INDIAN JOE was owned by Kevin Frost of Co. Clare when he started racing and he wasted no time in making an impression on the world of greyhound racing. He was barely more than a novice at only twenty-one months old when he ran in the qualifying heats for the 1978 Irish Derby, his first big event.
A large dog, weighing 77lbs, he was beaten by five lengths in his first-round heat, finishing third and only just qualifying for round two in which he was again beaten, this time by two lengths into second. In his quarter-final heat he trapped with his usual tremendous speed and, from his favourite trap six, ran on to win by four lengths from Excellent Choice in 29.22sec, one of the fastest times of the entire competition. In her quarter-final heat Penny County, the eventual winner, clocked 29.44sec, and in her semi got the better of Indian Joe, beating him by four lengths with Indian Joe drawing trap one for the final.
From such an unfavourable draw, it came as no surprise that he found himself in trouble at the first bend from which he could not recover. He finished last but, in reaching the decider, had shown that the youngest greyhound taking part possessed the qualities which made him a greyhound to command the closest of attention in future.
Four weeks later he lined up for the important Carroll’s International at Dundalk and, once again, had with him the Derby finalists, Nameless Pixie, Airmount Champ and Distant Clamour, who were joined by Tough Decision and Desert Pilot. It was a particularly good field.
Again, Indian Joe was drawn on the inside, a position not to his liking but he was away from the traps like lightning and in front by the time they hit the backstretch. It was only in the last few strides that the persistent Distant Clamour got in front to beat him by less than half a length in 29.53sec with Nameless Pixie back in third.
After a winter resting, Indian Joe made the journey to England in May 1980 to contest the English Derby and, at White City, London, he won his first-round heat by one and a quarter lengths, beating Hurry on Bran. Though those who saw the race firmly believed that both dogs were good enough to go right through the event, few would have thought that this was to be the order in which they would finish in the final a fortnight later. The two dogs were again drawn together in the second round but, this time, the order was reversed.
In the third round, Hurry On Bran won his heat by four lengths while Indian Joe could only finish in third behind Knockrour Slave and Young Breeze in his qualifier. Indeed, he was fortunate to get through, having just pipped Nameless Pixie by a short head to claim the third qualifying spot. In his semi-final, he again had to settle for third behind Hurry On Bran but that was enough to make it through to the 50th running of the Greyhound Derby on 28 June for a then world record first prize of £35,000.
Indian Joe drew six, his great rival Hurry On Bran five and the stage was set for one of the great Derbys. Both were wide seeds and they shared joint favouritism at 13-8. Surprisingly, they were slow away and there was considerable bumping on the first bend but Indian Joe kept out wide and out of trouble and stole the race there and then.
John Hayes’ charge went on to win by a length in 29.68sec, with Hurry on Bran a worthy runner up and Young Breeze third. Before the final the dog had been sold to Belfast bookmaker Alf McLean for a reported £40,000 and he was to change hands several times before he died as a family pet, in 1987.