Warragul Greyhound Racing Club

LCA: Baw Baw Shire Council
President: Bob Iredale
Manager: Tony Mitchell
Tel: (03) 56231867
Fax:(03) 5623 4252
Email: warragul@grv.org.au
Website: warragul.grv.org.au
Address: Logan Park, Warragul VIC 3820
Postal: PO Box 313, Warragul 3820


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Tony Mitchell - Club Manager 

Tony was born and lived in the Outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where he played football and cricket both locally and had a short, but not so glorious short career with Essendon under 19’s.

Tony has now spent the past 25 years in football administration via the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League, a former VCFL Vice President and current Chair of AFL Outer East, all on a volunteer basis.

He spent most of his working career with the NAB in Senior Management roles in Melbourne, also operating his own businesses. Over the past 7 years he has been involved in the greyhound industry with a short stint maintaining and developing synthetic tracks within the Thoroughbred industry, during 2019.

Tony was appointed as CEO at Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club in January 2015, then appointed to GRV as Clubs and Infrastructure Manager in July 2017. In March 2020 he was appointed General Manager of Warragul Greyhound Racing Club where he is looking forward to new industry challenges.


History of the Warragul Greyhound Racing Club

The Warragul Greyhound Racing Club held its first race meeting on 30 December 1935 and has been a part of the Latrobe Valley community for more than 80 years. It’s had different homes over the years and at one time held races on a short straight track before settling at Logan Park, which it shares with the Warragul Harness and Light Harness Racing Clubs and where the present track was comprehensively remodelled in 2010. There are also records of meetings that took place in 1949. However, it took quite a few years and some dedication on the part of several committed enthusiasts before the club was up and running. A venue had to be found and with Council permission, it was decided that a track could be laid on the inside of the harness circuit at the Showgrounds (Central Park) that had commenced racing in 1947. The track was built on an old tip site mainly with voluntary labour. The late Noel Banks played a large part in the construction by obtaining many of the materials needed to build a track and carting them to the site.

photo 1Despite a number of attempts to obtain a racing licence from the State Government, it was not until the late Jack Cooper, who owned the racing licence of the defunct Wonthaggi Greyhound Club came to the rescue. He sold the Wonthaggi Licence to Warragul for the princely sum of £1 ($40). The transfer was helped by the support of Jack McKenna from Sandown and allowed the Club to race officially. Jack Cooper, who ran the company Auto Ray Photo Finish, installed the photo finish equipment, believed to be world-first technology, at Warragul free of charge. In the 1970s, his equipment was installed on many greyhound tracks around Australia.

When the Club was first formed, it had £20 ($770) in the bank so a debenture scheme was used to get building underway. As was the case with country Clubs, all work  was voluntary and the early  supporters of the club were Jack Baines, the Cunninghams, the Colliver family, Noel Banks, Buck Buchanan, and Jim Kendal who was engineer and lure driver for 16 years following Gordon Penny. Two other notable supporters were Joe Price, the oldest bookmaker in Australia at the time, and Frank Morley of the Melbourne Sporting Globe who gave the Club early publicity and who had a race named after him. The Club also boasted the only woman timekeeper, Mrs. Ann Lineham, who spent over twelve years in the job. The first Club President was Bob Kellam, and the first Secretary was Ern Martin, who later became a Life Member. Other office holders during this period included Vice Presidents Peter Giles and Frank Bellamy, both prominent trainers.

Local trainer Peter Giles first started racing greyhounds in the early 1960s at Warragul when he got a “giveaway" called Wingette from Les Foran. He raced the greyhound over maiden distances at Olympic Park on Monday and Thursday nights, driving to Melbourne with the greyhound in his Morris Minor. Peter became one of Australia’s most highly successful trainers winning the Melbourne Cup with City Blitz, the Sydney Cup and the Gold Cup in Brisbane with Puzzle Prize, and the Adelaide Cup with Jack Junior. Along countless top-class feature winners National Distance Champions. Peter has been retired from training for some time but still takes an active interest in the sport.

