By Isaac Murphy
Gerry Crisci didn’t know what a greyhound was until he moved to Australia from Italy in the 1960’s, but after training his first winner in 1970 he was hooked. Almost fifty years later the jovial trainer is still producing winners with It Ain’t Lionel putting his stellar record to the test in Saturday night’s Ipswich Derby heats.
“When I got him off Bill Elson to train, he had shown a little bit of ability but had only won his maiden, so I wasn’t sure just how good he was going to be,” Crisci said.
“I gave him a good break (73 days) from May till July after I got him, and something must have worked because I started him back and he just keeps winning.”
“He’s had eleven starts with me for seven wins, three seconds and a third and he’s won over the 431 at Ipswich, 520 at Ipswich and 520 at Albion, so I thought this isn’t too bad is it.”
It Ain’t Lionel celebrated his second birthday on Tuesday and Crisci is hoping the week only gets better as he tackles the like of Best 8 Albion Park winner Big Boy Bruce from box four in his heat of the Derby.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to put him in. He hasn’t raced against some of these good dogs before, he might be a bit young but he’s a good chaser and earnt the chance,” he said.
“He isn’t the quickest to step out of the boxes, but he really pushes and musters speed to get to the front and has been leading most of his 520 metre races. Once he gets to the front, he’s hard to run down.”
“Every race he won over the 431 metres he never led he always came from behind, so I knew he was going to be able to handle the 520 metres and while I’d like him to lead he’s getting stronger too.”
Crisci held bustling kennels for most of his career but in his twilight is more than happy with just two at his Churchable property. It Ain’t Lionel’s success only adding to his light-hearted nature.
“I’ve only got him and a little bitch who is only about eighteen months, I’m getting older now and can only handle one or two dogs around here,” he said.
“A lot of trainers say to me why do you only have one dog and I say to them you only need one dog when you know they’re going to win,” he laughed.
Crisci said he’s never lost the joy in training greyhounds over his forty-year career and would be happy to make it to fifty if his dogs keep winning.
“I think if he can improve a couple more lengths, he can start to race with some of the better dogs, he only turned two on Tuesday, so I’m not in a rush with him,” he said.
“Every time he races he seems to do something a little better and after the Derby I might take him to the Young Guns at Albion Park later this month.”