By Isaac Murphy
Elegant Eleanor has turned a lot of heads with the start to her career, bagging seven wins from eleven starts and a Bundaberg track record. However, Fraser Coast trainer Ricky Hassall says she is just getting started and she takes a giant class leap into this Thursday’s Group Two Futurity Heats.
The bitch jumps from box two in Heat one of the series. She brings some promising form, breaking the Bundaberg 460 metre track record three starts ago, before she was close behind the older dogs at headquarters.
“The Futurity was my goal with her from a long way out. I wanted to build her confidence at Bundaberg and get a couple of runs under her belt before the heats, everything is on track so far,” Hassall said.
“I wanted to get a couple of easy kills for her on a Monday night, but she ran into some seasoned dogs in the Mixed Fourth/Fifth Grade races but acquitted herself really well considering she wasn’t able to nail the start on either occasion.”
“The runs were still very encouraging. She can begin a lot better than what she showed. You want your dogs peaking at the right time and hopefully she nails it this week.”
Hassall emphasised it was all about clearing the first turn with plenty of early speed set to take her on for an unimpeded lead.
“If she gets it right, she should lead from the nice draw (2), but if she slightly misses it again, she could be in some trouble because Machine Green inside her can go 5.57 to the first mark and we could be shuffled back,” he said.
“There’s plenty of pace from Mepunga Isla in the four and Blue Diva in the seven and then you have a dog like Zipping Cosmo who came from last to win the Young Guns. It’s by far the toughest field she’s tackled.”
At almost twenty-eight months the bitch only has eleven starts to her name, but it has been a deliberate ploy from Hassall who sees a career for her beyond the race track.
“She’s been incredibly healthy right the way through, the eleven starts are just a product of bringing her along slowly with the ultimate goal of being a brood bitch in mind, the worst thing I could do is over race her,” he said.
“That’ll always be my philosophy going forward. Pick out a race well in advance and go full steam ahead. I don’t want to get her into the rut of racing week in week out.”
Elegant Eleanor made her name as the first greyhound to break 26 seconds (25.99) at Bundaberg and only a reasonable distance from his Torbanlea property Hassall couldn’t speak highly enough of the track.
“There’s some great prize money to be had at Bundaberg and the track is in magnificent order. They’ve got a great maintenance program with the grass surface. You’re never worried about the track doing any damage to your dog,” he said.
“Depending of what happens in the Futurity, I’m looking forward to starting her up there in the Country Challenge in early January where I think she’s a great chance of progressing through to the final at Albion Park.”
Hassall has been a lifelong dog man recalling his humble beginnings and fascination with breeding which brought him this bitch.
“I’ve been in and out of the industry since 1977. I started out in New South Wales where I had my first winner in 1979 at the Wollongong Showgrounds and have stayed involved ever since,” he said.
“I’ve always been into the breeding side of greyhounds and it’s always been a hobby for me, so I’ve only got three dogs in work at the moment, but they’re all handpicked.”
“I bought Eleanor’s mother Befitting and put her through Fabregas. Unfortunately, only two came out of the litter with Eleanor and Best Fit for Darren Russell who’s started his career off in fine style breaking twenty-five at Ipswich.”
Hassall said Elegant Eleanor’s success was unprecedented in his time as a trainer and was determined to maximise her racing and breeding prospects.
“I’ve never had a greyhound as good as her before and as exciting as that is, it’s very nerve racking as well because there is a lot of pressure for her to live up to her potential and have a successful post-racing career as well,” he said.
“It’s all a first for me with a track record holder and a live chance in a Group Two Futurity. I’m used to just going about my business but at the same time it’s flattering to see the number of greyhound people taking notice of her.”