A DENNINGTON-trained greyhound is flying the Warrnambool flag as it strives to become the first south-west dishlicker to win Australia's richest distance race.
The Dustin Drew-trained Untapped, which is also part-owned by Warrnambool racing stalwart Kevin Finn, daughter Marita Byron and their family, will contest the $105,000-to-the-winner Bold Trease Final at Sandown on Friday night.
The two-year-old bitch's rise is the ultimate story of persistence.
She initially struggled to break the 23-second barrier over the 390-metre distance while trialling at Warrnambool - an indicator she mightn't have been suited to a racing career - but Drew saw potential.
"We thought 'uh oh'. But Dustin has just persevered and look at her now," Finn said.
She's come from nowhere. It's just been about patience with her.Kevin Finn
"She's come from nowhere. It's just been about patience with her. The other little black bitch that we had from a different litter, she went through the same thing and didn't make it (to race) and went to the Greyhound Adoption Program.
"Dustin always said 'she's going to make a good distance runner'. He just took his time with her and built her up from 450 metres to 650 metres and now to 715 metres in the final. It's unbelievable really."
Untapped will start as a $7.50 chance with bookmakers after a strong heat victory this past Friday night.
The daughter of Aston Dee Bee and Mepunga Fame was fast out of the boxes and led all the way from box six to earn a berth in the final.
The race - named in honour of legendary Warrnambool chaser and four-time Sandown Cup champion Bold Trease - carried extra significance for connections given the local link.
"It's a massive thrill to run in the Bold Trease, being from down here," Drew said.
"We've been good friends with Norm (McCullagh) and Barb and Allan, who had him in the '80s, for a long time. That's a massive honour.
"It's good and I reckon it's good for dog racing. You look at guys like the Wildes, the Lees and Matty Craven - people from down here are going really good across the three codes. We're making the good races now."
Drew said making races like the Bold Trease made the hard work worthwhile.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"I think everyone aspires to get the big races, that's what you get up every morning for," he said.
"You're getting to bed at three or four in the morning sometimes. That's what it's all for, you know.
"There's been plenty of times I've been coming down that highway after (no success) and you think 'why do I do it?' and this is why you do it."
He said Untapped, which has earned more than $45,000 in prizemoney for connections from 32 starts, was a late bloomer.
"I always knew she had that ability and then she just started to put it together. I think she's won 10 of the last 20 races," Drew said.
"She's in the market, so she's about there. I think she was $101 with bookies when the series started and now she's come into six or seven dollars. It's been a big move. I'm hoping she wins because I've had something on her at $101.
"She's in the race. I'm not sure what to make of the box draw - getting box one probably isn't ideal for her as she gets off the track a bit early.
"She needs a bit of room so she'll have to do everything right early. If she does everything right early, she's in the race, but if she doesn't, I reckon she'll struggle.
"I remember (horse trainer) Peter Moody saying 'let fast horses be fast' and it's a bit the same for her. Just let her be fast. If she gets to the front she'll just go."
Drew said his late father Ray, who passed away in October, had long believed in the ability of Untapped.
He said the race would also be special for Linda and Robbie Gore, who bred the dog at their Allansford property.
Naturally Finn, who will watch from home, is hoping to see a winning run but otherwise just wants the 27.5-kilogram speedster to "get around safely".
The race will jump at 8.12pm.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.