Photo 2But to start with, he was making £8 ($156) a week working on a sheep farm and when he got a couple of placings with his early greyhound, he decided to become more involved. He visited Graeme Bate, one of the state's most successful trainers and saw the run that he was using. Impressed by Bate's methods, he decided to copy them by putting a run in on the sheep farm where he now lives at Moe in the La Trobe Valley. Like Bate, he trained his greyhounds by an alternating galloping for couple of days and then walking for couple.  He gradually built his team up to 50 racing greyhounds and at times had between 50 and 60 including greyhounds that were being broken in.

He worked as a bookie at Traralgon but there was a limited amount of money available from punters who were mainly shopkeepers and pizza delivery boys. It wasn't easy and given the struggle to make a living, he believed that film stars and the promotions at Olympic Park and Sandown were not greatly appreciated by the industry's grassroots and that they didn't have a lasting impact on attendance.

Giles was deeply involved getting the track established at Warragul. He has strong views on track design and his ideal track would be very similar to the Horsham track believing that a circle is better for the spectators ahead of the big horseshoe style track. He has also been involved with other clubs in the area.

Over time Peter's reputation as a trainer of stayers had led to his being offered increasing numbers of this type of greyhound. Like all big trainers, he recognized the necessity to turn greyhounds over if they are were not earning and he emphasized the importance of putting greyhounds into the Greyhound Adoption Program.

He also recognized that the Program will not meet the needs of all the retiring greyhounds his thinking back then is now a reality. He thought at the time that it was a very good idea that greyhounds with more than a hundred starts are given preference, which is encouraged nowadays. He attributes some of his success to having a number of good owners who supply them with quality greyhounds and that this combination makes his job much easier.  As time went on Peter increasingly turning his attention to breeding in the belief in good bloodlines and good care. Typically, a litter of 10 pups would be housed in the Giles living room. The pups were delivered by caesarean section, a common delivery method even for second and subsequent litters. He would expect to get about $10,000 per pup and believes that a good return for the buyer of one of his greyhounds would be around $200,000 during its racing life.Photo 3

When the club started, the facilities were quite primitive by today's standards, (the dining room floor was concrete), however, they did the job. A circle track with distances of 430 yards, 540 yards and 730 yards was constructed with a set of movable starting boxes, which were placed on the track for the start and then shunted off to be used for the 540 yard and 730 yards distances. A straight track of 320 yards was also constructed in front of the grandstand.

The first meeting was conducted on Friday night 14th September 1956 with 20 bookmakers operating and prize money of £6 ($150), £2 ($50), and £1 ($25). For the first few years, racing on mainly Saturday afternoons, the club did well. Some night meetings were conducted on the circle track, as the straight track did not have a lighting system. Former long serving club manager Alf Baker remembers when he went to the first trials at Olympic Park being struck by the brightness of the lighting.

This was in marked contrast to Warragul where the lights were weak and the lure rail would sway in the wind. Alf was one of the luckier local punters. He had a greyhound sent over from NZ which really wasn't much good. In its only race, the leading two greyhounds started fighting and the next five Joined in. Alf's greyhound, then 10 lengths behind, kept running and won at odds of 7-1.

In the mid-1960s, night racing started to become more popular and the straight track became redundant.

The Government legalised betting on horse races at greyhound meetings but this advantage was wiped out by the increasing difficulty of getting enough nominations. Soon the program was reduced to five races and the bookies started drifting away with only two were fielding at Warragul. When the club changed to racing on a Saturday afternoon, finances became stretched and raffles were conducted to ease the strain on the club. Money was so short that when the lights failed, the club had to run twilight meetings during daylight saving until some temporary lights were put in. The raffles were conducted by Ron Bennett and Jack Baines and on one occasion following a police raid, the two were promptly charged with conducting an illegal raffle. They were handed a small fine of £1. Justice having been seen to be done, the raffles continued at the following meeting. The raffles were important to the club as most revenue came from admission fees, bookies fees, the on­course tote and 2 shillings to race a greyhound. The club was so poor that often there would be a whip around the committee to pay the prize money.

