Flashback to ‘school excursion’ to Perth Cup

\"\"Caption: The photo of a 17-year-old Matt Brown and 2002 Perth Cup winner Modern Assassin which Mary Mugavin Brown gets to admire every day

Group 1 Perth Cup (520m)

Best 64 nominated.

Heats April 10. Final April 17.

$150,000 to the winner

 

Group 1 WA Galaxy (715m)

Best 32 nominated

Heats April 10. Final April 17

$100,000 to the winner

 

Group 3 Perth Cup Consolation (520m)

Field from Cup heats.

April 17

$25,000 to the winner

 

By DAVID BRASCH

MARY Mugavin Brown came up with the perfect solution when attempting back in 2002 to win the Perth Cup.

She took out of school her then 17-year-old son Matt, in his last year of high school at Warrnambool (Victoria), put him and the dog he loved called Zac (Modern Assassin) onto a plane and set them the task of winning a Group 1 race.

\”The club in Perth had organised with a woman called Sharon to put up Matt and Zac for the series,\” said Mary. \”He won his heat, then was a bit sore in the week leading up to the final so Judy Hurley organised with a local muscle man to look over him.

\”After he won the heat, I thought to myself I had better get over there and be part of this so two or three days before I flew to Perth.\”

Modern Assassin and Zac won that Perth Cup beating Omastar Bale and Ultimate Rebel and landed the $50,000 winner\’s cheque. This year\’s Perth Cup will be worth $150,000 to the winner.

Modern Assassin was the very first greyhound Mary Mugavin Brown trained and he only came into the household as a four month old pup because Mary\’s brother Kevin Mugavin, who had bred the Awesome Assassin-Magic Gairn litter, found he was such a timid pup.

Mary remembers the very day she went to pick up her kids from school in her old Volvo and dropped in to Kevin\’s to get Zac and a litter sister he said would be needed to rear the pups together.

\”Those two pups pooped all over the back of the car on the way home,\” said Mary. \”I remember Matt, who was 15 at the time, getting covered in overalls and climbing into the back of the Volvo to clean up.\”

Mary, husband Brian, and the family (including future AFL legend Jonathan Brown) took it upon themselves to rear those two pups on their one-acre property.

\”Kevin said being around our family might bring Zac out of his shell,\” said Mary. \”Well that certainly did happen. He and Matt went everywhere together.

\”Matt has always been a dog whisperer, a connection with dogs. Zac soon thought he was king around our place.\”

Zac went off to Kevin\’s to be educated at 14 months and Kevin promptly sent him back for Mary to train with the claim ‘he might win a race or two for you’.

\”Right through his early race career, I kept saying to Kevin \’when do you want him back\’,\” she said. \”His reply was, \’no, you keep going\’.\”

When Modern Assassin started racing, Matt was 17 and in grade 12. Zac had his first race start at Ballarat in a heat of the Debutante Stakes and promptly won by eight lengths.

\”Matt and I looked at each other and thought \’that was alright\’,” said Mary.

By this time Matt was regular racetrack handler for Zac. They were inseparable. Mary would make sure Matt had the day off school whenever Zac was racing.

\”I remember we had him in the Sandown Shootout and Matt had an exam at school that day,\” she said. \”I picked up Matt on the highway on the way into Sandown.\”

Before the Perth Cup victory, Modern Assassin had already proven himself at the top level.

He\’d been a finalist in the Horsham and Cranbourne Cups, then beat Carlisle Jack to win the Geelong Cup, before making the finals of the Ballarat Cup and Group 1 Golden Easter Egg.

\”When it came to the Perth Cup, poor Matt,\” said Mary.

\”I put him on a plane on his own with the dog and sent him all that way across the country to stay with someone he did not know with the job of winning the Perth Cup.\”

Modern Assassin came home after the Cup and proceeded to finish second in the G1 Winter Carnival Cup at Albion Park, third in the G1 National Sprint at the same track, then landed another G1 by winning the Paws Of Thunder at Wentworth Park.

He finished fourth in the G1 Topgun and third in the G2 Cranbourne Cup to finish out his race career.

A stud career beckoned and Zac went to stand with Sam Cauchi in Sydney where he was a handy sire at best getting stars like Suave Fella, Countess Of Cork and Dimples And Ice.

His daughters became fine broodbitches.

These days there is just one dog at the Brown household a retired race bitch called English Lady.

But Mary says a huge photo of Matt and Modern Assassin hangs proudly in the outside shed and she gets to admire them both every single day. \”I get to talk to them every day,\” she said.

Cauchi sent Zac home and Jason and Seona Thompson took him at stud for a few years before he finally came home to spend his last few years with Mary.

\”Late in February is the anniversary of his death and he is buried in our orchard,\” she said. \”That\’s why Brian and I can never leave this property.\”

As for Matt, now married with a couple of kids and a construction supervisor, just how did he get so much time off to continue his greyhound racing commitments?

Dad Brian is a co-ordinator at Emmanuel College in Warrnambool where Matt went to school.

Mary remembers Zac as an individual. \”He always liked his own space,\” she said. \”We really got thrown into the deep end training him first up.\”

Mary, Matt and Zac took it all in their stride … the Perth Cup victory proves that.

The Paws Of Thunder and Geelong Cup seals it.

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