Caption: Inaugural Gabba president Clem Jones
By PAUL DOLAN
It’s a bit of a shame that the Brisbane GRC has had to postpone its planned 50th anniversary of greyhound racing under lights in Queensland.
The Easter Thursday night was intended to be a celebration of 50 years since the Gabba commenced night racing. Unfortunately, with the Albion Park infrastructure so severely damaged by the big flood in February, racing there is at the limbo stage.
Last month in this column, I reflected on some Gabba history. Here’s some more!
The first race on opening night was the Sir Gordon Chalk Opening Stake over 610 yards (558 metres). The winner, the Stan Cleverley-trained Jaffrine from box six, was the third favourite at $4.50. The favourite at $3.25 was Swift Glamour, trained by R.S.Withers. She finished fourth from box two.
Favourite backers bounced back in race two when the Tony Reidel-trained Sir Mullaway scored a narrow win from box eight at $1.90. Overall, three favourites and an equal favourite won on the nine-race card.
Inaugural Gabba GRC president Clem Jones, who was also Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, made what, in hindsight, is an observation far different to today. Jones said – In Sydney a survey showed that 70 per cent of the people attending greyhound meetings were young married couples under 30 years of age. Jones predicted that the Gabba would meet the needs of that age group. He was right at the time, but haven’t things changed over 50 years?
It’s not quite correct to say that April 6, 1972 was the first occasion that greyhound racing was staged under lights at the Gabba. That’s because back in 1928 there was night greyhound racing but rather different to what was to become later. There was no mechanical lure. The greyhounds were ridden by monkeys. They were hurdle races, usually with two runners only. An advertisement in the Courier-Mail newspaper in February 1928 said ‘be sure and bring the kiddies’.
While it was quite entertaining, there was one major thing missing. The state government of the day refused to allow betting on the greyhound races. The promoters had to try and maintain public interest while they pressed for a licence to allow bookmakers on the track. That didn’t happen and the racing closed. When it reopened 44 years later, in 1972, a large ring of bookmakers was there every Thursday night.
Some might argue that, with the huge prizemoney on offer nowadays, the era of racing at the Gabba wasn’t necessarily halcyon days, as many claim. Sure, lots has changed but by golly, the Gabba was an exciting place to go racing.