The greyhound who became a film star and, until recently stood embalmed at the Natural History Museum before being moved to the museum at Tring where he still takes pride of place. His story is one of the most celebrated in the sport’s history but he was fortunate to even make it to the racetrack.
More than 70 years after his incredible exploits in the early days of greyhound racing, Mick The Miller is, remarkably, still something of a household name. He was named after Mick Miller, who was the odd-job man at the vicarage where the dog was born and raised. One of his duties was looking after the great dog and the rest of the litter when they were pupies.
Bred by a parish priest in Ireland, Mick The Miller was one of a litter of 12 and lived the usual life of a young greyhound until he was struck down by distemper, a highly contagious viral disease which primary affects dogs, shortly before his first birthday.
There were no vaccines back in the 1920s and his chances of survival were slim. However, Father Brophy, who had reared him through thick and thin, refused to accept defeat and took the dog to Arthur Callanan, who was the manager of Shelbourne Park in Ireland at the time as well as being a qualified veterinary surgeon.
Mick The Miller was frail but Callanan thought there may be a chance of saving him and asked Father Brophy to leave the ailing youngster with him.
Days and nights were spent in caring for the pup but he was saved and, several months later and in fairly good condition, he was returned to the Priest with the advice to give the dog a lengthy spell convalescing.
It was not until April 1928 that a now near two-year-old Mick The Miller made his racing debut. He won with ease and went on to compete in a total of 20 races in Ireland, winning fifteen of them and gaining himself a hefty reputation in the process. One of his litter-bothers, Macoma, was also to prove himself as one of the all time greats over hurdles.
Trainer Mick Horan knew he had a real racing machine on his hands and advised Father Brophy to have a crack at the English Derby. They came to England with Mick The Miller in May 1929. His first trial at White City was a sensation and he was almost immediately put in as favourite to win the Derby, which, in those days, was restricted to 48 runners and decided over four races.
There was a clamour to buy Mick the Miller immediately after the trial and Father Brophy decided there and then to auction his star on the terrace steps. He was duly knocked down for 800 guineas to a London bookmaker.
It was huge amount for a greyhound at that time and was enough to be well documented in the evening papers that day.
He drew a huge audience for his first race, which was the first round of the 1929 Derby and not only did he win, he smashed through the then unachievable 30 second barrier for the 525 yard strip at White City.
He flew though second round and semi-finals with impressive successes and was naturally a hot favourite to land the £700 decider. He was beaten into second by Palatinus but the Gods were on his side and it was declared a no-race.
He found his best form again in the re-run just half an hour later and, this time, beat Palatinus by three lengths in 29.96sec. He was, by now, something of a celebrity and was in action again just days after the first of many famous victories in Britain.
The dog took up residence at the kennels of Sidney Orton, who was based at Wimbledon as Father Brophy and Mick Horan went back to Ireland considerably richer men
Stepping up to 600 yards at the giant track at West Ham, he trounced his rivals by seven lengths in his heat early in the afternoon and, on the evening of the same day, took the £200 final by four lengths. He won over £1,200 in prize money in various events and match races before changing hands again for an unprecedented 2,000 guineas. An Arundel Kempton splashed out the huge amount and gave Mick The Miller to his wife as a present.
1930 proved another vintage year for Mick The Miller, winning countless races and taking the Derby again that year, going through the event as he did the previous year, with an unblemished record.
A hectic schedule followed with unbeaten runs through the Cesarewitch at West Ham and the Welsh Derby at Cardiff during July. So much racing eventually took its toll and he was eliminated in the first round of the Laurels at Wimbledon the next month.
A lengthy rest followed and Mick The Miller was not seen in action again until the spring of 1931where he went unbeaten through the Spring Cup at Wembley. He was then lightly raced in preparation for his third Derby attempt. Clearly beginning to feel the effects of a lengthy campaign, he had to settle for second best in the three runs leading up to the final.
Come the big night, trainer Orton had his charge spot on and he ran the race of his life to land his third successive Derby. But, just as he had landed his first title, the race was cruelly taken away from him with another no-race decision.
The re-run was less than an hour after the first ‘race’ and Mick The Miller’s old legs were simply too tired to carry it off again and he was soundly beaten into fourth by Seldom Led, who had finished last in the original final.
It was the twilight of Mick The Miller’s career on the track but he still had a treat to serve up for his legion of fans. Well over five years old, he was entered for the St Leger at Wembley and duly went through the event unbeaten.