IT was a case of third time lucky for John Iwanyk on Saturday night at Cannington when the leading WA mentor landed a last stride victory in the Group 1 Perth Cup (520m) with Ima Wagtail.
The black dog was only fair to begin from the inside alley but was able to push up along the fence around the first turn to sit in third spot behind the leaders Shared Equity (box six) and Tiggerlong Await (box five), before switching to the outside in the home straight to hit the lead right on the line in 30.29.
Despite facing a big jump in class on his most recent starts, Iwanyk went into the race hopeful his charge would run well.
“I knew he was going well and he has just been getting better and better at every start since I have had him,” Iwanyk told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“The final was a big rise in class but with that being said he did handle a rise in class the week before in his heat where he had to work very hard off box eight.
“I was keen on him but it was one of those things where you didn’t know just how well he would handle the step up.”
The winning margin was as close as they come, with just a nose separating Ima Wagtail and Tiggerlong Await, with Shared Equity a neck away behind the pair in third.
“I was standing in the grandstands and swinging for home I remember thinking that he couldn’t win because not many dogs have been able to come from behind at the new Cannington track,” Iwanyk recalled.
“When they went to the line I was pretty sure he had got beat, from where I was standing I thought he had run second.
“Someone turned to me and said I had won it and the next minute the one came up on the semaphore board and I nearly fell over.
“The run was very good – he had to do it the hard way.
“He copped a check half way up the straight the first time and got turned sideways and then down the back he got on their heels and lost another length or two.”
The win gave Ima Wagtail four wins from as many starts under the care of Iwanyk, who has managed to take the son of Oaks Road and Aella from a fifth grade chaser to a bona fide group 1 star.
“I got the dog in December and I had him for three months before I actually started him as he had a few issues and injury problems – every time I got him close to racing he would go sore again,” he said.
“I finally got him to the track and we started him at Cannington which he had never seen and he jumped straight to the front from box one and won by 11 lengths.
“The thing that makes it so magical was that going into the series he was just a 30 start dog which hadn’t won a city race, but he has shown he can match it with the big boys so now I have nothing but praise for the dog.
“Everything he has done has bewildered me. I just don’t know what the bottom line is and how good he could actually be.”
Ima Wagtail has now won eight races from 36 career starts with over $170,000 in career earnings to his name.
It was also the biggest career win for Iwanyk, a respected trainer of 16 years, who had run two placings in the Perth Cup in previous years.
“I had a dog called Decathlon which was owned in Victoria and he was a nice city dog at the time,” he said.
“I put him in the Perth Cup heats in 2007 and he won his heat and drew box six in the final. He led all the way and just got run down on the line by Betty’s Angel.
“The next year I had another dog, Back Tonight, who was the greyhound of the year and he had box one in the final.
“He missed the start from box one which he had never done and he was sitting last on the first bend.
“He was never a dog to come from behind and yet he made his way through the pack and hit the front turning for home and was nutted right on the line by Reg Kay’s Size Can Matter.
“It was good to run second in the race those couple of years, but to win it is just incredible.
“It is the biggest race I have won and I still haven’t come to terms with it yet.
“It hasn’t sunk in and it still feels like a dream – you wake up and you think it didn’t really happen.
“While I haven’t completely absorbed it yet I am absolutely over the moon.”