At over four and a half years of age most greyhounds are usually far past their prime on the racetrack and well and truly settled into retirement.
An exception to this rule is evergreen stayer Pedro’s Finest who will be lining up for his 122nd start this Saturday night when he contests the final of the WA Distance Championship at Cannington. The son of Where’s Pedro and Somerton Lass is trained by John Iwanyk and is owned in Victoria by the Pride Of Five Syndicate. Remarkably, the 2013 running will be the 3rd consecutive Nationals series contested by the white and black powerhouse who started his career in August 2010.
Syndicate manager, Ryan Silvester, recalls buying the pup at three months of age, with friends Lee, Judy and Daniel Gorman and first time owner Laurence Gummer, but never could have imagined the thrills that he would give them on the track as a winner of 35 races with 48 placings and nearly $180,000 in stakes money.
“We had the whole litter to choose from and we got very lucky that we chose him”, Silvester said.
Starting his career under the guidance of Darren McDonald, Pedro’s Finest quickly developed into a handy performer on the racetrack competing in the group three AWM Distance title before heading to Sandown to compete in a heat and subsequent final of the 2011 VIC Distance Championship. Although he did not qualify for the National final, it was a beginning of a prosperous career which blossomed once he made the flight across Australia to compete in the West.
“Darren McDonald raced him for us in Victoria up until he had his operation at which point he had to get rid of all the dogs in his kennels. I asked Darren what to do with him and he said ‘If he was my dog I’d send him to WA because he will clean up’ and sure enough he has”, Silvester explained.
Pedro’s Finest won two of his first three starts for Iwanyk over the 530 metres at Cannington but it was not until he stepped up over the longer trip that he really found his niche. Since taking over the training of the iron-dog, Iwanyk has steered him to 21 victories; 20 of which have been at Cannington.
Last year Pedro’s Finest qualified for the WA Distance Championship but was defeated by the sports golden girl, Miata, who progressed through to win the group one National title. After almost two years with Iwanyk, Silvester is quick to applaud the mentor who has done wonders in extending his career far beyond that of an average greyhound.
“He does a great job. I didn’t know him before Darren sent him over there but we are wrapped that he went to him. It couldn’t have worked out better because he gets so much longevity out of them”.
Iwanyk credits the success of the 30 kilogram chaser to the dog itself that he admittedly admires.
“He is an amazing dog. These sorts of dogs don’t come around too often that can compete at his level, at his age and still win like he does” Iwanyk said.
“He is a real professional. He doesn’t bark in his kennel and he works hard on the track”.
“The longevity of the dog is remarkable. I train him but it’s up to the dog to do what he does. They only do it if they want to and he wants to keep going so you have to admire him. It’s his courage and will to win that makes him”.
Each animal’s happiness also plays a vital role in ensuring their prosperity on the track, something that Iwanyk ensures at all times.
“You have to make them happy in their environment. They’re all individual and you have to treat them that way. They all get loved but every dog is different and that’s what they thrive on. If they are happy they will race well- that is the essence of training a dog”.
Pedro’s Finest qualified for his third crack at the Nationals prize when running an unlucky fourth behind Sassy Bullet in his heat on Saturday. Starting from box two, the grand old campaigner navigated his way into a handy position with a circuit to go but got crowded during the vital stages and was not able to come out on top.
Iwanyk, albeit slightly disappointed not to qualify as a heat winner, was just happy to make the final field.
”I thought his run was good. He got held up a lot and couldn’t get through but still only finished a bit over a length off the winner”, Iwanyk said.
Heading into this week’s final, the courageous chaser has drawn poorly in box five, with Iwanyk’s other runner in the event, Politician, drawn in box three.
Giving both his runners their deserved credit, Iwanyk’s sentimental favourite is his lion-hearted speedster in the yellow. After sustaining a hock injury last year it would also be a testament to the dog’s tenacious nature if he could triumph in the State decider to earn a ticket to Victoria and a crack at the $75,000 first prize.
“The five is not the best box for him. I would rather him drawn towards the rails but you have to deal with the cards you are dealt with”, Iwanyk emphasised.
“If he can possie up there early I think he will be a big chance. I would love to see him go to Melbourne for the Nationals so the owners can see him race again”.
“Most people don’t realise what he has come through so I think he deserves some reward for it”.
In saying that, Politician is not without his chance.
“He is an honest dog. He probably lacks a little bit of class but he is a hard chaser”.
Iwanyk also has a representative in the WA Sprint final with One Banana lining up from box eight. One Banana put on quite a performance last week when coming from behind to score in 30.70 seconds. Whilst extremely impressed with his run, Iwanyk does not give the son of Collision and Bananarama much chance from the wide draw and rates John Crossley ‘s Boss Coin and On Coin the dogs to beat.
“It was a massive run last week but he doesn’t have much chance from the eight”, Iwanyk said.
“I hope the Crossleys win it and I wish them well. They are great people and they have worked hard. They bred the litter so it is good to see them have so much success”.
Win, lose or draw it has been a remarkable journey for Iwanyk and the connections of Pedro’s Finest and, whilst he may not be considered a champion by some, there is no one that could say they wouldn’t want a few of ‘Wally’ sitting in their kennels. Pedro’s Finest is a once in a lifetime chaser who is thoroughly deserving of his night in the spotlight, and with just a little bit of luck, that night could be this Saturday.