The writing has been on the wall for some time now, but Paw Licking has finally broken through for a deserved Group race victory, beating a great field in the Group 2 Lion Quality Products Traralgon Cup on Friday night.
Paw Licking started his career under the care of Allen Lang in New South Wales, where he was a prolific winner around Casino’s 411-metre and 484-metre journeys, as well as amassing several wins around the 420 metres of Lismore. But rather than travelling north like so many others from that area do, Paw Licking was sent to the Pearcedale Kennels of Kel Greenough in Victoria for a tilt at the Healesville Cup in February of this year.
Settling in to his new surroundings immediately, the son of Elite State and Kingsbrae Di made his first Group final at his first Victorian start, before finishing down the track behind El Brooklyn in the frantic straight-track final.
A nice win at Warragul in 22.50 followed, before it was back on the big stage when he qualified for the Bendigo Cup in March by knocking off Veyron Bale in the fastest heat time of 23.59. However again he found the competition a bit too tough in the final, finishing fifth behind Jason Thompson’s Ronan Izmir.
Barely a month later and a third Group 2 final beckoned, courtesy of another Best-Of-Night heat run, this time in 25.16 around the 450-metres of Warrnambool’s iconic course. While it still wasn’t the elusive victory Kel would have been seeking, Paw Licking was runner-up this time around, beaten again by Ronan Izmir who was well and truly hitting peak of form.
It all led up to Friday’s Traralgon Cup final where once again Paw Licking was to start with the fastest qualifier tag, and to be sent out as a $1.90 favourite as a result. Lining up in box five, things were made slightly easier when NSW visitor Transcend Time was a late scratching, leaving a vacant box directly next door. General Destini from the all-conquering Emilio Rinaldi kennel was expected to be the main danger according to punters in box two, and they were spot on with their prediction, as those two dogs would eventuate as ones battling for the prize at the business end of the race.
Showing no signs of the big race jitters that had bugged the dog earlier in the year, Paw Licking flew out as per usual and lead the field past the post the first time. Gold Town for Peter Hunt was also fast to begin from box three, but couldn’t cross General Destini who was punching up to sit behind the leader once it crossed to the fence. From the Wheeler brigade, Desalle Bale had begun well but was caught wide and was soon sent backwards, while Yoda Bale was midfield from the cherry draw.
From there on it was a matter of whether Paw Licking would come back to the pack, with General Destini the only one looking able to steal the title. While the margin lessened in the concluding stages, Paw Licking had done enough to run them off their legs stopping the clock at 29.41 with a length and a quarter to spare.
General Destini remained in second spot ahead of Gold Town and Peter Rocket, who was never really able to work into the race from box eight.
The $42,000 first prize edges the career earnings of Paw Licking towards the $100,000 mark and takes the overall wins tally to 18 from only 25 outings.
The fact that his first Group title was over more ground (513 metres) than any other start suggests that maybe a trip to the city tracks isn’t too far away. This is ironically where Ronan Izmir was racing during the Traralgon Cup series, at Sandown against some of the stronger chasers in Free-For-All company, where he managed to hold on by an eyelash over Oomoo in 29.74.
It should create an interesting rematch between the two dogs if they happen the head towards The Meadows for the Maturity Classic in July or even the Victorian stage of the National Sprint Championships kicking off in August.