ON December 2 at Sandown Park a greyhound named Elle Gazelle finished well beaten in a heat of the Laurels, but her name brought back memories of the ‘original’ El Gazelle (slightly different spelling), one of the best sprinters ever to set paw on the long straights of Harold Park.
Bred, owned and trained by Zelma O’Connell, El Gazelle was a fawn dog whelped in February 1971 by The Smoother out of Zell’s Babe. He showed a lot of ability early on and had his first race up the Wyong straight on June 3, 1972. The 16-month-old won by an easy three lengths over the 302m trip.
Three successive seconds at Wyong and Cessnock and a fourth at Wyong followed before El Gazelle had his first city start on August 19. The 18-month-old sprinter drew box seven over 457 metres at Harold Park and scored by four lengths in a fair 26.9.
He followed with a three lengths victory over the smart Grand Metal at Cessnock over 457m nine days later before running only fifth at his next Harold Park performance.
Zelma O’Connell then entered El Gazelle for the 466-metre Daphne Smith Memorial series at Singleton and her young charge did everything right to score by five lengths in 27.0, the best of the night.
In the Daphne Smith Memorial Final, El Gazelle was poorly drawn in box five and was fourth to the home corner before coming home solidly to be beaten a length by the brilliant Benny McGrath with Grand Metal third.
After coming home strongly to win by a half head at Harold Park at his next start, El Gazelle was elevated to top grade at Cessnock on October 16 but could only finish last of the six starters, behind city winner Radiant Missile.
The 20-month-old was entered for the Vic Peters Memorial Classic at Harold Park but found trouble in his semi-final, running sixth behind Grand Metal.
Four successive placings followed during November and December, a third over 537m at Richmond, second’s at Cessnock and a third at Harold Park.
El Gazelle finished 1972 having won five of his 17 starts with six seconds and two thirds. He began 1973 in explosive fashion.
On January 1, El Gazelle won in a best of the night 26.5 from box eight at Harold Park and then, just five days later, elevated to top grade he defeated Radiant Missile by five lengths in another best of the night run, 26.4.
After downing the smart Toouli by a neck in a brilliant 26.3 at Cessnock on January 15, El Gazelle returned to Harold Park and rattled off four successive Invitation Stake victories, the last of them by a head over Toouli.
Then, on February 19, El Gazelle contested an unofficial match race at Cessnock with Toouli, defeating that greyhound by two lengths in a quick 26.4.
Five days later, El Gazelle made it nine wins on end as he again defeated Toouli, this time by a length and a half in a best of the night 26.4 at Harold Park. Quality Blend was third.
Given a short let-up, El Gazelle resumed at Harold Park on March 17 but was checked at the start and could only run fifth behind Victorian sprinter The Little Gent.
He then missed the start and finished fourth behind Market Row in a Free For All at Cessnock.
The speedster bounced back to his best on April 14 when he finished too strongly to win a semi-final of the Bi-Annual Classic (now the Peter Mosman Memorial) by half a length from Dusty Trail in a best of the night 26.19.
Although drawn well in box eight for the Bi-Annual Classic final, El Gazelle had to be content with second place, beaten two lengths by Dusty Trail.
After winning up the straight at Wyong on May 12, El Gazelle had his only middle distance start just two days later, finishing a two and a half lengths third over 617 metres at Cessnock behind Market Row.
El Gazelle then injured a toe when sixth behind Woolley Wilson at Harold Park on May 26.
Turned out for just over seven weeks, El Gazelle resumed with a third over 464m at Maitland and a second in heat of the TAB Tracks Championship at Gosford (486m).
Back at Harold Park on July 28, El Gazelle defeated Silent Wonder and Woolley Wilson in 26.46 before making the final of the TAB Tracks Championship by running third in a heat at Maitland three days later.
The final of the TAB Tracks Championship was run at Harold Park on August 4 and El Gazelle recorded what would be his only feature race victory, defeating Top Farewell by three-quarters of a length.
El Gazelle won his next two starts at Harold Park, by three lengths from Market Row and four lengths from Dusty Trail on August 23 before he injured his toe yet again.
He resumed six weeks later to finish second to Dusty Trail at Cessnock but the toe injury flared up again and Zell O’Connell decided to retire him.
El Gazelle raced 41 times for 20 wins, nine seconds and five thirds and in 20 starts at Harold Park registered 14 wins (seven of them in a row), one second and one third.