As with every walk of life, Irish greyhound racing had to virtually shut down over the three months of the Covid-19 crisis. That all changed last week with the return of racing behind closed doors and, less than a week on, following the latest government advice, the Irish Greyhound Board announced that they are, once again, getting ready to open their doors to the public.
There will be serious restrictions on numbers but it will be encouraging to see patrons coming through the stiles once again. Shelbourne Park, perhaps the most famous greyhound stadium on the planet, will be able to accommodate a good number of diners in the restaurant and there will also be a cheaper casual dining option on the ground floor.
The latest guidance on indoor/outdoor gatherings also means that a limited number of punters will be permitted access through pre-paid general admission to Shelbourne Park, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Mullingar, Newbridge, Tralee and Waterford, while Youghal will manage their numbers on site.
The number entitled to general admission for each of these stadia has been capped at 50 on the basis that they remain outdoors on the stands, with controlled access to indoor facilities.
It may not sound like much but it’s one step closer to a full re-opening and it couldn’t come at a better time for those involved in greyhound racing. In the coming weeks the racing calendar will go into overdrive with the Produce Stakes commencing at Clonmel, both the Champion Stakes and Corn Cuchulainn getting underway at Shelbourne Park and Dundalk’s feature, the National Sprint starting around the same time.
Shelbourne Park will also welcome a new competition, a €10,000 event for unraced greyhounds which could see the emergence of a few potential superstars. In recent years, many of the more high-profile youngsters have emerged in similar competitions held at provincial tracks but such a large carrot should attract the big-name trainers.
The good news for those with lower quality greyhounds is that the SIS greyhound service also returns to full strength next week. Irish greyhound racing is to return to Greyhound Service with racing from 7 tracks - Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mullingar, Tralee, Waterford, and Youghal.
This weekend’s action, while behind closed doors, will attract plenty of interest with the Saturday night meeting at Shelbourne Park the feature. Once again, there will be many big names in action including the English Derby winner Priceless Blake, but the real attraction is the meeting of a number of Ireland’s most promising puppies in the ninth race, the greyhoundsaspets.ie Open 525.
Black Parachute and Killer Bee have already made their name but the likes of Ballymac Wild, Paradise Mcilroy, Kibori and Jaytee Japan have unlimited potential and any of the quartet could go on to far greater things in the future.