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All you need to know about Greyhound racing

Greyhound racing is still a hugely popular sport in the UK, Ireland and all the way across the world in Australia.

Racing under rules - on an oval track and behind a mechanical hare - has been staged in the UK since 1926, with former Manchester circuit Belle Vue staging the first-ever meeting.

Almost 100 years later, there are now 20 active tracks - with Welsh venue Valley Greyhound Stadium on the verge of opening - all of which regularly stage racing.

Different tracks

In the 1940s, there were 77 licensed greyhound tracks - more than 20 in London - all offering a different range of distances, traps, types of hare and racing surface.

The ever-increasing value of land and the need for housing are just two of many factors that have contributed to the decrease in the number of UK greyhound tracks, which currently stands at 20:

Brighton & Hove Stadium, Brighton and Hove
Central Park Stadium, Sittingbourne
Crayford Stadium, Dartford
Doncaster Stadium, Doncaster
Harlow Stadium, Harlow
Henlow Stadium, Stondon
Kinsley Stadium Kinsley
Monmore Green Stadium, Wolverhampton
Newcastle Stadium, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Nottingham Stadium, Nottingham
Oxford Stadium, Oxford
Owlerton Stadium, Sheffield
Pelaw Grange, Chester-le-Street
Perry Barr Stadium, Birmingham
Romford Stadium, Romford
Suffolk Downs, Mildenhall, Suffolk
Sunderland Stadium, Sunderland
Swindon Stadium, Swindon
Towcester Racecourse, Towcester
Yarmouth Stadium, Great Yarmouth

Different types of races and distances

Greyhounds are handicapped on their ability, the different groups of races are known as 'Grades' with the very best dogs running in races known as 'Open Races'.

Grades races are numbered - with the lower number indicating the faster the dogs taking part. Dogs and bitches race against each other except for in specified open races.

Sprint graded races (over two bends) begin with the letter D
Standard graded races (over four bends) begin with the letter A
Staying graded races (over six bends) begin with the letter S
Marathon graded races (over eight bends) begin with the letter E
Hurdle graded races (over hurdles) begin with the letter H

Open races will carry the code OR and involve the fastest greyhounds. These opens are then grouped on value and prestige - Category One, Two or Three - again, the lower the number of better the standard and higher the prize money.

Greyhounds under the age of two-years-old are known as 'puppies' and a number of competitions are restricted to that age bracket - most notable the Puppy Derby.

Some competitions are also specifically for greyhounds bred in the UK and are known as 'British Bred' races are organised by the BGBF (British Greyhound Breeders Forum)

Big greyhound racing competitions

The Greyhound Derby is the pinnacle of the sport, staged across six weeks/rounds of racing during the Summer, a field of 192 entries is whittled down to just six in the final - which currently carries a first prize of £175,000 - comfortably the most lucrative competition.

Other big competitions include the National Sprint (for sprinters), St Leger (for stayers) and TV Trophy (for marathon performers).

The majority of Category One competitions are staged over the standard distance (four bends) across most of the different tracks, some of these include:

Winter Derby (Monmore)
Golden Sprint (Romford)
Steel City Cup (Sheffield)
Sussex Cup (Hove)
Laurels (Perry Barr)
Pall Mall (Oxford)
East Anglian Derby (Yarmouth)
Eclipse (Nottingham)
Oaks (Bitches only) (Perry Barr)
All England Cup (Newcastle)

How fast do greyhounds run?

The fastest greyhounds in the world will run at approximately 45mph, with the average greyhound racing at a top speed of around 40mph.

All greyhound races in the UK and Ireland take place on sand, in the 1990s the last of the grass surfaces were replaced by sand to make maintenance and preparation easier.

How far do greyhounds run?

Greyhounds race over a range of distances in the UK, with the shortest races known as 'sprints'  between 210m and 305m.

'Standard' races take place over distances ranging between 380m and 515m, 'staying' races are between 550m and 730m and everything further is known as a 'marathon'.

The Greyhound Derby is currently being held at Towcester and is staged over 500m.

How do greyhounds line up in the traps?

There are three types of 'seeding' that a greyhound can carry, which relates to the racing path they take on the track and will relate to which trap they race from.

Races in UK and Ireland feature a maximum of six greyhounds (up to eight in Australia), who will race from traps numbered 1-6, with the lowest number racing on the inside.

Unlike in athletics, those on the inside race from a level start and are at an advantage going into the first turn.

Greyhounds who favour a racing line towards the inside rail are known as 'railers', those who race down the middle will carry a middle seed and those who favour a wider course out deep on the track are known as 'wides'.

The ideal make-up of a race would be two railers (traps 1 and 2), two middles (traps three and four) and two wides (traps five and six).

However, entries and qualification/elimination through rounds of competition racing can see lop-sided draws - which can be advantageous to those enjoying more racing room than rivals.

The all-important line-up is known as the 'trap draw'.

Some graded races known as 'handicaps' will be the only time greyhounds don't all race from a level start - the traps are individually staggered relative to ability with the idea that all six runners will cross the finish line at the same time.

Different types of betting markets

Similar to horse racing, the most common greyhound bet is a simple win - placed on the dog to complete the distance first.

Each-way betting isn't as popular in greyhound racing as it is in horse racing, each-way terms will usually be 1/4 odds 1-2 places (six runners).

A bet predicting of the first two greyhounds to cross the finish line is known as a forecast, while a prediction of the first three home is known as a tricast.

Special markets such as 'betting without the favourite', odds vs evens, inside traps (123) vs outside traps (456) and greyhounds 'to place' (in the first two) are also available.

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