Stepping from box eight in the second of six heats, Outside Pass carved across the field to sit on the outside of Melbourne Cup hero Ando’s Mac (box four) in the early stages.
Despite having to cover more ground, the black bitch was too slick for Ando’s Mac, slipping into top gear in the home straight to score by one length in 24.81.
Trained by Tony Apap, the daughter of Head Bound and Tina’s Show is sure to be better for the run heading into the final. Thursday’s victory was her first start since January.
She has now won 19 of her 44 starts with an additional 11 minor placings.
Jason Mackay’s Ando’s Mac was far from disgraced in defeat, with the three-time group winner also resuming from an injury-enforced spell in his heat.
All up, four of the six heats were won by interstate greyhounds on Thursday afternoon.
Heat one was taken out Tasmanian bitch Cosmic Heir which began swiftly from box four and gave nothing else a look-in, recording a slick 25.00 at her debut over the track and trip.
Trained by Patrick Ryan, the brindle and white speedster is in sensational form at present, having won seven of her last nine starts and having finished in the top three at her past 11 starts.
Heat three went the way of a local, with Pedro Cerrano (box five) upstaging some of his more fancied rivals to score in 24.89.
The John Little-trained chaser was having his second start at Maitland and showed plenty of improvement after a look at the trick, bounding into second position early before railing through to take the lead around the turn.
Once on the bunny the black dog kicked clear, crossing the line seven-and-one-quarter lengths clear of Django’s Mate (box six) and Bubble Guppy (box one).
Heat four went to Hunter Valley conditioner Terry Priest and his emerging sprinter Wild Walter. Stepping from box four, the 29-kilogram dog had the pace to lead but was joined and headed by Your Shout Punk (box one) around the turn.
Despite being headed, the son of Magic Sprite and Takeover Teddy refused to give in, hitting the lead once again in the run to the line and charging clear to score by two lengths in 25.00.
Owned by John Beattie, the talented youngster has now won seven of his 16 starts with an additional five minor placings, with all of his wins being at the Maitland track.
Victorian superstar Pantera Nera was flawless in the fifth qualifier, stepping brilliantly from box five and rolling straight to the lead.
Once out in front it was always going to be a case of times and margins, with the Gavin Burke-trained dog defeating Little Cindy (box eight) by two-and-three-quarter lengths in a fast 24.93.
Pantera Nera, a winner of $262,000 in prize money, will be searching for his 31st career win in next Thursday’s feature.
The final heat went the way of another interstate contender, with Aussie Infrared saluting for trainers Rosalyn Hume and Geoff Collins. When the lids flew open, the black dog took a few strides to get going, but quickly mustered enough pace to slip away to the lead.
Despite the best efforts of a gallant Falcon’s Fury (box one), Aussie Infrared was able to prevail to score by three-quarters-of-a-length in 24.83.
Falcon’s Fury will get the chance to redeem himself next week, qualifying for the final alongside Ando’s Mac as the two fastest seconds from the heats.
The final of the Group 2 Maitland Cup is set to be run next Thursday and offers a lucrative $40,000 winner’s cheque.
Group 2 Maitland Cup – box draw
1 – Falcon’s Fury $4.80
2 – Ando’s Mac $4 with Bet365
3 – Pantera Nera $3.80
4 – Outside Pass $10
5 – Cosmic Heir $16
6 – Wild Walter $41
7 – Pedro Cerrano $31
8 – Aussie Infrared $2.75
9 – Little Cindy $41
10 – Vancouver Star $13