08/09/2012 2:16PM

Flamboro Downs: Panther Hanover on the prowl for Confederation Cup win

Lisa Photo
Panther Hanover is fresh off a 1:47 2/5 victory.

“Strike while the iron is hot,” said James “Friday” Dean, the trainer of Panther Hanover, a supplemental entry to Sunday’s Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs.

For Dean, and owner Jim Carr, the $25,000 investment is being made just days after their colt captured the Anthony Abbatiello New Jersey Classic at the Meadowlands in a stunning 1:47 2/5 mile.

“I couldn’t believe how fast they were going,” said Dean, referring to the torrid pace set by Hurrikane Kingcole in the Classic. “The middle half was :51 4/5; that had to be some kind of record. That was a very good horse he beat.”

Just a few weeks prior to sending Panther Hanover, a son of Rocknroll Hanover, to New Jersey, Dean wasn’t so sure his colt was ready for the big time.

“He’d paced in 1:50 and change against non-winners types but you never know how they’ll do,” Dean said. “Sylvain (Filion, Panther Hanover’s regular driver) thought he could go in 1:49 coming off the miles at Mohawk.”

The scene shifts north of the border for Dean and company in the Confederation Cup and it also places Panther Hanover on a half-mile track for the first time. Nonetheless, Dean and owner Carr seem willing to take a shot against a field primarily of Ontario-based three-year-old pacers.

For the owner and trainer, prior to last Saturday’s major victory there had been months of broken dreams. The colt showed extreme talent training down as a two-year-old in 2011 only to break a navicular bone and be sidelined.  Though the recovery was fairly swift, Panther Hanover entered last year’s Breeders Crown lacking any stakes experience. That combined with a luckless journey left him on the sidelines for the rich final.

“I think he would have qualified for the final,” Dean said, “But there was a breaker on the final turn who scattered the horses and we were affected. I’m not saying he could have beaten Sweet Lou or A Rocknroll Dance mind you.”

Things appeared to be improving this year on the way back to Panther Hanover’s three-year-old season.

“We made the first three payments for the North America Cup,” Dean said. That’s when soreness set in and the team was forced to regroup and look for other stakes races to point for.

Everything was far from perfect in the New Jersey Classic, as the colt finished second behind Hurrikane Kingcole and appeared no match for that rival heading into the final.

“He got on a line pretty good. We had to work on his knees and ankles before the final,” said Dean.

The difference was dramatic in the $275,000 final with Hurrikane Kingcole carving out fractions that had the pair down to the three quarters in a record setting 1:18 2/5. Panther Hanover was able to keep pace despite having never gone that kind of speed before. In the stretch, as his rival became leg weary, Panther surged to score a dynamic head victory and take home an impressive speed record.

Panther was shipped home last Sunday and according to Dean appeared a bit tired on Monday when he jogged him lightly. By Wednesday, though, the colt seemed perfect and ready for this Sunday’s first battle.

Panther Hanover will face five others in his $50,000 elimination, including Speed Again, a top two-year-old from last year who had his sophomore campaign delayed by injury.

With seven wins in 10 lifetime starts you could say Panther Hanover is a fresh horse heading into what will be two heats, should he qualify and compete in the final Sunday.

The one-two finishers in last Saturday’s Ontario Sire Stakes Gold event at Mohawk will be in Sunday’s line-up, albeit in the second elimination, a power-packed five-horse field. Michaels Power and Warrawee Needy drew posts two and three in Flamboro’s signature three-year-old pacing event. The former has been nearly perfect this season for trainer Casie Coleman. Michaels Power has won nine of 10 races worth $637,998 to owner Jeffrey Snyder in 2012. The lone defeat came in the North America Cup elimination.

Warrawee Needy has been trying to regroup and regain winning form since two taxing back-to-back miles in the North America Cup elimination and final. A winner in nine of 12 starts as a juvenile, the son of E Dees Cam has gone winless in a half dozen starts as a sophomore for trainer Carl Jamieson.

Pet Rock is another potential standout entered in the second Confederation Cup split. The runner-up in the Meadowlands Pace owns a significant half mile track victory this year having captured the $306,204 Art Rooney at Yonkers in early June in a brisk 1:51 mile effort.Virgil Morgan Jr. trains the colt for owner Frank Bellino.

Being a two-heat event, the top four horses from each elimination and one fifth place finisher will return later on the card to vie for the $481,000 top prize.