By Isaac Murphy
There’s no doubt the Ricky Hassall trained Elegant Eleanor is a city-class bitch, and with multiple 29.8 runs under her belt at Albion she would fit right into Best 8 company.
With zoning laws now in full effect, the Fraser Coast trainer has turned his attention to a race close to home that has eluded him for years - The Bundaberg Cup - with Eleanor building nicely towards Monday’s heats.
“I was planning on continuing racing in Brisbane and possibly abroad in some Group Races, but when the zoning system came into effect it kept us in the South-East Queensland Coast zone and luckily enough the Bundaberg Cup was on the horizon,” Hassall said.
“She’s the bitch with runs on the board in Brisbane and probably carries the biggest name on paper into the race.
“We’ll likely have to deal with favouritism but it’s something she handled well in The Country Cup Final in Brisbane when she won by seven lengths.”
Elegant Eleanor had been consistently breaking thirty around Albion Park, until she met dual Derby winner Oh Mickey in February on a rain affected track.
The Hassal trained bitch went slightly amiss after the run, costing her an interstate trip.
“I still don’t know what quite happened when she went off the boil in February after finishing second to Oh Mickey at Albion Park,” Hassall said.
“The plan was to go to the Perth Cup with her, but I trialled her at Albion after that run and she just didn’t want to go, clocking a leisurely 30.55, which was nowhere near the 29.8 I knew she could run.
“We had to go back to the drawing board, I took her to Ipswich for an easy kill which was anything but, she won but only got in by three quarters of a length but seems to be back on the right path.”
Hassall’s confidence levels took a spike just over a week ago when Eleanor easily took care of the field over the 550-metre cup trip at Bundaberg, but there was still room for improvement.
“She looked like she was getting back to somewhere near her best last start where she won by five lengths in 31.68, but I still think there’s a lot of improvement if she can get through the heats and into the final,” Hassall said.
“She’s trialled as quick as 31.21 when she was going well, and I’ve spaced her runs so she can hopefully come through the heats and really hit her straps the following week in the final.”
Hassall has been trying to win the Bundaberg Cup for over two decades and admits Elegant Eleanor is by far his best chance, but the result was no foregone conclusion.
“I think she’ll be the best greyhound in the field, but it’s not going to be a walk in the park,” Hassall said.
“There were plenty of good dogs that went around Monday that on their day will give her a run for her money.
“Dolcetto Hayze is city performed and quick early for Tracy Trigg, Kiewa Rebel finished just off it for Ron Brook in the prelude on Monday and there’s a young one to watch out for who hasn’t been tried over the 550 metres yet called Really Royal.
“There’s plenty of good greyhounds, I’ve been trying to win a Bundaberg Cup since the nineties and have only managed two consolation cups - I’m certainly not counting my money.”
At her best, Eleanor would Shanghai out of the boxes and get to the fence first, something Hassall believes is critical around the Bundaberg circuit.
“The key for her over the 550 metres at Bundaberg is getting around that first corner clean and in the leading brigade,” Hassall said.
“She’s definitely lost a little bit of her early dash, but she’s replaced that becoming stronger at the back end of her races.
“With that in mind, I’d love to draw near the rail as once she gets there you won’t get her off it and she knows her way around the 550 metres up there pretty well.”
Without a timeline of whether she’ll be able to get back to Brisbane to race in the short-term, Hassall is tossing up an early breeding career before a possible return to the track.
“With everything up in the air I’ve got to entertain the option of breeding with her if we aren’t able to come back to Brisbane and race,” Hassall said.
“I’ve filled out the paperwork to get her DNA tested to become a brood bitch and rather than race week in week out at Bundaberg, I’d love to get some pups on the ground to train for myself.
“If the zoning rules change, we’d put that off because I still think she has a second chapter to her racing career - time will tell.”
Hassall believes that second chapter will be over more ground, the 550 metres ideal for her now but she looks like she may want further.
“The way she’s starting to race it really looks like it’ll be a matter of time until she’s a six hundred metre bitch and perhaps even a seven hundred metre stayer,” Hassall said.
“She’s two-and-a-half at the moment which is the age you see most strong dogs like her develop into potential stayers, so that’s something I’ll definitely look at when we get back to Brisbane.
“Rod Collins who owns her mother Befitting was a good six hundred metre bitch and he told me she was very similar to Eleanor in terms of racing patterns as they get older, so the pedigree is there as well.”