Trainer Ken Virtue Speaks Out Over Sensational Banjo Boy Scratching

Banjo Boy is a dog that has created interest in the greyhound community Australian wide. The son of Vee Man Vane has shown amazing ability from an early age, which has captured the imagination of greyhound enthusiasts.

The disappointment of Banjo Boy’s sensational scratching at the track prior to the Melbourne Cup Heats was felt far and wide, disrupting pre-post Cup betting markets and robbing greyhound racing of one of its stars on the big stage.

Whatever wider discontent that scratching caused, it paled in to insignificance compared to the anguish and frustration experienced by trainer Ken Virtue and owner Andrew Virasdi.

Today, Australian Racing Greyhound (ARG) sat down for an interview with Ken about the incident and his thoughts about the future of the dog he knows as “Thommo” moving forward.

ARG – Why were you giving Banjo Boy and Banjo Star Cimetidine?

Ken
It’s the active ingredient in a prescription drug called Magical 200. It’s to prevent stomach ulcers. If you are interested Google what it really does and you will see. It was prescribed for possible stomach ulcers. I’ve got the blood tests where it was prescribed back in July 2012.

ARG – What did the stewards say when they came to your kennels on the day of the Melbourne Cup heats?

Ken
They produced the swabs from the 19th and 26th of September and the 3rd of October. They were basically there to deliver paperwork relating to the swabs. Then Ron Matthews proceeded to inspect my kennels and found in the open what was given to the dogs, which wasn’t being hidden in any way. I admitted to giving the drugs. They guaranteed to me that the dog wouldn’t be scratched and advised me that they didn’t have the power to scratch the dog. Which I found amazing.

ARG – Why did the stewards let you kennel on the night and not scratch Banjo Boy earlier in the day if that’s what they intended on doing?

Ken
Ask the GRV Stewards department.
They should have made the decision on the Wednesday night, as they had the swab results at 12.38pm on the Wednesday. They have disadvantaged many industry participants, the connections of the reserve runner should be filthy, the pre post punters have done their money cold and punters with quaddie tickets got given Xylia Allen. There were many people disadvantaged by this.

ARG – Did you consider pulling the dog out that morning?

Ken
I honestly believed there wouldn’t be a problem based on the fact that the dog was prescribed the drugs on July 2012 and I was treating the dog as advised. I had received four negative swabs between January 2013 and September 2013. These included when Banjo Star won the Vic Breeders at Cranbourne and Banjo Boy won the Derby at Healesville.

So over ten months, I was swabbed four times over a ten month period and got negative results, then I suddenly test positive three times in a fortnight. The stewards then turn up on the day of the Melbourne Cup heats, what would you do? I believed the dog would produce a negative swab if he was tested, so I was happy to run him and see what happened.

ARG – What transpired at kennelling prior to the stewards scratching him?

Ken
I arrived at the Sandown track with my fifteen year old son and they bailed me up at the back of the car park. I was told not to leave the car or remove the dog and they whisked me away.

My son likened it to a “police bust”. I then came back to the car and took Banjo out of the car and they performed a swab.

ARG – Can you explain why Banjo Boy and Banjo Star both produced two negative swabs earlier in the year?

Ken
Ask the lab and the GRV.

ARG – On a happier topic, 25.46 trial Warragul?

Ken
Yep. That’s the level of the dog’s ability at this stage, and we hope he is still improving. That’s faster than El Grand Senor’s track record – so it’s exciting.

ARG – When will we see him back?

Ken
He is in the Ballarat Cup heats next Wednesday night. He has drawn box three, but it’s an extremely tough race. I’d rather race him over 500+, and if this incident hadn’t occurred he would have headed for Albion Park.

This isn’t the preferred option, but with everything that’s going on with the dog, it’s the best option currently.

ARG – What are your thoughts on Andrew knocking back a six figure offer for Thommo?

Ken
It’s obvious, the dog is worth more than that and is yet to reach his top. Andrew doesn’t need the money, so it’s a no brainer.

ARG – Could this episode impact on the dogs stud career?

Ken
Definitely not. This dog is a superstar.

I reared Black Shiraz and Nitro Burst and this dog is the best potential stud dog I’ve seen. I think he is worth more than five hundred thousand. He matches up perfectly to Brett Lee bitches.

He has gone 18.97 Healesville and has run amazing times on one bend and two turn tracks. The dog does it all. He has an amazing temperament and chasing attitudes. There is no limit to where this dog could go. In saying all that, I’m not sure if he would have won the Melbourne Cup. Jason’s dog is something special as well.

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