By TERRY WILSON
IT should be back to business for one of the Coonamble Greyhound Carnival regulars, Victorian country trainer Noel Massina, next month.
Barring another outbreak of the COVID-19 curse it is full steam ahead for organisers for what they hope will be the last time they run it in January and return to its regular October time slot.
The veteran Massina, 73, who hails from Golden Square near Bendigo, is preparing for his annual pilgrimage to the north-western New South Wales town of Coonamble for another tilt at the major money on offer.
And Massina heads north as defending Gold Maiden winner after his success with Born To Succeed in the last staging of the Maiden in 2019.
The advent of COVID-19 lockdowns and shutdowns meant that the 2020 and this year’s stagings of the carnival were cancelled.
But at least this time the carnival’s rescheduling to run from Australia Day, January 26, to Sunday, January 30, is a welcome decision and it will include all the major attractions headed by the $12,000 to the winner NED Whiskey Gold Maiden (305m).
And Massina intends to be there again.
Already the popular veteran has sent four dogs on the 12-hour road trip from Golden Square to Coonamble, such is his passion for the event.
Perhaps the timing of the January race dates may not be to his – or a lot of other trainers\’ cups of tea – but at least the history of the carnival is set to be continued when at one stage there were serious doubts over whether it would fold altogether.
“We went to the Grafton carnival for more than 20 years and we love going to Coonamble and Dubbo, I love going to carnivals,” said Massina when asked about why he keeps returning to the NSW country town.
“When you come from down here (Golden Square) there’s 12 hours travelling there – and it’s a long way back when you go there.
“This time it is unfortunate about the timing of the carnival but at least it great to see it’s on again.
“The weather in October (the usual date) has been sensational.”
A major factor at the end of the road trip is the fact that up to eight bookmakers will be fielding on all four days of the carnival.
For most of his Coonamble visits Massina has been a key figure for organisers.
Away from looking after his greyhounds Massina has also run the stud sires auction as well as the hugely popular Calcutta, usually held on Sundays at the bowls club but in January scheduled to be run on a Saturday.
“All my life I’ve tried to help the industry,” explained Massina of his association with Coonamble.
Massina laughs when it is mentioned that he is the reigning Gold Maiden champion after Born To Succeed won the prestige country classic in 2019.
At its first start the black son of Dyna Double One and Marley Sprite won a heat of the coveted Gold Maiden from box 5 before winning the big final (worth $10,000 to connections) after getting a run from box 7 as first reserve.
“He was first reserve after 10 heats after being the ninth fastest,” said Massina.
“He drew box 5 in the heat but after missing the start he was back at the tail of the field. But then he went whoosh and got up to win.
“Then he was first reserve for the final but one of the other heat winners was scratched and we got a run (from box 7).”
After that Bound To Succeed went on to win 26 more times (with six seconds and two thirds) for a prizemoney total of $76,995.
Those statics reveal a wonderful strike rate of more than 50 per cent – 28 wins from only 47 starts.
Born To Succeed had its most recent run when it won at Warragul in May this year.
“There have been many good greyhounds to come out of the carnival at Coonamble,” said Massina.
Perhaps the best greyhound produced by the Coonamble Gold Maiden did not actually win the race.
In September of 2012 a black dog named Black Magic Opal won a heat of the Maiden, then run over 301m on debut but it was to finish second in the final, behind Silent Battle (Bombastic Shiraz-Midnight Movie) for trainer Tom Pullman.
Black Magic Opal went on to become a Group-winning star of the track with 35 wins from 48 starts and a prizemoney tally of $586, 215, which represents a far cry from the $100 purse the dog picked up for finishing runner-up that day.
There are many bigger events coming up next month for what is the Coonamble district’s biggest money-spinning event.