Caption: Grafton club president John Corrigan (Photo: Adam Hourigan, Grafton Daily Examiner)
By PAT McLEOD
There’s only one thing John Corrigan likes more than welcoming visitors to the Grafton track come winter carnival time … and that’s seeing them beaten by a local.
Corrigan, long-time club president and as much a part of Grafton greyhounds and the city as the jacarandas that line nearby streets, says the reputation of locals dominating will only be enhanced this July.
“There is one reason why it is tough to win in Grafton and that is because of the high quality of dogs and trainers that are based here,” he says in a matter-of-fact manner.
“This is a greyhound city. The first greyhounds raced here on a straight track at Carrs Creek way back in 1913.
“I guess greyhound racing is part of our DNA. There are many families here that boast a greyhound connection that goes back generations.
“So, although the sport may have been through its tough times, even here as well, the heartbeat has always been strong in Grafton.”
And nothing showcases that heartbeat better than Grafton’s July Racing Carnival. While other major carnivals may attract star-studded fields with the lure of massive prizemoney, for about 75 years the Grafton Winter Carnival has brought in quality fields and owners and trainers from across the nation with a far different attraction.
“The racing is top class, but the number one reason people keep coming back to the Grafton carnival is because of the social connections,” Corrigan says.
“Greyhound people from across the nation maintain life-long friendships at Grafton.
“It is a great social occasion.
“This carnival has a unique flavour. It is probably the only carnival in the country that lasts for almost two weeks. Already we have received plenty of interest. With the track redevelopment and Covid not as big an issue this will be one of the bigger carnivals in years.”
Grafton has seen some big numbers at its carnival. Corrigan, 79, who has been racing greyhounds for almost 60 years and has been a Grafton committee member since 1980, recalls the days when there were 13 meetings across the two-week carnival.
And there were up to 47 bookmakers fielding.
“I remember we had to borrow bookmakers stands from the horse track,” he recalls.
In 2022, for many, the carnival will have a whole new look and feel.
This year it opens with the meeting on Sunday, July 3, with heats of the Maiden (450m), then there are further carnival dates on July 8 and July 10, before the major finals night on Wednesday, July 13. The carnival closes with the Friday, July 15, meeting.
The major races, contested on July 13 are:
Fair Dinkum Builds CV Sheds Maiden Final 450m. Prizemoney, $15,000, $3,500, $2,000.
GDSC Stayers Cup Final 660m. Prizemoney $8,000, $2,000, $1,000.
Village Green Hotel Sprinters Cup Final 450m. Prizemoney $10,000, $2,500, $1,500.
Valley Protective 5th Grade Final 660m. Prizemoney $5,900, $1,530, $1,030.
Cosmic Bonus @ Stud 1 wins Final 450m. Prizemoney $7,000, $1,800, $1040.
Valda and Athol Arandale Memorial Race 450m. Prizemoney 5,500, $1,400, $940.
With last year’s carnival covid-affected, many enthusiasts will inspect the $5million redeveloped Grafton race precinct for the first time. The new track was opened a year ago and Corrigan says since then the feedback has been incredible.
“People who race here say it is the best track that they have ever raced on,” he says. “And it has only enhanced this track’s reputation as being a tough place to win.
“The quality of dogs and trainers is not only better, but there is no place for a dog to hide on this track. Whatever the distance, the dog has to be able to gallop for that distance. A large slice of the good or bad luck factor has been eliminated with the design.
“Yes, I am very proud of what the people associated with this club have achieved and what they continue to achieve.
“This July carnival will be memorable, a chance for us to show off what a great city and track this is to come racing. But be warned, the winner’s podium at Grafton is a tough nut to crack!”