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Elegant Eleanor refuses retirement with a race return imminent

By Isaac Murphy

Elegant Eleanor was an odds-on pop to take out her heat of the Bundaberg Cup In April for Fraser Coast trainer Ricky Hassall when disaster struck.

The bitch dropped a back leg muscle, which left Hassall to make the tough decision to retire her from racing and head to the breeding barn, however Eleanor was having nothing of it and almost four months on is poised for a return to the track re-joining an in-form racing kennel.

Eleanor’s injury was a cruel blow for Hassall, who was on the verge of travelling interstate for Group races with the bitch.

She boasts a 14 from 22 career strike rate, including a 29.83 best at Albion Park and well as a Country Cup Final win; she had all the credentials to be a star at the breeder’s too but wasn’t quite ready yet.

“Retirement isn’t treating Elegant Eleanor all that well, I’ve got her pink card and have been waiting for her to come on season but in the mean time her back leg muscle has healed up nicely and she’s beating all my race dogs up the straight,” Hassall laughed.

“You only get a bitch like her once and six weeks ago I decided to get her back in work, and she’ll be going in over the 460 metres at Bundaberg next Monday.

“An injury like she sustained could re-occur at any time and I’m aware of that, but she wants to race and I’m going to give her that opportunity.

“She had a 350-metre slip after the races at Bundaberg on Monday and went well, so it’s time to go.”

With such good breeding credentials, Hassall could easily keep her in retirement but the way she was going was too good to ignore.

“I wouldn’t risk her if I didn’t think she was worth it, she’s just giving some good dogs a flogging at home - where she can get to at the track, I don’t know but the journey starts Monday,” he said.

“It’s exciting, but it’s scary too; she means so much to me and you just want her to do well.

“I couldn’t even watch her slip on Monday I was that nervous, so I’m going to have to get myself together come race day.

“It’s little steps, I don’t mind at all if she wins or loses as long as she can go out enjoy her racing and come home safe.”

Albion Park

RACING QUEENSLAND Country Cup F 520m

Before COVID-19 restrictions hit, Hassall was looking at races like the Perth Cup as possible targets for the bitch and wanted a reliable travel companion for his kennel star.

That’s when Hassall stumbled across Nerve Settler, who’s been a star since he began racing up north two months ago.

“I was after another dog to travel with Elegant Eleanor and I saw an ad for Nerve Settler on Greyhound Data, I looked up her form and it was quite good The Meadows provincial win really stood out,” Hassall said.

“I pulled the trigger and bought her but ironically her and Elegant Eleanor can’t stand each other, but she’s beautifully bred out of Barcia Bale and Ash Flash and I think she’ll make a really nice brood bitch - at 31.5 kilos she’s a lovely size and should make some really nice pups.”

For now, Nerve Settler is doing her best work on the track as a multiple Bundaberg 550-metre winner and an Albion park 520 metre winner two starts ago.

“She’s a wonderful kennel dog, she won’t do anything until I get up and get the lead,” Hassall said.

“She stands there while you put the lead and collar on her, goes to sleep in the car before you get out of the front gate and is the same in the kennels when you get to the track, doesn’t matter what race she’s in she’ll come out and perform at her best.

“Her best trait as a race bitch is the way she hits the line, she did it when winning at Albion Park and again yesterday when beating Flying Jet at Bundaberg.

“She almost threw it away wanting to run around him rather than taking the rail but she was still flying at the end of the 550 metres.”

Bundaberg

EAST END HOTEL 550m

Hassall has stayed busy without Elegant Eleanor on the track by picking up Kiki’s Mum off fellow trainer Gary Mitchell, and the bitch making a winning debut to give Hassall a double at Bundaberg yesterday.

“Gary Mitchell brought Kiki’s Mum to me about two weeks ago, she’d done her fair share of racing at Albion Park but I think Gary picked her up from his old Wagga connections where she was racing over the short course,” Hassall said.

“She’s a bit of a timid little girl she doesn’t like being crowded for room, so we put the blinkers on her.

“We want her to accelerate rather than ease when she gets in between a few dogs, it’s just a confidence thing at the moment.

“I think she’ll take enormous confidence off that first win, I spoilt her rotten afterwards which they like when they’re new to the kennel and I think there’s plenty of improvement still there as she just wanted to run off on the home bend and still went three tenths quicker than her trial.”

The first re-enforcement after the injury was former Selena Zammit dog Prince Cosmic, who was brought to Hassall by good mate and prominent owner Peter Hare.

“Prince Cosmic’s owner Peter Hare only lives about half an hour away from me up here and I’ve known him for several years as a bookmaker at Townsville and Rockhampton - he’s owned plenty of good greyhound too,” Hassall said.

“I rang Peter up because I was struggling with numbers to race and he said ‘how many do you want?’ and I said ‘two would be good.’

“He called me back ten minutes later and gave me Prince Cosmic who came in fantastic condition from Selena Zammit and another who’s yet to start.

“I owe a lot to Peter and Selena for their respective roles.”

The dog hit the ground running at his new home track and is set for his first run at Albion Park under Hassall’s eye on Wednesday’s card.

“He’s taken to the 550 metres at Bundaberg a treat, I think he’s won about three Free For All races up here now and I thought it was time to give him a shot at Albion Park this Wednesday,” he said.

“Mick Zammit had told me when I got him he would win races in Brisbane and possibly even get to the 600 metres, where he might be a bit more suited as he likes to track a couple of lengths off the fence - he’ll have to be at his best from box five tomorrow.

“When there’s no race coming up for them at Bundaberg on a Monday, I’m always happy to jump in the car and come down to Albion Park rather than leaving them sitting in the kennels at home.”