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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

'He regularly achieved what seemingly appeared impossible'

Our writers recall fond memories from a rich history

Some big names have pulled in the crowds over the years
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bk d Sonic Flight-Mega Delight May 03
Trainer: Nick Savva
The Hawk, the first animal athlete to have a waxwork at Madame Tussauds, was incomparable.

He exhausted the superlatives by regularly achieving what appeared impossible with performances which hauled the sport back into the spotlight after years of decline.

Wimbledon always favoured front-runners yet dual Derby hero Westmead Hawk often stormed from last to first, aided by a combination of brilliant pace, precision ‘sat nav’ trackcraft and a ferocious will to win.

Off the track you could almost feel the electricity of his performances on it. The crowd responded after his second premier Classic success in 2006 – in which he produced a paw-perfect display to run down Mineola Farloe close home – with chants of “easy, easy, easy”. It made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. It was poetry in motion.

And just seven nights earlier The Hawk had produced what many consider to be the most astonishing display of canine brilliance ever witnessed on a greyhound track when he somehow managed to come from ten lengths behind the luckless Mineola Farloe at halfway to snatch victory in the last stride.

In a sport permanently ridden with division, The Hawk somehow managed to unite us all on those memorable nights with his exhilarating displays. Everybody loved him. He was a one-off. Unique. Richard Birch


bd dog Glorious Event-Na bac Leis Jun 26
Sydney Orton
While Westmead Hawk became the pin-up dog for the modern era with his thrilling back-to-back Wimbledon Derby wins, Mick The Miller, whelped in Ireland in 1926, remains very much the dog for all ages.

Without doubt the most famous of all the illustrious greyhounds to have graced our tracks, Mick’s name supersedes the mighty Hawk, the brilliant Ballyregan Bob and the supreme showman Scurlogue Champ and will always remain the ultimate legend of the sand.

Winner of two Derbys at White City and denied a third in 1931 when the race was declared void and rerun, Mick was peerless in the formative days of the sport.

He remains the only dog to have won the English Derby, St Leger and Cesarewitch, and his list of achievements is almost endless. He finished in the first two in 63 of his 68 races, set track records and world records, a winning sequence of 19 that stood until 1974.

While West Ham and Wembley played to his strengths, Mick was as adept at tracks such as his Wimbledon base, winning the Champion Stakes, International Derby Sweepstakes and the lesser known Loafer Trophy.

Such was his fame that in 1935 he starred in a film, Wild Boy, alongside comic duo Flanagan and Allen. And as punters flood into Wimbledon for the final time tonight, it will be the Mick The Miller stand that will house them. Phil Donaldson


bk d Westmead Hawk-Cabra Jade Aug 13
Liz McNair
On only his tenth start and fourth in open-class company, Liz McNair’s pup was able to silence Plough Lane and leave racegoers astonished with a performance that meant he became the first greyhound to dip under the magical 28-second barrier for the 480m trip.

Lining up in the first round of the 2015 Classic, he broke well before running away from the field to post 27.95sec, a record still standing and likely to be etched in history.

He went on to reach the final while still retaining puppy status, which was a feat in itself, and was beaten just over a length by Rio Quattro. Dave Clark

dk bd b Smooth Rumble-Mosney Flyer Apr 01
Paul Young
Wimbledon had a nine-year spell as host of the marathon championship, the TV Trophy, with Paul Young’s bitch the only one in the long history of the event to successfully win back the title, which she achieved in 2005 having first secured it two years earlier.

Throw in the fact she also reached the 2004 final, finishing fourth to Double Take, and it is likely to be a never-topped CV. For both her TV Trophy victories she came through the field, with the 2003 win noteworthy as she outstayed subsequent St Leger first-past-the-post Shelbourne Star. Jonathan Kay


bk d Hondo Black-Farloe Oyster Sep 2010
Charlie Lister
There is no doubt the 2013 St Leger winner and Greyhound of The Year saved his very best for Plough Lane, proven by his demolition job in the Leger decider, in which she lowered the track record for the 687m trip.