In the pre-TAB meetings, the tote was called a Control System. The punter got a ticket, which was punched win, place or quinella. The odds were set on a board controlled by a series of pulleys. There were boxes with tickets in them and running calculations were made on the dividend. The bets had to be finalised one and a half minutes before the start of the race and phoned into Melbourne. The tickets were then sent to Melbourne after the meeting. Winners would get paid an hour after the last race which meant they could not re-invest their winnings on the next race. Once payouts could be made after each race, there was a huge difference in revenue.

The off-course TAB proved to be a huge shot in the arm for country clubs who were now given a share of the TAB pool on city meetings. The first TAB meeting at Warragul held $148,000 ($585,000) and by the sixth meeting this had risen to $780,000 ($3m) Warragul’s first dividend from the TAB was $10,000 ($39,000) and this had risen to $50,000 ($195,000) by early 1970s.photo 4

This money helped pay out all the debentures and for paid staff rather than volunteers to work on the ground. However, even with the injection of funds from the TAB, the club was still reliant on the work of long serving and hard-working members such as Joe McMinn, who was not only Club Secretary but also Secretary of the Country Association of Greyhound Racing Clubs in Victoria and a member of the Greyhound Racing Grounds Development Board.

The track remained much the same throughout the 1960s until around 1972 when a new tower lighting system was installed to service both greyhound and harness racing. The system did not meet expectations and for two years the clubs were engaged in legal argument with the supplier. Both clubs suffered financially during this time and finally it was resolved that the Greyhound Club would put in a lighting system of the type that is now used and hand the old system over to the Harness Club.

By 1973, racing was being held on a Friday night with 14 bookies and around 500 people in attendance. However, when the TAB insisted on a shift from Friday night to Tuesdays there was a predictable drop in the crowds. As a consolation, the club got 13, then 26, race times on the TAB in the late 1970s. The club still had to cut back on prize money and run lots of raffles, as it was a fight to survive right through the 1980s.

The $60,000 ($155,000) income was not enough to run the club even working in conjunction with the trots. However, the legal dispute over the lighting meant that it was not until the 1980s that good relations developed between the codes.

During this period, the GRCB decided to reconstruct the racing track including spending $94,000 ($190,000) to install a new lighting system which led to Warragul being considered one of the best tracks in Australia.

A new photo finish tower was also installed and a cantilever veranda to provide seating for 2000 was added to the grandstand. The kennels were rebuilt, and a new driving tower was built with dual mechanical equipment. The total cost of these renovations was over $150,000 ($300,000).

The new track meant significant changes to race distances. The main sprint distance was lengthened to 407m then to 411m and finally lengthened to 424m with the construction of the new Judging tower. It was decided to do away with the 494m, which started on a corner. Finally, the 648m start was moved to the present 699m on the 589m circumference track.

The only thing still in its original place was the front straight. This is now the only part that remains from the original track construction in 1950s. Since the altering of the sprint distance to 424m there have been some outstanding performers with the most notable being the great Sylvan Prince trained by Ron lzon. Sylvan Prince raced at Warragul when the track was being altered and eventually was giving eight metre starts to fields, which was an amazing performance over such a short distance. He had 12 starts for 10 wins 1 second and 1 fourth. In the early 1980s, the mighty Tempix had 10 wins from as many starts including the Warragul Cup and was an early track record holder.

The social side of the club was not neglected. A Christmas party was held on a race night for all the children of owners and trainers. The club also sponsored an entry to the Miss Greyhound section of the Miss Australia Quest. The winner, Miss Corrine Collins, went on the win the Miss Victoria and Miss Australia Charity Queen title raising $31,000 for the Spastic Children's Society. Corrine remained loyal to the club working for many years in the kennel block on race nights.

In the early 1980s, the GRCB moved Geelong to Friday nights and Warragul to Tuesday nights. This proved to be a major problem for Warragul as the Harness Club also raced on Tuesday nights about 13 times a year.

This created great difficulty for the Greyhound Club until some years later when the Harness Club decided to conduct day meetings only.

