TOM Dailly said the experience of training Fernando Bale has been a dream come true as the champion greyhound prepares for what is expected to be his final start in this Friday's Group 1 Melbourne Cup (515m) at Sandown Park.
The son of Kelsos Fusileer and Chloe Allen has proven to be one of the best greyhounds the sport has seen since making his debut at The Meadows last December, scoring 33 wins from 40 starts with a further four minor placings.
Among his victories are 12 Group triumphs, nine of which have been at the highest level, and two track records, with a world record $1,168,110 in prize money earnings.
With nothing left to prove on the track, owner Paul Wheeler has publicly said that the white and dark brindle powerhouse is likely to retire to stud immediately, if he is successful in the $420,000-to-the-winner feature this week.
For Tom Dailly, who trains Fernando Bale with wife Andrea, it has been a surreal experience.
“To get a dog to do everything right basically week in week out for an entire year – it is unbelievable – he is entitled to have done things wrong, but he really hasn't,” Tom told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“To get a dog that can do everything he has done this year – you can only dream of having one like him.”
Dailly said it will be a bittersweet experience when ‘Flying Fernando' lines up from box six in the Melbourne Cup, knowing it will probably be the final time he sees his superstar on the racetrack.
“It has been a very exciting ride, particularly the way in which he has done it all, and it will be very hard when it has to stop, but every dog has to retire eventually,” he said.
“It is going to be a bit hard this Friday, but if he happens to win it will be a fitting way to go out so hopefully he can.”
Fernando Bale is currently the $1.35 favourite with Bet365 to take out the Melbourne Cup, the 28th time he has started odds-on throughout his career.
With sensational early speed and a breathtaking 28.98 personal best over the track and trip, the awkward box six draw does not seem to pose much of a concern. In fact, no draw has ever worried the great one, which has scored at least one Group success from every box.
Fernando's biggest threat according to the market is kennel mate Dyna Double One ($4.20), which collected time honours in last week's heats.
Team Dailly always had a high opinion of the son of Barcia Bale and Crystin Bale, claiming he is just as fast as Fernando, but often struggles to show his ability due to his poor box manners.
However, last week Dyna Double One nailed the start, spearing to the early lead and recording a phenomenal 29.05 over the track and trip.
Dailly explained Dyna Double One would have to show the same early speed to have any chance of stopping his champion kennel mate.
“He began beautifully last week but he will need to do that again this week because there is a lot of pace in the race and he can't afford to give all the good dogs a start,” he said.
“He is going to need to get out, but he is drawn nicely in box two so hopefully that can happen.”
Dyna Double One's brother Dyna Tiber ($31) will also contest the feature for Dailly, but will need a lot of things to go his way.
“He is a very handy dog. He was drawn nicely last week and it was a good performance but it is going to be a lot harder for him this week,” Dailly conceded.
Apart from Team Dailly's trio, the race is still a high quality event, with Rob Britton looking to end his family's Melbourne Cup hoodoo when Bearville Azza ($16) exits box one.
Indicative of the race's depth is the fact super bitch Lamia Bale, a four time Group winner, is a $31 shot.
The daughter of High Earner and Maple Bale is the only dog in the field to have beaten Fernando Bale throughout his illustrious career, but the brindle bitch does have to contest with a poor draw out in box seven.
The Group 1 Melbourne Cup is race eight on the card this Friday night and will jump at 9:08pm.