DUAL Group 1 winner Keybow will face the starter for the final time when he lines up in Saturday night’s Group 1 Topgun at The Meadows.
Trained by Tony Brett, the decision has been made to retire Keybow after the invitation-only feature and just three weeks before the start of the $420,000-to-the-winner Melbourne Cup series, a race in which he finished third last year.
Kelvin Lean, who bred and owns the son of Take The Kitty and Key Exit, explained the decision to retire his star chaser even though he is still racing in his prime.
“We have been planning a way to end his career as a race dog and the Topgun was what we were aiming for and we are very happy that he got invited,” Lean told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“There was a bit of temptation to go after the Melbourne Cup and his form is probably good enough to keep racing, but he has done enough, he doesn’t have to prove any more now.”
Keybow has won three Group features throughout his decorated career – the 2014 Group 1 Perth Cup, the 2014 Group 1 Brisbane Cup and the 2014 Group 3 Silver Bullet.
On top of his victories, he has also been placed in a further seven Group finals, including a recent third in the Group 1 National Sprint Championship and a fast finishing second in the Group 1 Dapto Megastar.
All up, Keybow has race 57 times for 27 wins and 16 minor placings with over $580,000 in career earnings – a life changing figure for Lean, a NSW father of four.
Lean says that he has thoroughly enjoyed the ride which his black speedster has taken him and his family – wife Michelle and children Jack 22, Alex 18, Eric 14, Sara 10 – on since commencing his career in late 2013.
“It has been an unbelievable ride and it went so quick – I don’t know where the past two years have gone,” Lean said.
“It will be sad to see him go around for the last time this week, I am just hoping that he gets around uninjured, that’s the main thing.
“I am not expecting anything from him this week, but then again I have never expected anything from him right from his first start through to where he has taken us – everything he has done has just been a bonus.”
Lean said he was also thankful for the efforts of leading mentor Tony Brett who took over the training of Keybow earlier this year.
“Tony is a champion bloke and a champion trainer and it has worked out really well getting him to take the dog on – he has done a great job with him.”
Keybow, $17 with Bet365, will meet a terrific field in Saturday’s Topgun including the sport’s first million dollar dog Fernando Bale (box one), the Kelly Bravo-trained Kayda Shae (box two) and star Victorian Dyna Double One (box eight).
While there are no expectations on Keybow, Lean still believes his campaigner is good enough to feature in the $150,000-to-the-winner event.
“He is right in it, but Fernando is an absolute freak of a dog so we are going to need him to make a mistake.
“In saying that, Keybow is drawn well out in box seven and he hasn’t got a lot of speed drawn around him so hopefully he will be able to get into the race.”
After Saturday’s run, Lean explained that Keybow will slowly enter the next phase of his life as a family pet – while he will also be given a crack in the breeding barn, standing at stud with Tony Wiseman from Sires On Ice.
“Tony (Brett) is going to let him up for a couple of weeks and then he is going to come back to our place and he will become a pet in my backyard alongside his mum and his sister.
“The kids love him, he has a great temperament, so we are really excited to have him back home.
“He will be standing with Tony Wisemen and I think he deserves a chance at stud – he is well bred, he has a great temperament, he is a magnificent looking animal, he is a keen chaser, he has speed and he has strength – everything you need in a sire.
“He is proven at the top level over an extended period of time and there are not a lot of dogs around which have done that – this will be his 13th Group final and he has only been unplaced twice at Group level against some of the best dogs going around the country.”
With Keybow about to embark on the next phase of his life, there are still some exciting times ahead for Lean, with the next litter out of Key Exit, by Spring Gun, just starting to hit the tracks.
“The next litter are just starting to hit the ground now and there are a couple of nice hot pups in this litter too.
“Jason Thompson is training two of them and I also have Anykey up with Tony Brett – he won his maiden in 30.20 at Albion Park coming off limited work so he is looking promising.
“They have got some big shoes to fill but you never know, a few of these pups are showing similar traits to Keybow and the litter is probably showing more promise at this early stage than what the Take The Kitty litter did – whether or not they can go on with it like Keybow did only time will tell.”
Relive one of Keybow’s best wins from box seven in the 2014 Group 1 Brisbane Cup: