WHELPED in April 1942, by Lone Seal out of Canadian Glory, Ballyhennessy Seal was one of the first of Lone Seal’s sons, two of which were to be Derby winners within six years.
His dam never raced: because of her breeding she was used entirely as a brood bitch by her owner in Tralee where ‘The Seal’, as he became affectionately called, was born and reared. He ran his first trial there before the end of June 1943 and, in his first race at the track, caused no one but his owner to give him a second thought.
He did, however, win a sudden death sweepstake shortly afterwards, which must have attracted someone’s attention, for a little later he arrived in England to race at Catford under the names of his new owners, Mrs Stow and Mr Vivian.
It is said that they each paid £50 for the puppy and recovered their purchase price in full within two weeks of his arrival when he won the 18th Rochester Stakes, his first race in England.
He had run well enough to be entered for the Puppy Derby at Wimbledon, where he won his heat by an amazing fourteen lengths in 28.88sec, one of the fastest times ever recorded at the track, and was made even-money favourite to win the event outright. In the final, however, he was beaten by a short head by Allardstown Playboy.
Towards the end of 1943, the then Wimbledon racing manager, Con Stevens, came up with a special invitation race for puppy champions. The invitees included Allardstown Playboy; Dark Tiger, the Trafalgar Cup winner; Erlegh Hero, winner of the British Produce Stakes, Model Dasher, the Midland Puppy Derby winner, and Fawn Cherry, winner of the Irish Puppy Derby.
Model Dasher was subsequently injured and could not run, so an invitation was sent to the owners of ‘The Seal’ and he never gave his rivals a look in, coming from the traps like greased lightning to win by one and a half lengths in 28.99sec.
The puppy was then moved from Catford to Wimbledon and placed in the care of Stan Martin. Entered for the May Stakes at Stamford Bridge in 1944, he set a new track and world record when clocking 27.64sec for the 500yds course. In mph terms, his time was the fastest ever recorded over a track circuit.
Then, on 28 May in The Circuit at Walthamstow, he set a new track record in his heat with a time of 28.62sec, and improved upon this when winning the final in 28.59sec. In eight days he had broken three track records and he was only two years one month old.
All tracks came alike to him and, during 1943-1945, no dog could compete with him over the middle distances. His style was tailor-made for the Derby, but the Gold Collar, run at Catford over 440yds, was the first Classic to be run after the war.
Made 2-9 on his winning his heat, which he did by eight lengths, he went on to score in his semi-final by the same distance and, in the final, repeated this performance when beating Restorer.
He raced no more until the Derby in June. In his heat he finished second to Magic Bohemian but won his semi-final and was installed even-money favourite to win the decider of the great race. He did so in torrential rain by five lengths from the game but outclassed Rhynn Castle, the reserve dog with those other fine greyhounds Magic Bohemian, Duffy’s Arrival and Celtic Chief many yards behind.
He was next entered for the Laurels at his home track Wimbledon, in which he was expected to win but, after winning his heat and semi-final, it was sensationally reported that he was suffering from rheumatism in his hind legs and they were not responding to treatment.
His owners reluctantly withdrew him from the final and he was retired to stud after winning over £3,000 in prize money (the Derby was worth only £1,000 in 1945) and thirteen trophies. Ballyhennessy Seal was one of the all-time greats and one of the all-time bargains.