Rembering Powderhall - once the pride of Scottish dog racing
Darrell Williams looks back at Edinburgh's very own lost track...
Nowadays Scotland can boast only one NGRC track, at Shawfield in Glasgow, but until 1995 it was also served by Powderhall, located in Beaverhall Road in the north of Edinburgh.
The stadium, one of the finest anywhere in terms of amenities and quality of racing, had originally staged athletics and cycling when it opened in 1870 - indeed it was the venue for the famous New Year Sprint right up until its demise.
Greyhounds arrived in 1927, with over 10,000 attending the very first meeting on 3rd August; the easy bends and long straights conducive for producing fast times. The only Scottish-trained greyhound to win the English Derby, Boher Ash, trained by Tommy Johnston to success in 1928 was kennelled at the track.
First modernised in 1970 when new facilities included a 100 seater restaurant, a further £750,000 was invested in 1986/7 to mark the track's 60th anniversary, when a new £400,000 grandstand was unveiled. The track had also installed undersoil heating in 1979 to ensure racing could take place throughout the winter months.
Undoubtedly the major attraction was the Edinburgh Cup, first run in 1933, and one of the top events in the calendar. Won by the great Jesmond Cutlet in 1937, who had also won the Scottish Derby at Carntyne for his Catford based connections, the prize was claimed by another London based runner, the highly regarded Dante in 1946. Indeed, runners trained in London amazingly won the race ten times before 1960 including a brace of wins in 1958/9 for one of the greatest greyhounds ever to race, Pigalle Wonder.
The GRA, owners at the time, transferred the Scottish Derby to Powderhall in 1987, after a change of ownership at previous host Shawfield, but Scotland's only Classic spent just two years in Edinburgh. Other major events staged included the Scottish St Leger and Scottish Grand National, the latter another race dominated by southern based runners; Linda Mullins in particular did especially well at the track.
Ownership changed hands in 1988 when the GRA sold the track to local businessman Norrie Rowan for £1.8m, who almost immediately sold it on himself to Coral for an instant profit at £2.2m! It would later be taken over by Eddie Ramsay in 1992.
In 1991, king of the sprinters Ravage Again, trained by Willie Frew, was beaten at the track when closing in on Ballyregan Bob's world record 32 wins in a row - he had been going for his own 30th consecutive victory.
The stadium survived a £25,000 fire in 1987, but couldn't overcome its owners running into financial difficulties in 1995, and was sold early that year for redevelopment for housing.
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