Greyhound trainer keeps her distance for final

NULLAWARRE hobby trainer Joy McDowall will be more than 270 kilometres away when her greyhound Mepunga Melachi chases victory in the group 2 $145,000 Harrison/Dawson final at Sandown on Thursday night.

The 64-year-old is afraid her presence might jinx Mepunga Melachi after she watched his stunning last-to-first heat win from home on TV last Thursday after taking other dogs to the Warrnambool races.

Just making the final is a career highlight for McDowall, who has trained dogs for 40 years. Mepunga Melachi is her first to qualify for a group 2 final, which sees the winner take home $100,000.

“I have had a group 3 (runner) but not group 2,” she said.

“I’m just over the moon he’s made the final.”

About 18 months ago, the career of Mepunga Melachi, bred by Barry Smith at nearby Mepunga, was almost over.

He was sidelined for 12 months with a chipped bone in the knuckle of one of his front legs.

“It could have ended his career, we’ve persevered with him. He ended up having an operation. It’s taken a while. We wanted to give him every chance we could (to come back), he’s like part of the family.”

Mepunga Melachi, jointly owned by McDowall and Smith, is given five-star treatment. She pays special attention to his legs and feet.

“As long as he is sound and fit and happy racing, we’ll keep him racing.”

The McDowalls, who own and run the Nullawarre store, have five dogs racing at present and have another eight to 10 young ones.

“It’s just a hobby,” McDowall said.

Husband Ashley will be entrusted with Mepunga Melachi on Thursday night after providing the Midas touch last week.

“It was amazing,” she said of the performance in winning the 515-metre heat last week.

“I was a bit worried he was going to try and go around them early but he settled on the inside and when he got through to fourth I thought he might get second or third.

“He got to third and when he passed the second dog I thought ‘he’s in the final’. When he ran down the leader, I was over the moon. I was roaring.”

She won’t burden the ageing runner with expectations.

“I don’t expect him to beat Banjo Boy but if he could run second or third I will be rapt.”

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