Federal Morgan, the dog with the blistering box speed, has been crowned the 2020/21 Greyhound of the Year.
This year's panel of industry experts awarded Federal Morgan the title, by majority vote, over fellow finalists, Leonard Bale, Shaynee and Trojan Hoarse.
The son of Barcia Bale and Absolute Beaut commenced his career in Australia and arrived in New Zealand partway through the 2020/21 season. He made his local debut back in January, when he won a C5 race impressively at Cambridge in 25.48. After that, his explosive beginnings made him largely unstoppable.
"It's funny how he got such a following – his races were a bit boring," laughs his Australian-based owner Scott Eaton.
"He'd just jump out and win – he wasn't like Swift Fantasy!"
The Lisa Cole-trained chaser went on to largely dominate middle distance racing for the second half of the season in New Zealand. Along the way, he collected the Group 1 Hatrick Classic, the Group 1 Auckland Cup, the Group 2 North Island Championship, the Golden Chase and the South Waikato Cup, and also broke Little Mother's longstanding 457m track record at Manawatu.
"It's just amazing to win Greyhound of the Year," says Eaton. "When he won the Auckland Cup, that was a fantastic field. That win, along with the track record, was probably the highlight for me."
Brendon Cole adds: "Federal Morgan was a freaking good dog. When the boxes opened, he'd usually go straight to the lead. His early speed was phenomenal.
"But the back half of his race was super strong as well. He would have gone over the 600m easily and probably broken even more track records.
"It's obviously a great honour to win Greyhound of the Year; we are absolutely rapt. We've been very fortunate to win it a few times. It tells you that you're doing something right."
After incurring an injury in The Amazing Chase back in June, Federal Morgan recuperated at Hayley Mullane's Clevedon property, and Covid restrictions have meant that's where he's stayed.
Cole and Eaton are both excited that he's now about to commence his new career as a stud dog.
"Winning Greyhound of the Year adds another notch to his belt to help him get his stud career underway," says Cole.
"We've had a few people wanting straws already – we are going to try and get about 20 straws and then send him back to Australia."
Eaton has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support both he and the greyhound have received.
"I was shocked by the number of messages I'd get when he won – the community really got behind him," says Eaton.
"Just in the last few days, we've started up a 'Federal Morgan at Stud' Facebook page, and I can't believe how many views and messages we've had already. It's been a bit of a process with the dog still being locked down in Auckland, but Hayley's done the most amazing job with him.
"When you breed them, rear them, break them in and pre-train them, it's a pretty special feeling when they do so well."