Up until 1982, the public facilities for bar and catering were extremely poor but again both clubs united and submitted proposals to their respective Development Boards to enclose the dining area. Proposals were approved and the new dining room was finished in 1983. The dining room was further enlarged in 1999 to its present size. The change had been a long time coming and saw the replacement of the original concrete floor and the provision of proper chairs. The kennel block was another building that has progressed over the years.photo 5

The track surface has continually improved with the 424m track record reducing from Golden Spur's 24.41 in the 1970's, Tempix 24.30 in the early 1980s and Picture This 24.25 later that decade. This record stood for a number of years until the mid-1990’s when Awesome Assassin was the first to go under 24 seconds, with a run of 23.86. Knockabout Wok held record with a blistering run of 23.59. The 699m record was held in the 1970s by Welcome Girl at 41.56, in the 1980s by Rods Advice at 41.20 and Fire Teka's run of 40.70 in the 1990s. Boomeroo held the record at 40.24 in 2003.

photo 6A number of dedicated volunteers have committed themselves to their club over the years including the Lineham family, most of who served on the committee for over 35 years. The late Ron Bennett. one of the original members to start the club, deserves special mention. He served on the committee for 50 years, including many as President, before ill health forced him to resign.

Over the years the club has become far more professional and financially secure, taking as much as $15,000 on-course with around 300 people coming to the twilight meetings. The Club is also supported by a strong youth contingent, which shows all the signs of being involved in long-term support of the club.

Racing is strong as well, on a good night there will be 200 nominations for 96 places to start at Warragul and it often takes three of four nominations to get into a race. The Club also runs debutante races for first time racers to get the right mix and provide an opportunity for untried greyhounds.

In 2009, Racing Minister and Deputy Premier Rob Hulls announced a $1.9 Million overhaul of Warragul's Logan Park greyhound racetrack. Greyhound Racing Victoria's Chairman at the time the late Mrs Jan Wilson congratulated the State Government on its contribution of $1.3m towards the $1.9m total cost, the balance contributed by GRV. The circumference of the track was extended, allowing races to be conducted over 400m and 460m and distance races over 680m. The redeveloped track will also maximise stormwater harvesting and recycling opportunities with GRV to install a water irrigation system for more efficient track watering. The project was completed in February 2010. Garry Allen, President of the Warragul Greyhound Racing Club at the time thanked all involved especially GRV's former Infrastructure Manager, Bob Smith.

These days as a major regional hub for greyhound racing, the Warragul club hosts over 100 meetings per year at distances of 400m, 460m and 680m, mostly on Tuesday and Thursday nights, along with trials on most Wednesday and Fridays. Highlights of the club’s racing calendar are the Warragul St Leger, with a $25,000 first prize and the Group 2 Warragul Cup with a $47,000 first prize, one of the four legs in the Gippsland Carnival.

The Warragul Greyhound Racing Club is not just an excellent racing venue, it also offers great facilities to the community for social functions, such as engagement parties and weddings, as well as business functions, including conventions, seminars and exhibitions.

In the Community the Warragul Greyhound Racing Club is committed to managing its operations with the community in mind and organises and hosts many events to support good causes and give local groups and residents opportunities to meet, raise funds and enjoy themselves.

The club directly employs 16 permanent and casual staff while greyhound racing also generates many more indirect local jobs and contributes around $40 million to the Gippsland region, providing hundreds of local jobs and a market for local goods and services.

The Great Chase is the annual event that raises money for community groups that work with the aged and disabled and gives their clients a great day out at the races. Since 2003 the Warragul Great Chase Community Days have donated around $20,000 to local community groups.photo 7

Club Presidents

Ron Bennett  1966 – 1979, Peter Roche 1980, Ron Bennett 1981 – 1989,

Vivian Williams 1990 – 1995, Carl Haas 1996 – 2000, Gary Allen 2000- 2010, Matt Height, 2010 – 14,

Phil Prior 2014-2017, Bob Iredale 2017- present.

