By Chase Editor Pat McLeod
AS Peter Lagogiane collapsed to the Wentworth Park track in a ball of emotion, the two people most responsible for creating this epic greyhound folk story quietly chuckled to each other over the phone at opposite ends of the country.
Lagogiane (trainer) and Shakeel Latimer (owner) deservedly sit centre stage as triumphant victors in the third running of the world’s richest greyhound race, the TAB Million Dollar Chase (MDC) in Sydney in mid-October.
Their timing was split-second perfect. Within just several weeks they targeted, purchased and then put the ideal finishing touches to brilliant young Tasmanian chaser Handsome Prince, who upset his more fancied rivals in the MDC final.
In fact, this was another unbelievable chapter to the Lagogiane story, who won the inaugural MDC in 2018 with Mystic Riot.
But for every great story, there is most often an as-compelling back story. For the 2020 MDC Mick Waters and Pat Ryan fill this role. For without Waters’ unshakable belief in a particular bloodline, Ryan’s rearing and training ability and the pair’s lifelong bond, the 2020 race would have had a completely different outcome.
“Yes, we both watched the race and were straight on the phone,” Dilston-based (Tasmania) Ryan says of his post-race discussion with Waters (Townsville).
“Sure, we were very happy for Peter (Lagogiane). But it’s a bit like being part of a footy team all year that goes on to win the grand final, but you didn’t get to play in the big one.”
The Waters and Ryan combination bred, whelped, reared and initially trained Handsome Prince, before on-selling to Latimer just weeks before the MDC. In fact, the Wayers/Ryan combo dates back about 25 years. Although their friendship goes back even further.
“As 11-year-olds we both used to walk greyhounds around Gill Park, Currajong, a suburb of Townsville,” recalls Ryan.
“Sometimes there would be up to 40 dogs being walked at the same time. Mick and I got to know each other and would also catch up at the Townsville greyhound track, which then had only recently been opened.
“Then after a while Mick headed off to WA … we went our own ways.”
In the mid-90s Waters returned to Townsville and to greyhounds, just as Ryan had decided to head south to Beenleigh (near Brisbane).
Waters bought two pups – Wine Glass and Hero’s Walk. He sent both down to his mate.
Wine Glass was a sensation. The well-bred Head Honcho chaser won the G1 Eukanuba (Brisbane) Cup at Albion Park in 1997 and also qualified for the finals of the Melbourne Cup, Adelaide Cup and Coca Cola Bottlers Cup (Albion Park) and represented Queensland in the National Sprint Final at Angle Park.
She put Ryan firmly on the national map as a top tier trainer and gave Waters a taste for breeding that remains strong today.
As Ryan moved back to Townsville and then to Tasmania in 2013, Waters kept trying to re-kindle the Wine Glass magic.
“Mick would not give up on that bloodline,” says Ryan.
“I would have … years ago. But I am very glad that he didn’t.”
Through Wine Glass, Glass Placard, See Blue and then finally See Blue’s Girl, Ryan kept that breeding line alive. He could see a thick vein of gold just below the surface, but just couldn’t mine it.
“We bred lots of good dogs, but the fast ones kept getting injured,” he said.
“But when you are associated with good people, like Paddy (Ryan), then good things happen.”
That certainly was the case when the pair matched See Blue’s Girl with USA’s SH Avatar, which resulted in six pups, including Handsome Prince.
“I knew the bloodline had so much potential, but I just needed the right calming influence and that has come through Fabregas (sire of See Blue’s Girl’s first litter) and SH Avatar,” said Waters.
Both Waters and Ryan can see a lot more blue sky on the horizon as they prepare to further explore both stud dog and broodbitch options from the Wine Glass line.
And there is also time for quiet celebration and reflection on the good things this industry unveils.
“The day after the Million Dollar Chase I sat on the porch with Jenny (See Blue’s Girl). She is such a beautiful pet,” said Waters.
“I had a beer and she had her favourite – a cream puff. It’s been a pretty amazing ride so far.”
Caption: Pat and Vikki Ryan, left, and Mick and Kym Waters during Wine Glass’s reign in the late 1990s