Towcester Greyhound Stadium

Towcester Greyhound Stadium
Image thanks to Towcester Greyhound Stadium

There are few greyhound stadiums in the country with as much of a history as Towcester. Add to that the fact that many of the noteworthy things to say about the track took place in the recent past and you can see why it is a stadium that many people have a lot to say about it. The Northampton venue hosted the English Greyhound Derby in 2017 and 2018, for example, but then lost it when it seemingly closed down for ever. In 2021, however, the track re-opened and the event returned to take place moving forwards.

When Towcester opened in 2014, it was the first greyhound track to open in Great Britain since 1995, which was the year when both Harlow and Sittingbourne Stadiums opened. It was also unique in the sense that the greyhound track was located inside the horse racing track that already existed. Nowadays, racing takes place at Towcester every Monday, Tuesday and Sunday, promising visitors the opportunity to enjoy a ‘great day at the races’. Given the modernity of the track, it is no surprise that the course offers some of the best facilities in the business.

The Track & Facilities

Towcester track
Image thanks to Towcester Greyhound Stadium

The facilities at Towcester Dog Track are excellent, which is perhaps not much of a surprise when you consider its relative youth as a venue. Situated in the picturesque countryside of Northampton, the Empress Restaurant promises guests a chance to enjoy some culinary delights. The dishes are inspired by the season, made fresh by the in-house chefs. With both the restaurant and the hospitality boxes, you’ll want to book in advance in order to ensure that you don’t end up disappointed. It is, though, worth going to the trouble.

If you’d prefer a more relaxed experience or don’t know how many people you’ll be looking to book for, you can opt to head to either the Bar 4000 or the Fab5 bar. These have tables that are taken up on a first-come, first-served basis, with many tables located outside for those of you that smoke or that wish to enjoy any nice weather. Bar 4000 has a cafe where you can buy food, should you need to get a bite to eat whilst you’re there. Regardless of where you are, you’ll either have a good view or else you’ll be able to see the racing on a well-placed TV screen.

Depending on the day that racing is taking place there can be up to 14 races on offer at Towcester Greyhound Stadium. A wealth of different lengths can be run, but since 2020 the following take place the most often:

  • 270 Metres
  • 500 Metres
  • 712 Metres
  • 942 Metres

Major Races & Events

Towcester Races
Image thanks to Towcester Greyhound Stadium

The amusing thing about Towcester Greyhound Stadium is that it had a number of big events that took place at it before it shut down. Since it re-opened, some of those events have returned, so here’s a look at some of them:

English Greyhound Derby

The most prestigious event on the British greyhound racing calendar, the English Greyhound Derby was inaugurated at White City in 1927. It moved to Wimbledon Stadium in 1985 and then arrived at Towcester in 2017. When Towcester suffered from financial issues, the race moved to Nottingham but returned in 2021. Run over 500 metres, the winner in 2022 earned £175,000. It has enjoyed numerous different sponsors over the years and no trainer has been able to win it as often as Charlie Lister, who has seven victories to his name.

The Puppy Derby

As the name suggests, this event is aimed at puppies aged between 15 and 24 months. It was first run in 1929, being another of the races that were part of the Wimbledon Stadium stable. When the venue closed in 2017, it was moved to Towcester when Wimbledon shut, then Henlow when Towcester began having its problems. It returned to Towcester in 2020 and should remain for the foreseeable. Though there are other puppy derbies, such as the Midland Puppy Derby, none have the prestige of this one.

The Juvenile

Inaugurated in 1957 at, you guessed it, Wimbledon Stadium, the Juvenile was known as the Greyhound Express Merit Puppy Trophy until it took on its current moniker in 1964. Open to puppies aged between 15 and 24 months, it is run over 500 metres and in 2022 the prize money for the winner was £5,000. The competition shifted to Central Park in Sittingbourne when Wimbledon closed, then Owlerton before arriving at Towcester Greyhound Stadium in 2021. At the time of writing it is sponsored by Racing Post TV.

In the News

Any time you search for a greyhound stadium in the news, you are inevitably greeted by stories about the biggest races taking place during the summer. With a select few, you’ll also find stories that report on bad news for one reason or another. That certainly would have been the case with Towcester back when it was going through its financial trouble, but the good news is that nowadays the stories concerning the greyhound track are mostly positive, tracking about its re-opening and how things have been going since.

