Mick the Miller (1926-1939) was a famous greyhound that had a splendid racing career in 1929-1931. He made a huge impression on the public and helped boost the popularity of greyhound racing in Great Britain and Ireland. He won the inaugural 1929 English Greyhound Derby, and successfully defended his championship title the following year. There are also many enthusiasts that see him as the rightful winner of the 1931 English Greyhound Derby.

Winning the English Greyhound Derby twice is a rare feat. Since the event started in 1929, only four dogs have accomplished this.

  • Mick the Miller won in 1929 and 1930
  • Patricia’s Hope won in 1972 and 1973
  • Rapid Ranger won in 2000 and 2001
  • Westmead Hawk won in 2005 and 2006

Mick the Miller is also the only dog so far to win all three of the English top-level events: the English Greyhound Derby (won in 1929 and 1930), Caserwitch (won in 1930) and St. Ledger (won in 1931).

All in all, Mick the Miller competed in 68 races and won 51 of them. In addition to racing, he was also a breeding stud and participated in movies. From his three combined careers, he earned around £20,000.

Background

Mick the MillerThe small brindled puppy Mick the Miller was born to the Kempton family in Killeigh, Ireland in 1926. Out of a batch of ten puppies, Mick the Miller was the smallest one. His mother was Na bac Leis and his father Glorious Event.

Back then, there wasn´t much in the way of organized greyhound racing in Ireland, but the British Isles have a long tradition of hare coursing, and Glorious Event was a direct descendant of the famous Mr McGrath (1866-1873) who won the Waterloo Cup three times. Therefore, Mick the Miller´s owners hoped that he would become a successful hare course dog.

Mick the Miller almost moves to America

The young Mick showed a lot of promise and caught the eye of greyhound enthusiasts Moses Rebensheid, who wanted to purchase Mick and bring him to competitions in the United States. Before the deal was completed however, tragedy struck. A tornado hit the part of Missouri, USA where Rebenshied had his kennel and killed 27 of his greyhounds. Another four dogs died when a car driven by Rebensheid´s son was turned over by the strong winds. A distraught Rebensheid took this as a sign telling him to stop keeping greyhounds, and he promptly cancelled the deal with Mick the Miller´s owner.

Mick the Miller starts racing in England

Mick the Miller never moved to the U.S. Instead, a catholic priest took him to greyhound races in England. At this point in history, the Catholic church in Great Britain had spoken out against greyhound racing (chiefly because of its association with betting) but the Catholic church of Ireland had not.

1929 English Greyhound Derby

In England, Mick the Miller quickly became both successful and famous. In a solo qualifying race for the English Greyhound Derby, he broke the racecourse record which made his betting odds drop from 25:1 to a measly 4:7.

English Derby: First Round

In the first round, Mick the Miller finished the race at 29,82 seconds, setting a new world record for that distance. He also outpaced his main competitor – Captured half – with an amazing eight lengths.

This stunning performance naturally garnered plenty of attention and a lot of people were amazed by the dog´s abilities. The priest eventually accepted an offer to sell Mick the Miller right then and there. The price was £800 + any money that the dog would bring in during the event of the evening. To put the sum into perspective: £800 would have been enough to buy a house in the nearby neighbourhood Shepherd’s Bush.

English Derby: The Final

The English Greyhound Derby final started 20:45 in front of circa 40,000 spectators.

These four dogs had qualified for the final:

  • Beadsman (first box)
  • Palatinus (second box)
  • Entomb (third box)
  • Mick the Miller (fourth box)

Platinus took the lead, but the race was quickly called off because Beadsman collided with Entomb and Mick the Miller at the first curve.

Now, the dogs had to wait in the hot summer night until 21:45 before they got a new chance to do the final. Once again, Palatinus took the lead. At the first curve, Mick the Miller started gaining on him, and during the following straight stretch he passed him. Mick the Miller won the English Greyhound Derby with a margin of three lengths.

When news of the victory got back to Killeigh, a bonfire party was held in his honour.

Between the derbies

After his victory at the English Derby, Mick the Miller won scores of races with excellent margins and the newspapers dubbed him ”The Wonder Dog” and ”Invincible”. During this period, he set no less than four world records.

1930 English Greyhound Derby

When Mick the Miller entered the 1930 English Greyhound Derby he was on a winning streak, having outclassed the competition in ten races in a row. An audience of about 50,000 people got to see him win his second derby victory, including such illustrious spectators as the Spanish King Alfonso XIII.

A new world record

Mick the Miller set a new world record for 525 yards when he won the 1930 Welsh Greyhound Derby at Sloper Road Stadium by completing the race in 29,55 seconds.

Injury, comeback and another injury

After a winning streak of 19 victories in a row, Mick the Miller injured a muscle in his shoulder during a race at Wimbledon Stadium and needed to take a break from racing. He returned to racing in February 1931, doing another race at the same stadium, but this time one of his spurs became damaged, forcing him to take a new break from competing.

