Trained at Hazelwood North by Gavin Burke, the son of Mildean Panther and Go Jessie’s Girl comes into the feature having won his heat in 30.22 over the weekend.
The black dog missed the kick from box five, but showed enormous acceleration to hit the front in the run to the line on the first occasion, holding off a late challenge from American Monster to score by two lengths at the finish.
Despite being slowly away, Burke says he was very impressed with his chaser’s performance.
“He probably missed the start as bad as he ever has – he is usually faultless out of the boxes,” Burke told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“To his credit he pushed through to take the lead – he has got phenomenal pace when he hits the ground.
“There were a couple of unlucky dogs in his heat but he made his own luck out in front and was too good on the night.”
Pantera Nera, $7.50 with Crownbet, will move into box six for the final, with Burke content with the draw.
“I would have preferred the eight, but if he can show his usual speed and get to the lead then he is going to take a lot of running down.
“The further off the track the better for him, he has got a ton of pace but he likes a bit of room early so the less dogs on his outside the better.
“He does his best racing when he is left alone highballing out in front.
“He has got a lot of pace and that is his best attribute – his first and second splits break the field up for him and generally they have to run close to track record times to be able to pick him up.”
Pantera Nera, which is the scientific name for black panther, will come up against a quality field on Saturday night, the current favourite being Jesaulenko ($3.20) from box seven. The Terri-Maree Morris-trained dog is a track specialist and holds the record over the 525m trip, a 29.84 run which was recorded in April.
The fastest qualifier heading into the $47,000 showpiece is Eren Bale ($3.60) which has drawn box two following his dominant 29.96 victory over a gallant Allen Portland.
While it is a tough final, Burke is expecting improvement from Pantera Nera, a winner of eight of his 13 starts since coming to Victoria, heading into the race.
“He didn’t have an ideal preparation coming into the series as we gave him a bit of a let up after he ran second at Sandown last month.
“He had three runs with only about four days between each run and he was really flat and it took him a few days to come back to his bright self.
“We decided to freshen him up and he went straight into the Horsham Cup heats where he ran second behind Shared Equity.
“He probably needs to break 30 to be able to win it on Saturday night but I do think he is capable of doing so – he has broken 30 in a trial there.
“I think there is a couple of lengths improvement in him.
“One thing I know for sure going into the race is that he never leaves anything on the track – he gives 120 per cent every time he goes around so no matter what he will be out there giving it his all.”
A win would take Pantera Nera’s career record to 13 wins and 10 placings from 28 starts, while it would also see his prize money earnings rise above $76,000 – making Burke’s big risk in buying the talented speedster a masterstroke.
“We were watching the dogs coming through the Dapto Auction series and we did a lot of homework speaking with some good trainers around here to find out what kind of times they needed to be running to be competitive in Victoria.
“I went after him for the reason that he had a lot of pace and we rang up the owner and settled on a price.
“He only has to run a place in the final for us to be in front now so he was a pretty good buy.
“When we got him down here from Sydney he was really crook – his blood was off and it took us about six weeks to get him right.
“Once we sorted all that out he has just gone from strength to strength.”
“It was a pretty big risk, but sometimes you have just got to back your instincts so we did and at the moment it looks like it will pay off.
“I think he still has a lot of improvement – he is only young and I think his best racing is ahead of him.”
Group 2 Traralgon Cup – market update
Box 1 – Amelia Christa – $5
Box 2 – Eren Bale – $3.60
Box 3 – Allen Portland – $13
Box 4 – Demon Bale – $5
Box 5 – Wot Price Flash – $26
Box 6 – Pantera Nera -$7.50 with Crownbet
Box 7 – Jesaulenko – $3.20
Box 8 – Funky Pirate – $26
1st Res – American Monster – $7
2nd Res – Greysynd Chief – $51