He was often described as a freak, he was even swapped for a cow but Scurlogue Champ became one of the biggest attractions the sport has ever known. A real crowd pleaser who would, almost purposefully, drop himself right out of contention in the first half of his race before magically weaving his way through the field as the winning line loomed ever closer.
Had he been human rather than canine, the old black rascal would have been a swashbuckling film star, a real ladies man. In the world of greyhound racing, he was very much the equivalent. A star capable of packing the grandstands of any track where he plied his craft.
From the May of 1984 to the winter of 1986, Scurlogue Champ gained a huge following and he was usually afforded a football chant style of ‘Scurrrrrlogue, Scurrrrrlogue, Scurrrrrlogue . . .’ whenever he raced. Rather extraordinarily, he was a greyhound capable of making even the hardest of cynics smile with delight and wonderment when he produced one of his sometimes miraculous displays.
He started life on a farm in the quiet countryside of County Wexford. Bred by Francis Kent from Levittstown, Scurlogue Champ was one of a litter of six dogs and two bitches and he acquired his name shortly after moving to the farm owned by John Byrne, which was called Scurlogue. So the Champ had a name that would go down in the history books.
He suffered the indignity of being swapped for a cow when the dairy herd Byrne ran became a little depleted. Scurlogue Champ went into the care of Wexford man Jim Sutton, who reared the dog through and sent him out to win some of his early races in Ireland. He had shown enough ability at that stage of his career, though, and was sent up to the regular sales at Shelbourne Park in Dublin.
His early exploits had not gone unnoticed in certain quarters in Britain and one interested party was trainer Ken Peckham, who flew to Dublin at the beginning of May 1984 where he saw Scurlogue Champ win his sales trial in impressive fashion. The bidding was brisk before the future superstar was eventually knocked down for 1500gns. to Brendan Matthews.
Peckham was undeterred, though, and approached Matthews after the sale and thrashed out a deal with the Irish trainer and the Champ was on his way back to England and the start of one of greyhound racing’s most remarkable careers.
There was no rest for the newcomer and he was soon busy trialing at Peterborough and Walthamstow before making his debut at White City, shortly before the track was cruelly sold to the property men. Scurlogue Champ left his mark on the great stadium, coming from off the pace to win on his British debut.
It was the start of a legendary run that saw Scurlogue Champ score in 51 races from his 63 outings on this side of the Irish Sea.
Remarkably, he started favourite on 60 of those occasions and, in the process, set 20 new track records over distances ranging from 663 metres at Hall Green to 888 metres at Catford.
The likes of Scurlogue Champ may never come again. He was the greyhound who could be anything up to 20 lengths behind the leaders yet still have enough in reserve to sprint past them in the closing stages. A freak, perhaps, but one who will live long in the memory of the thousands who followed his progress.