VINEYARD trainer Dean Swain went into the 2014 Group 1 Futurity series with an underdog and came out victorious when Rue De Kahn scored a thrilling victory, giving the father of three his first win at the highest level.
This year he is hoping for a similar tale with the consistent Ella Has Class engaged in Saturday night’s semi-finals at Wentworth Park.
The daughter of Bekim Bale and Bralyn Ella ran a tough second behind Spring Leaf in her heat last week, handling herself extremely well in the field from box eight.
Swain said he was happy with the performance.
“She handled herself beautifully last week,” he said. “She only just missed getting cleaned up by the five and even when she got across she was still posted wide and couldn’t get down on the track. By that time Spring Leaf had gone to the lead.
“Spring Leaf is very strong, she ran down My Boy Snoop in a Paws of Thunder heat so I knew I wasn’t going to pick her up, but it was still a really gutsy effort. This bitch has a real lot of ability, it wouldn’t surprise me anything she does.”
Ella Has Class, which will be handled by Dean’s wife Danielle on Saturday, will meet Spring Leaf again in the semi-finals. The Victorian raider has drawn out wide in box seven while Swain’s bitch is drawn favourably in box four.
“I love her in the four, I think her perfect box is the three, but I’m not fussed because she uses a little bit of the track,” he said.
“There isn’t a great deal of pace from the three (Kurmond Goddess) and one (Weblec Belle) and I think she has as much pace as Assertive Bella (box two). Plus, I won the Futurity last year off the four so it is my lucky box.
“If she goes through the first turn in the first three untouched, she will qualify and that’s all we are looking to do.”
Swain said he wouldn’t be surprised to see her contend, drawing comparisons between Ella Has Class, a winner of six from 21, and Rue De Kahn.
“Ella can run amazing times when she is left alone, but it is a strong Futurity series so I am just hoping she can get through to the final,” he said. “It would not surprise me to see her win the whole series because that is the opinion I have of her.
“Ella Has Class is more forward than Rue De Kahn was this time last year. Rue De Kahn went into the series with just six or seven starts and it was at The Gardens, a track where you just lead and win, Wenty is completely different.
“Ella Has Class has come into the series with a really strong preparation, she has raced the best dogs all the way through her career. She is going into the race 10 times more credentialled than what Rue De Kahn was and she can probably run better times.
“With that being said, Rue De Kahn has an incredible amount of class, she can lift and compete against the top dogs and she has proven that time and time again. Ella Has Class hasn’t done that yet, she has run some good races, but now she needs to lift and win.”
While it may be a tough assignment for the black bitch, Ella Has Class is very special to connections and she will have plenty of supporters track-side to cheer her on, including her owner Zachary Kessanis.
“It is the first greyhound that Zac has owned,” Swain said. “His fiancé picked her out at the Dapto Puppy Auction and while she was getting reared his fiancé passed away. She never got to see her race so Zac’s whole family and his fiancé’s family always go to watch her race and it is always very emotional.
“It is a big thing for them, they absolutely love her, and it gives me a great amount of pleasure to be training her for them.
“Every race she wins they are all over the fence crying and I walk back from the boxes with a soccer ball in my throat – I have never experienced anything like it.
“After the race they all crowd around her at the kennels to take photos and to kiss and cuddle her. She loves it and she thrives on it.
“For all those reasons I really want her to win every time she goes around.”
Swain also explained what it would mean to win the Group 1 Futurity two years in a row.
“Winning it last year enabled me to train greyhounds full-time, it gave me a good boost and it enabled me to get some recognition as a trainer so then I could get some more dogs to train.
“The thrill of winning it is indescribable, I nearly fainted last year. The trainers that have won a lot of them say that they get used to it, I could never get used to it.
“To win it again would be incredible.”
Three semi-finals of the Group 1 National Futurity and Derby will be held at Wentworth Park on Saturday night before the finals on February 7, both offering $75,000 to the winner.