Nicole’s love affair with her dogs is forever

By TERRY WILSON

NICOLE Connell has seven kids aged from 11 to 33, four grandkids and a handful of greyhounds, yet there is no splitting of loyalties between them – she shares the love around equally.

Nicole dotes on them all with an unmatched, burning passion.
If there is a more caring, dedicated and hard-working person in the greyhound racing scene we’d love to meet them.
The word fanatical lurks in the back of the mind when it comes to describing Nicole’s love of the hounds, which she prepares at Ormeau, in the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor.
As readers will discover, Nicole’s world revolves almost entirely around family and greyhounds.
Yet she always finds time to lend a helping hand to rival trainers on race days, ever willing to lead a chaser to the boxes or be in the catching pens at a race’s end.
Nicole does it all at the age of 55 – and insists her love for greyhounds will go to the grave with her. That’s how much she feels for her animals.
“That’s it, that’s me, I’ll go to the grave with a leash in my hand,” the blonde said.
“I do it because I want to. I live and breathe the dogs and I can never see myself without the dogs. The day I’m not in the dogs I’ll be in a coffin.”
Capalaba’s racing manager Erin Cameron says people like Nicole are like hens’ teeth – very difficult to find.
“Nicole has always been prepared to help anyone out, she is selfless and her passion for the industry runs deep,” Erin said.
When Chase caught up with the blonde, with her trademark long ponytail, we discovered where her love for greyhound racing began.
Chase: When did you first start with the dogs?
NC: I used to help my dad Kevin when he was at Canungra. He had dogs when I was a kid and I used to walk the streets with them. And I used to help Tommy Tzouvelis at the Gold Coast track.
Chase: You are now based at Ormeau. When did you move there?
NC: I’ve been here for 15 years now and I operate only a small team, although I train for other people as well, like the Elsons (Cyndie and Bill), Tim Martin and John Catton.
Chase: Can you remember your first greyhound and its name?
NC: I inherited a dog called Pebble Bay and it won his first start for me at Ipswich. It was owned by Lyn Noble. He was a handy little boy and won a few races for me. He was a good, honest chaser (may we at Chase suggest that is much like the trainer herself)?
Chase: Everybody in the industry knows just how much the greyhounds mean to you. We have heard that your interest in them is extreme, to the point where at one stage you spent more than a week sleeping beside an injured dog’s kennel?
NC: That was It Ain’t Billy, my favourite greyhound. In all honesty he was the best greyhound I’ve had. He was given to me by the Elsons, but he was a big handful and very hard to box. Yet we managed to get him to the (G1) Brisbane Cup final in February of 2021. (It Ain’t Billy ran sixth behind Shima Shine at odds of $101).
Unfortunately he is getting over a bad injury that could end his career. I first thought it was a broken leg, but we found out that he ripped all the muscle off the bone down near a knee. He was bleeding internally and was literally fighting for his life.
When it happened I was really concerned and I slept for 10 nights on a foldaway bed outside his kennel
Chase: Nicole, you are very noticeable with your long, blonde ponytail as your trademark. Are you a true blonde?
NC: I’m actually a brunette. I’ve always loved long hair and decided one day to go blonde. Why? I thought blondes might have more fun. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, do they?) I don’t know.
Chase: We also understand that you have a caring tradition of wishing any greyhound you box a special Godsend with a loving peck on their heads before they start.
NC: Even if the dog isn’t mine I kiss it on the head and wish them a safe journey, then I box them.
Chase: And you have definitely never stopped helping out others in this regard have you? And you have handled some very good greyhounds as well.
NC: It’s in my blood, my life’s in greyhounds and I can’t thank my Dad enough for getting me into this sport.
I used to handle Cyndie’s Magic at Albion Park and Maggie Moo Moo. I boxed her nine times for Darren Johnson and she had seven wins and two seconds. She’s very special for me.
Chase: So you are always very busy on race days and nights. Do you get reimbursed by trainers?
NC: Some do, but I couldn’t care less if they don’t. I have helped out a lot of trainers and one day at Capalaba I led down a dog in every race. I just love it.
Chase: So tell us a bit more about your times away from the greyhounds. Things like where you were born, raised and other things in your life.
NC: I was educated at the Star Of The Sea school on Marine Parade in Southport and I was heavily involved in basketball. I used to play the sport and I was also a referee at Logan, but I started going to the tracks more and more.
Chase: Do you get into any other sports?
NC: I love my sport and I love to watch the footy (rugby league). My favourite team is the Brisbane Broncos and of course Queensland in the Origins, but my favourite player was Greg Inglis, who was not from the Broncos.
I will say that I can get cranky when the game is on and we’re getting beaten. My daughter tells me the referees can hear me through the television. I do get very excited.
Chase: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who was it from?
NC: John Dart has been one to give me terrific advice. I once thought along the  lines of I’d always be helping people at the track and there were periods of thinking I was not good enough to be a trainer, but John turned that around. He encouraged me and always told me I was a very good trainer.
Chase: What lies ahead of Nicole Connell, the woman who admits that greyhound racing is like a drug for her – she is completely addicted to it?
NC: I will never, never get out of them, no way I could ever be out of them.
At the moment I don’t have the facility to breed greyhounds, but one day down the track I’d love to breed my own. And on my bucket list is to win a Group race. I’d love to win a Group race no matter what level it is. That is the ultimate dream I have.
Right now I have two Zambora Brockie-Daisy Dreams pups that I bought from Darren Johnson. I like the look of them, there is something about them.
Chase: Do you have any other jobs away from being a mum, a grandmum and a trainer?
NC: No. I used to work in a butcher shop with Dad and at a gym, but I survive.
I am very definitely an independent woman who loves a couple of Bundy rums and socialising.
Chase: What disappoints you most about the industry?
NC: I don’t get involved too much. But one thing is I’d like someone to have a track in my area for many trainers to free gallop the dogs. I think that if you constantly take dogs to the track they get injuries, so I like to let them free gallop and enjoy the run.

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