Biggest greyhound races

Greyhound Racing
Nancy W Beach [CC BY-SA]
Like all sports, there are some greyhound races that are bigger and better than others. All dogs will be striving to improve enough to qualify and the amount of money on the line can be life changing for both owners and trainers.

The UK hosts some of the biggest races in the world, but it is a global sport, so we will be looking at races globally in the article. With over 3.5 million people attending greyhound races each year, the sport is doing OK again after a fair few years on the decline.

It’s races like the ones included in this article that have kept the sport alive, especially for those in the UK.

Here’s a full list of the biggest greyhound races in the UK and around the world.

English Greyhound Derby

Rapid Ranger
Credit: Gidhart Wikicommons

The Derby is the biggest race of the year, and by some distance too. In fact, it’s the biggest greyhound race in the world, so it gets a huge amount of media attention as a result.

The race has been running since 1927 and is currently hosted at the Nottingham Greyhound stadium. Interestingly, the race has been held at a number of tracks of late and moved to Nottingham in 2019 after Towcester Racecourse was closed down. Towcester only hosted the race twice as it took over from a long-standing relationship with Wimbledon dog track, who also closed in 2017 after hosting the race since 1985. It has been rumoured that the Derby will be moved about to different tracks all over the UK to spread the wealth that the race produces between the tracks and the racing community.

The prize money on offer eclipses pretty much every race in the calendar with a purse of £175,000 up for grabs. There have only been a handful of multiple winners for the race, which have included Westmead Hawk in 2006 and 2005, Rapid Ranger in 2000 and 2001, and Patricias Hope in 1973 and 1972.

The length of the race has changed over the years to accommodate the different tracks that it’s been running at. The first year it was run at White City over 500 yards, but this was increased to 525 yards. The White City Stadium then changed this to 500m, in keeping with the metric system that the track had now switched to. Running at Wimbledon was slightly shorter at 480m with both Towcester and Nottingham going back to the original 500m tracks.

Scottish Greyhound Derby

Shawfield StadiumScotland’s equivalent of the Derby takes place at Shawfield stadium and is the biggest race in Scotland by some distance.

Unlike the nomadic English version, the race has been held at Shawfield since 1970, although it did move for a few years in 1987 and 1988 whilst renovation work was carried out at the Shawfield site.

The race has been running since 1928 and in that time has managed to host some legendary winners, including Some Picture in 1997, Fear Me in 2006, and then Swift Hoffman in 2015.

It comes with a purse of £20,000 and the race is very much seen as a feeder for the English Derby given that it’s run in the early part of the year in April.

Greyhound Grand National

The Greyhound Grand National is another iconic event that is held at Central Park. It’s unique in that it’s a hurdle race, which is not all that common compared to flay racing. The race comes with 3 preliminary rounds and the winners will face off in the final, usually around October time.

The race has seen some of the greats compete over the years and as a result, is one of the most anticipated races of the year.

First held in 1927, there have been just two dead heats in its almost 100 years of existence, coming firstly in 1991 and then 8 years later in 1999.

Irish Greyhound Derby

Greyhound Painting Dublin
Credit: William Murphy Flickr

The Irish Derby is the biggest race of the greyhound racing calendar in Ireland and comes with a prize pool of €125,000, making it the second largest race in the UK. It’s been running since 1928 and now has strong ties with both the Scottish and the English variants, with successful dogs going on to run in one or both of the qualifiers for the pinnacle of the sport.

Qualifying for the Derby is pretty relentless and takes months of planning with all levels of dogs allowed to enter. However, it’s usually only A-Grade dogs that make the final cut, making for a world class field of racing.

What’s interesting about the Irish Derby is that they get a lot of English trainers trying to qualify for the race, but the Irish trainers tend not to bother with the English derby, even though the prize money is significantly higher.

The most iconic dog from the Irish Derby is that of Spanish Battleship. The dog is the only one to have won any of the UK-based derby’s three times, doing so in 1953, 1954, and 1955 in an incredible period of dominance for the dog.

3 Steps to Victory

This is one of the newest competitions to grace the greyhound circuit, but it has been massively popular, even though it’s only been running since 2004. The “3-steps” are three races all run at different distances. These are 480m, 500m and 660m.

There are several qualifying rounds at each stage and the dog to win them all and then the final will be crowned the winner.

There have been some big name winners already, including Swift Hansel in 2018, trained by Anna Thompson, and Ballymac Eske, trained by Barrie Draper and also setting a new course record around the host track of Owlerton Stadium in Sheffield.

Melbourne Cup

Greyhound Striding
AngMoKio [CC BY-SA]
The Melbourne Cup is the highlight of the Greyhound Racing calendar and also the final part of the $1 million Superdogs Series that runs every year. The cup has been going since 1956 and was originally hosted at Sandown Park, where it’s still run today.

It’s not only one of the biggest races in Australia, but in fact the world, with a $350,000 prize pool up for grabs.

One of the most impressive wins came in 2011 when Dyna Tron smashed the fastest time at the track and in the race winning in just 29.11 seconds.