Findlay puts money where his mouth is
A man with whom the phrase ‘larger than life’ is synonymous, Harry Findlay does not disappoint when he speaks about his plans for Coventry’s Brandon Stadium.
“I’m changing the face of gambling,” he says before going on to outline his scheme to take the newly reopened dog track to the forefront of the sport in the UK.
A professional gambler and former owner of several high-profile horses including Gold Cup winner Denman, Findlay’s colourful persona and reputation for straight talking have made him an interviewee’s dream and brought about several brushes with the horse racing authorities.
The most notable saw him banned from racing for six months, later reduced to £4,500 on appeal, after he admitted betting on one of his horses, Gullible Gordon, to lose.
Findlay had bet more on the horse to win than he laid, but after the initial hearing, a typically off-the-cuff reaction saw him vow to cut all his ties with British horseracing.
Less than 12 months later, the last of the string of horses he owned alongside his mother had been sold off.
So it was something of a shock when in May, two-and-a-half years after ceasing trading, Coventry Dogs reopened under Findlay’s stewardship without the usual fanfare associated with the 50-year-old.
“The dog game is in trouble,” said Findlay, who has relocated from Bath to Leamington.
“Because of that, first and foremost I wanted to get the dog people in, the 300 or 400 hardcore and in two-and-a-half months we’re ahead of where I thought we’d be.”
The relatively unheralded reappearance of Coventry on the dog scene has not stopped Findlay ruffling a few feathers within the industry, however.
Typically, tracks take 29 per cent out of the tote, but Findlay’s pledge to take out just half that amount promises to shake up the way the sport operates and for a man not averse to waging thousands of pounds in one bet, represents his biggest gamble.
“I’ve owned dogs all my life and I’m doing it for the sport, for punters everywhere.
“Coventry is a place where punters get unheard of value, because if you don’t win you don’t come back.
“It’s picking up nicely. In the first year you don’t get a grant, but I’m still offering the best prices in the country.
“I’m doing it at a loss because I believe in the bigger picture. My ideas will work.”
Findlay, who has taken out a five-year uninterrupted lease on the stadium, has plans to stage the Masters next season with minimum prizemoney on offer of £50,000.
He is also confident of snaring the Derby, the most prestigious race on the greyhound calendar, from its current home at Wimbledon.
“Everyone knows we’re the best in the country, the best track in the world even. If you ask the top 50 trainers they will tell you that because of our safety record and welfare.
“Because of our size there’s much less bunching and I firmly believe we’ll get the Derby and all the major races.”
A typically out-there claim that he has done more than anyone in the last 25 years for greyhound welfare and the rehousing of retired greyhounds follows before he goes on to explain the motivation behind his switch to the West Midlands.
“I don’t want to be in the horse game again and I don’t desire big houses or need big cars.
“I’m slowing down on the punting - I’m finding it more stressful now I’ve hit 50.
“But I get a buzz from watching the small punters win, knowing they’re getting good value.
“What I’m doing is changing the face of gambling. In two years all the other tracks will be doing the same and coming down to 15 per cent.
“I’m taking the money from the bookmakers and promoters and giving it back to the people on the street.”
The scourge of the bookmakers for so long, Findlay’s intention to be the punter’s friend has more than a ring of the Robin Hoods about it.
But, with an infectious enthusiasm for the sport and a customer-centred approach, in Coventry, Findlay may well have backed himself another winner.
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