Chief Havoc: considered by some as the greatest ever

WHEN the Australian Greyhound Racing Association (AGRA) introduced honorary membership to the Group Racing Hall of Fame, the first three greyhounds inducted as honorary members were Highly Blessed, Zoom Top, and Chief Havoc (Trion x Thelma’s Mate). The latter was the first truly great greyhound to appear on the racing scene in Australia following the end of the Second World War in 1945, and was quickly considered as the greyhound equivalent of the mighty racehorse Bernborough, his racing contemporary.

Chief Havoc was a white and fawn dog, one of a litter of eight puppies (six dogs and two bitches) whelped in Gunnedah in September 1944. The future Chief Havoc, or Patches as he was known at home, was sold for eight guineas to Jack Millerd, a storekeeper of Carrol, a village near Gunnedah, at six weeks of age.

Millerd had been a champion amateur jockey around the Gunnedah district but developed a liking for greyhounds, an affection not shared by his father, Herb Millerd, who was the village blacksmith and a racehorse trainer.

Jack Millerd’s wife wasn’t keen on greyhounds either but allowed him to purchase the future Chief Havoc and soon became fond of the pup. Jack knew nothing about training greyhounds and at first considered keeping Patches simply as a surrogate watchdog. That all changed with a visit to the Werris Creek track one Sunday morning.

Trainers were trialling their charges and one looked as if it would be going around on its own. The owner invited Jack to give Patches a match with his charge. Although he had not been trained to race, Patches won by six lengths. When Millerd discovered the greyhound he’d beaten was the local star performer he realised Patches had the makings of a racer.

So, aged 19 months he began his career in a heat of the Grafton Easter Maiden over 440 yards (402 metres) on April 20 1946. He won by five lengths. He then took out the final two days later, leading all the way to win by five lengths in the 10-dog field and running 24.7, just 1/10th outside the track record.

After scoring by four lengths over 430 yards (394 metres) at Maitland he then contested the Tamworth Derby over 490 yards (448 metres). On a wet track he blitzed his opposition, scoring by 10 lengths in 26.9, just 4/10ths outside the track record.

He then won by 10 lengths over 525 yards at Cessnock (480 metres) running 28.0 to equal the track record held by Double Rib.

On July 18 Chief Havoc suffered his first defeat in six starts when beaten a head by the smart Wooden Mein the July Cup over 440 yards at Grafton. Wooden Me ran 24.7 to equal Chief Havoc’s track record.

Two days later Chief Havoc made amends with an all-the-way five lengths victory at Grafton over 440 yards, running 24.6 to set equal the track record.

On 10 August, Chief Havoc was unplaced for the first time, running fifth behind Uberousin a heat of the 430 yards Maitland Derby after striking interference.

He quickly bounced back, winning his next five straight. He scored by eight lengths at Parkes over 545 yards (498 metres) on August 31 in 31.0, just 1/10th outside the track record. He then equalled Ribbie’strack record with a 29.7 win over 530 yards (485 metres) in the Gosford Championship, defeating the smart Young Signby four lengths.

His next two starts were at Casino. He scored by 10 lengths each time, the first over 520 yards (475 metres) in a record 27.7, taking a massive 6/10ths off the previous mark and in the second, over 440 yards (402 metres), he ran 23.3, setting a new track record. A Sydney syndicate made Millerd an offer of a then-whopping £1,000 ($2,000) for the dog. Millerd declined.

At Lismore on October 5 Patches faced just three opponents (including the track record holder Havoc Boy) and won by 10 lengths, running 26.5 to take 4/10ths off the track mark for 488 yards (447 metres).

The same Sydney syndicate again offered to purchase Chief Havoc, this time increasing their offer to a phenomenal £1,500. At the time a King’s Cross investment property, returning an annual income of £610, was being offered for sale for £6,000. Wages for unskilled labourers were around £4 per week. Millerd again rejected the offer.

On October 26 Chief Havoc raced over 325 yards (297 metres) at Parkes in a match race against the flying machine Beau McGeefor a £500 ($1,000) side wager. That amount was a record for a race in New South Wales.

Beau McGee jumped quickly and soon led by two and a half lengths. This was down to a length at the halfway mark but Beau McGee held on to defeat Chief Havoc by a head, equalling the track record of 18.1. For Beau McGee the win was his ninth in 13 starts.

Chief Havoc contested the four-dog Champion of Champions Stake over 530 yards on a heavy track at Gosford against Beau McGee, Jean’s Dream and Young Sign (who would later become Australia’s highest stakes winner). On a wet track, Chief Havoc jumped in front and led from Jean’s Dream, Beau McGee and Young Sign. In the back straight, Jean’s Dream wrested the lead from him and led by a length into the home straight. In the run to the judge Patches came again on the outside and raced away to down Jean’s Dream by two lengths in a record-equalling 29.7.

