Greyhound racing in Orange Park has long, colorful history - Clay Today (2024)

By Maryjo McTammany

Cutline: In the 1930s, greyhounds were escorted to the starting gates by nattily uniformed attendants at the Clay County Kennel Club.

ORANGE PARK – Greyhounds have been racing in Orange Park, with only a few gaps, for almost a century. During that time, the track has had many names but the locals have always called in simply – the dog track.

It all started in 1926, when a group of heavy hitters from out of town announced the opening of the Seminole Kennel Club at the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 17 and today’s Wells Road. Greyhound racing was struggling for acceptance as a sport and was barely five years old in other parts of the country.

These guys were on the cutting edge of the sport and certain they had invented a surefire way around the Florida laws prohibiting pari-mutuel betting by selling shares in the dogs and calling it investing.

The grand opening on May 22 went as planned with over 5,000 fans playing Wall Street titans and screaming their throats raw cheering for their portfolios. Monday night was a different story when the Clay County Sheriff and his deputies waded hip deep into the Wall Street wonks and hauled the employees off to jail.

The property went back to being a popular location for locally organized rodeos

Then in December 1931, the Clay County Kennel Club opened amid much pomp and ceremony. Some say palms were greased in Tallahassee because by then pari-mutuel betting was legal in Florida.

Still, all was not perfect. A mechanical malfunction caused the rabbit to dawdle in one race and be overtaken and reduced to wires and fur by the dogs, so all bets were off. Things were dicey for a moment, but the crowd decided to laugh not riot and opening night was a success and no one went to jail.

Of particular note during the five -ear incarnation as the Clay County Kennel Club was the introduction of monkey jockeys for one special race at the end of every 10-race card.

With names like Casey Jones, Ready To Go and No Foolin’ the tiny primates paraded onto the track wearing regulation jockey silks and jodhpurs under high collared oilskin capes.

They certainly added another level of competitiveness to the festivities. It was not unusual for two jockeys to become locked in squealing fisticuffs while their greyhound steeds labored to complete the race.

Most of the track’s customers were out of towners from Duval County and beyond. Folks in Clay County, especially Orange Park, were grateful for the jobs. Times were hard and had been for some time. Getting a night job allowed for free days to work turpentine, tend crops, haul timber, cut railroad ties or any of the myriad of things they did to put food on the table.

The Dog Track parking lot provided a ready market for moonshiners to peddle their wares. But, they had to work out a deal with Duval County shiners or someone would have been cut. Plus they had to keep it controlled or the law would close them down.

The concession stand was staffed with local women well known for being top notch cooks who kept flawless kitchens. People weren’t accustomed to eating food cooked at home where they knew it was safe or at a church or family picnic where they knew who made what.

They wore white uniforms and hats that mimicked nurses. At the end of the night they were allowed to take home any leftover popcorn. A generation of children in Orange Park grew up eating a bowl of popcorn with milk and sugar for breakfast.

Children in Orange Park grew up going to the track but never going in because no one under 21 was allowed by law. Dads would park along the fence facing Wells Road and kids piled out and went looking for a knot hole.

From 1935 to 1946, the fenced track was dark, a victim of World War II.

The third grand opening at the end of the war was the charm and the Orange Park Kennel Club continues ever re-inventing itself to adjust and adapt. Orange Park and the dog track have grown up together for almost a century.

That longstanding tradition, however, will end on Dec. 31, 2020, when Amendment 13, which bans dog racing, goes into effect.

Greyhound racing in Orange Park has long, colorful history - Clay Today (2024)

FAQs

How do I find my Greyhounds racing history? ›

The Greyhound Racing and Breeding Database (www.greyhound-data.com) is a resource for identifying and understanding a retired racing greyhound's pedigree and racing history. The information can be accessed using either the 'Dog Search' or 'Tattoo' options.

What happened to all the greyhounds in Florida? ›

Five years later, greyhound racing in Florida is indeed finished, the last dogs used for competitions found adoptive homes and the closed kennel clubs are valuable property — but unfinished business remains. By all accounts Florida Constitutional Amendment 13, approved by a landslide 69% of the vote on Nov.

