Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club

Tara Raceway, Lake Terrace East, Mount Gambier, SA

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Virginia is all that remains of SA’s long and colourful coursing history

Well-dressed handlers make their way to the slips at the Plympton Plumpton.

For the uninitiated, coursing stakes these days consist of a group of greyhounds, ideally no less than eight, running off in pairs after being released by the slipper and chasing a drag lure up a straight track.

These greyhounds don’t wear a race rug but either a red or white knitted collar with the judge raising a red or white flag to signify the winner of the course.

In the case of an eight-dog stake, the last two remaining runners will have competed three times on the day to determine the winner.

These days, the Greyhound Owners Trainers and Breeders Association (GOTBA) conducts SA’s only drag lure coursing meetings during the winter months at Virginia, north of Adelaide.

Greyhound Racing SA, in conjunction with the GOTBA, last week announced an immediate boost to prize money for coursing, beginning from the second half of the 2024 season.

The prize money injection will ensure that eight-dog coursing events align with prize money for time-graded track events. There will also be significant increases for the Oaks, Derby and Waterloo Cup.

Total prize money for the Waterloo Cup will double to $8000 while the Oaks and Derby classics will increase from $2650 to $5000. The entry conditions for the classics will now be for greyhounds whelped on or after June 1, 2022.

Entry conditions for the classics and Waterloo Cup also require greyhounds must have had at least one start at any coursing venue during 2024.

GRSA CEO Brenton Scott said the prize money boost would create opportunities for greyhounds at all levels and continue to ensure that coursing remains an important part of the racing calendar.

Previously, SA drag lure coursing meetings had been conducted at places such as Aldinga, Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier. Victoria is the only other state to conduct coursing meetings – at Lang Lang and Longwood.

Coursing is the sport’s oldest form of greyhound racing competition. And July 25, 1896 marked the opening of the Plympton Plumpton in Adelaide. The plumpton, with a field of 970 yards by 300 yards, was so designed that the hare could reach a place of safety.

By the time the opening of the 1902 season came around it had been noted that an unusually large number of greyhounds were now in training. New strains were being introduced and well known greyhounds of the past represented by their progeny.

Open coursing was also conducted at places such as Strathdownie, Hartley, Pinnaroo, Mount Gambier and, of course, Mintaro where Ray’s Releaser defeated Gentle Jay on July 29, 1986 in the LVA final – the last live hare coursing meeting to be run in SA.

A report of the day suggested the hares of Mintaro could sleep soundly that night. Their last race had been run. Live hare coursing had become illegal – with fines of up to $50,000 – under SA’s new animal welfare legislation.

And the coursing crowd, comprising greyhound owners and trainers, punters, country folk and members of the Licensed Victuallers Coursing Club of SA, was out in force to mourn the loss of what they had seen as a fine and ancient sport.

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