Sunderland

Sunderland Grandstand at night
Image thanks to Sunderland Greyhound Stadium

To many, there is something innately northern about greyhound racing. The image of men in flat caps smoking a pipe as they pull bank notes out of their pocket to place a bet or two is inescapable, even if massively clichéd. With that in mind, it is not a major shock that there is a greyhound racing stadium in Sunderland, nor that it has been around for many years. It first opened its doors in 1940, having been renovated and expanded since then, with the most recent changes taking place in 1989 to offer it at least a sense of modernity.

Owned by Arena Racing Company, it has also played host to speedway racing at times. The Sunderland Stars held their racing there from 1964 to 1974, as did the Saints and the Gladiators. It is mainly a greyhound racing track, however, which is why it made its way on to this site. Situated in the area of Fulwell, it hosts some big competitions and racing takes place at the venue four times a week, thanks to fixtures all year round. That includes a busy Christmas period, when the people of Sunderland head to the track for some festive action.

The Track & Facilities

Sunderland race
Image thanks to Sunderland Greyhound Stadium

If you’re heading to Sunderland Greyhound Stadium to watch some racing action, you might be interested to know that the track boasts a circumference of 379 metres and it is 93 metres to the first bend when the races are over 450 metres. If the race is of a distance of 640 metres then the distance to the first bend is 84 metres, indicating just how much things can change based on the race’s length. It is the sort of thing that you’ll want to know if you’re going to place a bet or two, given how it can influence a race’s outcome.

In terms of the facilities on offer at Sunderland Greyhound Stadium, you’ve got a few options open to you. There is a restaurant that offers excellent views of the track, in addition to televisions that are well-placed and provide some extra information. If you’d rather splash out a bit more than you can have a private box, whilst those that prefer to keep things simple can take advantage of the fast food offerings around the venue. There are also a few bars from which you can get a drink, with both alcoholic and soft drinks available.

At the time of writing, the following distances are run at the course:

  • 261 Metres
  • 450 Metres
  • 640 Metres
  • 828 Metres
  • 640 Metre Hurdles

Major Races & Events

Sunderland race start
Image thanks to Sunderland Greyhound Stadium

Big stadiums host big races, so it is no surprise that Sunderland Greyhound Stadium has a couple on its books. It has had more, including the Northern Puppy Derby, which was inaugurated there in 1994, but that was transferred from Sunderland to Newcastle Stadium in 2010.

Arena Racing Company Grand Prix

Not to be confused with the defunct Grand Prix that took place at Walthamstow Stadium, the Arena Racing Company Grand Prix was first run in 2007. Run over 640 metres, the 2022 race winner’s connections took home prize money of £10,000. Previously known as the William Hill Grand Prix, ARC renamed it when they took over the stadium in 2017. The prize money is part of the reason why it is a Category 1 event. The 2013 running was notable for the fact that Hometown Honey and Calzaghe Lilly finished in a dead heat.

The Classic

As with the Arena Racing Company Grand Prix, the Classic took place for the first time in 2007. The two races formed part of a festival of racing that were designed to improve Sunderland Greyhound’s standing in the sport. On its day, the Classic offered prize money of £25,000, making it one of the most prestigious races in the United Kingdom. Nowadays that has been significantly reduced, with £6,500 being aware to the winner in 2021. That means that entries for it mainly come from the north of England, rather than further afield.

In the News

Sunderland Greyhound Stadium has been in the news a few times in recent years, with some of the stories being better than others. There was the incidental mention of the venue in a story about a teenage boy who was hit by a bus in May of 2022, which came a month after a report into the fact that the Food Standards Agency had issued it with a four out of five star rating. There was also the fact that the stadium had acted responsibly in July of that year, choosing to cancel the racing during the extreme heatwave at the time.

About Sunderland Greyhound Stadium

Sunderland rainbow
Image thanks to Sunderland Greyhound Stadium

The stadium cost a not-insignificant £60,000 when it was built in 1940, having been designed by the architects Matkin and Hawkins. Known as Boldon Greyhound Stadium at the time, it was built on a site to the north of Sunderland and the south-east of East Boldon. Opposite the stadium was the East Boldon hospital for infectious diseases, doubtless leading to jokes about people having ‘caught the racing bug’ after attending a fixture there. That later became a sanatorium. The area was chosen thanks to the local links to mining, which is often associated with the world of greyhound racing.

