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    Ballyregan Bob: Unmatched Greatness Beyond Comparison
Ballyregan Bob: Unmatched Greatness Beyond Comparison
Ballyregan Bob. Source: Brighton and Hove Racing

Ballyregan Bob: Unmatched Greatness Beyond Comparison

Greyhound racing during the 1980s had its ups and downs, but it will be most remembered for the remarkable world record-winning streak of 32 races achieved by Ballyregan Bob from 1985 to 1986.

A young greyhound was purchased by entrepreneur Cliff Kevern from acquaintances in Ireland when he was just one year old, for a sum of £1,250. Soon after, his exceptional abilities attracted the attention and interest of numerous promoters. Throughout his career, he consistently held the status of either the favourite or a co-favourite in all of his races, with odds-on favouring him in 38 instances.

The dog possessed all the qualities of an exceptional greyhound. Out of a total of 48 races, he only lost six times and had an impressive run of 32 consecutive victories before retiring from racing in early 1986.

Ballyregan Bob with its owner. Source: Brighton and Hove Racing
Ballyregan Bob with its owner. Source: Brighton and Hove Racing

The Making of a Legend

Trainer George Curtis described Ballyregan Bob as the epitome of a perfect racing machine. Even during his early trials at Hove, Curtis recognised the extraordinary potential of this greyhound. On August 25, 1984, he embarked on his racing journey, competing in races spanning a distance of 515 meters at Hove. Ballyregan Bob's initial races were far from impressive, as he suffered defeats in his first four attempts.

However, on October 25, 1984, everything fell into place when he staged a remarkable comeback to win his first race in Britain, coming from behind. He continued his winning streak by securing seven more victories to close out the year, including setting new records in the heats and final of the William Hill Lead at the now-closed Hackney Stadium.

His arrival on the scene was undeniable, and his return the following year was eagerly anticipated. To protect him from the harsh winter conditions, his connections wisely gave him a break from racing. When he returned to the track in March, many felt that he had lost some of his previous sparkle. In a race at Harringay, he was bumped at the first bend and failed to catch up to the leaders, finishing fifth, which was a significant deviation from his usual performance.

However, that defeat turned out to be a minor setback. A month later, Ballyregan Bob firmly established himself as a true superstar. Representing Curtis in the Trainers' Championship meeting at Walthamstow, he delivered what many consider to be the best performance of his career. In the top division of the 475-meter races, he faced off against local champion Ballintubber One, and Ballyregan Bob was pushed to his limits.

Ballintubber One managed to gain some distance on the impressive Hove runner by the second bend, but Ballyregan Bob's remarkable speed along the back stretch was nothing short of miraculous. By the third bend, they were on equal terms, and although Ballyregan Bob had to work hard to surpass the long-time leader, his superior stamina ultimately secured the victory. The spectators at Walthamstow recognised him as a true champion.

Ballyregan Bob went on to win numerous races himself, which was a significant tribute to Ballintubber One.

Nevertheless, the greyhound’s dominance came to an end on April 15, 1985, when a poor start at the traps dashed his chances of winning a race at Wembley.

As a result, plans to compete in the Greyhound Derby were immediately abandoned. Instead, Ballyregan Bob participated in the Olympic event on home turf and emerged victorious without a single defeat. It marked the last time he would ever compete in a race spanning four bends.

When Ballyregan Bob transitioned to races covering six bends, he truly excelled. Regardless of the location, he consistently astounded huge crowds with his exceptional performances, often securing wide-margin victories. His record-breaking streak was nearly halted on two occasions, particularly at Romford where a slow start and trouble at the first bend left Ballyregan Bob in a hopeless position after a couple of bends.

However, on that memorable summer night in July, he caused a sensation by delivering an extraordinary run, narrowly snatching victory at the very last moment and preserving his growing number of wins. Nevertheless, his most extraordinary triumph occurred in the St Leger semi-finals at Wembley, where he encountered severe trouble at the first bend. Two dogs in the race practically collided, and Ballyregan Bob had to leap over one of them to avoid a disastrous fall. Meanwhile, his little brother, Evening Light, had already taken a commanding lead, leaving Ballyregan Bob trailing hopelessly behind and seemingly destined for defeat.

The atmosphere was unusually tense, as a devoted group of followers accompanied Ballyregan Bob everywhere he went, and they too feared the worst outcome.

Murmurs of optimism began to emerge as Ballyregan Bob started to narrow the gap, although he still faced a significant challenge with only two bends remaining. The murmurs transformed into cheers as he gradually closed in on the lead, displaying a keen awareness of the urgency of his task.

In a remarkable display, he unleashed a burst of speed during the final stretch and crossed the finish line just ahead of his competitors, prompting thunderous roars of pure joy from the enthusiastic spectators in the crowded grandstands.

The significance of his performance was magnified when it was discovered the following day that he had sustained a severe injury, rendering him unable to compete in the St Leger Final. This injury would continue to trouble him throughout the remainder of his career.

Ballyregan Bob's achievements spoke volumes about George Curtis' expertise and unwavering commitment. He went on to surpass the world record, not only defeating the finest greyhounds in training throughout his career but also breaking track records at numerous venues.

His most glorious moment arrived on December 9, 1986, at Hove, when he participated in his final race and secured a new world record.  This highly anticipated event was broadcasted nationwide, in front of 7,000 fans in the £2,000 Racing Post World Challenge over 695 metres and Ballyregan Bob's victory was essentially a foregone conclusion. By the finish line, he had an impressive lead of over nine lengths against his closest competitor.

The next morning, his extraordinary accomplishment dominated the headlines of national newspapers, and the sport of greyhound racing owed a great debt to Ballyregan Bob. He played a pivotal role in revitalising the sport when it was in dire need, and since then, no greyhound has come close to matching his prowess. He was simply unparalleled, the epitome of excellence.

Taxidermy statue of Ballyregan Bob. Source: Flickr
Taxidermy statue of Ballyregan Bob. Source: Flickr

Life after retirement 

After retiring for a year, Ballyregan Bob was sent to the United States to breed and experienced significant success in this field. He later returned to Curtis in 1989 due to popular demand for public appearances. Ballyregan Bob, a true embodiment of grace and elegance, was the equivalent of the legendary Arkle in National Hunt racing during the 1960s. His extraordinary performances at NGRC racecourses have cemented his status as a legendary figure in the world of greyhound racing.

When Ballyregan Bob's illustrious career came to an end, he left an indelible mark with his unwavering determination, adaptability, strategic skills, and undeniable excellence. These qualities distinguished him from other exceptional athletes we have witnessed since the inception of greyhound racing in 1926.

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