Mick the Miller, who lived from 1926 to 1939, is one of the most famous greyhounds in the history of dog racing. Throughout his race career in 1929-1931, this Irish-born brindled greyhound won numerous prestigious races and helped boost greyhound racing in both Ireland and the UK. Out of a total of 68 races in which he ran, he won 51. His popularity even earned him film roles.
Mick the Miller won the inaugural English Greyhound Derby in 1929 and successfully defended his title the following year. So far, only four dogs have managed to win the English Greyhound Derby twice. Mick the Miller is also regarded by many as the true winner of the 1931 English Greyhound Derby, even though another dog was crowned the formal winner of that contest.
Mick the Miller is the only greyhound who has managed to win all THREE of the English top-level events:
- He won the English Greyhound Derby in 1929 and 1930
- He won Caserwitch in 1930
- He won St. Ledger in 1931
Unsurprisingly, Mick the Miller became a much sought after stud among greyhound breeders.
From his three combined careers (racing, movies, stud) he earned an estimated £20,000.
Examples of accolades
- One of the fenced areas of Wimbledon Stadium is named after Mick the Miller.
- In Killeigh, a statue of Mick the Miller adorns the village common. It was created by Liz O´Kane and unveiled by Irish PM Brian Cowen.
- The Royal Doulton Company has produced a limited edition set of Mick the Miller figurines.
- After his death, Mick the Miller was preserved by a taxidermist. The body is on display at the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire, England.
Mick the Miller was born in Ireland
Mick the Miller was one of ten puppies in a batch of greyhounds born to the Kempton family in Killeigh, Ireland in 1926. His mother was Na bac Leis and his father Glorious Event, a direct descendant of the famous Mr McGrath (1866-1873) who won the prestigious Waterloo Cup three times.
Mick the Miller was the smallest of the ten puppies in the batch, but that didn´t stop him from growing into a very fast race dog.
While still in Ireland, Mick the Miller was spotted by the U.S. greyhound enthusiast Moses Rebensheid, who decided to buy him from the Kemptons and take him to the United States. Before the deal was finalized, a tornado hit Rebensheid´s kennel in the United States and killed 27 of his greyhounds. Also, a car driven by Rebensheid´s son was turned over by the wind, and another four dogs perished in this accident. The tragedy had a huge impact on Rebensheid and he decided to stop keeping greyhounds. Therefore, cancel the purchase of Mick the Miller.
Because of the tornado, Mick the Miller came to stay on the British Isles instead of emigrating to America. Eventually, an Irish Catholic priest began to travel with him to dog races in England, where Mick the Miller had great success.
The 1929 English Greyhound Derby
Mick the Miller strongly caught the attention of the punters as the 1929 English Greyhound Derby approach. During a solo qualifying race for the derby, he broke the racecourse record and the odds swiftly dropped from 25:1 to 4:7.
In the first round, he finished at 29.82 seconds which was a new world record for that distance. The margin between him and the runner-up was whopping eight lengths.
The four dogs that ran in the final were:
- Beadsman (first box)
- Palatinus (second box)
- Entomb (third box)
- Mick the Miller (fourth box
The final started at 20:45 but was quickly called off at the very first turn, as Beadsman collided with Entomb and Mick the Miller. The dogs were now made to wait for an hour before a second attempt was made. Palatinus took the lead, but Mick the Miller passed him on the stretch after the first curve. When Mick reached the finish line, it was with a margin of three lengths.
The 1930 English Greyhound Derby
After his 1929 English Derby success, Mick the Miller started in a large number of races and won many victories with huge margins. He set four world records and the news media called him “The Wonder Dog”. Just prior to the 1930 English Greyhound Derby, Mick was on a winning streak, with ten victories in a row.
The English Greyhound Derby final drew a huge crowd of 50,000+ spectators who got to see Mick the Miller capture his second English Derby win – a rare feat that would not be repeated by any dog until Patricia’s Hope won the English Derby in 1972 and 1973.
