A Little Off Base: Twice a week, the hounds are released at Mildenhall racetrack
Stars and Stripes August 23, 2006
MILDENHALL — A black greyhound named Demesne Picture squatted on the sandy Mildenhall racetrack and relieved herself in front of a small crowd gathered for a recent greyhound racing night.
Minutes later, feeling a little lighter, Demesne sprinted out of the starting gate and raced ahead of her competitors to win a 375-meter race in 24.79 seconds.
Just a stone’s throw away from RAF Mildenhall, the racetrack allows local greyhound trainers to unleash their dogs in races held every Monday and Friday night. Spectators can either sit back and watch the swift dogs or make a wager on one of them for as little as one pound.
“A lot of people don’t gamble,” said Ann Raymond, who runs a kennel for retired racing greyhounds. “It’s mostly the thrill of watching the dogs in full stride,” she said.
Greyhounds are one of the oldest dog breeds and can be traced back to ancient Egypt. With powerful hind legs and an athletic frame, greyhounds are considered to be the perfect racing machine, according to the British Greyhound Racing Board Web site.
On this night, groups of greyhounds raced in 375- and 545-meter heats that ran every 15 minutes. The lean greyhounds seemed to enjoy the adrenaline rush of the races, especially chasing after the fluorescent plastic bunny that whizzed around the perimeter of the racetrack.
Seconds before each race, greyhounds yelped and clawed at the inside of the starting gate, as if anticipating what was to come. When the gates opened, the greyhounds leaped out into a speedy stride.
Spectators can be as close as an arm’s length away from the racing greyhounds, the way this racetrack is built. There was plenty of room around the racetrack on this Monday night, because more people tend to show up for the Friday night races, a few regulars said.
Although greyhounds wear muzzles while they race, Raymond insists that their personalities make them good pets following their racing days.
“They’re laid back. They’re couch potatoes,” she said.
Raymond currently has 19 greyhounds up for adoption at her kennel.
The Mildenhall racetrack, located inside the Mildenhall Stadium, will hold a special charity race night for Raymond’s kennel on Sept. 1. The stadium can be found along Hayland Drove, a few minutes west of RAF Mildenhall’s West Row gate.
Admission to the races is 5 pounds for adults and children younger than 16 are free. The first race starts at 7:30 p.m.
To adopt a retired racing greyhound, contact Ann Raymond at 01638 716578 or 07787701695. You can also check out photos of the dogs on her Web site: www.retiredgreyhoundsmildenhall.co.uk For more information on United Kingdom racetracks, go to the British Greyhound Racing Board Web site: www.thedogs.co.uk.