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THE MIGHTY MICK; DERBY HISTORY 1927-1940.

Byline: Jim Austin

1927 ENTRY BADGE (1-4F) Just a year after greyhound racing was introduced to Britain at Belle Vue on July 24, 1926, the GRA launched a Derby worth pounds 1,000 to the winner.

It was a different format to today's, consisting of a series of north versus south heats, with the eventual top three from each region doing battle in the final over 500 yards at White City.

Little did those that won it know that the final set two records that remain unbeaten to this day.

Winner Entry Badge's SP of 1-4 is the shortest priced winner of the premier Classic, and owner Edwin Baxter fielded the first three home in the final, his Ever Bright and Elder Brother chasing the six-length, 29.01sec winner home.

1928 BOHER ASH (5-1) With the sport continuing to evolve and new ideas being implemented, it was decided to stage the Derby entirely at White City, and with that came a prize-money boost to pounds 1,500 to the winner.

The race attracted 96 entries and, while they came from around the country, the bulk were from London. Fabulous Figure was sent off 11-10 favourite in the final but never got the best of runs and it was 5-1 shot Boher Ash who made the best of his trap one draw to upset the favourite by half a length.

The winner cost owner Molly Stokes just pounds 25 and was trained by Tom Johnston, whose son, also Tom, trained out of Wembley up until 1996.

Tom Jnr was best remembered for training winning-most record holder Westpark Mustard in the early 1970s.

1929 MICK THE MILLER (4-7F) Boher Ash was back to defend his title but his elimination from the second round failed to make any headlines, as a certain Mick The Miller, a 25-1 shot ante-post, was grabbing all of those.

He was, though, barely mentioned in the runup to the competition as the Irish had kept him a secret.

Once the cat was out the bag that Mick The Miller was the fastest dog to come out of Shelbourne Park that year - revealed only after he had posted a slick pre-event trial - he became the dog that everyone was talking about.

And when he shattered the world 525y record of 30.04sec in the first round with a stunning 29.82sec effort, he was immediately the subject of a number of bids, and was sold to Stanley Biss for 800 guineas.

Given that a large number of dogs racing at this time were from the coursing fields and thus aggressive, in an attempt to keep the race clean, the authorities confined the final to just four runners, but still there was mayhem. Mick The Miller was sent off 4-7 favourite but was involved in a pile-up at the first bend, from which 3-1 second best Palatinus benefitted, only for the stewards to declare the race void.

The re-run, some 30 minutes later, went in Mick's favour. He took the lead from Palatinus at the second bend and went on to win by three lengths in 29.96sec.

1930 MICK THE MILLER (4-9F) Mick The Miller was to retain his crown but for different connections. Since winning the 1929 Derby, he had been purchased by Arundel Kempton for his wife (main picture) for 2,000 guineas as a gift for his wife and was being trained by the Wimbledon-based Sidney Orton.

Many thought the Derby was a foregone conclusion before it had even started given what a sensation Mick The Miller was, and when he won his first-round heat by some 15 lengths at the now extinct SP of 8-100, opinions hadn't changed.

That was until a dog called Deemster took to the track in heat 1 9, which he won in 29.90sec, some 24 spots faster than Mick. But his bit of history-making was not of a jovial nature, as he was to become the first dog to be seriously injured in the competition, sustaining a broken hock in the second round.

Mick The Miller raced from one in the final, played out in front of a crowd of 50,000, and was sent off 4-9 favourite, the biggest price he had been at any stage of the competition.

He treated the packed galleries to an exhibition of trackcraft and middle pace to win by three lengths from the staying-on Bradshaw Fold in 30.24sec. Not only was that the Derby double complete, but he had gone through the competition both years unbeaten.

1931 SELDOM LAD (7-2) Mick The Miller was back again, but he hadn't had much racing leading up to the competition, having been rested after a first round exit from the Laurels at Wimbledon the previous season.

Part of his preparation though was the Spring Cup at Wembley, which he went through unbeaten, so he returned to White City to attempt a third successive Derby crown.

This, though, was a Derby shrouded in controversy from the very first round when leading fancy Maiden's Boy was alleged to have been doped, although the biggest hullabaloo was reserved the final itself.

Irish star Ryland R, who himself was the subject of an injury scare after beating Mick The Miler in the second round in a new record 29.69sec, was at the centre of it all. He and Mick made the final, which was played out in front of a reported crowd of 70,000. In the race, Mick, now five years old, trailed the field at halfway but then starting making his move on duelling leaders Ryland R and Seldom Lad - a snip buy at just pounds 5.

Both swung wide off the last and the huge crowd roared home Mick The Miller as he powered up the rail to get the better of Golden Hammer (cost just pounds 2) by a head. The place went wild, but seconds later a stunned silence descended over White City as punters began to almost unbelievably notice that the red light had come on the indicator board, signifying a no-race.

