The world of sport is filled with its heroes, and that includes those dogs who have made a name for themselves in greyhound racing. It may have a small and niche following in the United Kingdom, at least compared to the tens of thousands of punters who used to flock to tracks up and down the country in the sport’s heyday following World War II, but icons have still been made in greyhound racing folklore.
Nowadays, there are less than 20 official tracks in Britain and those attending meetings have dropped to a mere two million a year — a far cry from the highs of 34m per annum back in the late 1940s. However, whilst the figures look damning, greyhound racing still has a passionate support, with bettors often placing a bet on greyhounds before making their way down to their local stadium.
The best dogs of recent times may not be household names, like Entry Badge, Patricia’s Hope or even Some Picture, who won the English Greyhound Derby back-back in 1997, but they have still etched their names in the history books. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the greyhounds who have earned legendary status over the last decade.
Barnfield On Air
Undoubtedly one of the best greyhounds of the last 20 years, Barnfield On Air had it all. After making a name for himself in Ireland, there were a lot of expectations surrounding Barnfield On Air when he moved to Sam Poots kennels in Essex, and he didn’t get off to the best of starts in England. However, he soon came to life, winning the Sussex Cup at Hove, finishing in a record-breaking 29.20 seconds — a course record that still stands today! Track records continued to tumble in Barnfield’s On Air career, as he set new fastest times at Belle Vue (twice) and Coventry — where he won 480 Cup Final. The 2007 Standard Distance Dog of the Year ended his career with 27 career triumphs, including in the Sussex Cup, Select Stakes and 480 Cup.
Another true great, Rapid Ranger’s career didn’t get off to the best of starts under the guidance of trainer Mike Pomfrett, as he lost his first two races, but he quickly improved and reached the 1999 renewal of the Puppy Classic at Nottingham. Later that year, he was bought by Ray White and transferred to Charlie Lister’s kennels, where his career blossomed. In early 2000, he was second in the Juvenile Championship at Wimbledon, and after finishing third in the Scottish Greyhound Derby, he returned to south west London for the English version of the race, beating Rackethall Jet bythree and a half lengths. The following year, Rapid Ranger became just the third dog to win the Greyhound Derby in successive years, flying out of the traps and beating Sonic Flight by more than three lengths. Going for a never-before-seen hattrick, Rapid Ranger was brought out of retirement. However, his bid came crashing down in the third round.
One of the most famous names in greyhound racing’s recent history, Westmead Hawk was so popular in the United Kingdom that he became the first animal athlete to get their own waxwork model in London’s Madame Tussauds — not even the great Red Rum could achieve that feat! With back-to-back Greyhound Derby victories in 2005 and 2006, the Nick Savva-trained dog became just the fourth greyhound to win the prestigious race in successive years. His ability to come from the back of the field and go on to win races won over the hearts of greyhound racing’s following.