Friday, July 1, 2011

Greyhound racing in Shelbourne Park

"Capable performer. Emerged a decent winner June 22. Up in grade & needs luck." - form guide for Erins Romeo, dog 6 in the final race

I arrived at Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium with almost no idea of what to expect. There'd be dogs and gambling, I was pretty sure - and that was about all I knew. I'd been to Punchestown once to get rained on and lose money on horses with silly names; maybe this would be similar.

Well, no. The names were just as colourful but I enjoyed Shelbourne Park much more than Punchestown. It's conveniently located (in Dublin 4); the service, food and drink were all excellent; and it all just felt fun. Admittedly I was in a corporate hospitality suite with a tipster on hand to explain how everything worked, but nonetheless I was impressed.

The racing itself worked well. There were five or six dogs in each race, running a single lap of the stadium. This produced quick races, typically about 30 seconds in length. The pacing was just right - plenty of time to chat, enjoy the hospitality and of course place bets, but with frequent enough races to keep up the excitement and interest.

Betting was by tote rather than with fixed odds. The tote system means that bets are pooled, and payouts are determined based on the punters' collective selections rather than on odds offered by a bookie at the time of the bet. (I think fixed odds were available elsewhere in the stadium, down by the track.) I'm unfamiliar with the inner workings of the tote but fortunately the system is computerised and fast: I didn't need to understand how exactly the calculations were done to get the general idea. Placing bets was made very easy, with helpful staff taking bets at the table. No queuing, no hassle.

The small number of dogs in each race was, I think, an advantage. For a novice it meant that betting on a dog to win would produce an enjoyably high likelihood of success. Mostly I bet on dogs to place i.e. come first or second. There are various more complicated forms of bet available as well, such as forecasts, trios and jackpots.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and left wanting more. Highly recommended.

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