As the noise died down, the accompanying klaxon could be heard. Everyone was astounded.

Boos rang out. The stewards had deemed Ryland R had caused deliberate interference to Seldom Lad when in a challenging position and, under the rules in those days, that constituted a void race.

Ryland R forfeited his place from the re-run, run some half an hour later, for which Mick was an uneasy even-money favourite. At his age, the two quick runs were to count against him as he never got competitive, trailing in a tired fourth behind four-length, 30.04sec winner Seldom Lad, who became the cheapest ever Derby hero and ended up winning exactly half of the 62 races he had over all tracks and trips.

Mick The Miller went on to contest the Cesarewitch and Welsh Derby without success, but in October of that year he bowed out of the sport that he had dominated for the last three years with an unbeaten run through the St Leger at Wembley.

His record in England was 46 wins and ten seconds from 61 races.

The superstar, named after Mick Miller - the oddjob man at Father Martin Brophy's (owned him as a puppy) vicarage - was given a starring role in 1935 film Wild Boy. He enjoyed limited success at stud but covered many unproven bitches, a significant number who hadn't even seen a track.

He was to die on May 5 1939 when it was discovered his heart weighed more than was normal for a greyhound. He was stuffed and for years was at the National History museum before moving to the museum at Tring, where he remains today.

1932 WILD WOOLLEY (5-2) Mick The Miller may have retired by the time this renewal came about, but he was back on finals night as his legacy lived on and people were hooked on the Derby as a tremendous spectacle.

The dual Derby winner was part of a pre-bigrace parade comprising all the previous four Derby champions in front of a crowd in the region of 80,000.

The race itself produced the fastest time ever recorded in a Derby final (since becoming 525y) at 29.72sec and resulted in a close finish with 5-2 second favourite Wild Woolley foiling a colossal ante-post gamble on Future Cutlet, who had been heavily backed at all rates down from 100- 1 ante-post (SP 8-13 in the final) by a neck. Many of those that had supported the favourite blamed a slow hare at the last bend, which forced him off wide at that point, for his defeat. No action was taken.

Wild Woolley was owned by Sam Johnson, who paid just 25 guineas for him, and trained by Jack Rimmer out of Manchester White City.

1933 FUTURE CUTLET (6-1) Wild Woolley and Future Cutlet would not only be back to contest the Derby the following year, but the pair both made it through to the final, as did Future Cutlet's half-brother, Beef Cutlet, who had won the Laurels the previous season.

The trio filled the first three places in the final, which was supported by a special race confined to Mick The Miller progeny. There has only ever been two short-head finishes in the history of the Derby, and this was the first of them in what was an absolute thriller between the Cutlets.

Future Cutlet showed the type of early pace that had already seen him bag the Cesarewitch (1931), Laurels and Spring Cup (1932), and looked set for a comfortable success as Wild Woolley and Deemster's Mike were battling out second, with Beef Cutlet a considerable distance down having the missed the break.

The latter stepped up a gear into the third bend though and was closing on Future Cutlet hand over fist on the run-in, but the judge ruled the line had just come in time for Future Cutlet, who started at 6-1, having been an odds-on favourite 12 months earlier.

1934 DAVESLAND (3-1) Irish star Brilliant Bob was doing the talking on the track, but his voice could hardly be heard above the screaming going on in parliament.

In 1933 totalisator betting was outlawed costing the industry nationwide an estimated 17,000 jobs and there was increasing pressure to restrict tracks to just two meetings a week.

The bookmakers were coining it in, but even they weren't happy when it was announced that despite all the first round heats being five-runner affairs, the first three home would qualify - goodness knows what they would have made of events this year when in some heats five qualified!

Some threatened to refund all ante-post stakes, but things quickly calmed down.

The Irish had other things on their minds and were planning another Mick The Miller-style gamble. Brilliant Bob had lived up to his name when winning the Easter Cup in 30.12sec, and reached the final (backed from 6-1 to 3-1 on the night), as did 1932 winner Wild Woolley for the third consecutive year.

However, it was Davesland, a 3-1 shot owned by Frederick Brooks and trained at Harringay by JackHarvey, who was soon clear and came home unchallenged, scoring by two lengths from Grey Raca in 29.81sec, with the gallant Wild Woolley back in third.

1935 GRETA RANEE (4-1) Wild Woolley was back for another Derby tilt three years after first winning the Classic; the tote was back in operation following the Betting And Lotteries Act running at six per deductions (not the disgraceful near-30 taken by some tracks today); the crowd for final night was up again, this time pushing 89,000, and history was to be made with the first bitch winner of the Classic.

Until now, bitches had been of little significance in the Derby, so much so that none were even entered for the 1934 renewal, but Gretna Ranee was to change all that. It was, however, another final surrounded by controversy under the fighting rule.

