Watton greyhound’s triple dead heat is talk of the tracks
The Watton trainer of a greyhound involved in an un-heard of triple dead heat said he had been convinced his dog had been pipped to the post.
As Droopys Djokovic used his last remaining reserves of energy to push his nose over the finish line, there wasn't a whisker in it.
After 925 metres and 59.53 seconds hurtling round a track, the three 'marathon' runners of the greyhound world had ended the race in a triple dead-heat, at odds of tens of millions to one. And yesterday, the dog's Norfolk-based trainer admitted that, as he had waited for the result, he'd been convinced 'DJ' had been pipped to the post.
It took officials 10 minutes to decide that Droopys Djokovic, Ayamzagirl and Killishan Masai had crossed the line at exactly the same time at Romford Stadium, Essex.
Fans had expected the 8.50pm race to be close, after the three dogs had scooped first, second and third places at a meeting at Hall Green, Birmingham, just a week before.
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Jim Daly, who trains two-and-a-half-year-old Droopys Djokovic at Summer Lane Kennels at Carbrooke, near Watton, said it had been a nerve-wracking occasion. He added: 'It was pretty tight after about 500m between DJ and the number one, Killishan Masai. As they got to the 750m stage, the other one involved, Ayamzagirl, joined them on the outside. They were locked in battle from that point.
'I thought it would be tight, because they were a close match last week, but I never expected the three of them to cross the line as one.'
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Droopys Djokovic, wearing number two, had been battling to get ahead, but Mr Daly said one of his opponents kept sticking his neck out and the Norfolk dog could not pass him.
As officials started studying the photograph of the finish, the 41-year-old trainer said he was not holding out much hope. He added: 'In the end they made the right decision, but it was a real job for them to decide.
'I was actually preparing for defeat: I was washing DJ off and basically expecting them to call the number one or five as the winner.'
Instead, a dead-heat was announced, amazing the trainers, spectators and bookies, none of whom has come up with a previous example of three dogs sharing victory.
Bill Johnson, racing manager at Great Yarmouth Stadium, where Droopys Djokovic began his career, and Mark Wallis, trainer of Ayamzagirl, is also a regular face, said Wednesday's race was the talk of the greyhound world.
'It's as rare as winning the lottery,' he said. 'I don't think, in the nearly 50 years I have been in the job, I have ever seen it happen.'
The feat was made all the more astonishing because it took place over the longest distance covered by greyhounds; the 925m (3,000ft) race is the equivalent of a marathon for the dogs and is usually enough to separate the six competitors.
David Stevens, spokesman for bookmaker Coral, said: 'It's literally a case of name your price. You are talking tens of millions to one –maybe 20m-to-one, for example.
'There are no odds big enough.'
Now, Coral is hoping to set up another race between the three greyhounds to see which one comes out on top. 'It would be something worth seeing,' he said.
For now, Mr Daly, who moved to Norfolk 10 years ago after meeting his wife Kelly at Yarmouth Stadium, is content to share the victory.
The first, second and third prize money has been split between the three dogs, meaning each wins �225, while punters who put a bet on one of them received a third of their winnings.
Mr Daly said: 'We [the three trainers] had a laugh and a joke about it as we went to collect the trophy on Wednesday because they only had one to hand. We were deciding who was going to get it!'
Back home at Carbrooke yesterday, Droopys Djokovic, owned by a syndicate of 20 enthusiasts, was enjoying a well-earned break ahead of his next race, in two weeks time at Wimbledon.