The Sandown Greyhound Racing Club celebrated its Diamond Jubilee on Thursday 8 September 2016.
To mark the occasion, take a look back at how it all began with a special series of stories –
The Sandown Park Coursing Club (with the late Jack McKenna as Secretary) began racing on the present Sandown Racecourse in 1935 and continued there until 1952 with only a two year break during the war. Speed coursing (live hare) was then conducted at the present site until December 1955. The Sandown Greyhound Racing Club commenced ‘mechanical hare’ racing on the current site on Saturday 8 September 1956 before a crowd of 6,000 and overseeing a betting ring of 53 bookmakers. The combined stake money on offer for that first meeting was $600. To put that fact in perspective, the field for a modern Melbourne Cup final would typically boast collective earnings in excess of $1 million.
The original track incorporated a grass surface, but heavy usage contributed to maintenance difficulties, resulting in the decision to change over to a sand track in 1964. The introduction of ‘mechanical hare’ racing (more popularly known as the “tin hare”) at Sandown coincided with the most significant change to night entertainment in that era, the advent of television. The impact of television undoubtedly slowed the early growth of the sport, however greyhound racing received an enormous boost when TAB betting was introduced in 1966.
The introduction of computerised Tote equipment in 1974 facilitated the launch of Trifecta betting which proved an instant hit with punters and to this day accounts for approximately one half of all on-course turnover. Plans to build a new grandstand were conceived in 1982 and realised in 1986 with the construction of the Henry Harrison grandstand, a predominantly glass structure, the design of which substantially influenced the architecture of the current Caulfield Racecourse grandstand.
Sandown Greyhound Racing Club milestones
1956 – Sandown Park opens on Saturday 1 September 1956
1963 – The Sandown Cup is run for the first time
1964 – Grass track is converted to sand
1966 – TAB betting begins
1966 – McKenna Hall is completed
1970 – Club Bar opens
1974 – Computerized tote equipment sees the introduction of trifecta betting
1986 – Henry Harrison Grandstand opens
1993 – Greyhounds Entertainment opens
1993 – The Topgun is run for the first time. Golden Currency and Worth Backing dead-heat
1995 – Track is rebuilt and new kennel block is completed
1998 – Shootout is run for the first time
2010 – $3m renovation of the Henry Harrison grandstand
2010 – 595m start, Burumbeet sand and new starting boxes introduced
2012 – Melbourne Cup becomes greyhound racing’s first $500,000 race
2014 – Melbourne Cup elevated to $600,000
2015 – Match racing returns
2016 – The Sandown Greyhound Racing Club celebrates 60 years