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AFL coach turns his hand to horse training

Former Carlton coach turned horse trainer Denis Pagan
AFL premiership-winning coach Denis Pagan (right) makes his horse training debut at Flemington.

Two-time AFL premiership winning coach Denis Pagan had hoped for a low-key start to his racehorse training career.

Pagan was granted a restricted licence earlier in the week and wanted to run Johnny Get Angry in a maiden race at Bendigo on Friday.

But when balloted from that race Pagan instead heads to Flemington on Saturday to run Johnny Get Angry in the Listed Taj Rossi Series Final.

“It’s been a terribly hard road getting there, but we’re there now,” Pagan said.

“I want to have a crack at it and if I cut the mustard, I’ll be thrilled. If I don’t I’ll pull my head in and sneak off into the yonder.”

Pagan harboured an ambition of one day becoming a trainer, right from his coaching days, and has had horses trained by John Sadler and Troy Corstens.

Corstens sub-let boxes to Pagan at his Flemington stable and also sub-lets staff members.

“I’ve always loved the thoroughbred and horse racing and I had pipedreams of training about 20 years ago, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t think it would every happen,” Pagan said.

“I was coming home from Euroa one day with Troy and he said ‘You want to give this a crack, so why don’t you?’ When he made me a godfather offer, we put the wheels in order.

“I’ve got to be forever grateful to Leigh Jordon for letting me train at Flemington and it would not have happened if those guys were not so forthcoming.

“And how lucky am I to have a runner at Flemington with my first starter?”

Pagan has a restricted licence and can only train his own horses.

Johnny Get Angry finished second last at his only start when trained by Leon and Troy Corstens at Flemington on June 20, and Pagan is not expecting the world on Saturday.

“The horse will be better when he gets to 10 furlongs (2000m) plus,” Pagan said.

“I don’t know what will happen on Saturday and where he will finish up, but he’s shown me a lot of promise and we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

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