Having first opened for business back in 1927, Henlow Stadium is now closing in on its 100th anniversary. During that near century, the track, which is located outside Hitchin, around 50 miles to the north of London, has grown from a popular flapping (unlicensed greyhound racing) track to become a key player on the British scene.
Remaining a relatively low-key venue in comparison to some others in the land, the track nevertheless provides everything punters require for a cracking day, or night, at the dogs, including a traditional restaurant and bar facilities. The key event of the year comes in October with the annual running of the Henlow Derby.
What’s On Offer at Henlow?
Officially recognised by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) since 1976, the programme of racing can vary slightly, but usually consists of a mixture of morning midweek fixtures, a Saturday afternoon card, and a popular Sunday evening meeting.
Midweek fixtures usually consist of eight races, with the first event getting underway either shortly after 8 am, or a little before 11 am. Saturday’s bumper 14-race card kicks off just before 2pm, running through to around six in the evening. Sunday evening fixtures tend to be the best attended of the week, with the hare set in motion for the first race at around 6pm, and the last of 11 races concluding at roughly 9:20 pm.
- Circuit Length – 412m
- Run to First Bend – 60m
- Sprint Distance – 250m – 277m
- Middle Distances – 428m – 460m (standard) – 550m
- Stayers Distance – 660m – 692m
- Marathon Distance – 842m – 870m
What Can You Expect?
At all midweek meetings, and many weekend fixtures, entry to the stadium is completely free, although the track does charge £2.50 for race cards. Entrance to the more popular weekend fixtures is priced at £5, although that does include a free race card. The big Boxing Day meeting is the most expensive of the year at £7 but again includes a free race card. General admission grants access to trackside viewing and the Savana Bar and Bistro, which offers a range of fast-food style meals.
“Six Pack” Deal
In addition to the standard entry, the track also regularly offers an excellent value “Six Pack” deal which includes entry, race card, 2 drinks, £1 Tote Bet, quarter pounder & fries, and free admission and racecard for a subsequent meeting. This deal is generally priced at around £10 but can vary according to the meeting. The “Six Pack” deal must be booked and paid for in advance and is only available to parties of five or more.
Winning Post Restaurant
Those seeking a sit-down meal should head to the Winning Post restaurant which offers a solid-value menu, bar and betting facilities and excellent views of the track. Whilst it is possible to obtain a table on the day, the best advice is to book online to avoid disappointment.
Function Room for Bigger Parties
And, finally, for larger parties seeking a venue for a special occasion, the track’s function room can be booked free of charge and caters for up to 50 people. Contact the course for more information about this.
How to Get There
The stadium address is Henlow Racing Ltd, Bedford Road, Lower Stondon, Bedfordshire, SG16 6EA. The track lies just off the A602 which is linked to both the A1 and A1(M). Those arriving from a southerly direction should take the M1 to Hitchin before proceeding to the A602. Upon arrival at the track, motorists will find ample free parking available.
The closest train station to the track lies in Arlesey, around an hour’s walk, or a 10-minute drive from the stadium. The station at Hitchin is slightly further away but does offer better public transport links, with the 9A, 9B and 74 bus services all stopping close to the track.
How to Get in Touch
- Tel: – 1462 851850
- Email: – email@example.com
- Twitter: – @Henlowracing
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Greyhound racing in the Henlow area first began during what was a boom time for the sport in the 1920s. Initially taking place on a straight track in 1923, the first ever round course at the venue – which lies just across the road from RAF Henlow – opened four years later in 1927.
Utilising a lure hare, driven around the track by a lorry wheel, the track fell firmly into the “flapping track” category in those early years. The primitive equipment did little to deter local racegoers however, with the 1930s seeing frequent problems due to overflowing crowds blocking the main road leading to the venue.
Still unlicenced following the conclusion of WWII, the track began to make an effort to become more organised, moving the viewing area to the opposite side of the circuit and capping attendance at 1,000, to avoid those road congestion issues. A successful alteration, the stands remain on that same patch of land to this day.
The next step toward the modern era came during the 1950s when the track was purchased by the local Smith family. Keen to improve the quality of the venue, the Smiths introduced an all-sand surface and a more modern Sumner Hare. These upgrades assisted the growth of the track, and by the 1970s the stadium had introduced photo-finish technology and was home to seven on-course bookmakers and a tote betting facility.
All the improvements were then rewarded in 1976 when Henlow was allowed to race under National Greyhound Racing Club permit rules for the first time. This was huge for the course and prompted growth and development.
More Recent Development
Purchased by John McNaughton in 1994, the stadium later switched hands again when sold to Tony McDonnell’s Henlow Racing Ltd. The major development during the McDonnell era was the building of the track’s on-course restaurant at a cost of £464,000.
The success of the venue didn’t deter local housing developers who appeared set to acquire the land on which the stadium sits in 2008, only for the site to be saved by businessmen Bob Norton and Kevin Boothby.
The track has proved to be something of a breeding ground for quality performers in the past 20 years, with Henlow-based dogs Westmead Lord and Rio Quattro winning the 2007 and 2015 editions of the English Greyhound Derby.
Striking its latest deal with SiS in 2018, the track again came under threat from those looking to repurpose the site in 2020. Current owner Kevin Boothby does, however, appear to have fended off those advances, and as of 2022, the Bedfordshire venue appears to be going as well as ever.