ONE IN A MILLION
Veteran trainer in with a shot at world’s richest race
JOHN “Manny’’ Antonelli became ‘‘hooked’’ on greyhound racing as a 13-yearold when he stood on a fruit box in 1946 to watch Chief Havoc, still widely regarded as Australia’s best ever, win a race at Casino.
Now, 72 years later, 85year-old Manny Antonelli is to get a crack at the world’s richest race, the GRNSW + Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase.
Antonelli’s greyhound Bokarm Dean was a certainty beaten when second in a regional final at Grafton on Monday night and has earned a place in the semi-finals at Wentworth Park on Friday, October 12.
The eight semi-final winners will contest the $1 million-to-the-winner final at WP eight nights later.
“I might retire if Bokarm Dean wins the $1 million,’’ said Antonelli. “While he is a good dog he is not really up to the class of some of the greyhounds he will be up against but he is in the semis so anything can happen.
“When Chief Havoc raced at our local track, Casino, in 1946, kids under 18 were not admitted but my father Lewis drove his car up to the fence on the back straight and after being smuggled in I stood on a box to see the champ in action.
“Five years later, at 18, I took out a trainer’s licence and have had greyhounds ever since.’’
At the opposite end of the spectrum, experiencewise, is 24-year-old Correy Grenfell, who has been training just six years but who landed three of the five heat winners in the first WP round of the Million Dollar Chase.
Grenfell won with Orson Allen in a blistering 29.43, Dyna Chancer in 29.82 and Dyna Terror in 30.01, all owned by their breeders, NSWbased Nichole and Brendan Wheeler.
“My wife Samantha and I have 25 greyhounds in our kennels at Avalon, near Geelong, most of them owned by the Wheelers and by Wagga breeder Michael Finn,’’ Grenfell said.
“Orson Allen is my best chance in the Million Dollar Chase semi-finals because while there is nothing between him and Dyna Chancer in solo trials, Orson Allen has more early speed.
“I should have had five runners in the Wenty heats but Dyna Forrest, who has won 11 of 38 races, and Lance Allen, winner of five from 29, were being prepared for those races but broke down and had to be scratched.’’
Top Queensland trainer Darren Russell, whose greyhound Snug qualified for the Chase semi-finals by winning the regional final at Ladbrokes Park, Lismore, became involved in the sport as a 16-yearold schoolboy.
“Thirty years ago I lived in Balmain East and before and after school would help Bobby Riley, a successful local trainer, exercise his team,’’ Russell said.
“Two years later I was a ‘garbo’ with Leichhardt Council and my brother Andrew and I saved enough money to pay $5000 for a smart dog called Alter Ego, while 22 years ago I moved to Queensland to train professionally.’’
Little Digger, one of the leading NSW-trained contenders for the Million Dollar Chase, was bought as a gift from Richmond owner Lindsay Niccol to his daughter Lyndall McIntyre.
“I paid $5000 for Little Digger, a lot of money for a pup from a first litter,’’ Niccol said. “But I like puppies from females which have performed well over middle and long distances.’’
King Jeremy, whose second placing in the Wagga regional final has put him into the Chase semis, is trained by Andrew Bell, a “battler’’ who epitomises greyhound racing.
Grafton regional qualifiers Fabrique (3) with Chris Riordan and Bokarm Dean (4) with 85-year-old John “Manny” Antonelli.