 1935.

Racing continued until 1942 when the grounds were used by the US Army, and resumed in 1944. By this time the venue had become the ‘Mecca of Victorian Speed Track Racing’ due to the renowned strength of the betting ring and near faultless racing on both the straight and circle track.

The club made a failed attempt to purchase the site in 1947 before the Melbourne Racing Club successfully acquired the land in 1948 with plans to build a new state of the art thoroughbred track. The Sandown Park Coursing Club was given three years before works would begin on the new race track.

In 1950, McKenna negotiated the purchase of the land on Lightwood Road located on the other side of the railway line. The site was owned by three different interests, and following a period of negotiation, the 19 acre parcel of land was purchased for £9200.

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Work begins on the original straight and horseshoe circuits

Works began almost immediately with equipment and other infrastructure being transferred from the old site to the new, however works were ground to a halt when the Dandenong Shire Council voted 11-1 against granting approval for the club to operate on the site. McKenna was given the opportunity to address the full council which duly reversed the decision to unanimous approval.

Racing on the new track, comprising a horseshoe and straight track, commenced in September 1952 with just three weeks of racing lost in the transition between the venues.

Until this point, greyhound racing club were run on a proprietary basis, (as in, for a profit by private interests). This changed in 1955 when the state government passed legislation prohibiting proprietary racing.

The government issued two licenses for the promotion of non-proprietary racing in metropolitan Melbourne. The National Coursing Association of Australia organised the formation and registration of a company, the National Coursing Association to manage of the licenses, while the Greyhound Owners, Trainers and Breeders Association managed the other.

Confusion between the names of the National Coursing Association of Victoria and the National Coursing Association saw the later change its name to the Sandown Greyhound Racing Company, and later, the Sandown Greyhound Racing Club.

The new company purchased the existing site for £55,000 from the soon to be defunct Sandown Park Coursing Company. The price was considerably less than what the owners had been offered from other interests, however the partners in the old company was eager to see the site continue to be used as a greyhound racing venue. Jack McKenna was responsible for raising funds for the purchase of the property and achieved this by issuing £50 debenture subscriptions (earning 7% interest per annum, paid every six months and maturing after 10 years).

Works on the conversion of the day time horseshoe and straight track to a night time mechanical hare venue began in January 1956, and despite speculation the track would be ready to open as early as May 31st, the gala opening of the new venue was set for Saturday 8 September 1956.

Paw note – A second proprietary coursing track, Gracedale Park operated in Springvale from 1938 to 1955. The Springvale Town Hall now occupies the site.

 

Related:
Diamond Jubilee Part 1 – How it all began
Diamond Jubilee Part 2 – The ‘Tin Hare’ returns!
Diamond Jubilee Part 3 – Opening Night

 

Mick Floyd
About Mick Floyd - Mick is the Racing and Media Manager at Sandown Park and has 15 years of experience in the sport. He has a finely tuned talent for finding three legs of a quaddie. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter - @mickfloyd
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