Betting coup falls flat on its face

Greg Wood on the tricksters who were given a dose of the blues at the dogs
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The Independent Online
Even for a nation of dog lovers, providing a greyhound with a smart and spotless new floor might seem a little extreme, but then whoever meddled with the traps at Sheffield greyhound stadium last Friday was motivated by more than simple goodwill.

Blue was the colour, and cheating was the game. Shortly before off-time for the regular Friday meeting, stadium staff discovered a significant alteration to the traps to be used for five of the evening's races. Each box boasted a shiny new Formica floor - with the exception of trap two, the blue box.

A fast start is all but essential in dog racing, but the only way trap two's rivals were going to get away quickly was if they were wearing ice skates. The Formica was removed immediately and the meeting went ahead as normal. However, whether the rogue handymen were aware that their scheme had been rumbled is open to question.

In the first two races from the traps in question, the dog in the blue jacket started the warm favourite, at 7-4. The first finished fifth, the second trailed home third. When the traps were next called into action, all interest in the two dog had evaporated, and it started at 12-1.

David Baldwin, Sheffield's racing manager, said that all the traps are checked for illicit alterations before each meeting, and was also surprised that the plotters chose to target the traps used for the card's open races. "They're very hard races where anything can win and the form is from different tracks, it's not as if they've all been running around Sheffield," he said.

The track has reported the incident to the National Greyhound Racing Council, but since any serious skulduggery was averted the case is effectively closed. If anyone is keen to track down the culprit, however, a good way to start might be to find a kitchen fitter in Sheffield who moved heavily into Formica just as the fashionable money moved out.