Just qual­i­fy­ing for Chase enough for trainer Cal­laughan

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

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.

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