Saturday, November 5, 2016, is a day that Harry Manolitsis will never forget.
It could very easily have been his last.
That morning, Manolitsis suffered a heart attack and was on the operating table as TAB Melbourne Cup finalist Flynn, which is part-owned by Harry’s wife Adean, was being born.
“I suppose if you want to look at it religiously, it was God’s way of squaring up,” Manolitsis said.
“You’re having a heart attack but I’m giving you a Group 1 dog.
“I’ve been involved in greyhound racing all my life – since I was 16 or 17 – and it was always my plan to train three or four greyhounds when I retired but I’m only 56 so the heart attack brought things forward.”
Remarkably, Manolitsis, a hobby trainer and breeder based in suburban Lysterfield South, and his family find themselves with two frontline contenders in Friday night’s $435,000 to-the-winner Melbourne Cup.
In addition to Flynn, which is trained by four-time Melbourne Cup winner Jason Thompson, Manolitsis prepares Group 1 Topgun hero Get It Gizmo, which is raced by the Gizzy’s Gang Syndicate, comprising wife Adean, daughter Amie and her partner Sean Bevan.
“When you look at all the greyhounds registered and racing in Australia you’ve got to pinch yourself,” said Manolitsis.
“For someone who only breeds one litter every 18 months to have two Melbourne Cup finalists – and live chances too, they’re both sub-29.20s dogs at Sandown Park – is quite incredible.
“I also bred Moreira (2016 Golden Easter Egg) and Elevated (2018 Sapphire Crown).”
While ill-heath convinced Manolitsis to fast-track his return to the training ranks, greyhound racing has also provided his wife with incentive in an ongoing fight with cancer.
“Adean went through breast cancer in 2012 and she’s been seven years clean, but now she’s been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer than only affects one person in 200,000,” Harry explained.
“She will be taking chemotherapy tablets every day for the rest of her life.
“This was our little dream and Adean retired about three months ago to help me with the greyhounds. As anyone in the sport will tell you, I couldn’t do it without her.”
After a brilliant last-start victory in the Topgun invitational at The Meadows, Get It Gizmo, started $3.10 favourite from box four in last Friday’s third Melbourne Cup heat.
Get It Gizmo was running second behind Tauwitchere ($4) rounding the first turn and then exploded clear in the back straight as he romped home by five lengths in 29.26s, his 10th win from 21 starts and first victory at Sandown.
Flynn, which ran a blistering 29.08s around Sandown when winning the Group 3 Bill Collins Memorial Speed Star in May, then provided the Manolitsis family with a second finalist as the $1.90 favourite in heat six, leading all-the-way from box one, also clocking 29.26s.
After clocking the same time in their respective heat wins, Get It Gizmo (box 2) and Flynn (box 4) are both at $8 in TAB’s market.
“I was hoping for a nice inside draw for Get It Gizmo so I’m very happy with box two,” Harry said.
“I am a little bit concerned about Whiskey Riot being drawn next to him because they were drawn the same way in the Maturity and Whiskey Riot did a ‘lefty’ at the start.
“I don’t want a repeat of that and I’m hoping for a trouble-free run to the first corner.
“Flynn is drawn okay in four, although I would have preferred one, two or three.
“Flynn was probably one run short heading into the heats so that run will bring him on and he’s only going to improve with racing.”
Not surprisingly, winning Group 1 races and contemplating Melbourne Cup glory has whetted Harry’s appetite and he’s wrestling with the prospect of expanding his boutique operation.
“I’ve got a bit of a dilemma whether to take the next step and buy a little property or stay in suburbia,” he said.
“I’ve got a lovely brood bitch in Elevated that has just had ten pups to Fernando Bale.
“She was a rocket – she ran 29.12s at Sandown – and comes from a great producing dam-line.
“Elevated’s mother (Outlandish) was a litter sister to Phenomenal and Outlandish also produced Bewildering, Extreme Magic and Azkaban, which my other daughter, Terryn, owned with her husband Luke Edmond and Serge and Bill Buccilli.”