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    The Remarkable Journey of Downing
The Remarkable Journey of Downing
A racing greyhound. Source: Midjourney

The Remarkable Journey of Downing

Downing, originally named Handy, earned his nickname from his caretaker for always being underfoot as a pup. Today, Downing is celebrated as the most valuable sporting dog in the world, with a syndication value of $150,000, recognised for his extraordinary racing accomplishments and record-breaking career.

Early Days and Rise to Fame

Downing’s ascent to stardom began in 1977, his only full year of racing. His performance that year was unprecedented in the history of greyhound racing. He raced 42 times, finishing out of the money just once, and secured 36 victories, including five consecutive wins in stakes races. These achievements brought in a record $124,471 in prize money, elevating his career earnings to $128,397.

Downing’s early races were marked by dominant performances, winning his maiden and D-class races by a total margin of 17½ lengths. These victories led to his entry in the prestigious Hollywood World Classic in Miami, a stakes race open to any owner willing to pay the entry fee. Despite initial scepticism, Downing exceeded all expectations, winning seven out of eight heats and securing the final with a 5½-length lead, earning a substantial $30,000 prize.

He continued his winning streak by claiming victories in the Hollywood Futurity Stakes and the Irish-American Stakes at Biscayne. On the same day that Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown in thoroughbred racing, Downing’s paycheck of $37,500 for winning the Irish-American Stakes equalled the highest purse in greyhound racing history.

Greyhound. Source: Midjourney
Greyhound. Source: Midjourney

International Reputation and Match Races

In just five months, Downing established an international reputation. In June, he was challenged to a $7,500 match race against New England’s top dog, Rooster Cogburn, at Wonderland Park near Boston. Downing won both races convincingly, first by eight lengths and then by one length. In August, he faced G.P.’s Sarah, South Dakota’s top dog, at her home track in Black Hills. Staying in an air-conditioned motel room to escape the heat, Downing shattered the track record by 0.6 seconds, defeating Sarah by 11 lengths. This performance drew record attendance and betting, a common occurrence wherever Downing raced.

Continued Dominance and Record-Setting

Downing’s success continued with his fourth stakes race victory at Wonderland Park in the Battle of the Ages Stakes, where a mystery bettor nicknamed "Ten Grand Teddy" won substantial amounts betting on Downing. He concluded 1977 with a victory in the American Derby at Taunton, setting another track record and winning by 11 lengths. Trainer Roland Alves later remarked on Downing’s unparalleled talent, describing him as a once-in-a-lifetime greyhound.

Injury and Retirement

In late November 1977, Downing sustained a ligament injury in his right hind leg during a routine training session. Despite rest and rehabilitation, he reinjured the leg during the finals of the Irish-American Stakes the following year. Trainer Don Cuddy and owner Frey decided to run him anyway, but Downing finished last and was subsequently retired from racing. His retirement was an emotional moment for all involved, especially Cuddy, who broke into tears as Downing was led off the track.

Greyhound. Source: Midjourney
Greyhound. Source: Midjourney

Breeding and Syndication

Downing's legacy continued through his syndication, managed by Ray Dupree. Breeding rights for Downing were sold, promising significant returns for shareholders. Each share in Downing allowed for 10 breedings per year, with puppies fetching high prices due to Downing's proven performance. Advances in canine breeding technology, such as freezing and storing semen, further increased Downing’s value, potentially making him worth millions.

Impact on Greyhound Racing

Throughout the 1980s, Downing remained a dominant sire, consistently ranking in the top 10 of Sire Standings and winning national titles. His influence on the sport was profound, and his induction into the Greyhound Hall of Fame in 1984 solidified his status as one of the greatest greyhounds in history. Tragically, he passed away a month before his induction on March 15, the Ides of March, becoming the youngest greyhound ever to be honoured in this way.


- Hollywood World Classic: 1st place

- Hollywood Futurity: 1st place

- Biscayne Irish-American: 1st place

- Wonderland Battle of Ages: 1st place

- Set Black Hills 5/16 Record

- Winner of Two Match Races with Rooster Cogburn

- Set Taunton 3/8 Record

- Record Earnings: $124,471 in a single year

- Rural Rube Award Winner

- Captain of the All-America Team

Legacy and Recognition

Downing's remarkable career, characterised by his ability to consistently deliver outstanding performances, left an indelible mark on greyhound racing. His name remains synonymous with excellence in the sport, both among enthusiasts and the general public. Downing's fame was not only due to his exceptional racing abilities but also the masterful management and promotion of his career. His victories were widely publicised, garnering attention from sports media and the general public alike.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Downing's career was marked by a series of fortunate events and decisions that maximised his visibility and success. When the Hollywood promoter Roy Berger convinced sports media to treat the 1977 World Classic as the greyhound racing equivalent of the Super Bowl, Downing's victory in the event brought unprecedented publicity. Millions of viewers saw the replay of his win on national TV, and Sports Illustrated featured him in-depth, further cementing his status as a superstar.

A True Racing Machine

Downing's abilities on the track were near-faultless. He was quick out of the box, possessed great early speed, and handled turns with remarkable agility. His stamina ensured that he didn’t weaken towards the end of races, making him a formidable competitor over the 5/16 distance. His victories against top competitors like Rooster Cogburn in head-to-head match races showcased his dominance and solidified his legendary status.

Greyhound. Source: Midjourney
Greyhound. Source: Midjourney

Influence and Breeding Success

In 1979, Downing was syndicated and stood at stud for Keith Dillon in Olathe, Kansas. He consistently appeared in the Top 10 of Sire Standings from 1982 through 1986, winning national titles in 1983, 1984, and 1985. He also ranked highly in Distance Sire Standings during the same period. Downing's ability to meet every challenge on and off the track made him a revered figure in greyhound racing.

Downing's influence extended beyond his racing career. He was inducted into the Greyhound Hall of Fame in April 1984, a month after his passing. His legacy continues to inspire and influence the sport, and his name remains a symbol of excellence in greyhound racing.

Downing's remarkable career, characterised by his consistent performance and ability to meet every challenge, has left an indelible mark on greyhound racing. He is remembered as a true champion, whose legacy continues to inspire and influence the sport.



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