Crayford

Crayford greyhound track
Crayford Stadium (diamond geezer / Flickr.com)

One of the few greyhound stadiums still operating in the city of London, Crayford Stadium is located in the Borough of Bexley. Owned by Ladbrokes Coral, it opened its doors for the first time in 1986. Nowadays, the venue hosts greyhound racing on Tuesday evenings, with a matinee meeting on Thursdays. There are morning meetings on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so it offers plenty of opportunities for punters to get to the stadium in order to watch some top-class greyhound racing taking place on a weekly basis not far from the centre of the capital.

The dog track was built as a replacement for Crayford & Bexleyheath Stadium, which was knocked down after racing ended on the 18th of May 1985. The new location opened a little over a year later and in 1987 one of the sport’s most prestigious races, the Golden Jacket, moved to it. That isn’t the only major race that is run at Crayford, though it is definitely the best known within the greyhound racing industry. The all-sand circuit remains a popular one for trainers and dogs alike, whilst punters enjoy the bars and restaurant on-site.

The Track & Facilities

Crayford start gate
The start gate at Crayford Stadium (Ronnie Macdonald / Flickr.com)

Boasting enough room to welcome 1,200 spectators and having plenty of facilities for disabled people, Crayford Stadium is a great place to go for a chance to watch some greyhound racing. It has a Swaffham hare that shoots around its 334 metre track circumference, leading the dogs on their journey towards the finish line. At the time of writing, the following length races take place at the venue:

  • 380 metres
  • 540 metres
  • 714 metres
  • 874 metres
  • 1,048 metres

The run to the first bend is 77 metres for the 380 metre race, which gives you a sense of what it is that the dogs have to do in order to get themselves in front of the other competitors. The site boasts two large bar areas, as well as a restaurant that overlooks the track. If you prefer your food to be a little less swanky, there is also a fast-food outlet where you can get yourself a bite to eat in between races. If the weather is a bit colder or more miserable than you were expecting, you can watch the action on any of the televisions around the venue.

Major Races & Events

Crayford winner's platform
The winner’s platform at Crayford Stadium (Steve Smith / Flickr.com)

Any greyhound racing venue is only ever as good as the races that it offers. In that sense, Crayford Stadium is well worth considering a visit to. There are some special events that take place at the track, so if you’re going to go there then you might want to plan to turn up when one of them is being run if you can manage it. That isn’t to say that it isn’t worth going the rest of the year, of course, with all of the racing staged here entertaining in its own way.

Golden Jacket

First run in 1975, the Golden Jacket called Harringay Stadium its home until that venue was closed. At that point, the race moved to Hall Green and then Monmore Green Stadium, eventually finding its way to Crayford. Run over 714 metres on sand, the winner takes home £20,000 in prize money. It hasn’t always been run over such a length, starting off at 660 metres before being extended to 663 metres when it moved to Hall Green. When it shifted to Monmore it dropped back to 647 metres, taking on its current length when it arrived at Crayford in 1987.

Gold Collar

The Gold Collar greyhound race took place for the first time in 1933, remaining at Catford Stadium until its closure in 2003. At that point, racing switched to Belle Vue for the following few years, being discontinued in 2009. In 2015 it was decided that the race should be resurrected at Crayford Stadium, where it has remained ever since. The distance of the race has changed numerous times, but it has been run over 540 metres ever since arriving at its current location. At the time of writing, the winner takes home £10,000.

Kent St. Leger

The St. Leger is obviously a famous horse race, with a dog racing equivalent also taking place. The Kent St. Leger is a geographically specific alternative, run over 714 metres on a sand track. The winner takes home £7,500, so it obviously isn’t the most prestigious of races. Even so, it was first run at Ramsgate Stadium and was switched to Crayford in 1996, remaining there ever since. It was run over 640 metres at Ramsgate, but has been run at its current length ever since arriving at Crayford. Over the years, the race has enjoyed numerous different sponsors, many of them being alcohol producers.

Guys & Dolls

Sadly not themed after the musical of the same name, the Guys & Dolls greyhound race began life at Harringay Stadium in 1977. It was unusual in the fact that its heats were split up into races for bitches and dogs, before the final itself brought them all together in a mixed race. When Harringay closed in 1987, the race switched to Crayford until it was discontinued in 2008. Seven years later and it was brought back to life, with the winner getting £3,300 in prize money. It has been raced over numerous different lengths, currently taking place over 380 metres.