Why is greyhound racing ending? ›

Too many dogs have died due to the inherent risks of greyhound racing. What needs to change? There were once twenty racetracks in Scotland, now only Thornton Greyhound Stadium remains. It's clear that public attitudes have shifted, participation is dwindling, and the industry is now on its last legs.

What happens to retired greyhound racers? ›

Transition From Racing

Adoption: Many ex-racing greyhounds are placed in adoption programs, which act as intermediaries that help these dogs find new homes.

Where are greyhounds kept when not racing? ›

Due to the stress of racing, many are retired by the age of two, while some last until they are five [5]. A greyhound can be kept in a tiny kennel, 3.5 metres squared (1.2m wide by 1.8m tall). The typical greyhound is 68cm to 76cm tall, meaning the cages barely offer room for movement.

What is the life expectancy of a male greyhound? ›

The expected life span of a greyhound is anywhere between 12 - 15 years. The adaptable, stable and loving nature of the greyhound makes for an easy transition to companion dog regardless of age.

Are there any greyhound tracks left in Florida? ›

In November 2018, Florida voters passed a constitutional referendum banning greyhound racing at tracks after December 31, 2020. Some Florida tracks closed earlier in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened before the December deadline. Live greyhound racing in Florida ended on December 31, 2020.

When was the last Greyhound race in Florida? ›

Dog days of Florida come to an end, with total demise of U.S. greyhound racing within sight. Man's best friend ran one last time at Palm Beach Kennel Club on New Year's Eve, more than two years after state voters axed the sport.

What states still have live greyhound racing? ›

Today, the only states that still allow greyhound racing and have active tracks are Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia. There are four states that do not have active racetracks, but still have laws legalizing greyhound racing. Those states are Wisconsin, Connecticut, Kansas, and Oregon.

Why are people against greyhound racing? ›

Cruel methods are often used to dispose of unwanted dogs and the dogs who do survive in the industry are forced to live in cramped crates, pens or fenced enclosures.

Where is greyhound racing banned? ›

Despite self-regulatory efforts to address the issue of live baiting and other animal welfare issues, the investigation led to suspensions, inquiries, condemnation of the practice and the banning of greyhound racing in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from 1 July 2017, following the passage of ...

Where is greyhound racing most popular? ›

Australia is one of only seven countries in the world with a commercial greyhound racing industry — but it's by far the biggest.

What are the negatives of greyhound racing? ›

There are numerous animal welfare issues inherent to greyhound racing. Overbreeding of dogs, problematic training methods, injuries and deaths during training and races, continuing instances of live-baiting, and the fate of unwanted greyhounds all remain significant concerns.

Why did Florida stop greyhound racing? ›

Over the decades that greyhound racing flourished in the United States, it came at a terrible cost to the animals who were its supposed stars. Just since 2013, when Florida began tracking greyhound deaths, 493 dogs have died on its tracks. Ninety-four percent of these dogs were three years old or younger.

How much do you get if your greyhound wins a race? ›

Will I receive prize money if my greyhound wins? Every greyhound is awarded run money every time he or she races which helps towards the monthly kennel costs – run money varies from track to track but is usually between £30-£50 depending on the track and the grade of your greyhound.

What is the lifespan of an ex racing greyhound? ›

The average life expectancy of a former racer is 12 – 15 years. What is the size of a greyhound? Greyhounds normally are between 24 and 29 inches at the shoulder, and weigh between 50 and 80 pounds. Females are usually smaller than males.

How do I track my greyhound dog? ›

The main on-line resource for tracing your dogs history is known as Greyhound Data (www.greyhound-data.com). If your dog has been included on the database you can discover his: Racing Name. Racing Record.

What is the code tattoo on a greyhound? ›

Lineage and Race Records: The tattoos bear coded information about the dog. Most often, the code tells the year of birth and the order in which the dog was born within its litter.

What does the tattoo on a greyhound's ear mean? ›

The tattoo in a Greyhound's left ear is his litter registration number, which is assigned by the NGA. The tattoo in his right ear identifies a specific puppy in that litter. The tattoo in your retired racer's right ear identifies the month and year of his birth and the order in his litter in which he was tattooed.

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