Romford Greyhound Stadium, referred to as Coral Romford Greyhound Stadium is a greyhound racing track located in Romford in the London Borough of Havering in east London which is owned by the Gala Coral Group. The stadium has a capacity for over 4,300 people.
The stadium has won several awards including the British Greyhound Racing Board's 'Racecourse of the Year' award in 1998 and again in 2003. Several Underworld tracks are named after greyhounds that ran at the stadium, including Born Slippy, Sappy's Curry, and Pearl's Girl.
It is the last remaining greyhound track in east London; since the closure of Walthamstow Stadium in 2008.
The track is 350 metres in circumference, and the distances raced are 225, 400, 575, 750 and 925 metres.
There are five race meetings each week, on Saturday mornings and Thursday afternoons and during the evening on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. During December racing is also held on Tuesday evenings.
Bets for each race can be placed either at the Tote or with the track-side bookmakers.
A number of major open racing events take place at the stadium each year, these include the Golden Sprint, the Champion Stakes, which is broadcast live on Sky Sports, the Puppy Cup and the Essex Vase.
The stadium consists of two stands both containing a number of bars and restaurants, plus a separate restaurant called The Pavilion.
The Main stand is situated on the finishing line side of the race track and is split into two levels inside with staggered standing platforms outside. Inside on the ground floor there are two fast-food restaurants and two bars, the La Roc Bar and the Trappers Bar, while on the second floor there is the Chase Restaurant and the Laurie Panthers Bar which is the largest bar in the stadium.
A soft children's play area is provided for use by people in either of the two stands and because of its position still allows the racing to be watched from the edge of the track.Essex Vase
Romford Puppy Cup
Archer Leggett and his brother-in-law rented a small piece of land near the Crown Hotel just off the London Road in Romford in 1929. They put down £400 to equip the land ready for greyhound racing and opened for business on 21 June and invited privately owned greyhounds to chase a hare driven by an old Ford car engine. The venture only lasted one year because the landlord increased the rent, doubling it to £4 a week which resulted in the decision to move the greyhound operation. Later £600 was raised which enabled Leggett to build a new track with a stand in a field within Belle Vue Meadow adjacent to the London and North Eastern Railway line. The new site was on the south side of the London Road opposite the original venue north of the London Road. It included a hand-operated totalisator and electrically operated hare. The first meeting took place on 20 September 1931 with regular attendances in excess of 1,000 frequenting each meeting.
In 1935 four new directors including Fred Leaney and Michael Pohl joined the original directors and an extra £17,000 investment followed which allowed the track to turn to be converted into a stadium. Extra stands and kennels were constructed by the new company called Romford Stadium Ltd who then turned their attention to the recently purchased Dagenham Greyhound Stadium.
The greyhound industry boom allowed companies such as Romford Stadium Ltd to thrive and greyhound racing itself was big business and national news. Before work got underway at Dagenham, Arthur Leggett decided that he was going to bring cheetah racing to the UK. Twelve cheetahs arrived from Kenya in December 1936 courtesy of explorer Kenneth Gandar-Dower. After six months of quarantine the cheetahs were given time to acclimatise before Romford, Harringay and Staines were earmarked for the experiment with the cheetahs running for the first time on Saturday 11 December 1937 at Romford. The experiment failed, with just one further race held; the racing stopped because although the cheetahs were able to better the greyhound times they had to be let off first when racing greyhounds and when they raced against each other they became disinterested and stopped chasing the lure.
With the new Dagenham opening in 1938 Leggett next introduced a new event to Romford in 1939 called the Essex Vase. The stadium consisted of the main grandstand on the home straight that featured the Seniors Club and on the back straight was another stand and the Junior Club within. The paddock was on the third bend with the racing kennels and the Racing Managers office. Between the first two bends sat the totalisator and general office, the press office was on the first bend and there was a very unusual Racing Managers box in the middle of the centre green. The track was 380 yards in circumference with distances of 460 & 650 yards and an 'Inside Sumner' hare. The resident kennels were situated in Heaton Grange, 24 acres of ground off Straight Road to the north-east of Romford.
The Essex Cup was discontinued after 1949 for fifteen years and the Racing Manager in the fifties was Les Cox. The Director of Racing Michael Pohl died in 1959, his son Michael J. Pohl Jr. was the assistant to Cox. Trainers attached to the track during this time were Peter Hawkesley, Bill Riley, Bob Thomson and Hubert Gray. George 'Bunny' Gough, former Racing Manager of Powderhall Stadium & Harringay Stadium, joined the track replacing Cox as Racing Manager in the early 1960s but the fallout from the 'Dagenham Coup' was felt by Romford Stadium Ltd in 1965 with the legal costs incurred by Romford Stadium Ltd finally being paid by the off-course bookmakers. It was the end for Dagenham as the company sold the track for £185,000 to a packaging business.
Training appointments towards the end of the decade and start of the 1970s included John Coleman and Terry Duggan and in 1975 a second feature event was added to the tracks portfolio when they introduced the Romford Puppy Cup. During 1976 Arthur Leggett, the Managing Director, on behalf of the company agreed the sale of Romford to Corals.
The new owners invested heavily into the track building a new grandstand which included a state of the art glass-fronted restaurant, the tote and hare system were also replaced. The investment reaped rewards as the track became extremely popular with public and the industry alike. John Sutton was brought in as the Managing Director, Gough was promoted to General Manager and Sidney Wood was Racing Manager. Coral’s signalled their intent by buying Brighton & Hove to double their track assets and preventing Ladbrokes from increasing their group, the latter had been a serious bidder for the two tracks at the same time.
In 1977 local bitch 'Go Ahead Girl' recorded 17 consecutive wins for Duggan and one year later with Corals and Ladbrokes now owning seven tracks the payments for BAGS racing to the National Greyhound Racing Club ended. Instead the tracks would tender for the contracts. Only Hackney, Bristol and Watford along with five bookmaker-owned tracks (one of them being Romford) had BAGS contracts at this time.
Lauries Panther (owned by Terry Duggan) won the 1982 English Greyhound Derby, providing Romford with their greatest moment and both Ballyregan Bob and Scurlogue Champ appeared at the track. The former won the 1985 Essex Vase going through unbeaten and breaking the track record in the final. Three new major events were introduced; the Coronation Cup became Romford’s third major trophy in 1986 following the closure of Southend Stadium, the Golden Sprint was inaugurated in 1987 followed by the resurrected Champion Stakes in 1988. In 1996 former Bolton boss Peter O’Dowd became Racing Manager taking over from Steve Daniel who had himself only recently replaced Ray Spalding.
Leading Trainers have included Linda Mullins, Peter Payne, Kenny Linzell, Linda Jones, David Mullins and Peter Rich. In 2000 trainer Paul Young joined the track and won the 2014 Trainers Championship.