Chief Havoc made his long-awaited city debut, running over 500 yards (457 metres) at Harold Park, on November 16. He was placed straight into top grade and opposed by track record holder Blonde Glen (who had raced 12 times at Harold Park for nine wins, and held the track record at 26.8), Jean’s Dream (eight wins and eight placings at Harold Park from 17 starts) and Terracena (who had won eight races on end in 1945).

Drawn in box two, Chief Havoc went out as favourite. Terracena jumped to the lead but was quickly headed off on the rain-affected track by Chief Havoc who raced away to down Terracena and Blonde Glen by six lengths in a fast 27.0.

On November 24, Chief Havoc had his first run under lights with an outside hare, over 500 yards at Wollongong. He again defeated Jean’s Dream, this time by three lengths, running 28.0, a new track record. The previous record had been set in 1939. Local star Raider’s Profit was among the unplaced division.

Next time out, in the Champion of Champions Stake over 430 yards at Maitland, Jean’s Dream gained a measure of revenge by leading all the way to defeat Chief Havoc by two and a half lengths.

At his final start for 1946, on December 26, Chief Havoc raced first-up over 550 yards (503 metres) at Wentworth Park. Running in the top-grade NCA Stake, Chief Havoc downed Tuan Besar by four lengths with Jean’s Dream third, and setting a new track record of 30.2.

From 19 starts he had scored 15 wins and three seconds and set or equalled nine track records. In an interview after the race Millerd said, “I know little about training dogs, and if I tried I would be likely to ruin Chief Havoc. The dog looks after himself and keeps himself in condition. I wanted to send the dog to Sydney and have him trained by an expert, but my wife is so attached to him she won’t let him leave home.”

Chief Havoc had his first race for 1947 on January 11 over 300 yards (274 metres) at Muswellbrook. In the field of three he finished third behind Golden Flag. Chief Havoc’s litter brother Double Link was second. The winning time of 17.5 was comparatively slow

One week later, on January 18, he had his first distance start, contesting a four-dog 740 yards (676 metres) race at Maitland. Despite facing the track record holder Mystery Rocca, who had her previous four starts, Chief Havoc cruised home 12 lengths clear of Mystery Roccain 40.7, knocking 4/10ths off the track mark.

On January 27 Chief Havoc debuted over the gruelling 800 yards (732 metres) at Harold Park to contest the Harold Park Championship against six others. Chief Havoc scored by four lengths in 44.5, a time equal to Robert Kent’strack record.

Just five days later he returned to the sprint distance, over 430 yards at Maitland, against four opponents, including the joint track record holders Silent Mirth and Highland Hope. On a rain-sodden track Highland Hope led Chief Havoc by three lengths as the field entered the home straight, but Patches stormed home to score by a length in 23.8, 6/10ths outside the track record.

On February 8 he raced over 480 yards (438 metres) at Armidale but was beaten half a length by Enid’s Joy, who led all the way to hold off the fast-finishing Chief Havoc with Double Link third. It, along with Muswellbrook, were the only two tracks he failed to win on during his career.

Patches quickly bounced back, scoring by six lengths over 350 yards (320 metres) at Tamworth in a record-equalling 19.5.

Then on May 7 he then won a Harold Park Stake in 26.9 by three lengths, the first time he had faced a full 10-starter field.

He set or equalled his 13th track record in 27 starts when taking 1/10th off the Dapto 500 yards track mark, running 27.8 to defeat the South Coast star Speed Cash by five lengths.

On May 24 1947 Chief Havoc drew a massive crowd, estimated at 17,000 people, for an exhibition run over 800 yards at Harold Park. It was announced he would be attempting to break a number of distance records and special lights were installed at each relevant mark to indicate whether or not he had achieved the feat.

On a track not rated as fast, Chief Havoc elicited a number of cheers from the capacity crowd as he broke the 440 yards record, equalled the 500 yards mark and then lowered the 660, 700, 750 and 800 yards records. The sensational performance earned Millerd a substantial £475.

Millerd then dropped a bombshell: announcing the retirement of his champion after just 13 months of racing. The white and fawn dog was only 32 months old and had raced 27 times for 21 wins.

He was offered to breeders at the incredible figure of £25 per service, the highest ever for a sire in Australia. The average at the time for a top-class racer was £10. Between June and October he was sparingly used and served just 45 bitches before Millerd decided to bring him back to racing.

Chief Havoc resumed on November 5 1947 in a match race over 345 yards (315 metres) at Dubbo against Top Rank, the track record holder. Top Rank led by half a length from the start until the home straight before Chief Havoc proved too strong in the run home to score by three-quarters of a length in 18.8, equalling the track record.