1931 English Greyhound Derby

The 11th heat

Mick the Miller was defeated by Mick´s Fancy.

The second round

Mick the Miller was defeated by Ryland R, a dog who – just like Mick – came from Ireland. Ryland R was an unusually heavy greyhound, weighing over 80 lbs.

The semifinal

Going into the semifinal on June 20, Ryland R was the favourite among the punters.

For a while, it really looked like Ryland R would win by a huge margin, as he had an astonishing 15 lenghts between him and Mick. Mick however wasn´t easily discouraged. Gradually, he shortened the gap between him and he leader. Ryland R still won the semifinal, but only by half a length.

Mick was on a losing streak, having lost three races in a row, but had still qualified for the final.

The final

Roughly 70,000 spectators showed up to watch the English Greyhound Derby final on June 27, 1931. The qualified dogs were Mick the Miller, Ryland R, Mick´s Fancy, Seldom Lad, Golden Hammer and Brunswick Bill. Even though Mick the Miller had lost three races in a row, he and Ryland R had the same odds. Both were favourites and both had the odds 13:8.

Ryland R started very strong and immediately took the lead in the final. At the first curve, Mick the Miller was last of all the dogs. At the last curve, calamity struck. Seldom Lad caught up with the leader Ryland R and the two dogs nudged each other. Ryland R turns his head to bite the air close to Seldom Lad, and this is spotted by a race steward who sounds his horn to shut the race down. This sound is drowned out by the cheer of the crowd – a cheer brought on by Mick the Miller suddenly sprinting and passing all the other dogs. Mick the Miller reaches the finish line first, just one head-lenght in front of the runner-up Golden Hammer.

Now, chaos ensues. If a race steward signals with his horn but no one hears it, is the race still cancelled? Yes, the announcer informs the audience that the race is considered invalid. Naturally, a lot of people in the audience as angry and upset by this. Ryland R is disqualified for having hindered Seldom Lad.

When the announcer informs the audience that a new race will be held at 21:55 (9:55 pm), the crowd starts to get rowdy. Mick the Miller´s owner Phiddy Kempton refuses to let his dog run again, since Mick – according to Kempton – has already won the race. Higher-ups from the Greyhound Racing Association eventually convinces Kempton to change his mind, since they fear what will happen if neither Ryland R nor Mick the Miller – the two favourites among the punters – would participate in the race.

Naturally, Mick the Miller is tired after his incredible performance in the previous race. When the new race finally takes place, he never gets close to even placing, and he eventually finishes fourth. Seldom Lad wins the race by outpacing Golden Hammer, never facing any strong competition from the other dogs.

Seldom Lad was announced as the champion of the 1931 English Greyhound Derby, but for many, the true winner was Mick the Miller. Mick the Miller finished the first race in 29.89 seconds. This was approximately 2.5 lengths faster than Seldom Lads time in the second race. (Of course, all dogs were more or less tired in the second race.)

When Seldom Lad´s owner took the stage to receive the derby trophy, he was booed by the crowd.

Continued career

The controversial 1931 English Greyhound Derby final only served to make Mick the Miller even more famous, and a lot of people both in England and abroad hailed him as the true derby winner. His fame was no longer confined to the world of greyhound racing – even standard newspapers wrote long feature articles about him, and his story was told by magazines such as Welt im Bild in Germany, the Herald Sun in Australia and The American Weekly in the U.S.

Mick the Miller retired from racing in October 1931, but this wasn´t announced until December that year. His very last race was the St Leger Stakes at Empire Stadium in Wembley, where he won in front of 40,000 spectators. During the qualifying races leading up to the final, Mick defeated Seldom Lad three times.

Life after the racing career

After retiring from racing, Mick the Miller became a stud male used for greyhound breeding. He lived a comfortable life in Norfolk, and remained a celebrity despite not racing anymore. When Catford Stadium was inaugurated in July 1932, Mick was the guest of honor.

On the big screen, the audience could see Mick the Miller in the 1934 movie The Wild Boy where he performed together with the comedic duo Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen.

Phiddy Kempton never sold Mick the Miller; he remained his owner for the rest of Mick´s life. Mick the Miller died on May 6, 1939, nearly 13 years old. His body was preserved by a taxidermist and donated to the Natural History Museum in London. Nowadays, it can be seen at the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire.

Legacy

Mick the Miller helped popularize greyhound racing and his performances had a long-lasting impact around the world. His memory has been honoured in many different ways, and in the 1990s – over half a century after his death – his name was still renowned enough for the Royal Doulton Company to produce a limited edition set of Mick the Miller figurines.

In his native Killeigh in Ireland, the village common features a prominent statue of Mick the Miller, created by the artist Liz O´Kane and unveiled by the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

One of the fenced in areas of Wimbledone Stadium is named after Mick the Miller.