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    Spiridon Louis: Born to Be a Champion
Spiridon Louis: Born to Be a Champion
Spiridon Louis. Source: Greyhound Board of Great Britain

Spiridon Louis: Born to Be a Champion

SPIRIDON LOUIS was destined to become a champion - and his name was synonymous with victory. And he certainly lived up to expectations.

SPIRIDON LOUIS, a distinguished greyhound, was bred by Nick Savva at the renowned Westmead Kennel. This exceptional dog was born a year before Westmead Hawk, the kennel's esteemed champion, claimed victory in two Greyhound Derbies at Wimbledon. SPIRIDON LOUIS, a true blue-blood, was a testament to Savva's expertise, even after he had moved on from his legendary base in Dunstable.

Naturally, he had Savva's approval to proceed: Owner Gail May agreed to purchase a puppy from the esteemed individual and selected a puppy from Early Flight's December 2004 litter of Droopys Vieri. May made a smart decision—even though, as she remembers, the chances were stacked against her.

"Nick had been raising top-tier competitors for years, so there was always a sense of optimism. I have always had a preference for well-established females and males, and this particular litter perfectly met my expectations and turned out to be genuinely exceptional. One standout from this litter was Dilemma Flight, an extraordinary female who not only won the Oaks but also made it to the Derby final alongside Westmead Lord." Gail May said.

The Choice Was Not an Easy One

"Nevertheless, unbeknownst to us, we were compelled to rely solely on our visual perception! I initially chose one, but it was already sold. However, it seemed like destiny when I came across a serene, sleek, and slender black dog with a white collar and paws. That's when I decided on Mike - giving him the name of the renowned athlete Michael Johnson. It was a breeze to come up with a suitable moniker for the runner. While I was engrossed in the Athens Olympic Marathon in 2000, I distinctly recall the commentator remarking. This event has come a long way since Spyridon Luis emerged victorious in the inaugural Olympic marathon back in 1896. The name suddenly came to mind, and I recall thinking it would be a fitting choice for a greyhound." remembered Gail.

Savva's Westmead kennel had a fantastic time. The British breeding powerhouse was getting Westmead Hawk ready for his inaugural Derby race, welcoming Irish trainers Seamus Graham and Fraser Black.

"There was a genuine buzz surrounding the kennel and the sport, and we were fortunate enough to be a small part of it. Wonderful moments," May adds.

Nevertheless, Spyridon Louis' initial experiences at the school proved to be quite challenging, leaving May with a difficult decision to make: sacrifice her sense of pride and enjoyment.

After the arrival of new puppies and litters at Westmead Kennels, the older runners were relocated to other trainers. Spyridon Louis found himself in Mick Pusey's kennel in Walthamstow, where he successfully qualified for his first race in the 475m P8 puppy event at Stow in April 2006.

Coming in third place, he demonstrated potential and achieved success on his second attempt. After experiencing multiple losses but demonstrating impressive endurance, Spyridon Luis created quite a buzz when he easily won the A6 race with a remarkable time of 29.27 seconds. Despite his mature appearance, he was restricted to four turns due to his age. However, after moving up a level, he emerged victorious in the Graphite (UK) Derby race.

After being eliminated in the semi-final, he recovered and secured a respectable third-place finish in the final. It was evident that his destiny resided in tests of endurance, and the moment had arrived to take things to the next level.

Expanding his range to participate in the Puppy Cesarewitch at Peterborough, he emerged victorious in the preliminary race. He proceeded to dominate both the heat and final with an impressive display of strength. Spyridon Louis emerged victorious in his initial competition and, despite a setback of being defeated by four lengths in the open race at Stowe, he once again showcased his exceptional skills in the Puppy Cesarewitch open race, triumphing by an impressive margin of six lengths during the Grand Prix final.

In the subsequent week, Spyridon Louis unquestionably made his mark. After defeating the esteemed Grand Prix champion, January Tiger, this impressive individual not only gave them a head start but also surpassed them, showcasing their exceptional skills. Now, this budding talent is not only mingling with the top competitors, but also outperforming them. The Owner May quickly realised that her greyhound was genuinely exceptional.

