PIGALLE WONDER, by Champion Prince out of the famous dam Prairie Peg, was bred and reared in Co. Kilkenny by Tom Murphy, who originally named him Prairie Champion. A brindle, he rivalled Future Cutlet and Endless Gossip in his appearance; with his sleek, graceful lines he looked every inch a champion and, like those other winners of the premier Classic, would have taken all before him on the show bench.
Whelped in March 1956, he ran his first race at Kilkenny in a heat for the famous McCalmont Cup on 10 October 1957, which he won by ten lengths in 29.80sec; he went on to win the final, showing just how good he was when only eighteen months old. He was bought by Al Burnett, owner of the Pigalle Club in London, after clocking 29.10sec in a 525yds trial at Harolds Cross and he was renamed Pigalle Wonder.
He was indeed a wonder and, during a career which lasted three years, won almost £8,000 in prize money, when £1,500 was awarded to the Derby winner but he earned considerably more than that sum at stud. Wherever he ran, his fantastic speed and track sense drew the crowds as no greyhounds had done since Mick the Miller and Monday’s News.
He was a law unto himself, handsome, with a sharp intelligence and capable of amazing speed from the traps; in addition he never knew when he was beaten, which he rarely was. All tracks came alike to him and he set new track records on seven of the most important courses in Britain. His 28.44sec run made in his Derby semi-final stood until Yellow Printer did 28.30sec in 1968, ten years later.
He was placed with Jim Syder Jnr at Wembley and his first big event was the 1958 Derby. He won his second round heat and semi-final (in which he set the track record) and went on to win the final by three lengths from Northern Lad, with Mile Bush Pride, winner the following year, a neck behind in third. He had started 4-5 favourite and, in the first photo-timed Derby, his time of 28.65sec was less than two lengths slower than Endless Gossip’s hand timed 28.50sec.
His next contest was the Pall Mall at Harringay, which he also won comfortably, and his time of 29.03sec for 525yds was not beaten while the event was run over that distance until Local Motive clocked 28.86sec ten years later. This time stood until the distance was changed to metres in 1975.
Showing himself outstanding over middle distances, Pigalle Wonder was to end a wonderful year by dead-heating with Rylane Pleasure for the Cesarewitch. That year on every track he raced he set new records, his 28.78sec for 525yds at Wembley on 26 May 1958 stood for almost twenty years until the distance was changed to metres and, even today, would be most special.
His last race was at Shelbourne Park on 13 August 1960 when, in the final of the Irish Derby, which he reached by running up to Perry’s Apple in his semi-final, he was again beaten by the same greyhound after running into trouble at the first bend. But he was then four and a half years old and had done enough to ensure that his name was to occupy a top place in the Hall of Fame.
His longer term career was only just beginning, though, he still had nearly ten years at stud, during which time his influence on modern greyhound racing was to prove considerable.
Early in 1963 Mr Burnett sold his champion to stand at stud in Ireland, for the then amazing sum of £3,500, the highest price ever paid for a dog whose racing career was over. Pigalle Wonder must have earnt his new owner many times that sum and he was to become as famous as a sire as he was when racing.
It was as a sire of bitches that Pigalle Wonder, like Brilliant Bob twenty years earlier, was to become famous, for it was mostly through the dams he produced that his own phenomenal speed and track- craft were perpetuated. He himself had several of the greatest dams in his pedigree and was well equipped to pass on their wonderful qualities. Only Macoma and Brilliant Bob in earlier years and The Grand Fire and Pigalle Wonder of the 1950s and 1960s passed on their own superb qualities through the female line through the many bitches they served.
One of Pigalle Wonder’s finest offspring, however, and one of his first, was a dog and he was to perpetuate his sire’s outstanding qualities on the track and later to transmit them to his own offspring. His name was Wonder Valley, the winner of the Irish Derby. Wonder Valley has also left a great impression on the coursing field. The winner, Kyle Guest, and runner-up Ballyard Jumbo, of the Irish Coursing Derby run at Clonmel in 1979 both descended from Wonder Valley and likewise the winner and runner-up for the Coursing Oaks, won by Little Treasure.
Both she and Kyle Guest were sired by Wonder Valley’s outstanding son Woodford General.
If one had to name the greatest racing greyhounds in the history of the sport, taking into consideration all things – racing ability, appearance and performance as a sire – near the top of the tree must be Pigalle Wonder. He died during the first days of January 1969 aged nearly thirteen and lucky indeed are those who saw him in his hey-day.