Go to the dogs and let your cash off the leash

If you don't race out the traps in pursuit of a quick profit, there's a buzz in owning a greyhound, says Jasmine Birtles
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When your investment turns out to be a dog, you will usually be advised to cash it in and start again.

When the dog is a greyhound, though, that's a different breed of investment altogether.

If you love dogs, enjoy the buzz of a racetrack and have the time and space to care for, and train, the animals, then greyhound racing can be a great way to make a bit on the side - though a fair amount of investment will be needed over a few years before you see any return.

The cost of a greyhound can vary hugely. An unraced puppy aged 16 weeks will fetch between £350 and £1,500 depending on its breeding. Expect the cost to rise as dogs get older and more experienced.

Naturally, the better the greyhound, the greater the price, and many newer investors club together with friends. A top-class greyhound at one of the bigger tracks will fetch up to £5,000, while the best in the country - those with a record of winning races - can sell for around £20,000.

There are several ways to buy a racing greyhound, but if you are just starting it's best to go through one of the trainers at the track where you want to race; most have young dogs in training that they have bought with a view to selling on. You can also buy at public auction. There are regular sales around Britain (find out about them in the Racing Post or at www.thedogs.co.uk) and at Shelbourne Park in Dublin.

Keeping a greyhound in training is relatively inexpensive, usually costing £5 or £6 per day plus veterinary fees when required. Greyhounds are not allowed to run until they are at least 15 months old.

"The prize money is not at a great level but we're trying to get a deal with the bookmakers to bring it up," says Arthur Hammond, a director of the British Greyhound Racing Board (BGRB). "If the dog is good quality, it will be able to run in open races, and the winnings can be £200 upwards. We had the Greyhound Derby recently and the top prize was £75,000."

"As an asset they wouldn't be suggested by financial advisers," says Peter Laurie, welfare officer at the BGRB. "It's a hobby and it can be an expensive one. You buy a dog and you hope it will do well in competitions and then have a lucrative stud career. But only a small minority will actually make money for you."

Many greyhounds retire young, at perhaps four years old, and owners should follow the stipulations of the National Greyhound Racing Club in caring for their animals responsibly (visit www.ngrc.org.uk for more details).

A £40,000 prize from the Boy racer

Elaine Parker from Sheffield recently won a race in Sunderland with a prize of £40,000.

Or rather her dog Mahers Boy, owned in partnership with her brother-in-law, did.

"He's a top-class dog," she says, "but then he did cost me £12,000 when I bought him and his sister. Really good animals can cost a lot and they don't always win races.

"Mahers Boy is three and a half now, so this will probably be his last season," she adds.

"You have to keep the dogs well fed and exercised and really you will only get two or three years of good running out of them."

Further reading: For a guide to turning hobbies into moneyspinners, read 'Where to Put Your Money' by Jonathan Reuvid (Kogan Page, £8.99)

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