Scott Fraser 1
My name is Scott Fraser, 44 year old ex-footballer and greyhound racing
My passion for greyhound racing dates back to the early seventies and Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh where my mum worked in the Owners and Trainers Bar as a tote operator (so it's all her fault really).
Every Saturday night (probably from the age of 7 or 8) I would beg her to take her with me to her "work" and more often than not she would relent and I would sit myself down at a table next to the tote operators and plot how to turn my weekly pocket money into vast fortune by picking 8 winners in a row. Yes thare were only 8 races a night in those days and only 3 meetings a week so the chances of making your fortune were limited.
I would try all the usual systems, the names I liked the best, if any of the dogs' names shared my initials or which ones looked the nicest!!! Once I had a better understanding of what was going on (something I still don't think I've truly grasped) I progressed to more scientific methods as I got a bit older (at least 11 or 12 years old) - choosing dogs who had lost a little
weight since their last run, then onto those who had put on a bit of weight since their last run, only picking "back markers" in staying handicaps unless something was "off the front" for the first time in it's racing career.
It didn't matter to me how succesful my "systems" were I was just happy to be at the dogs and to be able to take in the whole atmosphere, the excitement, the thrill, the noise, the stories (mostly hard luck ones), the people and most of all the dogs themselves.
Of course, being a young kid of primary school age I shouldn't have been anywhere near the place which made it all the more exciting and sitting next to the Tote in the Owners and Trainers there were always a few winners who would sling you 50p or a £1 from their winnings (I perfected that look after a while), normally with the advice "don't waste that on a dog!" and so it was that I spent a great deal of my time during my formative years around "doggy people".
The fact that I almost always left with more than I had started with (mainly due to the generosity of winning owners and punters) probably gave me a slightly rose tinted view of the world of greyhound racing but I was well and truly hooked.
I progressed from the comfort of the Owners and Trainers (and the watchful gaze of my mum) to standing with a few mates at the "3rd bend" during my early teens and felt a degree of independence in being able to place my own bets although the safety net of picking up the odd windfall from the lucky winners in the O & T meant that the harsh realities of gambling were
starting to hit home and it was a fairly regular occurrence to have "done in" my pocket money by Sunday morning.
Of course, by standing outside and being closer to the track it meant I was also able to better appreciate just how graceful, intelligent and f*****g fast the dogs were and I probably made my mind up then that this was a sport that would get into my blood and stay with me for the rest of my days.
By now I was attending almost every meeting at Powderhall and was able to fluently read a race card (although I was not able to fluently pick winners) and I had formed firm friendships with a crowd of lads who all loved the dogs. The only time that I missed a meeting was when it clashed with my football training or matches as that was definately my first love with Powderhall a close second.
When I was 15 I had a part-time job and had graduated from the 3rd bend to "The Stand" which was where the big punters stood and the atmosphere was a little different.
The atmosphere there was different to "outside" ( the name given parts of the stadium out with the main stand), there were serious punters in the main ring and bookies who would happily take them on. There were good old-fashioned plunges and many times when the layers were literally knocked over after chalking up a price.
The busiest night of the year was Edinburgh Cup night when some of the best dogs in the UK would travel to Powderhall and take on the best of the local hounds. The atmosphere on those nights was electric and as a young lad in amongst it the excitement was intoxicating.
It was around 1980, after a year or so of being a regular in the main stand, that I decided to buy my own greyhound. I was on first name terms and friendly with most of the guys who attended Powderhall and it was through one of these contacts that I, along with my brother Keith, purchased a young dog called And Why Not (seemed like an appropriate name) for the princely sum of £200.
He was trained by an Englishman named Stan Richards and his kennels were about an hour's drive from my house so it was easy to get to at the weekends to take "Micky" for a walk in the woods. Micky was a lovely fawn dog around 33 kilos but didn't quite seem to understand that the name of the game was to finish in front of the rest of the dogs in the race. But it was still a
great thrill to watch your dog race and to be able to flash your Owners Pass at the gate was a bit of a novelty.
