Emotions were super-charged for Dennington greyhound trainer Dustin Drew on Thursday night with former adoption candidate Uptapped scoring a stunning win in the $262,000 Sandown Cup (715m).
For Drew it was his debut solo group one, coming after his long-time training partner/father Ray passed away in October last year of cancer following a 10-month battle.
In addition to being a greyhound trainer and local greyhound club life member, Ray was also the coach of the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association up until his passing and a life-long cricket devotee.
Father and son were inseparable, either leading in greyhound winners or leading the charge for the Dennington Cricket Club as coach and captain.
Drew was almost lost for words after the win - not a usual state of affairs for the thoughtful trainer.
He said recently he's had a tough time following Ray's passing and mum Jan has also had her battles with health.
"Dad and I did everything together with our greyhounds.We won a group one (Maturity Classic) with Kilty Express in 2016," Drew said.
"He'd be very proud of what we've achieved, and we want to keep carrying on the family tradition in the sport. Hopefully he's there in spirit looking down on us."
Drew said ensuring Untapped was in peak form ahead of the race was a team effort.
His mum Jan, sister Aimee Drew and partner Louise Love all play a part in her success.
"There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes - they all help out," he said.
On Friday morning, Drew was back in Warrnambool walking the 12 greyhounds he trains.
"That 41 seconds last night felt more like four minutes," Drew laughed.
"It's a huge thrill. When you win one you do wonder whether you'll ever have the chance to do it again."
Drew said Untapped had won close to $300,000 for her owners.
He said he believed Untapped, who was now a seasoned traveller, had pulled up well after the race.
"She's been just about everywhere now - she's seen more of the country than most people," he said.
"I'll make sure she is right - I'll get blood tests down during the week," he said.
The Sandown Cup win was even more special due to the local Warrnambool connection.
The race became synonymous with staying great Bold Trease, who won four consecutive Sandown Cups (1986-89).
The Drews have been great friends with Bold Trease's trainer Norm McCullagh and wife Barb.
Barb also recently passed away.
For Drew, training the aptly named Untapped has proven to be a test of patience.
"As a pup she wouldn't go a yard and it took a lot of tolerance to get her going. In fact, she just stood next to me at her first trial," the 37-year-old trainer said.
"I devoted a lot of one-on-one time and I think I was the last resort for her from a racing perspective, or she may have been headed to GAP (greyhound adoption program).
"I've always said, once the penny dropped, that she's got freakish talent. You just don't know where she's going to end, but you have to be hands-on with her."
On Thursday night Untapped ($5.50) timed the start to perfection to cross to the lead from box seven through the first turn with fastest heat winner Jarick Bale ($5) trailing her through.
From there the pair quickly cleared out from the chasing pack, setting up a thrilling two dog battle for the final lap.
Jarick Bale switched to the inside down the back straight and narrowed the margin to a head as they returned past the starting boxes.
Untapped wouldn't allow the dual group one winner through, kicking the margin back out to a length off the back straight and maintaining that margin to the line, saluting in a race record 41.40 seconds.
A graduate of the 2019 National Greyhound Draft, a large crowd of owners - many first time owners at that - were present at the track as the daughter of Aston Dee Bee and Mepunga Fame claimed the country's most prestigious race for stayers.
Warrnambool's Kevin Finn and daughter Marita Byron are among the owners.
"It's been an amazing ride. When I started off with her, if you had of said she'd win a group 1... it's amazing."
Untapped took some time to embrace racing but has rewarded connections for their perseverance.
After a modest career over the sprint and middle distances (10 wins from 32 starts), Untapped stepped up over the staying trip in November last year, winning a heat of the group one Bold Trease before finishing third in the final.
The Sandown Cup was her fifth group final across three states, finishing no worse than fourth in each.
Drew attributed part of Untapped's success to the work done by Steve and Kiera Withers in Western Australia.
"She's racing the really good dogs over the staying trip, and to keep her up is tough.
"I had to make a few changes, she went to Perth and came back I was really lucky Steve and Kiera Withers did an amazing job.
"When she came back she was just a different dog - it was maybe a blessing in disguise just to get away from me.
"It's a massive thrill, it's huge."
Drew was also thanked South Australian owner/breeder Ray Borda who sent her to Drew to work through her early issues.
"(Ray) has been huge to me, he's just really fair," he said.
"It's just great for greyhound racing with so many owners, this is what racing is about.
"As a trainer you want to get here and compete in these races and do well. Last week felt like my biggest win, but tonight is pretty special."
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