THE Rob Britton-trained Lithgow Panther secured the first Group race victory of his career on Thursday night, producing a terrific run to take out the Group 3 Sir John Dillon Memorial (595 metres) at Sandown Park.
Despite a poor start, Lithgow Panther was able to hold his spot on the fence from box one as the field raced through the first turn, spotting lamplighter Secret Spell (box five) at least four lengths through the catching pen.
Down the back straight and Lithgow Panther slipped into another gear, levelling up with the leader approaching the home turn and assuming the lead in the charge towards the line.
The son of Mildean Panther and Mrs Trickett streaked clear in the straight to score by four lengths over a tiring Secret Spell, with the winner clocking a scintillating 33.90 over the middle distance trip.
NSW star No Donuts (box four) ran a solid race to finish third, with Blazin’ Bomber (box six) far from disgraced back in fourth spot.
Following the race, Britton told AustralianRacingGreyhound that he was very impressed with the performance.
“I think it was the best run I have seen from him,” he said.
“It was a quality field he was up against and he did it coming from behind, it was a very good run.
“He never left the fence, he railed through all the way and I just thought it was a really good chasing effort, and he is obviously on top of his game as he has run a personal best time too.”
Lithgow Panther has now won 19 races from 54 starts, with last night’s $25,000 winner’s cheque taking his career earnings to just under $130,000.
Britton says he plans to tackle the upcoming Group 1 Sale Cup (650 metres) series with Lithgow Panther, the heats of which kick off on December 19.
“The Sale Cup will be his next target provided he pulls up well which I think he has.
“It should be an ideal race for him – even though it is a big track the distance probably suits him down to the ground.”
Britton had a terrific night all round on Thursday, with two of his charges also qualifying for next week’s Hobart Thousand (461 metres), including Bearville Azza which recorded the fastest heat time.
The son of Lochinvar Marlow and Von’s Angel, which ran fourth in last month’s Group 1 Melbourne Cup, handled himself beautifully from box six, scoring by two and three quarter lengths in a slick 25.89.
“He didn’t come out that well but he mustered quickly and he went very good,” Britton said.
“He loves the place – before he come to us I think he was unbeaten at the track so he really relished being back there.”
Britton will also be represented in the $75,000-to-the-winner final by Above All which will be aiming to go back-to-back in the time honoured feature after taking out last year’s event in track record time.
Above All, which has been plagued with injury concerns since winning the 2014 feature, clocked a handy 26.03 when scoring in his heat with a tradesman like display, defeating local chaser Prescribe which will also progress through to the final.
“It was a good run although I am a little bit concerned – I don’t think he is the same dog he was last year at this stage.
“I would like to think that eventually he will get back to his best, but you have always got in the back of your mind that the injury has taken its toll.
“This time last year he ran quite a few lengths faster, so that tells me he isn’t quite there yet, but we are hoping that once he gets a few miles into his legs he will get back there.”
The final is set to be a ripper, with star attraction Dyna Double One booking his spot in the race with a quick 25.94 win in the last qualifier, while Brett Bravo’s Unlawful Entry was also dominant in his heat, clocking 25.95 to defeat the classy Over Limit.
The box draw for the Group 1 Hobart Thousand will be conducted on Saturday night.
Check out Lithgow Panther winning the Group 3 Sir John Dillon Memorial from box one.