In the News

One of the major criticisms that is often put on greyhound racing is the fact that the dogs are all but abandoned once their careers are over. It was nothing but positive news, therefore, when Crayford Stadium decided to donate in excess of £6,500 to pay for specialist equipment to offer retired greyhounds a new lease of life. The donation was made to allow for the building of a new spa room at Clark’s Farm Rehoming Kennels, including a hydrotherapy bath that massages dogs with targeted water jets.

About Crayford Dog Track

A greyhound at Crayford stadium
A retired greyhound at Crayford Stadium (Steve Smith / Flickr.com)

Crayford Stadium wouldn’t exist, if not for the decision taken by Ladbrokes in 1984 to cease racing at the Crayford & Bexleyheath Stadium so that an entirely new venue could be built. The 20-acre site was redeveloped, with five acres of that being used for the new greyhound track and sports venue. Work began on the new stadium in the wake of the last night’s racing on the 18th of May 1985, with the new location opening its doors for the first time on the first of September the following year, having dropped ‘Bexleyheath’ from its title.

The decision proved to be an astute one, with the Golden Jacket being moved to the stadium in 1987. That was also the year that a new matinee meeting was added to the schedule in order to please customers in the new Ladbrokes betting shops, with the Crayford Rosebowl also being inaugurated. A year later and Dinky Luckhurst put Crayford on the map when he trained Breeks Rocket to success in the Grand National. Back then, the track was small, standing at 334 metres, with an outside Sumner hare on offer.

Changes in the 1990s & 2000s

In the 1990s, there were some small moments of note for Crayford Stadium. Firstly, in 1996, Dynamic Display saw the Grand National trophy return to the venue. That might well have proved to be the catalyst for the launch of the Guys & Dolls race, which arrived a year later. Pure Patches, meanwhile, followed up a 1998 Golden Collar win with an appearance in the 1999 Greyhound Derby, finishing sixth out of six runners. The decade finished on a positive note, thanks to Bubbly Prince’s victory in the Cesarewitch in 1999.

The 2000s started off where the 1990s had finished, thanks to Lady Jean following in Bubbly Prince’s footsteps with a win in the Cesarewitch. A year later and it was the turn of Haughty Ted to make the headlines, this time winning the Golden Collar. Harry Bull arrived at the track to take over from Paul Lawrence as Racing Manager, whilst Danny Rayment was promoted to become Deputy Racing Manager. The biggest year was 2007, when Lorraine Sams trained Spiridon Louis to win the St. Leger, the TV Trophy and the Regency to be named Greyhound Of The Year.

The Modern Era

There was yet another Grand National win for a dog out of Crayford in 2010, when the Gemma Davidson-trained Plane Daddy won the event in 2010. That was proof that Crayford-based dogs knew how to cope with hurdle races, which was a major boon for the stadium. Five years later and the track was in the news again, this time thanks to the resurrection of the Gold Collar and the Guys & Dolls races. Two years after that and there was some uncertainly about the track’s future when Ladbrokes merged with Gala Coral.

In the end, the formation of Ladbrokes Coral proved to be a good thing, with a deal signed with Satellite Information Services to provide racing several times a week. In addition to Tuesday mornings and evenings, racing would also take place on Thursday afternoons and Friday and Saturday mornings. It gave the stadium a new lease of life, which has allowed it to continue to offer top-class greyhound racing events to punters and bookmaker-attendees alike.

Records at Crayford

At the time of writing, the track records for each of the distances currently offered are as follows:

Distance Record Time Date Set
380 Metres 22.85 Seconds 29th May 2018
540 Metres 33.09 Seconds 26th September 2017*
714 Metres 44.52 Seconds 24th August 2019
874 Metres 55.89 Seconds 26th December 2014
1,048 Metres 67.83 Seconds 21st February 2017
380 Metres Over Hurdles 23.18 Seconds 8th October 2016
380 Metres Over Hurdles 23.18 Seconds 28th September 2019
540 Metres Over Hurdles 33.57 Seconds 21st February 2017

The * represents the fact that the record time was set during the final of the Golden Collar that year.