Day in the life: John Connor, Racing manager, Drumbo Park Greyhound Stadium
Meet the man ensuring a fun time for all as the dogs get off to a flying start
I am one of only two dog racing managers in the whole of Northern Ireland. The job is not nine to five and no two days are ever the same.
My week is divided into two distinct sections:
Mondays to Wednesdays are all about preparing for the race. Owners and trainers come into the stadium to run their dogs to get them fit; and Thursdays to Saturdays are when the fun really starts building up to create the unique atmosphere that is Drumbo Park.
The first thing I do in the morning of a race day is to go to my computer to check the weather. It is vital that the track is damp, firm but springy with good traction for the dogs.
I have a cup of tea before going to the shop to buy the papers and check on the results from the previous night. Everything is online now but I still can’t break the habit of looking in the papers.
When I arrive at Drumbo Park I check the weather again online. After that I have a discussion with Davy Boyd, the head groundsman to decide how the track is going to be prepared for the day.
I then have to get everything ready for the night’s racing, including the bookie sheets and the race cards. We get 300 to 320 entries a week and I have to choose six dogs per race, grading them as evenly as possible to ensure they are of similar ability.
It’s important to know how many people we have booked in for dinner each night, so I check with the booking office and also see if there are any race sponsors, corporate clients or anyone celebrating a birthday that might need special attention.
There are many big nights at Drumbo Park but one I am particularly looking forward to is the Bettor.com Northern Irish Derby in June which will have prize money of £25,000.
At 3pm I go home and grab a quick bite to eat and a rest before the big night ahead.
I return to the stadium and sort out the prize money for the races. I walk the track and switch everything on — the lights, trap and photo-finish cameras. Everything is tested to ensure it is in full working order.
This is when the crazy time starts! We start by weighing the dogs and checking their earmarks to make sure the correct dog is running and everything correlates with the race card.
The dogs are then kennelled up in preparation for the race. Next we do a draw for random drug testing — two dogs are chosen every night.
The excitement has been building for an hour and now it is time for the racing to start. There are 11 races in all. I do all the announcements, calling the dogs to the traps, giving out the results and doing the race commentary. It is important that customers have as much information as possible.
After the last race, we come back to the office to check all the results. Every result is put online within five minutes of the race finishing. We then discuss any problems during the evening, and then I check with the stadium vet to see if any of the dogs were hurt.
Finally, I call into the main office to check everything went smoothly. I can then go home.
I have been working with greyhounds all my life and feel very lucky. Greyhound owners are top people and it is nice to see more women and a lot of young people coming into the game.
With the gourmet restaurant and grandstand views, greyhound racing has changed a lot over the years but some of the old characters are still about and they are fierce crack. The hours are long but when everything goes well there is a great sense of achievement.