The first races took place on the 23rd of March in 1940, with other meetings quickly following. That first meeting saw eight races take place, all over 450 yards, having been advertised as taking place at Sunderland’s ‘Super Greyhound Stadium’ that had a ‘wonder totalisator’ and ‘three luxurious clubs’. Percheron won the first ever race at the venue, running out of trap 2 and coming home at odds of 5/2 in 28.35 seconds. Even though the venue opened during the Second World War, it was still very successful.

The Post-War Period

Sunderland Greyhound Stadium has alternately been an independent ‘flapping’ track, as well as having an association with the National Greyhound Racing Club. It has also been known as both the Newcastle Sports Stadium and the Boldon Greyhound Stadium before taking on its current moniker. Business grew year-on-year after the venue opened, culminating in a peak in 1946. Boasting a late glass front and a ballroom, covered stands and clubs ensured that it remained a popular venue to attend for those that enjoyed racing.

It first joined the NGRC in the wake of the war’s conclusion, but then withdrew its membership in 1951. The stadium wanted owner-trainers to be able to race their dogs on separate nights from the National Greyhound Racing Club nights, but they were refused the ability to do this so chose to go independent. That lasted for the next forty years, during which time the racing mainly took place on Thursday and Saturday evenings. The price money was considered to be good for a ‘flapper’ course, which ensured its popularity.

Having boasted an all-grass track for most of its existence, Sunderland switched to an all-sand surface in the latter part of the 1970s. During this time, it mainly offered handicap races over 420 metres, but changes came when the Sunderland Greyhound Racing Company withdrew its support for the venue. Though its betting licence was renewed, it closed its doors in 1980 whilst an offer to buy or lease it was waiting to be taken up. This eventually happened when John Young stepped in to become the General and Racing Manager, introducing whippet racing.

The Stadium Re-Opens

Towards the end of 1988, the former trainer of Brough Park, Harry Williams, worked alongside Terry Robson, a businessman and race horse owner, to take over the venue. More than £1 million was spent rebuilding the facilities and installing a new track, with a restaurant and private boxes installed. The pair also made an application to join the NGRC, whilst Eddie Shotton’s Mailcom business offered sponsorship to the tune of £20,000. It had an Outside McGee hare, with racing taking place on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

When National Greyhound Racing Club racing returned on the sixth of June 1990, it did so with a bumper card of 12 races. Many who attended felt that it was virtually unrecognisable as a course when compared to the venue that had existed just two years before. Ten days after the opening, open racing took place that saw Ravage Again running in the middle of what would go on to be a 29-race consecutive winning streak. This ensured Sunderland’s return to prominence without the greyhound racing industry.

The Modern Stadium

David Mullins and Ted Soppitt arrived at Sunderland Greyhound Stadium as trainers in 1991 and the following year Sunday racing was introduced for the first time. The stadium’s status was all but confirmed when Harry Williams won the Scottish Greyhound Derby with New Level in 1993. During the 1990s and into the 2000s, ownership of the venue changed hands a number of times. Part of that saw the stadium gain a Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service contract, which proved lucrative, before William Hill got involved.

The British bookmaker spend £9.4 million buying the venue in September of 2002, swiftly naming a number of races after itself. The company worked hard to improve what the venue offered, being named the Northern Greyhound Track of the Year in 2005. The next big change came about in 2017 when Arena Company bought the track from William Hill, buying Newcastle Greyhound Stadium at the same time. A year later and a contract was signed with ARC to ensure racing every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoon, as well as Wednesday evenings.

Track Records

Sunderland Greyhound Stadium has seen numerous race lengths take place at it over the years. As you can imagine, the distances raced as well as the records set for them change all the time. The following information is correct at the time of writing, but might well be different by the time you’re actually reading it:

Distance Record Time Date Set
261 Metres 15.38 Seconds 9th July 2010
450 Metres 26.49 Seconds 22nd July 2018
640 Metres 38.81 Seconds* 14th April 2022
828 Metres 51.81 Seconds 24th January 2006
640 Metre Hurdles 39.55 Seconds 10th September 2009

*Record set during the Arena Racing Company Grand Prix semi-final