Salad Dodger claims dog Derby
One of the most remarkable rags-to-riches stories in the history of greyhound racing was completed at Wimbledon tonight when bricklayer Bruno Berwick sent out 16/1 chance Salad Dodger to win the £200,000 first prize of the William Hill Greyhound Derby.
Former boxer Berwick, who trains just four greyhounds, was set to quit the sport a couple of years ago until a meeting with Patrick Janssens, the former right-hand man to leading trainer Mark Wallis, saw him decide to give things another go.
Berwick was dealt another blow more recently when Coventry, the track at which he ran his dogs, closed down. But the idea of giving Salad Dodger - who was competing in lowly graded races at Romford just six months ago - a trial at Wimbledon paid dividends with an improved performance and the decision was taken along with part-owner Ron Mills to enter the dog in the Derby, despite him still being a puppy at just 23 months of age.
Bookmakers dismissed Salad Dodger's chances and he was quoted at 500/1 to win the competition at the start, but he progressed steadily throughout every round and delivered the performance of his life when it mattered most.
Pinging out of the traps from the two box, he had to give way to the early pace of the well-fancied Irish hotpot Crokers Champ on the run to the first bend but turned handily and maintained his position as favourite Mind The Net found trouble when coming together with trap six, Farloe Trent, around the corner.
Crokers Champ was still in front down the back straight but never managed to shake off his pursuers and the writing was on the wall coming around the final curve.
The strong-running Droopys Ward from trap three was working his way up the inside and looked a big player when Crokers Champ gave way but instead it was Salad Dodger's burst of pace on the outside of the trio that prevailed, and although Droopys Ward was in front only a couple of strides after the line, Salad Dodger had claimed victory by half a length.
A dazed Berwick told Sky Sports: 'It just shows what the small man can do... and with a greyhound that cost only £2,000. We always believed in the dog. He has changed my life tonight. We've won the £200,000 plus about £50,000 in bets.
"It's unbelievable. Unbelievable. A5 in Romford in February and now he wins the Greyhound Derby.
"When Droopys Ward came up the inside, he just went again. He's just got the heart of a lion. And surely there's still better to come at his age.
"The amount of good luck messages I have had from the small trainers is unbelievable. It's lovely that there are so many nice people in this sport."
Mills, a greyhound physiotherapist, added: "Bruno is a fantastic trainer. He gives this dog the very best. He eats fillet steak - he lives better than I do!"