Cassendra dreaming big at Ballarat

There can be absolutely no doubt that training novice Cassendra Jayakody enjoys a challenge.

Just days after Sri Lankan-born Cassendra gained her training license, the excited 26-year-old will take her first starters to the track on Saturday night.

And the rookie is shooting for the stars, throwing veteran trio Dyna Virion, Winlock Dyno and Winsome Fernando first-up into the Group 2 BFC Ballarat Cup heats.

“I thought why not give them a shot? Go big or go home,” said Cassendra.

“I’m a new owner/trainer. I only got my license last Tuesday and I’ve owned the three dogs for about a month.

“They haven’t raced since August (Winlock Dyno), September (Winsome Fernando) and October (Dyna Virion) but they’ve been really good in their trials and I was very happy to see them get drawn in the heats.”

TAB betting underlines the fact the odds are very much stacked against Cassendra and her surprise Cup aspirants.

Winsome Fernando, the winner of 15 of his 103 starts, is the ‘shortest’ at $41, while Dyna Virion (seven wins from 76), a placegetter in the Listed Mount Gambier Cup in August, is a $71 chance and Winlock Dyno (16 wins from 124) is at $101.

Age is not on their side either.

Winsome Fernando and Winlock Dyno celebrated their fourth birthdays in April and June respectively, while Dyna Virion will turn four in January, but that has done little – if anything – to dampen Cassendra’s enthusiasm.

“It’s very exciting,” she said.

“I’m hoping they do good but if not we can go for something easier.”

Cassendra admits that training greyhounds certainly wasn’t on the agenda when she moved to Australia as a 17-year-old.

“Not at all!” Cassendra laughed.

“I work as an age care carer and I was working with Sue Mannion, who has greyhounds. I love dogs in general and Sue told me all about greyhound racing.

“Sue invited me and my husband, Tharindu, over to their place and we fell in love with the greyhounds. My husband said we have to get one!

“So we both saved some money and bought four pups – we bought three Fernando Bale pups off Anthony Azzopardi and another one off Allan Buckland.

“Then we got Winlock Dyno and Winsome Fernando for free. They were giveaways and Dyna Virion was a gift from my husband. I was working night shift and came home at 7am and this big dog – he’s 41 kilos – was waiting in the house!

“I’ve got to admit my husband does a lot of the work. We live in Melton South and our closest track is at Melton West. We take the pups there in the morning and the older dogs in the afternoon.

“Sue (Mannion) has been my mentor and we take the dogs out to her place too because she has a bigger property. We help each other out.”

While facts and figures suggest Cassendra and her three bargain basement greybeards face a monumental task in the Cup heats, dreams are free and stranger things have happened in racing. Or have they?

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