Poke The Bear clocked a faster time in his heat win than any previous final winner of the Paws Of Thunder and it seems only bad luck can stop this brilliant dog on Saturday night at Wentworth Park.
Poke The Bear (pictured) staged an astonishing last-to-first performance to win his heat of the Group 1 Ladbrokes Paws Of Thunder last week in 29.55sec, .01sec quicker than the 520m race record set by Iona Seven in the 2014 final.
Poke The Bear has box eight in Saturday night's Paws Of Thunder final but trainer Seona Thompson and her husband Jason are pleased with that draw, while Poco Dorado's connections are equally satisfied with their greyhound's rails draw in the Summer Distance Plate.
"Poke The Bear will run in a straight line to the first turn so while box eight is not ideal, we would prefer to see him drawn out there than in the middle where he could strike trouble,'' Jason Thompson said.
Poke The Bear's arch rivals Miss Splendamiro and Caitlyn Keeping will be backed to beat the champion in the Paws Of Thunder.
Caitlyn Keeping led throughout to win her Thunder heat in 29.84 while Miss Splendamiro, after disputing the early lead with Benali, hit the front rounding the first turn before winning in 29.73sec.
Shayne Stiff, whose partner Charmaine Roberts trains Caitlyn Keeping, is banking on their greyhound being the pacemaker and getting away with a winning break in the early stages.
"In her heat Caitlyn Keeping jumped smartly from box five and recorded a first split of 5.44 so if she that she should lead early,'' Stiff said.
"Her problem is that while she was formerly a foolproof beginner, she now only comes out running in six out of 10 starts.
"So Caitlyn Keeping is going to have to be on her best behaviour when the boxes lift on Saturday night.
"Of course if Miss Splendamiro or Poke The Bear is sitting just behind Caitlyn Keeping on the back straight they will beat her because our bitch can't go any quicker than 29.80 and they can both go much faster.
"Poke The Bear's effort to give a powerful dog like Buck's Future a big start and a beating in his heat was awesome, but if he misses the jump from box eight I think he could be in bother in the final.''
Miss Splendamiro has box six but trainer David Geall said he would have preferred drawn closer to the rails in the final.
"I wanted anywhere between one and five but Miss Splendamiro is such a keen competitor she still has a great chance,'' Geall said.
"At The Meadows on December 29, Not Available, a particularly strong finisher, jumped in front but Miss Splendamiro refused to let him lead at the first turn and won.
"She did the same thing in her Paws Of Thunder heat when she was caught outside of Benali, another very strong dog, approaching the first turn.''
Unluckiest in the seven Paws Of Thunder heats was Cosmic Bonus, who was skittled at the start and came from last to finish second in Cash Point's 30.10sec heat.
Cosmic Bonus will be favourite to pick up a $15,000 "consolation'' prize by winning Saturday night's The Collerson, a 520m listed race.
"He has box seven and that suits him because Cosmic Bonus has won five races from that draw,'' trainer Evelyn Harris said.
Best bet on Saturday looks to be the highly talented and vastly under-rated Gunnell, who has box one in race two, a 520m fifth grade.
Gunnell has had a win and two desperately unlucky placings from four Wentworth Park appearances, despite being badly positioned in wide draws on each occasion.
Best Bet Gunnell (race 2)
Best Value Cosmic Bonus (race 6)
Quaddie race 5 - 6, 2, 4
Race 6 - 7, 1
Race 7 - 1, 2, 4
Race 8 - 8, 6, 4
$20 for 37.03%