Records of past Warragul Cup winners are a bit sketchy, however we do know the first cup run under non-proprietary racing was won by Melbourne Cup winner Rocketeer and again in 1958 as a lead up race to the Melbourne Cup Marine Jet completed the double. In the 50’s Warragul was a very popular Saturday afternoon meeting that later moved to Friday night racing for many years. The Warragul Cup has been won by some of the sports finest sprinters and listed below is the honour roll as we currently know it.

1956 Rocketeer,1957 Orialta, 1958 Marine Jet, 1960 Flash Dasher, 1962 Coma’s Pride, 1969 Sunday Punch, 1970 White Post, 1971 Red Velore, 1972 Make The Scene, 1973 Half Your Luck, 1974 Sylvan Prince, 1975 Plain Stage, 1976 Golden Spur, 1977 Simon’s Twin, 1978 Newmore Glenn, 1979 Glen’s Elect, 1980 Tempix, 1981 Shamrock Flight, 1982 Sartorius, 1983 Salem’s Pride, 1984 Chariot Supreme, 1985 Broken Cup, 1986 Chariot Of Gods, 1987 Peppaloa, 1988 Trumbry Ace, 1989 Hua, 1990 Pure Talent, 1991 Sheedy, 1992 Brudge, 1993 Indoor Boy, 1994 Gipsy General, 1995 Bonjase, 1996 Best Of Bev, 1997 Applaud, 1998 Hotshot, 1999 Fibba, 2000 Labyrinth, 2001 Big Smig, 2002 Carlisle Jack, 2003 Knockabout Wok, 2004 Puzzle Prize,  2005 Sun Hero, 2006 Vapour Whirl, 2007 Magnificent Love, 2008 North Sea, 2009 Major Mission, 2010 Race Not Held, 2011 El Grand Senor, 2012 Stagger, 2013 Nitro Cee, 2014 Walk Hard, 2015 Ronray Spirit, 2016 To The Galo’s, 2017 Ando’s Mac, 2018 Aston Dee Bee, 2019 Dyna Hunter, 2020 La Grand Quality.


Fun Facts:

Without much doubt one of the best dogs to race from the Warragul area is the 1977 Australian Cup winner Listowel Sue. Bred raced and trained by Drouin resident Alan Fairlie. One the great greyhound people you are ever likely to meet Alan is a long time Warragul Committeeman and Life Member. His venture into greyhound racing resulted from a lucky quinella which payed $185. With that money he brought Listowel Sue’s dam Cindy Lake for $200. He put her to Tivoli Scout who he and his son liked the look of better than his much more successful brother Tivoli Chief. Tivoli Scout only sired 18 pups with only two of any note the resultant litter to Cindy Lake Listowel Sue and her smart brother Amarco Boy, Cindy later produced outstanding stayer Rawpack to Leader’s Champion. Alan had not drawn a red box for 12 months before the cup series then drew three in a row, she started odds on and won easily. It was the first-year handlers wore Dinner suits and Alan thought “Sue” would not know who he was so for the week prior to the final he handled her every day in a Dinner suit on his property. Only thing was on Cup night all the handlers wore Dinner suits. Listowel Sue begun well settled behind the early leader then took the lead approaching the home turn and raced away for a brilliant win.   


The Warragul Cup has surely produced more Group 1 winners than any other provincial Cup in Australia. If anyone can top the following list please let me know.

Melbourne Cup winners Rocketeer 1956, Marine Jet 1958, Hau 1988, El Grand Senor 2010, Ando’s Mac 2016 and Aston Dee Bee 2017.

Australian Cup winners Half Your Luck 1973, Bonjase 1995 and Fibba 1998.

Golden Easter Egg winner Carlisle Jack 2002.

Silver Chief winners Chariot Supreme 1983, Tempix 1978 and Hot Shot 1997.

Top Gun winner El Grand Senor 2010.

Maturity winners Broken Cup 1984 and El Grand Senor 2010.

Perth Cup winner Sun Hero 2005.

Sale Cup winner Chariot Supreme 1983.

Sapphire Classic winner Shamrock Flight 1981.

Plus, three winners have been runners-up in Group 1’s Sylvan Prince, Vapour Whirl and Big Smig.

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