Greyhound Racing

Life of a Racing Greyhound

While hundreds of racing fans watch greyhounds compete in racing, the wagering public rarely sees the kennel compound and how the greyhounds are handled.

Gulf Greyhound Park uses 14 of its kennels to accommodate the racing greyhounds. The compound also has an Adoption Kennel where greyhounds are cared for until they find their retirement home. Only individuals who are licensed by the Texas Rac­ing Commission are allowed in the kennel compound. Licensed individuals must un­dergo a DPS background check before they are allowed to participate in racing.

 All the kennels are heated and air conditioned, and consist of a kitchen, bathroom and crate area. Each kennel can house 62 greyhounds. Greyhound homes are “crates”, which are roomy and airy and allow plenty of room for a greyhound to stand, turn, stretch out and see all the other greyhounds. Either a soft carpet or a deep cushion of shredded paper makes for a comfortable bed. Just like a house dog, a greyhound’s crate is its place for security and rest.

 At least four times each day, on a regular routine, greyhounds are let into a sandy “turnout” pen, where they have an opportunity to socialize with other greyhounds, re­lieve themselves, and just enjoy a sunny day. Males and females are turned out separately. The females are given a low weekly dose of hormones to prevent them from coming into a breeding cycle, somewhat like a doggie birth control pill. Greyhounds are typically not neutered or spayed until they are retired from racing, as the best may used for breeding future racers.

 Feed time is usually late morning. A greyhound’s diet is high in protein, using the same quality meat found in most commercial pet foods. However, the meat is fed raw to provide a higher nutrient value, and mixed with a top quality dry dog food and is often supplemented with vitamins and minerals and other nutritional enhancements, such as pasta. Since the greyhounds are working athletes, the quality and quantity of their diet far exceeds the average pet diet.

 On non-racing days, the greyhounds are exercised daily, either by walking, sprinting, or schooling on the racetrack. They are checked and observed by several handlers, with some getting a whirlpool or a massage.

 On race day, a greyhound is given a light protein snack instead of a full meal. The greyhound is checked by the kennel personnel to make sure there are no injuries or muscle soreness. It is brought up to weigh-in by its handler, where it must weigh plus or minus 11/2 pounds of its established weight as shown in the racing program. At this time it is also checked by the state veterinarian as to ensure that the greyhound is fit to participate.

 After weigh-in, the greyhound is taken to a lockout kennel, also referred to as a “ginny pit, where it is placed in a roomy crate to wait for its race. Cameras are in the lockout kennel so that a trainer and the paddock judge can observe the greyhound at any time. Only authorized and licensed individuals are allowed in the lockout kennel.

 After a race, the greyhound may be walked through a “dip tank” that is filled with cool water behind the paddock area before returning to its kennel. The state veteri­narian observes the greyhounds coming off the track and watches for any sign of in­jury. Back at the kennel, the greyhound is fully cooled out and given its dinner, and usually a cookie for a treat. The kennel trainer goes over the greyhound again to check for any injuries or soreness, and if necessary, the greyhound will be placed on the “vet’s list” and will not race again until all problems are resolved.

 Greyhounds quickly learn the daily routine and thrive on its consistency. In addition to their physical routines, the trainers and kennel helpers regularly pet and play with the greyhounds, since happy and healthy greyhounds perform to their potential. Inju­ries do happen while racing, as with any athletic activity, but people from the trainer to the state veterinarian to the track maintenance crew are all involved in ensuring as safe an environment as possible.

 Drugs are strictly prohibited, and greyhounds are routinely tested on race days. The Texas Racing Commission judges oversee the activities at the racetrack and are charged with the responsibility of enforcing all the rules and policies designed to en­sure integrity and safety for the public and the greyhounds.

 When a greyhound is retired from racing, it is either returned to its owner for breed­ing or placed with a greyhound adoption group to locate a permanent home with a caring adopter. A greyhound’s quality life during its racing career is one of the rea­sons greyhounds make such good pets.

Raising Greyhounds

Racing greyhounds are registered with the National Greyhound Association (NGA) located in Abilene, Kansas and differ from show greyhounds registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Since racing greyhounds are bred solely for athletic ability and racing temperament, the physical and mental integrity of the breed has remained remarkably intact and free of most genetic anomalies.

Texas Greyhound Tracks

There are three greyhound tracks in Texas: Gulf Greyhound Park in LaMarque, Gulf Coast Racing in Corpus Christi and Valley Race Park in Harlingen. Only 3 licenses may be issued for greyhound tracks and they must be located in counties that have populations of over 190,000 and that include all or part of an island that borders the Gulf of Mexico. (TRA Sec. 6.14 (b)(c)).

The Kennel System

Greyhound racing is conducted under the kennel system. A kennel owner (or operator) agrees to supply a certain number of racing greyhounds to the racetrack and enters into a contract which sets out the terms, conditions and responsibilities of each party (TRC Rule Sec. 309.351).

Greyhounds are leased from their owners. The lease agreement is filed with the racing secretary and sets out the terms of the lease, including the greyhound owner’s percentage of purse winnings, also called commission, which may not be less than 35% (TRA Sec. 6.11(b)). Other terms and conditions may be in the lease, but typically the greyhound owner is not responsible for any of the greyhound’s expenses during the term of the lease. The greyhound owner’s share of the purse is paid directly by the racing association on a weekly basis. The kennel owner receives a set percentage of the greyhound’s earnings and does not receive any “day” or monthly fee.

When a young greyhound reaches the racetrack, it acclimates to its new surroundings through “morning” schoolings around the track, similar to gallops in the morning by racehorses. When ready, the greyhound is entered into an official schooling race for the TxRC judges to determine its ability to compete, based on each track’s qualification requirements and put on the active list.

Grading System

Once a greyhound is placed on the active list, it draws in on a rotational basis under a grading system. A greyhound starts in M grade, or maiden, until it wins. Once it wins, it automatically advances to J grade. After winning a J it advances to D or C, then to B, A, and AA right up the grading ladder as it wins at each grade level.

Points & Purses

Purses paid by Texas tracks are a percentage of live and simulcast handle. Depending on the type of handle, the purse percentages are either set by the Texas Racing Act or annual contract with the Texas Greyhound Association. Greyhound purses are calculated and paid out weekly. A percentage is sent directly to the greyhound owner and a percentage to the kennel owner as determined by the lease contract in place with the racing office.