In May of 2022, for example, the new General Manager at the track, Mick Conneely, said that he wanted to bring the ‘sleeping giant’ that is the racecourse back to life. Having previous worked as at Coventry Stadium, Conneely believed he could put his experience into practice at the Northampton venue. A month earlier, the big story was about the fact that thousands of people were going to flood to the course in order to watch the return of the English Greyhound Derby, which is one of the sports most famous events.

About Towcester Greyhound Stadium

Greyhounds racing at Towcester
Image thanks to Towcester Greyhound Stadium

Towcester Greyhound Stadium’s opening on the sixth of December in 2014 was heralded by many, owing to the fact that it was the first such venue to open in Great Britain for the best part of a decade. In 1995, both Harlow and Sittingbourne Stadiums opened up for business, but there had been a long wait to see another such track open. The owner of the horse racecourse, Lord Hesketh, had come up with the idea of having a greyhound track within the boundaries of the racecourse, working alongside Chief Executive Kevin Ackerman.

The pair worked to recruit people that would be well-placed to get the dog track running well, installing former Walthamstow Stadium Racing Manager Chris Page in the same role at Towcester. Andy Lisemore was brought in as the Deputy Racing Manager, whilst Steve Cale was asked to run the operation throughout. £1.5 million was spent building the track, with 60,000 tonnes of soil laid down for the 420 metre circumference track. It ensured that the dog track’s surface met the horse racing home straight on a level setting.

That desire to have the track’s ending meet the home straight of the horse’s at the same level means that it boasts a rise of six-metres. The bends are wide, meaning that up to eight dogs can be accommodated for racing. Unused horse stables were used for the dog kennels, which trainers such as Mark Wallis, Chris Allsopp and Kevin Hutton were brought on board. The distances run were 260, 480, 500, 655, 686 and 906 metres, whilst the giant screen situated on the home straight was the first such thing to be installed at a greyhound stadium.

The Course Goes into Administration

Despite how much was spent on the building of the course and the work that was put in to putting the right people into the correct positions, the future of the stadium was plunged into doubt in August of 2018. On the 16th of the month, a statement was released that read

Towcester Racecourse Company Limited, proprietors of Towcester Racecourse, are currently experiencing trading difficulties and are in discussions with key stakeholders and professional advisers on the way forward.

The way forward, it was decided, was to put the stadium into administration, with the last greyhound meeting said to have been four days prior. KPMG were appointed to the role of administrators a week after the statement was released, with 134 of the 137 staff members at the venue being made redundant. Eight of the trainers moved to Henlow Stadium, whilst Kevin Hutton decided to head to Monmore. On the 13th of November, the administrators announced that the assets of the course had been sold to Fermor Land LLP.

Fermor Land LLP was formed just 26 days before the sale, headed up by Mark Westropp, who was the brother-in-law of Lord Hesketh as well as the trustee of the Hesketh Family Trust. No details of how much was paid for the assets were revealed, though KPMG did say that the offer they had accepted represented the ‘best return to creditors’. With 28 parties having shown interest in buying Towcester, which included both the racecourse and the greyhound track, so the sale pleased people concerned with both greyhound racing and the horse racing industry.

The Return of Racing

In October of 2019, a deal was signed for the 10-year lease of Towcester by the promotor of Henlow Stadium, Kevin Boothby. His immediate intention was that greyhound racing would resume in March of the following year, but the opening of the venue was delayed due to the global health crisis of the time. It eventually opened again on the 22nd of May 2020, with some major competitions heading back to the track as a result. The likes of the English Greyhound Derby, the Juvenile and the Puppy Derby all returned to Northampton.

The initial plan of Boothby was for racing to take place on Fridays and Saturdays, with the hope being that it would increase to four meetings a week by 2021. That didn’t happen exactly as planned, but Boothby always felt that the facilities at Towcester were there to ensure that it would be a success. One of the first changes that he made was to reduce the width from 11.5 metres to eight metres, creating a ‘safer circuit’. The drainage system was also replaced, with a new watering system introduced to the track too.

Track Records

It goes without saying that any number of track distances can be removed or added at any moment, such is the manner in which greyhound stadiums operate. With that in mind, some of these distances might not be being run when you read this and other ones might have been added. At the time of writing, though, these are the records worth noting:

Distance Record Time Date Set
270 Metres 15.42 Seconds 11th June 2022
500 Metres 28.78 Seconds* 11th June 2022
712 Metres 42.80 Seconds 24th April 2022
942 Metres 58.15 Seconds 15th August 2021

*Set during the quarter-final of the English Greyhound Derby