Byline: ANNETTE MORGAN
A NEW era dawned at Coventry Stadium last night when greyhound racing returned to the Brandon site for the first time in almost 20 years.
Thousands of people from all over the country flocked to the Rugby Road stadium to enjoy the historic re-opening event.
Twelve races were staged during the evening, while a VIP area, a top- class restaurant, with food cooked by former Savoy chef Ralph High, and a William Hill betting shop were among other attractions available.
Stadium bosses spent more than pounds 2m renovating the site, which has already been selected to host the prestigious trainers' championship races on June 27 on the strength of the facilities alone.
Coventry trainer Geoff De-Mulder, who trained the winner of the Greyhound Derby in 1979, performed the opening ceremony by cutting a ribbon stretched across the track.
He said: "This stadium and track will be a great asset to the Midlands and the trainers that use it."
The first race was won by one-year-old favourite Avon Towser, which ran the 480-metre course in 29.90 seconds. The dog won pounds 150 in what was only his second race.
Kennel hand Trevor Jeanes, from Penniment Farm Kennels in Mansfield, greeted the result with delight.
He said: "We have made a little bit of history here tonight and gone down in the record books.
"I am very pleased with Avon Towser's performance - not many dogs could run it quicker."
He added that his charge would be racing again on Sunday.
Operations manager Malcolm Francis said visitors had travelled from London and Manchester to be present.
He said: "This has been superb. The dogs were all able to race at their own pace and have a clear run. The investment we made in the stadium has paid off - the response here has been unprecedented.
"It is a momentous occasion for everyone."
Commercial manager Jeremy Heaver said bookings were already being taken for as far ahead as Christmas.
He said: "This has been 30 years coming and the interest we have had has been phenomenal.
"We are not surprised - when you invest pounds 2m and the stadium is of such a high standard, you expect the Ritz of the greyhound racing world."
Sabotage threat to the night SABOTEURS failed to stop the races after they tampered with a generator on the site.
The second race was delayed by a few minutes after the generator fused, blacking out a dozen of the overhead lights.
Site operations manager Malcolm Francis said the failure was caused deliberately. Extra security was brought in.
Mr Francis said he did not know the reason for the sabotage or if any group was behind it.
He said: "They will certainly not ruin the evening. …