Panama Pepper moves up WA ranks for Steve Withers

Panama Pepper was an impressive winner by nearly five lengths in the $28,500 (405m) WA Greyhounds Good Friday Cup in a time of 22.32 seconds. (Photo: provided)

His two-year-old son was a convincing winner by nearly five lengths in the $28,500 WA Greyhounds Good Friday Cup, but coach Steve Withers isn’t getting carried away.

The winner of last year’s golden Easter egg with Tommy Shelby knows how to look after his racers – and right now the best thing for Panama Pepper is to keep spinning at racetracks across Australia western.

The young runner from Withers showed good maturity and common sense for his age to cross Turbo Fun (for Lexia Isaac) and win from the inside after starting from the eighth box during the open company function from last Friday evening.

“It was a nice little race and he’s a nice dog. It was tough from the eighth box and he did everything right,” Withers told, his runner clocking 22.32 seconds over the 405m course.

“We thought he would be against it because they are quite talented dogs in a final.

“Box eight gives everyone else the first chance to get a clean run on the inside.

“From there, you need a bit of luck. He’s progressing through the class – he’s just a young dog. He only had (17) starts.

“It was his first foray into open class business and he did quite well in a tough box.

“It’s the highlight of his career so far.”

Off the back of his 10th and best win of his budding 17-start career, Withers will keep Panama Pepper hard at work against other young riders.

From there, he’ll let his young star hunter decide where he wants to go.

“He’s just going to keep hitting and working on his notes. Everything can change very quickly, so we’re going to look after him and let him take us on the journey where he wants to be,” Withers said.

“We can’t look too far with him. He’s not really a mature old dog.

“We’re just going to let him roll from week to week, and make sure we take care of him and keep him healthy and happy.

“We want to let him take the journey he wants to take us on.”

Withers has the same level of care for the other 10 dogs on his farm.

“We have a fantastic team here at the moment. I wouldn’t have thought we would have much impact on the premiership (WA) just because we run a very small team,” he said.

“I only manage 11 kennels. We are satisfied with the way we manage our operation. We’re just focusing on the team we have, and we’ll try to keep our strike rate nice and tidy.

“We want to give our dogs the best chance to be who they want to be, and they can choose their path from there.”

It has now been just over a year since Withers felt the ultimate sense of satisfaction after overseeing Tommy Shelby’s 1.5 length win in the 2021 Golden Easter Egg Final at Wentworth Park.

And he still has goosebumps over what happened.

“It was a highlight. It’s one of the biggest races in the world for greyhound racing,” Withers said.

“It’s something I never thought I’d get the chance to do.”

The triumph didn’t come without sacrifice, especially as it was at the height of the Covid period, when returning to Western Australia meant a mandatory quarantine period.

“We were away from home for a really long time last year. Tommy Shelby and I were basically touring following the Group 1 circuit up and down the east coast and across the country,” Withers said.

“It was a long trip. It was hard, but it was great to do things that I never thought I’d get the chance to do.

“He was a top contender. He was the dog to beat on the tour for a long time and was competitive at that level.

“Box eight made it difficult for him, but he did everything well on the night. He’s a real champion. »

After collecting over a million dollars in prize money, Tommy Shelby is now at stud and, like his race, is making an impression.

“He did everything he had to do in his career. It was time for him to change careers,” Withers said.

“He has waste on the pitch with good opportunities there for us.”

Good Friday Cup 2022 (Mandurah, 405m) – Panama Pepper (22.32)

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