Schillaci 'special' in The Phoenix

Devon Meadows trainer Jihad Talgi is out to make some serious ‘dough’ with super sprinter Schillaci in the $1.65m The Phoenix (525m) – Race 10, 9.50pm – at The Meadows on Saturday night.

The Phoenix

Dream Chasers

15 Dec

Devon Meadows trainer Jihad Talgi is out to make some serious ‘dough’ with super sprinter Schillaci in the $1.65m The Phoenix (525m) – Race 10, 9.50pm – at The Meadows on Saturday night.

To put things in a monetary perspective, Talgi – who owns Uncle Drews pizza parlour in Carrum Downs – would need to churn out around 67,000 family-size pizzas to earn the equivalent in turnover of the Phoenix’s palatable $1,000,000 first prize.

The third edition of the world’s richest race will be run in just under 30 seconds, meaning the winner will be bringing in just over $33,000 per second.

What a way to make a ‘crust’!

Talgi – who bred, owns and trains Schillaci – has twice refused $100,000 for his once-in-a-lifetime superstar. But he has no regrets – even after he sustained an Achilles tendon injury at his second start and spent four months on the sidelines.

Schillaci – which has won 10 races from 18 starts, will exit Box 5 in The Phoenix following a unique, interactive pick-a-box draw on Sunday. His name was the fifth called out. And with connections of the first four runners selecting 1, 2 3 and 4 in that sequence, Talgi opted for the ‘yellow’ alley.

Schillaci – G3 SA Derby winner and G1 Adelaide Cup and G1 Topgun finalist – will also be racing for slot holder Ladbrokes and is a $26 outsider on Sportsbet’s The Phoenix market.

Following last Sunday’s unique, interactive ‘pick-a-box’ draw, Talgi bemoaned: “It’s a great field. We would have loved box one, but not to be.”

When asked if Schillaci could overcome the ‘yellow’ draw, Talgi replied: “He can if he jumps.”

Schillaci’s kennel name is “Jaxson” and Talgi advised “it’s named after this son of mine”, who was standing beside him at the box draw televised live by Sky 2.

“When he (Schillaci) was three months old, he said to me, ‘can we name him Jaxson’.”

Young Jaxson had one word to say when asked if Schillaci had lived up to his expectations: “Definitely.”

Schillaci trialled at The Meadows on Monday in preparation for the Phoenix.

On Monday, Schillaci trialled box-to-box, clocking a 5.15sec first split and 17.71sec second section.

When interviewed after the trial, Talgi said he was “very excited, can’t wait” (for The Phoenix). “It’s an absolute honour to be picked up by Ladbrokes.”

And Talgi added: “At the end of the day I know the million dollars is a big apple. But it’s not about the money, it’s about winning the race – his name would be up in lights forever.”

When asked about his box draw, Talgi said: You just want to be hoping that you get picked out first, but when you get picked out fifth, well the best box is probably ‘five’.

“I’d rather ‘five’ than ‘eight’ because the big crowd, there might be a lot of noise and the dogs hear it and get spooked. So maybe the middle box, it’s not too bad.

“And looking at the draw now, he’s probably not too badly drawn. The ‘four’ (Postman Pat) likes to cut in. Hopefully he can be out in front of them and have that little bit of room where he can run down the middle of the straight because he won’t cut in, he’ll stay straight.

“And hopefully he can put a bit of a margin on them, who knows.”

Talgi says “it’s something I’ve been striving for 20 years to get a dog like Schillaci, and he’s arrived”.

Schillaci is the namesake of an eight-time G1-winning grey-coloured sprinter of the early ’90s trained by Lee Freedman and ridden by champion hoop, Damien Oliver.

“He’s done the name proud,” Talgi said. “He’s a sensational dog; he does nothing wrong (at home). He just sits in his kennel and other than that, he just lays there.”

When asked about daring to dream of winning The Phoenix, Talgi replied: “Look, I’m not going to lie, it’s crossed my mind a lot of times. You know, what if?

“It would be great, not just for me, my family, my kids. They have grown up with the dogs… But to get a dog like Schillaci – even my young fella, Jaxson, he’s over the moon. He named him as a pup, and he absolutely loves him”.

So, what would Talgi do with The Phoenix’s $1,000,000 first prize?

“Ladbrokes would take some of it,” he quipped. “It would be life changing, but I think the kids would already have it spent.”

Would Talgi then hang up the oven mitts and put away the pizza peel?

“I’d have to think about it over a pizza,” he jested. “But it’s been a long-held desire to train greyhounds on a full-time basis.”


The Sportsbet Dream Chasers Festival is back!

With over $4.1 million in prize money up for grabs, The Meadows and Sandown Park again play host to these blockbuster events, including the $1million Group 1 Sportsbet Melbourne Cup and the most exciting race in greyhound racing, The Phoenix.



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