Pantera Nera (pictured), Victoria’s lone invitee for Thursday night’s Group 1 Dapto Megastar, first came to Gavin Burke’s attention during the Puppy Auction Classic at the same venue last November.
It was after Pantera Nera ran third in Dapto’s Classic that he was purchased by Burke and while he “wasn’t cheap” it’s proven to be a very wise investment indeed.
Pantera Nera has developed into one of Australia’s finest sprinters, winning 16 of his 22 starts since relocating to Victoria, highlighted by dual Group 2 victories in the Traralgon Cup and the Black Top at Newcastle’s Gardens at his most recent appearance.
WATCH: Pantera Nera take out the Group Two Traralgon Cup in June from box six.
Pantera Nera will now return to Dapto on Thursday, chasing Group 1 glory in the semi-invitation Megastar, as one of five star sprinters seeded directly into the race, with the remaining three contenders qualifying via the prelude.
“He wasn’t a cheap buy but thankfully he’s been a good one!” Gavin Burke said.
“We watched the Dapto Puppy Classic series last year and targeted about five dogs that we were interested in buying, not knowing whether they were for sale or not, and as it turned out we were able to buy Pantera Nera.
“The dog has always had ability but he’s just blossomed with a bit of maturity and every time we’ve raised the bar he’s stepped up to the mark.”
Pantera Nera hasn’t been back to Dapto since last year’s Puppy Classic but he comes into the Megastar having won his last six starts and nine of his last ten, with Burke electing to give him a well-deserved let-up after winning the Black Top on August 26.
WATCH: Pantera Nera win the Black Top last start from box eight at The Gardens.
“I think he showed in the Black Top that he was starting to feel the effects of a pretty hard campaign. He was a bit jaded but we managed to get through it,” Burke explained.
“I’m mindful of not overtaxing him so we gave him a bit of a rest before the Megastar because there’s quite a bit coming up between now and Christmas, more so in Melbourne, with the Geelong Cup, Topgun and Melbourne Cup. If he comes through Thursday we’ll probably go to Adelaide for the Cup heats next week.”
Pantera Nera will exit box seven in the Megastar with Burke rating rails runner Ritza Lenny, last start winner of the Group 2 Bob Payne at Wentworth Park, as his main threat.
“I’m as confident as you can be in terms of a Group 1 race,” Burke said.
“The dog doesn’t know how to run a bad race and I wouldn’t be going up there if I didn’t think he could win. My ideal scenario is that he jumps and runs and puts four or five on them, similar to the Traralgon Cup. It’ll take a very good dog to beat him from there.”
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