After winning his heat in 29.86, Pantera Nera started as the $1.40 favourite to win his semi-final and, having drawing box six, the black dog could not have been any more impressive.
Exploding from the traps, the son of Mildean’s Panther and Go Jessie’s Girl zoomed across the pack to take the early lead, making the race a one act affair as he cruised to the line six lengths in front of Tricky Tails (box three) in a blistering 29.59.
The victory took Pantera Nera’s career record to 27 wins and 16 minor placings from 59 starts, with a triumph in next Monday’s final set to take his career earnings beyond the $257,000 mark.
The 31-kilogram speed machine will be the one to beat in the decider, with more than three tenths separating his closest rival based on the semi-final times.
One of his main competitors will be former NSW sprinter Nangar Range, a litter brother to National Derby runner-up Nangar Rock.
Prepared by Greg Schofield, the son of Primo Uno and Fancy Liza used box eight to perfection in his semi-final, staying out of trouble after a poor start and circling his competitors to slip into third spot down the back straight.
Once he balanced up the brindle dog produced a powerful run down the outside, storming down the centre of the track in the home straight to salute by three-quarters-of-a-length over Long View Belle (box four) in 29.91.
Also managing to break the 30 second barrier was Wynburn Toozie in the fourth semi-final. Starting the favourite wearing blue, Wynburn Toozie was only fairly into stride but was able to muster pace in the centre of the track, driving forward to take up the top spot in the run towards the first turn.
Once out in front her competitors were left flat-footed, with the black bitch sprinting clear to defeat Justifia (box two) in 29.92, registering her 14th career victory in the process.
The remaining semi was won by Group 1 Hobart Thousand place getter Chief Jetpilot for leading Tasmanian conditioner Ted Medhurst. The brindle dog was poorly away and was squeezed out to a clear last around the first turn before getting into a nice rhythm down the back, weaving his way through the field down the back straight.
On the home turn, Chief Jetpilot was still back in fifth spot behind a wall of runners vying for the lead, but with plenty of momentum the 35.8-kilogram powerhouse switched to the outside, storming to the lead in the shadows of the post to triumph in 30.12.
Fifteen Two (box three) was gallant in defeat, finishing a neck behind the winner, and will also progress through to the $40,000-to-the-winner showpiece.
Group 2 Launceston Cup – box draw
1 – Fifteen Two $6.50
2 – Pantera Nera $1.65
3 – Nangar Range $6.50
4 – Chief Jetpilot $6.50
5 – Tricky Tails $26
6 – Long View Belle $26
7 – Justifia $26
8 – Wynburn Toozie $8.50
9 – Diego Bale $5.50
10 – Bobby Bound $21