Paw Licking will return to the state where it all began when he lines up in a heat of the Group 2 PPK Mining Maitland Gold Cup (450m) on Thursday afternoon.
The Kel Greenough-trained chaser may have made his name while in Victoria, but in fact made his first 12 career starts in the Northern Rivers region of NSW – where he set new track records at Casino and Lismore – before being sent interstate.
Since being based in Victoria, Paw Licking has become one of the best one-turn greyhounds in Australia culminating in three Group race wins last year, including the Group 1 Hobart Thousand.
Greenough is cautiously optimistic Paw Licking can add to that tally during the $40,000-to-the-winner Maitland Gold Cup series.
“The distance at Maitland should suit him but it’s always a concern whether or not they’ll handle the trip interstate. He’s done it successfully down to Hobart, so I think everything should be okay.” he said.
“He trialled around Maitland after the final race on Thursday last week. It wasn’t brillant. He ran 25.16 but they tell me the track dries out a lot after a meeting and it was also his first look at the track.
“He normally finds a little bit after he’s seen a track and in better conditions I’m expecting him to improve this week.
“He seems to go better on the 450m tracks. When he goes up to 500m, that’s where he is most vunerable.”
Paw Licking will jump from box four in the fourth heat of the cup, a draw that does not bother Greenough.
“Obviously you want the better boxes, but a dog like him who’s won out of every box can handle any draw without an issue,” he said.
“As long as he can get out in the clear, he will be able to show his pace.”
Paw Licking will line up alongside some competitive chasers, including Yo Cool Maxie (box six) who is coming off a win in the Maitland Gold Collar. The four year old is facing his biggest test for some time, but given the form he is in cannot be discounted.
There will be seven heats of the Maitland Gold Cup in total with the winner of each and the fastest runner-up qualifying for the next week’s final.
Last year’s version of the cup was made famous as the launching pad for the career of Black Magic Opal, who not only won the Maitland Cup but when on to win the Melbourne Cup later in the year.
The first heat will jump at 4.37pm on Thursday.