TOWCESTER WAS NOT THE ONLY ONE.
The short existance of Towcester Greyhound Racecourse still remains fresh in our minds, and even to the odd few would sense that it may have been the rebirth of Greyhound Racing with the rest of us at least seeing it as a glimmer of hope in the right direction. For a while it seemed as though it had established itself as the flag ship of our sport, hosting two English Derby’s and also thinking that its links to a Horse Racecourse was the way forward. Yet its link with Horse Racing was unique in its own way, as it had only been the second time in the sports history that an established greyhound track had been constructed within the grounds of a Horse Racing Circuit. Although greyhound racing had featured for just nine meetings only at Ensbury Park in Bournemouth during 1928, it could never be classed as a permanent venue. The venue I am about to describe was the independent track in the Devon town of Newton Abbot.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF NEWTON ABBOT GREYHOUND TRACK.
Greyhound Racing had been staged in Newton Abbot once before, during the 1930’s at a recreation ground situated very close to the town centre. But it was the track at the racecourse that some of us may still reemember as it was less than fifteen years it ago since it closed. The birth of the track was triggered due to the demise of the old Halfway indepoendent track on the outskirts of Torquay. Two business men one of which was the licensee at The Hare and Hounds Public House which lay directly opposite the old Halfway track, was given the go ahead to construct a track on the meadow within the Horse racing circuit. It was during early 1974 that the circuit began to take shape, with its main focal point being an old Double Decker bus, which acted as a judges box, the time keepers hut and also housed the photo finish equipment. There was also the construction of a temporary stand, temporary meaning it had to be removed in the event of horse race meetings. There was even a caravan set up to house the totalisator equipment. Its inaugural meeting came on a Thursday evening of the 2nd of May 1974, with a special charity event arranged by the local Lions Club, with the intention of raising an expected £2,000 for the Newton Abbot Hospital Geriatrics Ward.The night of the event did not exactly go to plan, adverse weather conditions reduced the largely expected crowd to just around 500. Unfortunately, the target figure hoped fell way short, to just £300, with the majority of the cash having been guaranteed donations from local business’s prior to the meeting. The following Monday brought with it a lovely Spring evening, when another 500 racegoers attended an eight race event. Even this meeting wasn’t without its demons, as the first race became delayed due to a fault with the traps, and the fourth race became void due to an escaped greyhound joining the race, not only that, the photo finish failed to work also. Throughout the tracks existence it remained an independent track, with meetings consisting of six dog races contesting over distances of 325, 482, 525 and 762 yards, with the hounds chasing an inside Sumner type hare. Its big race attractions had been The Newton Abbot Oaks, and The Derby, both run over the 525 yard trip. In the tracks latter years, Newton Abbot had had its fair share of problems, sometimes suffering from suggested sabotage and vandalism. Closure came due to not only poor attendances and limited racing entries, but for the fact the racecourse wanted rid of the greyhound track. The promoter had been unable to agree terms regarding a new contract, with the lease being terminated immediately, and a fourteen day eviction notice was ordered. It was later revealed that the racecourse wanted rid of the greyhound track due to them having to widen the horse race circuit to meet safety regulations. The tracks final meeting came on the 7th of October 2005, with the following weeks witnessing the dismantling of all its outbuildings and fittings, leaving nothing more than just the sanded track. The following years had seen nature contribute to the disappearance of the circuit too, leaving nothing but scars of disrupted earth in the shape of a greyhound track, only visible from satellite views. Today, Newton Abbot racecourse still pleasantly thrives, with its vast car parks and huge stands, unmistakable when heading out of the town along Newton Road towards Kingsteignton.