After his two English Derby wins
Mick the Miller continued racing in 1930, winning prestigious races such as the Cesarewitch at West Ham and the Welsh Greyhound Derby. One of these world records consisted of completing 525 yards in 29.55 seconds – a feat that won him the 1930 Welsh Greyhound Derby.
After an amazing winning streak of 19 victories in a row, Mick the Miller sustained a muscle injury in his shoulder while racing at Wimbledon and was forced to take a break from the racing circuit to heal. He did a total of 23 races in 1930 and won 20 of them.
After his break, Mick the Miller returned to racing in February 1931 with another race at Wimbledon. Regrettably, he sustained another injury there – this time to one of his spurs. This forced him to another period of non-racing.
1931 English Greyhound Derby
Mick the Miller was runner-up in the 11th heat (defeated by Mick´s Fancy) and runner-up in the second round (defeated by Ryland R). In the semi-final, Ryland R defeated Mick again, with half a length to spare.
The final took place on June 27, 1930. The qualified dogs were Ryland R, Mick the Miller, Mick´s Fancy, Seldom Lad, Golden Hammer, and Brunswick Bill. Ryland R and Mick the Miller were favourites: both had the odds 13:8.
Ryland R immediately took the lead, while Mick the Miller was last of them all at the first curve. Things got complicated at the last curve when Seldom had caught up with the leader Ryland R and the two dogs nudged each other. Ryland R turned his head and bit the air near Seldom Lad. A race steward saw the air bite and sounded his horn to shut the race down, but the sound of the horn could not be heard because of the loud cheering of the spectators. They were cheering because Mick the Miller was suddenly sprinting super-quick, catching up with all the other dogs and surpassing them, taking the lead from Ryland R.
Mick the Miller crossed the finish line first, with the runner-up Golden Hammer just one head-length behind. The finish time for Mick is 29.89 seconds.
So, what happens next? There is chaos in the stadium. It becomes known among the spectators that a steward had blown his horn, but since no one had heard it the race had continued as normal. Should the result still count? Or is a do-over required?
When the announcer informs the spectators that the race – and thus Mick the Miller´s glorious victory – is not valid, the crowd gets angry and rowdy. Also, Ryland R is disqualified for his behaviour towards Seldom Lad.
A new race is scheduled for 9:55 pm, but Mick the Miller´s owner is refusing to let his dog start again. From the owner´s point of view, his dog has already won the 1931 English Greyhound Derby, and will not run again.
The leading men of the Greyhound Racing Association get very nervous. Ryland R is disqualified and Mick the Miller is being kept from racing. What will happen if the final derby race includes none of the two punter favourites? A lot of money is at stake and emotions are running wild in the audience. After much pleading, they convince Mick the Miller´s owner to let Mick race again.
Unsurprisingly, Mick the Miller is still very tired after his remarkable performance in the previous race and is not in any condition to win a new race so soon. He never gets close to even placing, and eventually ends fourth.
The new race is won by Seldom Lad, with Golden Hammer as runner-up.
Seldom Lad is the official winner of the 1931 English Greyhound Derby, but for many – both back then and today – Mick the Miller was the true winner. When Seldom Lad´s owner received the derby trophy on stage at Wimbledon, it was to the sound of a booing audience.
The story of the chaotic 1931 English Greyhound Derby quickly made its rounds around the world, only serving to make Mick the Miller even more famous and admired, with his celebrity status reaching far beyond the dog racing world.
Mick the Miller´s last race was the St. Leger Stakes at Empire Stadium in Wembley, during the fall of 1931. During the qualifying races leading up to the final, he defeated Seldom Lad three times.
Mick the Miller was retired from racing in October 1931, but this was not made public until later that year.
After being retired from the racetrack, Mick the Miller enjoyed a comfortable life in Norfolk with the Kempton family. He worked as a stud and remained a celebrity throughout his life. When Catford Stadium was opened in 1932, Mick the Miller was the guest of honour for the ceremonial inauguration. Two years later, moviegoers could see Mick the Miller appear in the film ”The Wild Boy”.
Mick the Miller died on May 6, 1939, at age 12.