OLD MAXIE MAGIC
Just qualifying for Chase enough for trainer Callaughan
BLACK Maxie came within a length of pulling off the TAB Million Dollar Chase’s biggest upset when second to Lightning Vision in last Sunday’s regional final at Goulburn but is now one away from qualifying for the $1 million-to-the-winner grand final at Wentworth Park on October 18.
The John Callaughan-trained Black Maxie, the $64 rank outsider, led clearly for 430 of the 440m before being swamped by Neil Staines’ Lightning Vision, a $4.60 chance, who scored by three-quarters of a length.
Each has qualified for Friday night’s semi-finals of the Million Dollar Chase and progressing to that stage of the series is a dream come true for Black Maxie’s jack-of-alltrades trainer.
“I wouldn’t care if Black Maxie ran last because, just to be in the final at Wenty would be awesome,’’ Callaughan said.
Before turning to greyhounds, Callaughan was a successful show-jumps rider, a competition-winning rugby league player, racehorse trainer and even a bookmaker at the dogs.
Callaughan and wife Susanne bred, reared and educated Black Maxie, a winner of 11 races, but unselfishly sold shares in the dog in August.
“My brother Ken, a thoroughbred trainer at Goulburn, along with his wife Margaret, children Fiona and Peter and John Bateman, another Goulburn horse trainer, wanted me to buy them a greyhound,’’ Callaughan said.
“I wasn’t able to do that so in August agreed to let them take shares in Black Maxie because I knew that would give them a lot of fun and it sure did because the dog won his next three Wentworth Park races in succession.’’
Callaughan, 68, grew up in Delegate, near Cooma, where his father Gordon trained racehorses.
“Being around horses as a kid, I took to riding them over the jumps in shows but I also played halfback for the Delegate rugby league team which won the local competition in 1967, 1969-1970.
“That earned me a trial with Penrith in the NRL but I didn’t make the grade and by 1973 I was training greyhounds.
“In 1982, I was j oint winner of the Penrith greyhound track’s trainers’ premiership but around the same time I also began training thoroughbreds.
“My horses didn’t win in the city but they won plenty of races at Hawkesbury, Kembla Grange, Canberra and Bathurst.
“After that, I had a crack at being a bookmaker at the dogs and was among the first to field there when the track reopened after being converted from grass to a sand surface in the early 1990s.
“I wasn’t too disappointed Black Maxie was run down by Lightning Vision in the Million Dollar Chase regional final at Goulburn because the winner is trained by Neil Staines.
“He is a terrific bloke and comes from Yass, for many years the home town of my brother Ken.’’
Lightning Vision, like Black Maxie, has a well-defined thoroughbred racing connection.
The dog is raced by South Australian property developer Jack Savaglia, who owns this year’s Queensland Derby winner Mr Quickie, who has earned more than $1 million prizemoney, and Golden Archer, a former champion standing at stud in Queensland.
While Savaglia has enjoyed wide success with his thoroughbreds, he is embracing greyhound racing and is establishing a state-of-the-art breeding and training facility at Two Wells, an hour from Adelaide.
“The thoroughbreds have been good to me but greyhounds have always been my first love,’’ Savaglia said.
“I owned greyhounds in 1985 before I got into the horses and have reduced the number of thoroughbreds I own from 65 to a dozen, but have 50 greyhound puppies plus brood bitches and my race dogs, Lightning Vision, Club Double and Black Panda.
“My 100- acre (40 ha) greyhound complex comprises a replica track of Adelaide’ s Angle Park course, a straight training track, two air-conditioned and heated buildings each containing 60 kennels, and accommodation for visiting trainers.
“I am investing serious money in greyhound racing and dogs like Lightning Vision are just the start.’’
Lightning Vision ( pink) overwhelms Black Maxie (black) in the final 10m at Goulburn.