ONE IN A MIL­LION

Vet­eran trainer in with a shot at world’s rich­est race

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - RACING - JEFF COLLERSON

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.

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