WHEN THE CHAMP CAME TO TOWN.
Scurlogue Champ and Ballyregan Bob could be classed as the greatest two greyhounds that ever graced the UK greyhound tracks during the 1980’s. Yet it is Scurlogue Champ that is discussed in this paragraph, a black dog whelped during July 1982. He was purchased at the Shelbourne Park sales as 22 month old pup that cost Mr Ken Peckham a mere £1700. He was brought to England to be trained by George Drake, and soon it was clear that he became renowned for his strong finishing. He soon became a crowds favourite winning 51 races out of 63 starts including 20 track records and huge scalps such as the 1985 Cesarewitch and the BBC Television Trophy. But lets not forget his visit to Whitwood, a small ex flapping track near Castleford in West Yorkshire. It was during Whitwood’s NGRC reign in November 1985 that more than 3,000 racegoers turned out to see the great Champ himself smash the track record over 835 metre trip, the famous hound winning by a distance of 18 length at a price of 4 to 1 on. It seems very unfortunate that in this day and age that it remains very unlikely that these great crowd pleasers will ever appear on British Television again.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WHITWOOD GREYHOUND STADIUM
Whitwood Greyhound Stadium was situated two miles south west of Castleford in West Yorkshire, found within easy reach of the M62, just half a mile north of junction 31. It was during 1938 that a greyhound track began to develop on the site of an old coal mine, the abandoned land being riddled with disused pit shafts and huge piles of rubble. The venue became known as the Wheatsheaf Greyhound Track, named after the public house that lay close by, and began life as a flapping track, staging its first meeting during 1939. It had been purposely built to host Greyhound Racing, and that is how it operated for decades until the venue closed for as number of years during the 1970’s. It reopened for business once again in June 1979, but this time as a Multi-purpose sports venue, as Grass Track Speedway was contested on a circuit constructed within the infield of the greyhound track. This venture continued until the following Summer, but a dispute between landlord and tenant, forced the speedway to cease in July 1980. After changing its name to The Whitwood Greyhound Stadium, it closed in 1982, but not too alarmingly as the tracks owner had announced that he was in a position to invest and upgrade the stadium. His first aim was to dig up the old familiar D shaped turfed circuit, a move which would see 3,000 tons of earth being shifted to make way for a more regular oval shaped track, with the new running surface being that of the new silica sand type. New track lights became added, along with the car park being tarmacked, the judges box being repositioned to assist betting viewing for the public, and extensive refurbishment to the licensed bars. But things were to change even more in July 1985, when the track was accepted by the NGRC to run under its rules on a permit scheme. This move had seen Whitwood become the first track in the north to do so, since the then closed Halifax track had done so in 1978. The New changes had also seen seventy new kennels constructed within the tracks boundaries just to coincide with regulations. But Whitwoods promising future did not go to plan, as the track reverted back to an independent one eighteen months later, the main reasons being increased costs for registrations and license fees had not gone down to well with trainers.Yet it was during its NGRC reign in November 1985 that more than 3,000 racegoers turned out to see the great Scurlogue Champ smash the track record over 835 metre trip, the famous hound winning by a distance of 18 length at a price of 4 to 1 on. Regular events were run with six dog races, contested over distances of 100, 275, 460, 650 and 835 metres, with the hounds chasing an inside Sumner type hare. Its big race attractions were The Strongbow Cider Sponsored meeting, and The Spring Cup run over the 460 metre trip. Further uses of the stadium had seen a Golfing Range marked out within the infield of the greyhound track. By the late 1990’s the future of the stadium looked in doubt, after an announcement had confirmed that the council had purchased the venue with a view of possible redevelopment. In 2000 the tracks promoters approached the council regarding the renewal of the lease, but terms could not be agreed, possibly down to the council having other ideas for the use of the site in the near future. The closure of the track had been expected, with its final meeting being a charity one, set for the 18th of February 2001. By October of that year the venue had been demolished, yet the site would lay abandoned for a good number of years before any further activities took place. Eventually part of the site became covered with new industrial units, but the rest of the land became nothing more than mounds of earth and a cluster of trees, which fortunately offers evidence of were one of the tracks bends used to be. Its once location is found set back just off Altofts Lane, more pinpointed at the rear of The Bridge Inn, which is mentioned earlier and was once known as The Wheatsheaf, yet most of the track disappeared beneath a large business unit.