When South Australian trainer Ray Murray was deciding whether to target the first-ever Group Listed SEN National Straight Track Championship with the injury-plagued Panhandle Slim, he called on the advice of one of the best in the business.
While Panhandle Slim, the winner of 18 from 28, has spent the majority of his career in SA, he had a stint in Victoria with champion mentor Jason Thompson before injury interrupted his promising career.
“He was sent home after he broke down with two torn stopper tendons,” owner/breeder Ray Murray explained.
“We were getting him ready to race again but then he got hurt in a trial at Angle Park so we had to give him some more time off. Then when we got him back again I saw this race being advertised.
“I thought it would be a good lead-up to the Adelaide Cup but I didn’t think he was really a straight track dog so I gave Jason (Thompson) a call.
“Jason said he’d trialled at Healesville a few times and gone well so I decided to aim him at it.”
Panhandle Slim will bring a deceptive picket-fence form-line into his Victorian return, having won his last six starts; however the six wins have come over an 11-month period.
Murray has been delighted with Panhandle Slim’s two starts since resuming after five months on the sidelines, winning heat and final of the SA Straight Track series at Murray Bridge in 19.23s and 19.18s respectively.
After drawing box one for Sunday afternoon’s intriguing showdown Panhandle Slim is on the third line of TAB’s market at $7, the shortest of the interstate visitors.
“He’s come back a treat and done a real good job in his two wins at Murray Bridge because he hadn’t been on a racetrack since he was injured,” Murray said.
“He’d only been free galloping up my straight so you would expect with natural improvement he’d keep picking up with each run.
“He’s a great little dog and he’s always a chance.
“I also think Fantastic Axel, which gave us a scare last-start in the South Australian Final, will be a better dog out in box eight.
“’I bred Panhandle Slim and also raced his father (Kalden Komoto) and my son, Troy, trained the mother (Sometimes Speedy), so we know the family pretty well!”