It’s the last Sunday in August and Longwood, up the Hume and halfway to Wangaratta, is alive to the sound of beating paws for the running of the oldest greyhound event in Victoria – the Waterloo Cup.
For 146 years the Waterloo has been coursing’s ultimate prize and, although the crowds are down from the old days (for the 1923 Cup two special trains had to be arranged for the crowd!), the future of the event – and coursing in general – is bright.
GRV CEO Alan Clayton hasn’t missed a Waterloo in his four years at the helm and is enthusiastic about the future of coursing. He says coursing has a ‘special spot’.
“It provides a chance for dogs that might not get a run on the circle track. It’s a great alternative, with a terrific atmosphere and we think it fits the bill really well.”
“We treat the coursing as the 14th club of greyhound racing.”
He is also keen on improving facilities for coursers. Of the four tracks available, Melton has been out of action for some time and is considered the priority for improvement.
Coursing on the rise
“We’ve done a few things to improve the old track at Melton. It’s currently being refurbished to provide really good facilities for both racing and training. We’re dealing with council at the moment, but hopeful for completion within 12 months.”
“I just hope we can keep coursing going (forward) to bigger and better things.”
The community-like atmosphere at coursing events is a tremendous attraction. The four Victorian tracks – Longwood, Lang Lang, Benalla and soon Melton – all provide relaxed settings where families often indulge in picnics, barbies and enthusiastic socialising.
The first Waterloo Cup was run in Sunbury in 1873 but the history of the sport is far deeper. It became popular during the sixteenth century when Queen Elizabeth arranged for the first rule book. The first official club was established in 1776 in Norfolk, England, but there is evidence to suggest the ancient Greeks were keen coursers, as the first written reference came from there in 100CE. Even William Shakespeare referenced the sport.
Flash forward to 2019 and it was Aston Bintang (Barcia Bale-Fantastic Dotty) who took the Waterloo honours this year, not letting fellow finalist Vital Force anywhere near the front. It was something of a surprise for trainer Paul Abela in his first foray into coursing, and only the young dog’s second.
The Cup was the last coursing meeting for the year, so plans have started for a bigger 2020.
Who knows – it might just be the year they need those trains again…