Jack Millerd announced that English interests had offered to buy Chief Havoc for £6,500. Millerd had intended to race Chief Havoc in England, but after being told the greyhound would be quarantined for six months, he scrapped the idea.

Three days after his Dubbo match race victory, Chief Havoc made it five wins on end with success over 550 yards at Bathurst. He ran 30.8 to take 1/10th off the record, scoring by four lengths from Miss Rainbird (his only opponent as his other two rivals had been scratched) and starting at the shortest price of his career: 1/10 ($1.10).

His return to city racing took place in the Sprint Championship over 500 yards at Harold Park on December 6 on a heavy track. Chief Havoc was fairly away from box three but copped a bad check soon after and was back in fifth place near the Leger. Minda Forme led on the home turn where Chief Havoc had moved into fourth place. He collided with Super Fortress on the swing and trailed home in sixth place, five and a half lengths behind the Victorian star Glorious Ninth. The winner clocked a slow 27.4, a testament to the muddy conditions, in downing Friendly Tom and Beau McGee.

On 17 December, Chief Havoc contested a President’s Stake over 750 yards (686 metres) at Wentworth Park against four other runners. He led for most of the way, defeating Rocca’s Gemby five lengths with track record holder Mystery Rocca third in 42.3, 2/10ths outside the track record on what was a rain-affected course.

Just three days later he came to a sprint event, running in an eight-starter Harold Park Stake over 500 yards. Only sixth away he didn’t start to make ground until the home straight and was beaten three lengths into third place by Super Fortressand Beau McGee in a fast 26.9.

His last start for 1947 came on December 27 in the Distance Championship over 800 yards at Harold Park. Although opposed by nine others, including the seasoned Rocca’s Gem, a winner of her last three starts, and Glorious Ninth, Patches gave nothing else a chance, leading almost all the way from box two to score by six lengths. He smashed the track record by a massive 5/10ths to clock 44.0 and earn an extra £75 for Millerd. Many pundits called this victory the most impressive of his grand career.

In 1947, Chief Havoc raced 14 times for 10 wins, one second and two thirds, setting or equalling seven track records.

The champion raced just once in 1948, on January 10, contesting a 500 yards Harold Park Stake against six others, including Glorious Ninth and Super Fortress. Chief Havoc exited box two and settled in third place behind All Radiance and Steel Flash. In the straight Chief Havoc made attempts to pass All Radiance, but the latter severely hampered the champion, who managed to get clear near the post and score by a neck in a fast 26.9.

A few days later Jack Millerd announced he was retiring Chief Havoc. Jack Millerd brought Chief Havoc back to the racetrack just one more time, 13 months later on April 16 1949 when he contested a 480 yards (439 metres) race at Tamworth. Patches was considered unlucky to be beaten a half-length into second place by Laranite Ladin 26.5, the best time of the meeting. Millerd decided the dog had done enough and sent him into permanent retirement.

All told, Chief Havoc raced 35 times for 26 wins, five seconds, and two thirds. He won on 14 of the 16 tracks at which he competed, all first up. Chief Havoc raced twice at Wentworth Park, once over 550 yards and once over 750 yards, for two wins and contested seven races at Harold Park for five wins and one third.

His average winning margin was 5.5 lengths and was so versatile he won from 345 yards (315 metres) to 800 yards (732 metres). In fact, he was unbeaten in 11 races from 520 yards (475 metres) to 800 yards.

He raced four times as a stayer for four wins, three in equal track record or track record times.

He set nine track records and equalled seven others for a total of 16. There is some argument that Chief Havoc set 20 records, but this is not borne out by the evidence. Nonetheless, 16 track records in 26 wins means Patches equalled or set a new time standard two times in every three wins, something that has never been achieved before or since. For many years Chief Havoc was viewed as the greatest greyhound to have raced in Australia, with only Zoom Top mentioned in the same breath.

Chief Havoc officially sired 453 litters and became one of the most dominant stud dogs in Australian history. Greyhounds of the calibre of Macareena, Black Top, Zoom Top, Acclaim Star, Benjamin John, Bold Trease, Brother Fox, Chariot Supreme, Fernando Bale, Half Your Luck, Kate’s A Scandal, Lizrene, Miss High Lo, National Lass, New Tears, Pharaoh’s Mask, Pretty Fearless, Promises Free, Satan’s Legend, Sunview, Tegimi, Temlee, Tempix, Winifred Bale and Worth Doing to name but a few, can trace their lineage back to Chief Havoc.

He died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 13 in 1957. In 1963 he received the singular honour of being inducted into the American Hall of Fame.

Jack Millerd was sadly killed in a road accident in March 1966. His 21-year-old son Craig Millerd also met the same fate, being killed in a road accident in May 1980.

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