White City racing manager Percy Brown was of the opinion that a no-race should have been declared as a dog had fought at the third bend.

So too were a significant section of the crowd who vented their disapproval at the result standing by booing, a conclusion reached after the stewards couldn't agree. It was a messy race, of that there was no doubt, and Gretna Ranee took the pounds 1,050 first prize by three parts of a length in a slow 30.18sec.

1936 FINE JUBILEE (10-11F) In a racecard forward from GRA chairman Major General The Lord Loch, the success of running greyhound racing under the Betting And Lotteries Act of 1934 is heralded. It involved the legalisation of the totalisator and restriction in the number of meetings a track could stage annually. As well as announcing a pounds 1,000 Pall Mall for 1937, Lord Loch concluded by announcing it was GRA policy to improve accommodation for racegoers and maintain the highest possible standard of racing. The meeting was a 16-race card (7-11.36pm) and attracted a record crowd of 90,000.

The pounds 1,000 final was won by 10-11 favourite Fine Jubilee, who set another record in becoming the fastest winner of a Derby decider, clocking 29.48sec. Fine Jubilee was trained by Marie Yate, the first woman to train a Derby winner, who had only taken out her licence nine months before the competition started.

Fine Jubilee was one of three she entered but he was her number one and installed the 6-1 antepost favourite. Once getting to the final, he had a guard put on his kennel at night and a secret police-planned route planned from his base to White City. Something for northern trainers to consider when travelling to Wimbledon on a Friday, perhaps?

1937 WATTLE BARK (5-2) Fine Jubilee was back to defend his title and was installed ante-post favourite. There was to be no successful defence, though, as he went out in the very first round, finishing last as 2-5 favourite.

Going into the semi-finals, Wattle Bark and Shove Halfpenny had established themselves as the favourites, and the track was abuzz when they clashed in the opening semi. It was a scrappy affair, but Shove Halfpenny, the 9-4 second favourite, prevailed over 8-11 chance Wattle Bark.

Bookmakers had taken the semi-final form literally, rating Shove Halfpenny the 7-4 favourite for the final, with Wattle Bark at 5-2. Wattle Bark pinged from six as Shove Halfpenny was baulked, and it was one-way traffic as the Jim Syder-trained dog sluiced home in a new record of 29.26sec.

In the racecard, Brigadier General Critchley, vice chairman and managing director of GRA, acknowledged the fact that it was ten years to the week that his company introduced greyhound racing to London when White City opened on June 20 1927.

1938 LONE KEEL (9-4) Lone Keel was a greyhound more established for breaking track records than winning competitions, but that never stopped him landing the biggest prize in the greyhound calendar for owner Jack Walsh, who fielded both first and second favourites in the final.

Defending champ Wattle Bark reached the final having been nursed back from a shoulder injury earlier in the year, but it was clear his speed had been blunted and he went to traps the 20-1 outsider. He ran a stormer in front of the 70,000 strong crowd, though, and at one stage along the backstraight it looked as if the double was on.

It wasn't to be as Lone Keel took control off the last to win narrowly from 8-1 shot Melksham Numeral, with the weakening Wattle Bark back in the third behind the 29.62sec winner.

1939 HIGHLAND RUM (2-1JF) A fairly uneventful year with the competition never really taking off at any stage. It would be unfair for saying it was best remembered for a withdrawal, that of Black Peter, from the final, but the dog had endeared himself to punters in a short space of time having just failed by a head to win the Gold Collar at Catford.

On the day of the Derby final, however, he picked up an injury while being walked and trap four was left vacant. Despite the reduced field, there was general bunching in the race, with the four inside runners all being involved in some shape or form, allowing wide-running Highland Rum, trained by Wimbledon-based Paddy Fortune, to dash into a clear lead.

Carmel Ash recovered well from the bother and set about reducing the leader's advantage, which he did to some extent, but was still over two lengths adrift of the 29.35sec winner at the line.

1940 G R ARCHDUKE (100-7) This was to be the last Derby before the Second World War and many questioned whether it should have taken place at all. As usual it began at White City, but no sooner had the first round been completed, the GRA announced a ban on fixtures at the West London track. The competition was left in limbo, with it finally resuming some nine days later at Harringay.

The eventual final would be the most low-key in the race's history, being run as the fourth race on a routine graded card on a Monday night. The crowd was fair but the result wasn't so far as punters and a few purists were concerned, as it was trap-to-liner G R Archduke, the 100-7 rag of the field, who won by a neck in 29.66sec.

G R Archduke had been disqualified for fighting earlier in the year and there were those that thought he did likewise in the final. The red light stayed off, though, and G R Archduke goes down in history as being the only Harringay Derby winner.

Tomorrow, 1945-1966
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 27, 2008
Words:2963
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