By Isaac Murphy
Elusive Star faces ‘the toughest test of her career’ in the 710m Free For All at Albion Park on Thursday night, but trainer Brian Baker said his two-year-old stayer couldn’t be in better shape to take the next step in her burgeoning career.
The race brings together the best stayers Queensland has to offer and going by recent form, shapes as a three-way duel between Double Gee, Infrared Lad and Elusive Star.
Baker said the early speed battle would be crucial to the outcome with the three greyhounds all having unique racing patterns.
“Infrared Star has drawn the one and you’d expect it to be right up on the speed, I’m hopeful that from the four we can get to the outside of Infrared Star and then you have dogs like Double Gee that will be coming from the back,” Baker said.
“We’re up against some very seasoned greyhounds, but if she can get up in that first two or three she’ll stay all day and it’ll be a test for them to run her down.”
Baker said he had been in the training game for 20 years without coming across a stayer the calibre of Elusive Star and has been careful to nurture the rising two-year-old.
“We knew early on with her work up the straight we wouldn’t see the best of her until we got her over more ground,” he said.
“The only concern I had is not wanting to rush her to the 600 and then the 700 because she’s only just turned two and as a rule of thumb a lot of trainers like to wait till their two-and-a-half to step them up.
“She was recovering so well from her races it gave us the opportunity to get her over more ground a little earlier than most and she couldn’t have adapted any better.”
Since reaching the 710m, Elusive Star’s two wins have come in identical time (42.29sec) and by an average margin of five lengths.
Baker said the trip was suiting her to a tee.
“In her 520m races she was always the back marker but once she’s hit the 600 and 710 she’s jumping much better and getting a chance to show her staying prowess without the traffic,” he said.
“She’s very cluey she doesn’t get in trouble in too many of her races, she had to hook to the outside in her 520s because she was so far back, but with her 700s because she’s beginning well it’s a non-issue.”
Despite tackling everything in front of her Baker knows that Thursday night will give him a real guide if the bitch is up to tackling Winter Carnival races like the Group Three Winter Chase Final and Group One Gold Cup Final.
“We’ll learn a lot more after Thursday, if she can handle herself we’ll go forward with some real confidence,” he said.
“I’ll sit down after Thursday night and map out a program for her, if she stays sound she’s a lock for the Group staying races over the Winter Carnival and we might even look at taking her down to Wentworth Park over the Easter Egg period for a suitable race over 720.”
Baker formerly operated his kennel out of Murwillumbah, but always considered a move North after doing plenty of travel to Albion Park where he met fellow trainer and breeder Errol Kleinhans, who proved pivotal in his move North and brought Baker Elusive Star.
“When we decided to move up to Queensland the Kleinhans were incredibly helpful looking at potential properties and were very influential in us buying a couple of acres here at Morayfield,” he said.
“Since Errol was so familiar with our set up he brought us Elusive Star and a number of other greyhounds out of the My Bro Fabio, Ultra Blue litter.”