The Group One Silver Chief is a special race. It has produced some of the best dogs of generations, both on the track and at stud. However when you hear someone like Peter Akathiotis speak, you realise just how special it actually is.
“If I can win it, then I will be on cloud number nine.”
Akathiotis has spent over two decades in the sport, both racing and breeding his own line of greyhounds. When he speaks, you can’t help but feel the passion he exudes for the animal.
This Saturday night, Akathiotis will line up Kid Maximus from the coveted box one in the big final and he's pretty pleased with the draw.
“It's the only box I wanted, box one. Two or three would have been ok but I really wanted one. If it was six, seven or eight, we'd be out of business basically.”
Akathiotis nominates early speed as the key to Kid Maximus’ chances. The son of Where’s Pedro and Aussie Belle (History Lesson - Aussie Stunner) found the front early last Saturday and held off the more fancied Veetee Turbo for the duration in a personal best time of 30.23. Akathiotis has done everything he can this week to ensure the possibility of an encore performance by his 32kg fawn chaser.
“You've gotta be quick out of the boxes, you need to run around the five second mark to lead basically. I'm keeping him fresh, I've given him a free gallop on Tuesday and I'm keeping him fresh until Saturday, you want him to jump out and lead. He has gone 5.04 and 5.05 in trials so he can do it, he can lead. I'm just hoping to run a good race, there's some pretty good dogs in there.”
In a race that looks a very open affair on paper, Akathiotis knows there is plenty of dogs that he will need to hold out if he is going to scoop the $100,000 winners prize.
“It all depends on who gets a good start, if Top Innings gets a good start, he's certainly a big show. Deadly Vane, Joe’s (Borg) dog, he's a pretty talented dog but he just needs that little bit of room to accelerate. But you've got other smart dogs there you know, Beckenbauer, Darren McDonald, you can't underestimate him, I think whoever leads has a big show.”
Coming into the heats of the series, Kid Maximus had appeared at the Meadows on no less than 22 occasions, more than any other dog in the 12 heats. While his record at the circuit may not have been overly resounding at that time (two wins), there is no doubting that his familiarity with the venue has assisted in his path to the final.
“He's done a lot of his racing at The Meadows. My policy is that if you've got a dog who is good enough to be racing in the city then that's where you should be racing him. You can go chasing the big cups in the country but unfortunately I haven't got the time to be running around in the country, that's the thing.”
Kid Maximus’ berth in the final is testament to Akathiotis’ breeding efforts over many years. It is a breeding regime which all started with a bitch by Buka Sunset out of Aussie Girl (Chief Dingaan - Ima Card). This breeding combination would ring some bells with long time followers of the sport, having produced the 1992 Melbourne Cup winner, Master Giant. Akathiotis has shown that with some planning, patience and lots of persistence, that it is possible to achieve big things through breeding your own stock.
“Everything I've got goes right back to Aussie Sunrise who was a full sister to Giant and a sister to Master Giant, the Melbourne Cup winner. He was from the second litter, a repeat mating. So I sort of follow the line and I'm always trying to improve. You try to find what you like in a stud dog whether it's speed or strength or good manners or whatever. I'm always trying to improve it for the next generation but you know, it doesn't always work, you might have a dry spell for a while.”
When it comes to a breeding approach, there is one simple theory that Akathiotis subscribes to and one that is reflected by his patronage of stud dogs like Head Honcho, History Lesson and Where’s Pedro in the breeding line of Kid Maximus.
“I believe you've got to use the best stud dogs around, it's the only way to improve your breeding really. You can use ordinary stud dogs who may have a reasonable record, they may have been ok dogs, but it is going to show down the line later on.”
Often when you talk to someone about their chances in one of the countries biggest Group One races, they will invariably nominate their dog as one of, if not, the best they have been associated with. However a bluntly realistic Akathiotis is under no such illusions about Kid Maximus. In fact, he’s not even considered in the top two fastest chasers currently in the Reservoir mentors kennels.
“It may sound funny but Nockabout Aussie and Blue Giant would beat him by eight lengths. They're super dogs but the only problem they have is that they are a bit tardy out of the boxes and that causes them to get into trouble. It's a shame because they are fast dogs and over five hundred they will beat Kid Maximus by six to eight lengths every time. But he puts himself in the race and he’s improving steadily, I have to admit that, he’s getting better all the time. I'm just hoping he can run a good race.”
Akathiotis’ kennels could well be described as greyhound racings equivalent of an equal opportunity employer. When you hear his own circumspect description of his current racing team, it becomes obvious that his overpowering love of the breed and the sport outshines everything else that comes with it.
“I've got eight in work at the moment which is a fair few for me. I've got some slow ones but I find it hard to let them go, I love them all the same. As long as I can handle them, that's the main thing. He’s (Kid Maximus) pretty quiet, he’s no trouble around the kennels. I think if you give them all love and look after every one of them the same, they will be happy. Then they are not jealous of one another or anything like that. No matter who they are they get the same attention with me.”
It could well be that love and attention, combined with a little bit of luck that sees Peter Akathiotis and Kid Maximus on cloud nine come Saturday night.