- Address: Drum Rd, Birtley, Chester-le-Street DH3 2AF
- Telephone: 01914 102141
- Website: pelawgrange.co.uk
Regulated by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, Pelaw Grange Stadium is located between Chester-le-Street and Gateshead in the county of Durham. It has been owned by the McKenna family since the start of 1965 and first opened in 1944. Boasting a restaurant and a number of bars, it is a friendly venue where you can watch top-quality dog racing. Meetings take place on Saturdays and Sundays, with those responsible doing its utmost to ensure that the track is as safe and comfortable for the dogs to run on as possible.
George Towers built the track originally, choosing a location to the south of Drum Road and next the railway line. It initially offered unregulated racing, which was popular with the local mining community. The move to become a regulated track took place in 2005, 40 years after the McKenna family had bought the track. Though not one of the country’s biggest greyhound racing tracks, Pelaw Grange certainly has a lot to offer those that head there for events during the week, including the chance to visit that Panorama Restaurant.
The Track & Facilities
The McKenna family has always put the welfare of the dogs at the forefront of what they do. As a result, they work hard to keep the track in as good a condition as they can. Before every race, the track is treated with a three-inch harrow tyre to pack and level it. The ground is also compacted, before water is applied to it with a hose. More compacting and hosing takes place as necessary, with raking of the bends also taking place after pre-trial races. There is also maintenance carried out both weekly and monthly to keep the track in tip-top condition.
The bends of the track are cambered in order to assist with the turning of the greyhounds during races. In 2006, an entirely new inside running rail was installed, whilst the on-site kennels are air conditioned for the comfort of the dogs. The track’s circumference is 345 metres, and the first bend comes after 90 metres. If you’re wondering what the hare is, an Outside McGee is used here. At the time of writing, the following race distances happen at Pelaw Grange:
- 245 Metres
- 435 Metres
- 590 Metres
- 780 Metres
As the name suggests, the Panorama Restaurant offers excellent views of the track, as well as top-quality meals. If you prefer to live your life in a more grounded fashion then you can eat at a number of fast food places within the stadium itself. You can also get a drink at one of four bars. With racing taking place on a Sunday, you might not be all that surprised to learn that you can get a Sunday roast thanks to the carvery that is on offer. The key thing, of course, is that you can watch the racing whilst you eat.
Major Races & Events
Given the fact that most of the biggest courses around the country offer a few prestigious races, you can probably read into the fact that there are no events of note that take place at Pelaw Grange during the course of the greyhound racing season. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been any notable races there over the years, such as the Newcastle Rose Bowl and the Whitfield Oaks, but they don’t have the same level of prestige as races that are run elsewhere in the country.
In the News
As with other aspects of Pelaw Grange, it is telling that there are no news stories worthy of the name featuring the stadium over the past few years. That is in and of itself an interesting thing, of course. It means that there is nothing bad going on in the north-east just as much as there is worth shouting about taking place. Indeed, the only mention of the track worth telling you about comes from a story in 2020 about Onthego Blu winning hat-tricks at Yarmouth, Pelaw Grange and Peterborough.
About Pelaw Grange Dog Track
A greyhound track was built north of Chester-le-Street in 1944, reportedly by a man named George Towers. Towers called the venue Pelaw Grange after a nearby country house and farm. It was immediately a hit with the local mining communities of Durham and the surrounding areas, with another greyhound track also believed to be located in Birtley, a village to the north. The venue offered unlicensed greyhound racing for the decades that followed, with much remaining the same in terms of what the track offered.
One of the biggest changes occurred in 1965 when Joe and Joyce McKenna decided to buy the track. Racing began taking place every Thursday and Saturday, with both level and handicap events being run over 241 yards, 410 yards and 570 yards, using an inside hare. Jeff, the McKenna’s son, eventually became the promoter for the track before taking on the combined role of General Manager and Racing Manager. The facilities were improved upon over the years that followed, including a move to make the 360-yard circumference track all sand in the 1980s.
The Move to a Licensed Track
Though competitions, such as the Newcastle Rose Bowl and Whitfield Oaks, were introduced, as well as a car park for 200 vehicles being built and a computerised Tote brought in, the track lacked legitimacy thanks to its independent nature. In 2005, Jeff McKenna and his wife, Theresa, who were running the track by then, decided to apply to become part of the National Greyhound Racing Club. The application was successful, with the move away from it being a flapper track taking place in August of that year.
Graeme Henigan was installed as Racing Manager and success soon followed for the Pelaw Grange-based trainers, thanks to wins in the National Sprint amongst others. In 2015, a celebration of 50 years of McKenna family ownership was celebrated with a fixture that was televised by Sky Sports for the first time. Three years later and a deal was signed with Arena Racing Company to ensure that racing would take place on Sunday evenings. In 2021, Jaguar Macie, who was trained by Graham Ranking and attached to Pelaw Grange, won the Ladbrokes Puppy Derby and the Northern Puppy Derby.
At the time of writing, the following are the track records at Pelaw Grange:
|Distance||Record Time||Date Set|
|245 Metres||14.33 Seconds||26th October 2014|
|435 Metres||25.13 Seconds||26th December 2007|
|590 Metres||35.61 Seconds||18th June 2017|
|780 Metres||47.88 Seconds||11th August 2015|