Country Cup double up?

CHAMPION chaser Pantera Nera is in hot pursuit of another country crown on the back of his Traralgon Cup triumph at Glenview Park on Saturday.

Hazelwood North hobby trainer Gavin Burke scored a maiden group level victory with the speedster in the cup final, worth $47,000 to the winner, and is gearing the gun greyhound for Sunday’s Bendigo Cup heats.

The son of Milldean Panther and Go Jessie’s Girl led the Traralgon final from start to finish after jumping well from box six to hold off Demon Bale by half-a-length in 30.19 seconds.

After 25 years in the greyhound game Burke was thrilled to score a first group level win on his adopted home track, having moved to Hazelwood North about three years ago.

“We were ecstatic, my partner and myself; we’ve been in them (dogs) for a long time,” Burke said.

“It was a big week and obviously a good result. It was nice to get among the big races and actually have good dog who was able to produce the goods on the night.”

Now targeting a second country cup, Pantera Nera will need to negotiate a change in distance coming back from the 525 metre Traralgon race to Bendigo’s 425m heats.

As a good leader with lightning pace through the middle splits, Pantera Nera may have the scope to score another big win.

“It’s probably a big ask for the dog to come back from 500m to 425m. The reason for the decision was he’s very quick early,” Burke said.

“When you get up into the top echelons of group racing there’s a few other dogs around that are probably stronger than him over the 500s, but there wouldn’t be many that go as quick as him over 460 to 480.

“We’re hoping he comes into calculations… he just jumps and runs and pretty much breaks their hearts through the middle splits.

“When you set up a lead of five or six lengths running quick splits it makes it tougher for the ones behind him to get home, especially over the shorter distances.”

Pantera Nera has been exceptional for the small Burke operation since joining the kennel late last year.

After about 10 weeks of research Burke settled on the New South Wales-based dog as a purchase prospect and managed to negotiate a deal with his owners, despite him not being for sale.

A couple of debut runs at Warragul were indifferent before Burke discovered the dog’s bloodwork was awry, and after a short break he began performing as expected.

Pantera Nera has since won some nine of 14 races, taking his career record to 13 wins from 28 starts with $76,162 in prize money.

“We went after him purely because he had the pace early and I thought we’d need that here (in Victoria) to be competitive,” Burke said.

“It was a bit of a risk at first for us; as it turns out we’ve done the right thing and the dog has produced the goods.”

The former Keysborough resident has been a regular at Traralgon over the past two decades, even more-so since moving to the area.

With some extra space for the dogs, Burke has bred a winner at his Hazelwood North home and continues to enjoy racing at Traralgon.

“Over the 25 years you go where you think your dogs can win. We used to race at the old (Traralgon) track and we do most of our trialling and work at Traralgon because it’s eight minutes up the road,” Burke said.

“Getting a bit older now we bought the property to set ourselves up a bit better in terms of working the dogs and everything like that; it’s been a good transition and we love it up here.”

The new-look Glenview Park was just the right circuit for Pantera Nera.

Its narrow profile and familiarity among local dogs played into the Traralgon Cup breakthrough, according to Burke.

“I would say Traralgon is a track that does benefit the local dogs and the dogs who have raced there a lot because it’s not a big, roomy track… it’s a big advantage if you’ve raced here a few times,” he said.

“It is a track that suits frontrunners.

“He’s an exceptional dog and they don’t come around every day, so we’re enjoying the ride.”

The Bendigo Cup heats will be held on Sunday.