SWINDON greyhound trainer Matt Dartnall is just one win away writing his name in the history books and picking up the biggest prize in British dog racing.
Dartnall’s dog Farloe Ironman has made it through five gruelling rounds to make it into the williamhill.com Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon’s Plough Lane tomorrow night, where he will fight it out with five other dogs for the £125,000 top prize.
The two and a half year old has shown steady improvement throughout the season, and won his semi final on May 19 in what is thought to have been the second quickest time ever recorded around Plough Lane.
Dartnall is proud of what his dog has achieved this year, but believes the key to victory tomorrow night is being able to keep Ironman calm in the lead up to the race.
“Running for £125,000 brings a lot of pressure, but we are confident that he will be ok,” Dartnall said.
“It is vital we keep calm, and that goes for the dog, me, and all of the family.
“The atmosphere of these big races can be a little overwhelming for the dogs, because of the crowd noise, the lights, the music and everything else.
“So we have to keep him calm and not too excited, and if we can do that then I think we have a good chance.”
Ironman has been drawn in trap one for the race, although Dartnall would have preferred a slightly wider draw.
“You can get a little bit boxed in in trap one,” he said. “So in that sense we could probably have done with being a little wider.
“But we will go with what we have got, and if he can get away level and hold his position I believe we have as good a chance as everyone because he is as quick as the other dogs.”
With £125,000 going to the winner and only £8,000 to the runner up, Dartnall is viewing the race as all or nothing, but the prestige of picking up the most famous trophy in the sport is spurring him on more than money.
“It would be a great one to win because there is all the heritage to it, and I think that has to be more important than the money,” he said.
“My dad and his uncle were both trainers too and they never managed to win a derby, so to do it for them and everyone at the kennel would be amazing.
“This is the big one, and we are all out to win it.”
Dartnall’s kennels are based close to Heathrow Airport, but Ironman and his brother Farloe Iceman began their racing lives at Blunsdon.
“Iceman is a great dog too and I don’t think there is much between them at the moment.
“They started off at Swindon and we owe a lot to everyone at Blunsdon because they offered us a lot of support in the early days.
“So it would be great to win it for them tonight too.”