The crunch came for Micky on April 28th that year (my birthday) as we had managed to get him dropped in grade and Stan had assured us he was "absolutely spot on and should win on Saturday". Keith and I had told our mates to get to the track and have a few quid on and most of the family had given us money for them to have on. I was nervous and excited as usual as the dogs were loaded in the traps, Micky (2/1 from 7/2) was in T1 and a sprinter named Woodhill Boy was in T3. The boxes open and the white jacket flies out swiftly followed by our boy, into the first bend and 3 goes round a couple of lengths on front of 1 and there's trouble in behind, halfway down the back straight and there's only a length between them with Micky closing to half a length at the third. It was just about now that we started oi oi'ing. Everyone in the stadium knew the 3 dog was a short runner and we knew Micky was reasonably strong. He was 4 clear of the dog in third spot as he joined Woodhill Boy round the 3rd and 4th turn . . . . . . . .But as they straightened up on the home straight our lad decided to have a "word in the ear" of the 3 dog. That little "chat" had turned into a full blown argument by the time they got to the line and the 6 dog came from nowhewre to beat to win the race with Micky in second. "And in that race Trap 3 And Why Not has been disqualified for fighting" - those were the last words I heard from the stadium announcer as I trudged out with my tail between my legs and my wallet a whole lot lighter than it had been a few minutes earlier. We trialled Micky over hurdles but let's just say tht he was not a "natural hurdler" and after a couple of months we gave him to a frind of mine who went flapping and he ended up having a fair degree of success with him.
After that painful experience my desire to own a greyhound took a severe dent, however, a good few years later I was an owner again with a great hulking beast called "Cosmic Dash".
In the years between And Why Not and Cosmic Dash I had been fortunate enough to sign as a professional footballer with Glasgow Rangers and the visits to Powderhall had become less frequent but always enjoyable. I had also spent some time playing football in Australia and it was there, at Melbourne's Olympic Park that my passion for greyhound racing was ignited once more.
When I returned to Edinburgh in 1989 I signed for Berwick Rangers who were part time pro' and I used to organise nights out to Powderhall for the players and their partners on a fairly regular basis. By this time Powderhall was very different. A change of ownership and much smaller crowds, a greatly reduced number of bookies and now only the main stand was used and the "outside" only opened on Saturdays. It was still a great night out though and when I was offered the chance to buy Cosmic Dash for £300 I jumped at it.
"Dasher" was definitely a 6 bend dog, he was also a particulary clumsy beast and found the first bend over the standard trip a magnet for trouble. After a few months with only a couple of wins over the 465 trip we trialled him over 650 and managed to get him into a few 6 bend handicaps. Always sitting in the middle of the handicap, although gradually getting a little further away from the back marker each run, he regularly found trouble in running and could not finish in the first three.
Then one Tuesday evening I picked up the advance cards for the meetings later that week. Saturday night 650 h/cap Trap 6 Cosmic Dash (R17) - for those of you unfamiliar with handicap racing this meant the Dasher was receiving a 17 metre start from the backmarker, to make things even better the closest dog to him was receiving 14 metres, surely he should get a clear run? I told the lads in the team on the Saturday afternoon he had a big chance but having had a few wayward punts on Dasher in the previous few months they treated my optimism with typical footballers retorts. Anyway, my big problem with the whole scenario was that I had promised to look after my daughter (Cherie) who was only 3 years old at the time and I had no babysitter to help me out, so the only answer was Cherie would come to Powderhall with me. It was a cold night so we decided to go for Dasher's race only and then come straight home, win or lose. The dogs were parading and the bookies started to price up . . . . The backmarker was Evens fav and Dasher opened 6/1. I had £150 and it was going to be all or nothing, 6's became 8's then 10's. I couldn't wait any longer, with Cherie on my shoulders I went up to Hugh Crawford - "£1500 to £150 for Scott" and it was in the book. The favourite had now gone odds on and the hare was running. With the wee one on my shoulders I waited with my heart pounding, the hare approached the boxes, it took a while to get past Dasher's solitary trap but when it did - BOOM, he was out and gone. As soon as he cleared the first 2 bends I started to shout him home "Go On My Son, Go On My Son". Over a chorus of boos from the favourite backers who obviously felt they had been on the wrong end of a "sting", Dasher romped home by nearly 6 lengths. Hughie was a gentleman and was delighted to pay me out but he did suggest that it would be a long time before Dasher got that sort of start again and that was very true. After a few weeks it was obvious that the handicapper felt he had been over-generous with Dasher and he gave him no chance in his next 3 races. A friend of mine who ran dogs at Shawfield asked if I would sell him and a deal was agreed at £350. It was better for everyone that Dasher was able to start afresh at a new track and he went on to race for another couple of years at Shawfield before being retired.
I mentioned earlier that the atmosphere had changed at Powderhall and it certainly had - for the worse. Another change of ownership, this time to a guy named Edgar Ramsay, and all
of a sudden the attendances were dwindling, the number of bookies reduced to four and I suppose the writing was on the wall. A couple of years later Powderhall was closed and sold to property developers and from that day to this Edinburgh has been without a greyhound
stadium which, in my opinion, is a crying shame.
Without a local track to attend my interest/involvement with the dogs dropped significantly and wasn't until a chance meeting in London some 8 or 9 years later with Keith Sobey of The Centaur Group that things changed . .. . . .
To be concluded