Balliang trainer Gary Mannion considers himself very much a ‘battler’ in the sport.
Mannion and wife Suzanne prepare a team of 20, but he admits winners are few and far between.
So, it’s no surprise that Mannion is a huge wrap for Ballarat’s Tier 3 Cup series (545m), which kicks off with six preludes today and runs the entire month of August.
“It’s a brilliant idea and fantastic for the hobby trainer,” Mannion said. “You get a chance to properly prepare a dog for this concept and it gives grass-roots trainers something to strive for.”
And Mannion added: “The Tier 3 Cup is for dogs that can run a bit of distance, for which it’s hard to find races. It gets frustrating because to find these races you’re often racing against the better types. I’d like to see these events pop-up more regularly as they also give you an incentive to travel.”
Mannion also paid tribute to his wife, saying she was one of the sport’s ‘unsung heroes’.
“Suzanne still works four night shifts a week in an aged care facility and if she didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to continue in an industry I love. It’s unbelievable, she gets home from work in the morning and starts cleaning out the yards and making sure all the dogs have got fresh water – and that’s just a start!”
So, ultimately, what would a Tier 3 Cup victory mean to Mannion?
“It would mean more money to put back into our greyhounds. It would give us a kick along and allow us to whack up a few more kennels. Greyhound racing is an addiction – I’m 68 now and I never want to stop; I’ll go out with a lead and muzzle in my hand.”
The Mannions will rug three hopefuls in the Tier 3 Cup heats and here’s Mannion’s assessment of their chances:
Grime Time Zeus – Race 5 Box 6 (Prelude 3 – 4.09pm)
Starts 28: 2-4-5
“He’s a strong type and will need a bit of luck. But if he’s within cooee turning for home, he’ll give it a shake. I was really hoping for a rails draw. He’s a slow maturing type and very excitable, but he’s jumping out of his skin.”
Zambora Club – Race 6 Box 1 (Prelude 4 – 4.27pm)
Starts 72: 9-10-9
“He’s a bit of a ‘mystery’ as it’s his first middle-distance attempt. But he just keeps getting stronger. He’s a hard chaser and the inside draw will suit him.”
Rockin’ Joe – Race 7 Box 5 (Prelude 5 – 4.49pm)
Starts 57: 8-2-3
“He’s our best hope and the strongest of the trio. He’s only had a handful of starts since resuming from an 11-month break and I’m hoping he’ll get back to his best. He really has genuine ability.”
WATCH: Rockin’ Joe (6) returns from a 11-month hiatus to win at Warrnambool on June 22.
Meanwhile, Sheldon Hamilton, on behalf of the BGRC Racing Advisory Committee, was ecstatic with the level of support for the Tier 3 Cup series.
“What a great result… Six preludes and the best thing is 95 per cent are hobby trainers and you would think we could get a walk-up 40 nominations the following week with potentially another 20 new nominations.”
Hamilton added that 53 nominations – 47 Vic-bred (88%) and six interstate-bred (12%) – were received for Week 1 of the series, which has resulted in half the meeting being conducted over 545m.
“Just think, the average of ‘interstate’ dogs that make up race fields are as high as 40 per cent. It’s great to see only three dogs are owned by interstate interests in the first set of preludes, which means greater support to local participants.”