Mark Gatt and Kihael Kaluna on the road to Vic Peters glory

STAR sprinter Oaks Road gave trainer Mark Gatt his first Group 1 victory when he took out the 2012 Perth Cup.

Now the Thirlmere mentor is hoping that his son, Kihael Kaluna, can land him his second when he contests Saturday’s Vic Peters Classic at Wentworth Park.

Kihael Kaluna, a black dog by Oaks Road out of She’s The Goodes, is the fastest qualifier going into the $75,000-to-the-winner feature, having scored a tenacious 29.69 semi-final victory last weekend.

Stepping brilliantly from box three, Kihael Kaluna went straight to the early lead and was able to hold off a late challenge from the exciting Zambora Brockie to score by a nose on the line.

Gatt said he is expecting a bit of improvement from his speedster this week, having come into the Vic Peters series on the back of a three month spell.

“I was getting a bit worried towards the end with the other dog (Zambora Brockie) coming at us but he hung on and I think he will be spot on heading into the final,” Gatt told Australian Racing Greyhound.

“Last week was only his second 500 in about four months so I am hoping that he will be reaching his peak now.”

Kihael Kaluna, a finalist in this year’s Group 3 Magic Maiden, has raced just seven times resulting in four wins, all of which have been over the 520 metre journey at Wentworth Park.

The 29 kilogram chaser, $2.75 with Bet365 to take out the Vic Peters, was purchased earlier this year by the Australian Bloodstock Syndicate, who owned 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist, however was sidelined shortly after joining Gatt’s kennel with tonsillitis.

“Whether or not that’s why his form slipped so much I don’t know but the tonsils were definitely bothering him so we ended up taking them out and he hasn’t looked back since,” Gatt explained.

“When something is annoying you like that, especially being an athlete, you can’t perform at your best.

“Before the tonsils were out he put in a really good trial but the run following that wasn’t very good – I think what happened was that after a run they would flare right up and then he couldn’t back it up the next week.”

With two wins since resuming following his procedure, Gatt is confident that Kihael Kaluna will make the next step towards becoming a top class greyhound.

“Although he is two-and-a-half years old he is very inexperienced and he is still a baby in racing terms- once he gets a bit more racing under his belt then he will really learn what racing is all about and hopefully he turns into a very nice dog for us.

“We picked him based on his sections – I think he has Group 1 class sections – hopefully he can come out this week and win to prove us right.

“This dog is very much like Oaks Road in his build and the way he chases – he is a very hard chaser – but this dog probably has a bit more speed, whereas Oaks Road had a bit more strength.”

Kihael Kaluna will step from box three in this week’s decider, with his main rivals Blazin’ Bomber ($3.50), Black Bear Lee ($7.50) and Zambora Brockie ($3.50) drawn in boxes four, five and eight respectively.

Gatt says his chances in the race will all depend on what he does at box rise.

“Initially I was happy with the draw, but when I had a good look at the field I noticed that the dog drawn inside us (Black’s A Marble) is a good beginner and wants to get off the track, so he really needs to begin as good as he did last week to be able to get to the rail first.

“If he begins like he did last week then he should lead and then it will be a matter of if he can hang on or not, but I am sure that if he gets to the front then he will give us a good show.”

Watch Kihael Kaluna scoring a gritty semi-final win from box three:

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