Spyridon "Spiros" Luis is the first Olympic marathon champion. Source: olympic-champions
Spyridon Louis. Source: Flickr

Nevertheless, the pinnacle of excellence was still on the horizon. Spyridon Louis, who was still in the early stages of his career, shattered the 640m course record during the heats at the Racing Post's Puppy Stayer Festival at Walthamstow. Despite facing a significant setback in the final due to a collision on the first bend, he showcased immense potential for the upcoming year.

Following a period of adaptation and under the guidance of sports physiotherapist Ron Mills, Spyridon Louis made his first appearance at Wimbledon for Sams in February 2007, coinciding with the Springbok final broadcast live on Sky Sports. Despite initial defeats at Hove, the ultimate goal of winning the Coral Regency and showcasing top-notch performance remained unchanged.

Spyridon Luis kicked off his winning streak in 2007 with The Regency title, and he continued to dominate the racing scene with subsequent victories. Some of his notable wins include the Dorando Marathon at Wimbledon, the Betfred Select Stayers at Nottingham in support of the Select Stakes, and the VCbet Marathon. The VCbet Marathon, in particular, was held on a thrilling festival night at Stowe, with a captivated audience filling the hall.

Joyful Times

The standout moments were, without a doubt, the TV Trophy at Yarmouth and the St Leger at Wimbledon. His unique running technique captivated onlookers, and he quickly became a beloved figure among the crowd, much like the renowned sprinters Westmead Hawk and Scurlogue Champ. His impressive endurance also drew parallels to the latter.

However, he possessed the necessary swiftness to emerge victorious in prestigious six-furlong competitions like the St Leger and Regency. It was this remarkable speed that propelled him to triumph in the eight-furlong races at Yarmouth in the TV Trophy, setting a new record in the trial races. Subsequently, he went on to secure victory in both the heats and final, captivating audiences watching on Sky Sports. The final race was particularly exhilarating, as it showcased an intense and captivating battle between him and the unexpected underdog, Wise Susie.

Following his triumph on the East Coast, his bond with the enthusiastic greyhound enthusiasts was solidified. Trainer Sams further strengthened this connection by bringing the newly crowned TV Trophy champion to the bar for post-race festivities. The celebrations were led by the winner's owner, May, accompanied by her father, John and mother, Beryl, who were Mike's most ardent supporters.

SPIRIDON LOUIS Source: Greyhound Star
SPIRIDON LOUIS Source: Greyhound Star

The Yarmouth triumphs were part of a remarkable nine-race summer that encompassed triumphs at prominent competitions in Hove and Wimbledon and a memorable win in the 872m Dorando Marathon at Plough Lane Racecourse.

Additional triumphs ensued, yet a standout moment in the career was on the horizon. The fellow horses now faced the challenge of competing against the top long-distance runners in training at the prestigious William Hill St Leger at Wimbledon. This renowned event, known for its rigorous four-round examination of both speed and stamina, promised to showcase an extraordinary display of training prowess.

Doubts About Spiridon's Abilities

After triumphing in the initial and subsequent rounds, Spyridon Luis faced a setback with a third-place finish in the semi-finals. This raised doubts about his ability to participate in the final competition, let alone emerge victorious. After a couple of sessions with Sams and physical therapist Mills, all issues were resolved, and Spyridon Luis delivered an outstanding performance on the last evening.

Spyridon Louis is now among the elite group of greyhounds who have earned a spot in the prestigious St Leger/TV Trophy, joining the ranks of Lucky Hi There and Roxholme Girl. He dominated the six- and eight-breed races, emerging as the undisputed champion at Walthamstow's main track. His remarkable performance earned him the titles of Stayer of the Year, Marathon Performer of the Year, British Thoroughbred Greyhound of the Year, and the ultimate accolade of Greyhound of the Year 2007. In that specific competition, he emerged victorious over another champion, the four-band sensation On Air from Barnfield.

SPIRIDON LOUIS with delighted owner Gail May and trainer Lorraine Sams. Source: Greyhound Star
SPIRIDON LOUIS with delighted owner Gail May and trainer Lorraine Sams. Source: Greyhound Star

Spyridon Louis achieved an impressive 18 victories in 2007, triumphing in nine races at both Yarmouth and Wimbledon tracks and numerous wins at prestigious competitions. Journalist Burch aptly captured the intense competition between Spyridon Louis and Barnfield On Air for the top prize.

Spyridon Louis, also known as Mike, enjoyed a joyful and fulfilling old age alongside May, who sadly passed away in December 2017. He was just a teenager, barely 13 years old.

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