A 'Plan B' is always handy, especially when it lands you the Group 2 Ken Hickey Concreting Cranbourne Cup.
Banjo Boy delivered the goods on Wednesday night in the Cranbourne Cup for trainer Ken Virtue and owner Andrew Varasdi, leading all the way. "The Cranbourne Cup was my 'Plan B'. Paws of Thunder was 'Plan A'. Because he was in the final, it was too close from Wednesday to Saturday and to travel in between. So I didn't enter him for the Paws of Thunder."
One can only imagine the feeling you get when your dog is in front in a big final. "He must have known he had to begin this night and he certainly did. I've never seen him begin like that, he picked a good night to do it. It was a nice feeling. Unless there's something that produces an exceptional performance, it was over. It's a lovely way to watch a race."
After all the dramas before the race with speculation around the spike injury suffered by Banjo Boy, the win was a relief for Virtue. "I was relieved and happy and excited and all the things you would hope to experience when you win a race like this."
It was also an enjoyable night for Banjo Boy's owner. "Both the owner and his wife flew down from Sydney for the race. The club put on a terrific night and I think they enjoyed themselves thoroughly. The Cranbourne club did it very well and they looked after the owner and his wife, it was excellent to see."
The next task for Banjo Boy looks to be the Warragul Cup series, which starts on Sunday, 19 January. "I had originally ruled out the Warragul Cup as I'm not real happy competing against the speed dogs like Paw Licking and Ronan Izmir over 460. How you begin is even more important. Having said that I've had a rethink because Warragul's reasonably close and on his own he's run quicker then both records over the 400 and 460, I suppose I would be silly not to put him in the race. I probably don't have to do much with the dog now to get him back to 460. I can just keep him fresh." After the Warragul Cup, Virtue doesn't plan on travelling with the dog until the Easter Egg series at Wentworth Park, a track Banjo Boy trialled at a few weeks ago. "I don't think I'll be travelling anywhere until the Easter Egg, if the dog's still in one piece."
Banjo Boy is a greyhound that displays all the traits of a top class racing animal. "The dog is terrific. He's not a people dog, he's a chase dog. A terrific kennel dog. When you put him out for a wee you must be on your guard that there isn't a rabbit running around. He's great in his kennel, once he's outside though he's looking for anything that's moving. If you see these sort of characteristics in those sort of dogs, they are focused on what they've got to do. It's almost like it's inherently bred in them."
The only way greyhounds can keep winning races is if they are racing at their physical best. Obviously the training plays a very big part but behind every good trainer there's a great vet and for Banjo Boy, that vet is Barry Heawood, who demonstrates the utmost professionalism and integrity when it comes to treating greyhounds. "A lot of thanks goes to Barry Heawood. He took himself off holidays to look at the dog when he had the problems with the spike wound and X-rayed him last Tuesday. He's looked after the dog for the 12 months I've had him and he's done a wonderful job. There's not too many vets that you would have on call like that. He's also Darren McDonald's vet and Jason's (Thomspon) vet. He (Heawood) was in a position where he was checking my dog and if there was anything wrong with me, Phenomenal would have replaced me. He was the vet for both dogs, which was a pretty good test of his integrity, but we all trust him. Barry's been the vet responsible for keeping this dog on the track."
After starting favourite in the Cranbourne Cup, Banjo Boy clearly has plenty of supporters. Many will watch with interest to see how the future of this big 35kg white and black chaser by Vee Man Vane-Off Springer progresses and hopefully it's a future full of continued success.