Sundays no longer ‘rest day’ at Bulli track

Caption: Bulli greyhound club operations manager Darren Hull is looking forward to the Bulli Gold Cup this month

AFTER eight years at the helm, Bulli greyhound club operations manager Darren Hull can’t wait for the 2022 edition of the Ladbrokes Cyril Rowe Bulli Gold Cup on February 20, especially with the heats and final to be held on Sundays.

“I have always joked that the only day of the week that Bulli hasn’t raced since I have been here is a Sunday,” Hull said.

“When I started here, Bulli raced Wednesday nights, then got switched to Friday nights under the ‘Thank Dog It’s Friday’ scheme.

“Bulli was then switched to Saturday nights, Tuesday nights and to the current Tuesday twilight.

“There is no doubt the Bulli track, surrounded by the Illawarra escarpment, is one of the most picturesque settings of any greyhound track in Australia. I always tell people it’s like driving into an oil painting every day when you arrive at work.

“The famous Bulli Beach is a 10-minute walk from the track.

“I look forward to every race meeting and the Group 2 Ladbrokes Cyril Rowe Bulli Gold Cup is without a doubt my favourite day of the year.

“When I look back at the honour roll of winners for this race – and you see the likes of Whisky Assassin, El Galo and in the ’80s, under another banner, Worth Doing – it makes you realise this is a race that is steeped in tradition.”

He said winners didn’t need to have big-name trainers.

“This was evident several years ago when Cowra training team Paul and Pam Braddon won the race with Falcon’s Fury,” Hull said.

“I was so proud of them both. Having grown up in the country myself it was hard enough winning a non-TAB race in the bush let alone a Group race.

“The year before that Ruth Matic won with Black Bear Lee. That was also a special night as was Pindari Express being the only chaser to win back-to-back cups.”

Hull described the Bulli track as unique. He said it was more than 630m in circumference and was a genuine horseshoe, one-turn track.

“You have to have a strong one to win the Bulli Gold Cup,” he said.

“Bulli is a real test of strength. I recall Jason Mackay bringing Ando’s Mac to Bulli and he flew in a couple of races here winning the Melbourne Cup not long after.

“Jason also had Aston Dee Dee in his kennel at the time and he broke the 472m track record at Bulli that still stands before going on to win the Melbourne Cup in 2017.

“I believe the big Bulli track gives greyhounds a chance to stretch out and show their full potential. The Bulli track is a great conditioner.”

He said the track was becoming a community focal point for events held at the complex outside race days.

“When I arrived here I sat down with GBOTA operations manager at the time Ellen Harris and CEO Brenton Scott and we devised a business plan that involved attracting events to the complex outside greyhound racing to give us a sense of standing in the community and raise secondary incomes,” Hull said.

“The showground was fairly rundown and so we planted a lot of trees and grass and generally upgraded the facility.

“We now hold some really big events here, such as the Illawarra Folk Festival – the second largest folk festival in Australia outside Canberra – when about 4000 people camp here for the week.

“Several years ago we added two big events as part of the Destination Wollongong calendar including the AMCA Vintage Motorcycle Event.

“This has continued under current GBOTA CEO Steve Noyce, who could not be more supportive of what we do at Bulli.

“Steve is a pretty clever businessman. He gets what we are trying to do and GRNSW have also supported our secondary events here.”

Hull said he dealt with many prominent people in the area through these events and it had changed the perception of the value of GBOTA Bulli to the local area.

“It’s great to see greyhound racing portrayed in such a positive light,” he said.

“It’s not unusual to see people who come to the markets here every weekend to also come back at the race meeting during the week.

“It’s a lot of extra work, but there is a real sense GBOTA Bulli is firmly entrenched in the local community spirit.

“We have a really good track staff crew at Bulli and everyone is buying in – on and off the track.”

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