It was almost too good to be true.
The combination of shock and raw emotion on the face of handler Ashley McDowall last week at Sandown as his dog, Mepunga Melachi, took out a heat of the Group Two Harrison Dawson is the sort of thing you’d love to bottle. It was a moment he would never forget.
“I’m a silly old bugger, I’m nearly 70 and I get a bit excited with my dogs,” McDowall told ARG.
“I think I might have let my emotions go a bit too far after that win.”
Sadly, Mcdowall and his wife Joy who trains the dog, have come crashing back to earth with a thud.
When we caught up with Ashley McDowall to discuss Mepunga Melachi’s chances in Thursday night’s big final, he had just received some unwelcome news.
“Unfortunately I’ve got some bad news, he won’t be running,” McDowall said.
“He’s picked up a bug and, at the moment, he is a very sick dog.”
McDowall had already rated making the final as the highlight of his 45-year career in greyhounds.
“He’d made the Launching Pad final and ran third two years ago which was a Group Three, but we have never had a dog in 45 years of racing in a Group Two. This was our big chance and the poor fella, he is not well and it’s a shame he can’t take his place.”
The striking white and blue son of Big Daddy Cool and Mepunga Diamond (Brett Lee – Mepunga Anna) was the rank outsider of the field and surprised plenty of punters with his barnstorming 29.46 heat win last Thursday. But McDowall says he has not been himself since the run.
“We weren’t real happy a couple of days after the run. He has picked up some sort of bug and has bloody shocking diarrhoea and has been scouring which is something he never does, he is a very sick dog. Joy has taken him up today to get looked at again.”
If the timing of this illness wasn’t already enough, it’s highly unlikely to break the resolve of the McDowall team who have already showed the patience of a saint in relation to his career.
“He was off the scene for a year with some bad injuries. He had a chipped bone in the knuckle of his front leg, he ended up having an operation. We wanted to give him every chance we could for him to come back.”
“We were so happy that we had got him this far, this is exactly the race we had planned for. Now it is very disappointing, we have gone from being on a high to being a non-runner.”
McDowall describes the dog as part of the family and the personal favourite of the Nullawarre based trainer’s long career.
“We have never had an outstanding dog and he is not what you would call a champion. He is more what I call a good bread and butter dog, he is as handy as a pocket in a shirt and he will still win some races.”
“I am over the moon with what he has achieved given that it looked as though his career may be over, I am just so sad he can’t take his place in the field.”
In spite of all the disappointment, McDowall had not lost either his sense of humour or his steely determination.
“Hawk Alone gets a run now, I will have to catch up with the Dailly’s and jokingly tell them that they owe me a big pay packet,” he laughed.
“But that is racing and we will soldier on and we will get him right.”
“He will be back.”