The short width of the track and tight turns switched him on, but also made his almost last-to-first running style sensational viewing.
Described by his legendary handler as one of the fastest dogs he had ever seen and the best stayer he had ever put a lead on, Farloe Tango also reached the Derby quarter-finals at Plough Lane. Dave Clark


be d Just The Best-Kinda Sleepy Apr 07
Mark Wallis
When any greyhound talk moves on to the best Derby winners ever seen at Wimbledon, the name of Kinda Ready is unlikely to ever be put forward. However, he makes this list for a couple of reasons.

First, he achieved a lifetime dream for Mark Wallis in winning his first Derby. Although already twice champion trainer at the time, he was still seeking the elusive holy grail to really stamp himself as the man to beat.

Second, Kinda Ready was the biggest-priced winner, at 25-1, of the event at Plough Lane. And on a personal note, I was on at 33s! Unforgettable. Paul Brown

f d Black Earl-Acres Of Apples Jly 82
Phil Rees
As winner of the first Derby held at the track in 1985, he certainly has his place in history.

Trained by Phil Rees, who emulated father Phil snr’s victory at White City with Mutts Silver nine years earlier to follow Jim Snyder snr and jnr as father-and-son Derby-winning trainers, he was one of only two ‘local’ Wimbledon Derby winners along with Ballinderry Ash in 1991.

He came from fourth to first on the run-in in the final to beat Jack The Hiker and Carrigeen Chimes. Jonathan Kay

f w b Flashy Sir-Desert Pearl Apr 91
Sam Sykes
Victory in the 1993 Oaks made her the darling of Plough Lane, and Gold Collar success at Catford cemented that. But it was her 1995 Derby campaign, as a veteran, that took her to another level.

She led in every round, making the final with just one narrow defeat.
In the decider, trap one did not prevent a flying start but she could not get clear and was clipped from behind, eventually coming home fourth behind Moaning Lad. It would be 16 years, and a switch of sides, before Taylors Sky broke the trap one Derby hoodoo at Wimbledon. Jonathan Kay

bd d Come On Ranger-Rapid Vienna Jan 98
Charlie Lister
IF ever a greyhound was made for Wimbledon it was Rapid Ranger.
Blessed with sensational trapping speed, stunning early pace and the ability to maintain a blistering gallop over 480 metres, he was brilliantly handled by Charlie Lister to win the Derby in 2000 and 2001.

On the second occasion he was clear at the first bend and powered home by over three lengths from Sonic Flight.

Those were probably the halcyon days for Wimbledon as a Derby theatre, with crowds close to five figures on finals night. Richard Birch


wbd d Crash-Airforce Stacey June 2012
Bruno Berwick

While Wimbledon produced several big-price Derby champions, none came with the fairytale back story that shock 2014 hero Salad Dodger served up.

Bought by renowned greyhound physio Ron Mills and relatively unknown trainer Bruno Berwick from the middle-grade ranks of Romford in December 2013, six months later he was Derby champion.

His half-length victory over the stylish Droopys Ward was seen as a triumph for the little man and helped breathe new life into the Derby dream for countless hopeful owners. Phil Donaldson

w bebd d Murlens Slippy-Lisnakill Flyer May 94
Dolores Ruth
In contrast to rank outsider Kinda Ready in 2009, Shanless Slippy was expected to win the 1996 Derby final, sent off the 4-9 favourite.

He did so with the ease he had done in all the previous rounds, popping out, accelerating into the bend and not stopping. The big, predominantly white dog came to Wimbledon having won the Produce Stakes at Clonmel in the care of the then-relatively unknown Dolores Ruth, and simply dominated the Classic, making all in each round.

A machine, nothing less. Paul Brown

bk d Slaneyside Hare-Spring Season Jun 94
Charlie Lister
Alongside Shanless Slippy, he was the most dominant Derby champion ever, going unbeaten in 1997 to give Charlie Lister the first of his record seven titles.

Aside from a game neck quarter-final win, he never scored by less than five lengths and his 28.23sec in the final, two spots outside the then track record, remained the fastest winning time before the switch of sides.

It was leg two of the Derby treble as he had already landed the Scottish version. He made the Irish final too, but sickness during the event took a toll and he finished down the field. Jonathan Kay

His victory over the stylish Droopys Ward was seen as a triumph for the ‘little man’ and helped breathe new life into the Derby dream
E.W. Terms
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