Vassallo Comes Of Age

Around 15 years ago, Wayne Vassallo – then a 15-year-old, Year 10 student – was hell-bent on emulating his idol and mentor, Victoria’s premier greyhound race caller Ron Hawkswell.

The ‘boy and his binoculars’ were a regular sight at Sandown Park’s qualifying trials in the mid-’90s, where Vassallo honed his skills – with an all-consuming passion to one day call a greyhound racing Melbourne Cup.

But just when you could bet London to a brick on that Vassallo would realise his burning ambitions, he had a change of heart.

In the late ’90s, Vassallo swapped the microphone for a lead and collar, and subsequently found his calling in life – as a professional greyhound trainer.

And now Wayne’s world is his oyster!

“I was finding it hard to get anywhere with the greyhound broadcasting and at the end of the day, I felt I’d rather be training greyhounds,” Vassallo said.

Vassallo, 29, served ‘apprenticeships’ with Tom and George Dailly (1998-2000) and Jason Thompson (2001-05) before going out on his own. Not so long ago he returned to train from Thompson’s state-of-the-art training/stud complex, Awesome Lodge, in Pearcedale.

“Basically, I’ve learned the ropes from the Dailly twins and Jason. There is no way known I would have had the opportunity to get the greyhounds I’ve had without their assistance,” Vassallo said.

Early in 2004, Vassallo – a dual Victorian Rookie Trainer of the Year – captured his first Group 1 success with Skipper Rip in the Stayers Cup at The Meadows.

And a little over two years later, he snared his second Group 1 victory when Pure Burst saluted in the Laurels (515m) at Sandown Park.

Roll on a couple of years and Vassallo is hoping Alotta Mojo, on Thursday night, can answer the call by providing him with his second Laurels –and another $50,000 winner’s cheque – in three years.

Vassallo also has Ima Drifter and Prince Noir engaged in the $25,000 to the winner Group 2 McKenna Memorial distance final.

In last week’s Laurels semi-finals, Alotta Mojo set the time standard of 30.17sec and raced into favouritism for the $72,500 Group 1 Laurels Classic after recording the fastest semi final win at Sandown Park tonight.

On a slow track, Alotta Mojo ($3.30F) began quickly from box 5 and was never threatened, leading all the way to win by 3.25 lengths over Special Sign in a best of night 30.17.

Trainer Wayne Vassallo, who won the 2006 Laurels Classic with multiple Group race winner Pure Burst, strengthened his chances of a second Laurels victory when Alotta Mojo drew the cherished inside box.

Less than three lengths separated the four semi-final winners – Hot Puzzle (30.23sec), Hybrid Theory (30.24sec) and Irreplaceable (30.33sec).

Hybrid Theory gave young trainer Chris Darmanin his first Group 1 finalist when she railed through the first turn to win her semi final in 30.24. Hybrid Theory ($1.80) held off a fast finishing Who Told Helen ($14.40) by 2.5 lengths.

Bunyip trainer Paul Anderton’s exciting bitch Hot Puzzle led all the way to win her heat in 30.23. Beginning brilliantly from box 8, Hot Puzzle ($2.90F) crossed the field to lead clearly through the first run and raced away to win by 3.75 lengths in 30.23. Summer Grace ($6.50) battled on strongly to finish second.

In the final semi of the night, New South Wales raider Irreplaceable ($8.40) ran down early leader Miss Jim ($6) to win by 2.5 lengths in 30.33. Pre-post favourite and fastest heat winner Ferly Gain ($1.60F) missed the start and was never a winning chance, finishing a distant seventh.

Here is Thursday nights, $72,500 Group 1 Laurels box draw :

    Laurels Final (515m) – Race 8 (9.40pm)
    1. Alotta Mojo
    2. Who Told Helen
    3. Miss Jim
    4. Hybrid Theory
    5. Hot Puzzle
    6. Irreplaceable
    7. Special Sign
    8. Summer Grace
    9. Lady Moscato
    10. Classical Doll
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