PANTERA Nera will make the voyage home to Victoria on Tuesday after scoring a sensational victory in the Group 2 Launceston Cup (515m) on Monday night.
Jumping from box two, the Gavin Burke-trained dog exploded from the traps, leading by four lengths by the time he reached the post on the first occasion.
From there it was a case of times and margins, with the son of Milldean Panther and Go Jessie’s Girl charging to the line to defeat Nangar Range (box three) by six-and-one-quarter-lengths in an airborne 29.31.
For Burke, it was a relief to see his four-time group winner return to his best form after a few below-par runs at the end of last year.
“They say a change is as good as a holiday – it’s probably the case for dogs too,” Burke told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“Even though I have had enough of the boat trip over, you like to do things to mix it up for them so they don’t have to race at the same tracks all the time.
“He seemed to go off a little bit prior to running in a heat of the Ballarat Cup and we had a few issues with viruses.
“I think he has just got better and better since going over to [Tasmania] and at the moment he seems to be hitting his straps again and he is racing with great tenacity.
“His will to win, his travelling manners and his speed out of the boxes have been absolutely fantastic – you can’t fault him.”
Having purchased Pantera Nera from NSW early in his career, Burke could never have imagined just how good the 31-kilogram speed machine would become.
With career earnings now in excess of $257,000, there is just one thing that is missing from Pantera Nera’s rap sheet – a group 1 title.
“I think the dog deserves to win a group 1, but they don’t just give them out so he will have to earn it,” Burke said.
“It’s probably the only thing that alludes him at the moment, but I am hoping over the next couple of months he is lucky enough to knock one off.”
That issue could be rectified as soon as this Saturday when the brilliant chaser lines up in the Group 1 invitation-only Temlee (525m) at The Meadows.
Despite a short back-up heading into the event, Burke says he expects Pantera Nera to race well.
“Going into a race like the Temlee you have got to be at the top of your game, it’s a cracker of a field and there will be no room for any dog to make a mistake.
“He has pulled up well – his ability to bounce back and freshen up is pretty good – but we do as much as we can to help him recover – the boat trip back is overnight which works well because he can sleep on the way home like he would be doing in his kennel anyways.
“We would probably like a couple more days up our sleeve, but we will still be going into the race with confidence and knowing we are in a group 1 race but with a bit of luck we can feature.
“It would mean everything to us to win – to win a group 1 would change everything.”
The $100,000 Group 1 Temlee is race seven on the card at The Meadows this Saturday night and is set to jump at 9:22pm.
Group 1 Temlee – odds
1 – Striker Light $4.20
2 – Zambora Brockie $2.90
3 – Aston Bolero $6
4 – Pantera Nera $6.50 with Sportsbet
5 – Jesaulenko $8
6 – Worm Burner $11
7 – Lightning Frank $7.50
8 – Pepper Fire $15
9 – Shima Song $13
10 – Aqua Cheetah $9