A greyhound bought as a 50th birthday treat by a Todmorden man has turned into a four-legged racing legend.
Keith Rudman, manager of Beale’s in Rochdale Exchange shopping centre for the past 10 years, had been interested in dog racing for some years before deciding to reward himself for reaching his half-century by becoming the owner of a greyhound puppy.
And since buying the youngster, named Dower Matt after the kennels in Ireland from where he was bred in the summer of 2013, he’s been overwhelmed by his stunning performances.
“Matty”, as Keith calls him, has shown a clean pair of paws to opponents in a host of races at his home track in Essex and has just powered his way to the Racing Post Greyhound TV’s Greyhound of the Year title.
Recalling how it all began, Keith, 51, who lives in Todmorden, said: “Along with a few friends I developed an interest in greyhounds and racing back in the 1990s and then about six years ago I started to get serious about it and began to jointly own a few dogs.
“To celebrate my 50th birthday, I decided to buy a dog outright as a present to myself.
“I bought Matty after hearing that at a very young age he had won a race at Youghal.
“I originally had him with a trainer in Lancashire but when I realised what potential he had I moved him to kennels owned by Ernie Gaskin at Romford in Essex, where I had interests in other dogs.
“Matty started to win a few open races at Romford, which is really as good as it gets.
“At the end of 2013 and the early weeks of 2014 he won five races on the bounce, including one televised live by Sky TV.
“His time for that race was a cracking 23.66 seconds over 400 metres – the fastest recorded at Romford up to that point in the year, which was a real feather in his cap.”
Unfortunately Matty, now three and a half, was struck by an injury to his rear left leg which dogged him for the rest of last year. But it didn’t stop him reaching the second round of the Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon in May.
“Having a dog in such a prestigious event was something I’d always wanted to do and Matty didn’t let me down,” said Keith.
“Throughout 2014 he won 12 open races at Romford, which was more than any other dog racing over 400 metres at that track.”
The Greyhound of the Year title followed.
“The final selection was made by a panel of experts but as the early rounds were voted for by viewers of the channel, that meant he was a real people’s champion.”
Matty is currently injured again but Keith, who is also well known in crown green bowling circles, hopes he will be back to winning ways soon.
Keith said his wonder dog wasn’t too far away from what he promised would be a happy retirement.
“Before then we’re thinking of breeding from him and any of his puppies should be just superb.
“He’s given me so much pleasure and it’s been a dream from start to finish.”
Keith has also written a book on his lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis entitled “Living With a Killer: A Life With Cystic Fibrosis.” A chapter of it is devoted to Matty.