Jack Nelson: Tassie Founding Father loved a gamble

\"\"Jack Nelson, a founding father of greyhound racing in Tasmania

By BENNAN RYAN

Jack Nelson’s huge passion for greyhound racing embraced a more than 40-year involvement. It was his wisdom and determination that saw the beginning of speed coursing in Launceston.

Today the Launceston Greyhound Racing Club honours the founding father with a cup series.

Jack had built a house and five kennels along with an office, which later became the official site of the White City track.

He had great success with greyhounds he owned and were bred and trained on his Malunna property.

Golden City won the MacRobertson Cup at the inaugural meeting at Hobart in 1935. His success at the T.C.A. grew with Mr. Kenya winning the 1943 Hobart Cup (now Thousand).

Nelson also won his hometown Launceston Cup twice with Some Carlton and Losma Lady.

An extremely timid coursing chaser, Miss Alestone won the 1939 Victorian Oaks at Bendigo for the Tasmanian.

Rumour has it Nelson had sent the brindle daughter of Carlton Ale to Queensland to contest the rich Waterloo Cup, however she escaped her caretaker trainer and went missing for three months.

She would run away from a stranger even if they went to feed her. Another of her habits was that she was frightened of women, which made this hard for all concerned in trying to find her.

After extensive searching Miss Alestone was found in the back of a butcher’s yard at Ipswich.

Jack pulled off betting plunges at tracks in Melbourne with greyhounds Golden Eagle and Golden Crown, after which he made a decision that was to shape the future of the sport in Tasmania.

A ‘big gambler’ best sums up Jack Nelson. His passion and enterprise resulted in the beginning of speed coursing in Tasmania – starting in Launceston during the early thirties.

“It goes well in other states and other parts of the world and why not in Tasmania?” That was Jack Nelson’s view and he backed it with his own money in laying out a 440-yard straight track.

This would assist in training his charges for both plumpton coursing and speed track racing.

Following the success of his dogs winning on the mainland, Jack Nelson had gone about putting up a grandstand and installing electric lighting. A committee would soon be formed.

M.A. Morgan and Ollie Illingworth were among the five members that helped form the White City Speed Coursing Track paying 10 pounds each to defray the cost of the first meeting.

Seven races were conducted on the opening meeting at White City track in February, 1933.

Until the Lotteries Act changed to allow for legalized betting on greyhounds, the company’s meetings struggled to survive.

In 1935 it all changed when 27 people voted to form the Launceston Greyhound Racing Club.

The first LGRC meeting was held on October 19, 1935, with Blue Bonnett the first winner.

Mick Sturges was appointed as club secretary. He held the position until his passing.

The LGRC was keen to pursue a circular track similar to that at White City in Melbourne and in 1936 came to an agreement with Jack Nelson to build it for 200 pounds. Owing to the ground space a horse shoe shaped circular track was installed by Nelson and proved popular.

Sadly, Nelson died on August 19, 1946, and many years later he rightfully took his place as a deserving member of the Tasmanian Greyhound Hall of Fame and AGRA Hall of Fame.

The J.G. Nelson Cup series is staged in July each year over the 515 metres.

From 1947 to 1974 the LGRC conducted the race and was re-established back in 2009.

Jack Nelson’s monumental gamble in 1932, to pursue his dream of speed track racing wins, established a platform for many more ‘lovers of the leash’ to pursue their racing dreams as well.

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