The Duke's Incredible Link to NZ Greyhound Racing

Around fifty years ago a Royal Commission, a Royal Visit, and an exchange of gifts changed NZ Greyhound Racing forever.
The passing of the man known as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, just a couple of months shy of his 100th birthday, triggers memories of heady days from the early seventies.
It sounds an unlikely story - a man born in Corfu, Greece with the name Philippos Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg would serve with distinction in the Royal Navy during WWII and then marry the woman who would be Queen of England shortly after war's end.
English soldier Major John Blakely also served in the war and emigrated to New Zealand during peacetime where he became involved in Greyhound Racing as a trainer and administrator.
In this latter role Blakely appeared before NZ's Royal Commission into Racing - Greyhounds were looking to join the horses and have betting on their sport.  Blakely would breed and name a Greyhound "Royal Commission".
Blakely and the Duke's paths would cross during the 1970 Royal Visit to New Zealand, and invitation to the Royal Yacht Britannia led to Blakely gifting Royal Commission to the Duke.  The Duke accepted and assented to Blakely remaining her trainer.
The Duke also reciprocated a gift by commissioning a Silver Collar to become a trophy for a Greyhound Race and the rest as they say is history.
The Royal Commission did open the door for betting on Greyhounds - aided in no small way by the profile that the Duke's involvement had brought to the sport.  Royal Commission the Greyhound did her bit too winning 33 races for the Duke including the 1972 Duke of Edinburgh Silver Collar.  This win led the Duke to cable Blakely, "Congratulations - Give the Dog a Bone"
The New Zealand connection to the Duke of Edinburgh does not finish with the passing of Philip.  The title now passes to his third son Edward who of course spent two terms as house tutor and junior master at Whanganui Collegiate in the early 80's.
So as the 50th edition of the Collar draws close, we are able to consider that there may be an occasion in the future when the Duke Of Edinburgh may be here in person to present the Silver Collar to the winner.


Posted on 12 April 2021

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