Keybow, trained by champion mentor Darren McDonald, will become Australia’s greatest ever prize money earner if he is to win this Friday’s Melbourne Cup. The $420,000 winner’s cheque would take his earnings to $751,635, almost $8,000 beyond Xylia Allen’s current record.
Keybow’s NSW based owner Kel Lean hasn’t even thought about the prize money record yet, with seven superbly talented chasers standing between his brilliant black speedster and greyhound racing immortality. However, Keybow has been assisted by a favourable draw in box one in the final.
“It is a good draw, it’s unbelievable. I think in these big races you have got to be on the inside and there is so much speed in this race that the inside is definitely the place to be”, Lean said.
“It is everyone’s dream to win the Melbourne Cup but there is eight good dogs in the race and it could go any way.”
The son of Take The Kitty and Key Exit was a dominant winner of his heat last Thursday, scoring by over five lengths in a quick 29.36. Lean said he was thrilled with the performance but was not surprised to see him dispose of the high quality field.
“He has been doing that all of his career since about his fourth start, putting away dogs of a real high quality such as Paw Licking and Phenomenal.
“He has just blown me away. Everything that has been put in front of him he has just kept stepping up to the mark.”
Even more impressive was the fact that his heat performance was just his third run back from over 10 weeks on the sidelines. At his first start since his spell he ran a credible sixth in the Group One Topgun followed by a bold win in the Group Three Silver Bullet just a week later. Lean believes Keybow may have come back bigger and better than ever.
“I think the freshen up that he has just had has made him a different dog. He is not quite three years old so he is just getting to his peak now and I think he may still be on the way up.”
Keybow has already tasted success at the elite level, claiming this year’s Group One Perth Cup at Cannington. In addition to that he has finished runner-up in three other Group finals including the Group One Australian Cup at The Meadows.
Having such an incredible greyhound has been a dream come true for Kel who bred Keybow himself from his handy race bitch Key Exit, which was raced by Hunter Valley legend Ken Cheetham.
“I always liked watching greyhounds race and then a friend of mine Brian Gorton, who was helping me build my house at the time, had a couple of greyhounds.
“He said he knew a bloke that had a litter coming through so I bought a couple and they were my first two greyhounds, Key Exit and Key Guns.
“Those two dogs gave us an incredible ride, she won seven races and he won 12 races. He was a great dog, but injury cut his career short.
“Key Exit also had an injury very young. She could run really good times but she ended up as a pet in my backyard at two years old and that’s where she still is now.”
Lean, who has since taken out his trainers licence, said that he knew very early on that Keybow possessed an immense amount of talent.
“He broke in fairly well and he just did everything right and kept improving and improving. I think when he came out and ran 29.74 first look at Wentworth Park was when we knew that he was going to be something special.”
After just five starts in NSW, Kel made the decision to send Keybow to Darren McDonald where he has well and truly made the step up to the next level.
Lean, who works full time for Sydney trains, said that his whole family will be making the trip to Sandown this week for the final, with the thrill is especially big for his son Eric who picked Keybow out as a puppy.
“Eric picked Keybow out the day he was born. Once that happened there was no way in the world we were ever going to get rid of him, he was going to be a family pet regardless of whatever happened.
“Even when he went to Darren if anything were to happen to him, he is always to come home, that’s the main thing for us.”
Lean, who races all his dogs with the ‘Key’ moniker which represents ‘Keep Enjoying Yourself’, said that no matter what happens this week, the ride that Keybow has taken his family on has already been nothing short of incredible and that, rather than let the pressure get to him, he is just happy to enjoy the experience of racing a star greyhound.
“It is life changing, there is no doubt about it and there is no other word for it. The ride, the excitement and the thrill that goes along with it is once in a lifetime, it will probably never happen again, so I am trying to enjoy it now while it is happening.”