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GREYHOUNDS: Final curtain at Sandy Lane
EMOTIONS ran high as the curtain finally came down on greyhound racing at Oxford Stadium on Saturday.
It was a night full of sorrow for many, who were devastated that their favourite sport is no more at Sandy Lane after owners, the Greyhound Racing Association, decided the business is not viable and announced they plan to flatten the site to make way for 225 homes.
A few celebrated the fact that greyhound racing lasted there for 75 years, while it was a sobering experience for some of the younger staff who have lost their jobs.
Richard Dunn, of RD Racing, generously sponsored the farewell card and the atmosphere was strangely not that down- in-the-mouth, as a fantastic crowd of almost 2,000 made it a special night.
For me, it was one of the best greyhound attendances I have witnessed in my 39 years at the track.
The racing office did the punters proud with the action, even though dogs had to be withdrawn from the original card as they had been entered at their new tracks.
They even managed to throw in a dead heat as the Angie Kibble-trained Builders Fantasy came with a devastating late burst to cross the line together with Gilly Hepden’s MS Calypso in a thrilling finish to race six.
Salthill Foxy, owned and trained by Ron Peckham, got the show on the road with a six-and-a-half lengths win in the opening race, while it was left to Richard Baker’s Moorstown Mystique to record the last-ever victory here.
Owner Dave Reynolds, based in Gloucester, seemed more delighted to receive the winner’s jacket than the trophy – a nice souvenir.
There is so much speculation as to what happens to the track now. Will it be bulldozed or might there be a new buyer?
Oxford City Council has intimated it is likely to refuse planning permission for housing, so what will builders Galliard Homes do with the site if they are turned down? Watch this space.
This is where I sign off. I have met some nice people over the years covering the sport for the Mail and the closure will be as much a wrench for me as it is the racegoers, but life must go on.