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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Dog's life in the fast lane
Speckled Jim is set to fly in a re-match
Speckled Jim with the winner in the background
A bizarre race has proved that four legs are better than a pair of wings.

Greyhound Athea Storm beat racing pigeon Speckled Jim on Tuesday night in what is believed to be the first contest of its kind.

The 80-metre dash at London's Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, in which both pigeon and greyhound started from the traditional traps on the track, was all over in a whirlwind 5.3 seconds, said race sponsor William Hill.

My dog is in the form of his life

Dog's owner
Brett Capaldi
Bookmakers had found it difficult to predict the race winner and made both the bird and the hound 10-11 to win.

But the odds changed during the day for the dog to 1-2 as punters weighed up the options.

Among those having a flutter were TV personality and racing fan Chris Evans, 35, and his new wife, singer Billie Piper, 18.

Speckled Jim's trainer, Dave Sleight, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, said: "I am an animal trainer and have been working with this bird to get him used to dogs, but it just comes down to what happens on the day."

The five-year-old bird has been specially trained to fly four feet above the ground for up to 100 yards, and has been known to reach speeds of 70mph.

Chris Evans and Billie Piper
Love match: Chris Evans and Billie Piper celebrate
He was a UK show sprint title holder and, until now, had been unbeaten in 27 races.

But Athea Storm was fastest out of the trap and sped past the finishing post moments before the pigeon.

Organisers said they thought the bird had an unlucky start as he dipped into the sand at the start of the race.

Champion diet

Mr Sleight, who feeds his bird on corn, said: "We really wanted to run the race over 100 metres but this was a better distance for the dog."

The greyhound's trainer, Brett Capaldi, said: "My dog is in the form of his life.

"I feed him on a special diet of chicken, fish, and beef.

"He eats about a pound of meat a day and racing biscuits which are mixed with vegetable stock."

A re-run has been scheduled for 24 July at Belle Vue Stadium, Manchester.

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