Peter Akathiotis is one of few trainers that have been able to experience the glory of a Melbourne Cup win, and 25 years on he remembers it vividly.
“It brings back memories every time something related to it comes up,” says Akathiotis.
In 1992 Akathiotis trained Master Giant, or ‘Jason’ as he was known at home, defeated a stellar field to claim greyhound racing’s ultimate thrill.
“I remember the night very clearly. I’ll never forget it, I achieved something I never thought I could.”
Akathiotis started training greyhounds in 1977, he had a hiatus until 1990 where he returned to the sport and purchased a greyhound named ‘Giant’.
“Giant’s owner Angus McDonald gave the dog to his best mate, unfortunately his wife passed away of cancer and didn’t have the motivation to continue with the greyhound. So, Giant was offered to me for $1200, back then that was a lot of money for a dog. I offered $1000 and bought him for that price.”
Akathiotis was beyond impressed with his new acquisition which led to his interest in Giant’s mother, Aussie Girl, who was still in the care of Angus McDonald.
“When I broke Giant in he was 12 months old and flying. He was running faster than racing greyhounds, which is why I took an interest in his mother. I rang Angus and asked if I can buy Aussie Girl, and he said no. I recommended he use Buka Sunset again (sire of Gaint’s litter), he said ‘hopefully you might sell me a pup out of the litter’.
“He followed through with my recommendation and true to his word he said ‘I won’t sell you a pup but I’ll give you the best one to train’. He handed me ‘Jason’, who was Master Giant.”
Master Giant had a controversial start to his racing career. He won a heat of a maiden series at Sandown Park by 15 lengths, his semi by 1½ but it was the final when things became undone. Master Giant turned his head and was handed a suspension from racing.
“He had a lot of ability but he was very puppyish, he wanted to play. He was suspended after that maiden final. I worked on him for a while and he matured.”
Akathiotis discovered Master Giant often got his teeth caught in his muzzle during races. Which led him to a friend to help customise a new muzzle for ‘Jason’.
“When he raced he’d get his muzzle caught on his teeth, I’m not sure how he did it but made him throw his head around. I got a guy to bend a traditional muzzle so it didn’t give him any trouble. It was the solution and he never did anything wrong after that.
Just five starts following Master Giant’s mishap in the maiden final, he was victorious in the Shepparton Cup, a race which proved a perfect lead into the Melbourne Cup.
Master Giant won his Melbourne Cup heat comfortably and drew box 2 in the final. He speared to lead but quickly had star chaser Dallas Duo in hot pursuit. Akathiotis revealed he was concerned mid-race.
“Dallas Duo was very strong, and down the back he settled 2nd and I thought ‘oh no, Dallas Duo is coming’. ‘Jason’ held him off, he just kept going.
“There was a huge crowd, people on the back fence and standing everywhere. Everybody in greyhound racing wants to win a big race, a group 1, but it’s not easy. Everything has to be perfect and luckily our lead in was.
“Angus made a big speech on the night, he just kept talking and talking, I said ‘Angus that’s enough let’s go enjoy it’,” laughed Akathiotis.
“To celebrate I went to La Porchetta with the boys. We got there late, luckily I knew the guys who were the owners of La Porchetta. I’m not a big drinker, so we had some pizza and a few beers before heading home.”
First prize for the Cup in 1992 was $50,000, an amount that sounds minor compared to today’s $420,000 first prize, however Akathiotis says back then it was a lot of money.
“You could buy a house for $50,000 back then. Now even with $420,000 you would struggle to buy a house.”
In more recent times Akathiotis’ has had some impressive types in his Reservoir kennel, including Nockabout Aussie and Blue Giant who still resides at the house.
“The most recent ones I’ve had have been pretty smart. But, you’re only as good as your last winner, and I haven’t had a winner for two years!” laughed Akathiotis.
He now has a litter of pups now who are 15 months old. He hopes they can one day emulate the heroics of Master Giant.
“When the Melbourne Cup comes around you always wish you had a runner in it. Who knows, we might be involved this time next year!”
The 2017 TAB Melbourne Cup will be run on Friday 24 November. The second TAB Melbourne Cup Prelude series will be run tonight, click here for the your free form guide.