Pearcedale trainer Jason Thompson holds a strong hand in all three heats of the Group 3 Warragul St Leger (460m) on Friday night.
Thompson’s ‘ace in the pack’ is Zambora Smokey, but he also has his litter brothers Zambora Lou and Zambora Lion – along with Fire Legend and Taken – engaged.
Thompson is hoping he has a ‘winning hand’ with his quality quintet but rightfully ‘played his cards close to his chest’, mindful the age-restricted series comprises several class acts – including Catch The Thief and Jeff Britton’s six-member troupe.
A winner of 17 races from 25 starts, Zambora Smokey (Box 2) will be ‘dealt up’ first for Thompson in Heat 1 (Race 6 – 8.35pm) and the ‘cards are stacked in his favour’.
The flying machine won the G2 Warrnambool Cup (450m) in May, defeating Australia’s No. 1 sprinter Simon Told Helen, and last week was a finalist in the G1 Maturity Classic at The Meadows (525m) – won by Simon Told Helen.
Zambora Smokey is undefeated in two starts at Warragul – including a near-record 25.37sec win in mid-June – and is also undefeated in two starts from Box 2.
WATCH: Zambora Smokey (6) clocks a near-record 25.37sec over 460m at Warragul on June 16.
“Smokey’s our best chance… He goes into this series top-age and with plenty of experience,” Thompson said. “He’s an exciting dog and is a last-start G1 finalist.”
Thompson also has Taken (Box 6), who has won five of his past nine starts, in Heat 1.
“He’s well suited out wide and has a good record at Warragul (two wins from four starts). But it would be a surprise if he beat Zambora Smokey.”
Thompson also has two chances in Heat 2 (Race 7 – 8.54pm) – Fire Legend (Box 2) and Zambora Lion (Box 4).
Fire Legend boasts a 50% winning strike rate (14 wins from 28 starts) and has recorded a slick 25.59sec PB at Warragul, while powerhouse Zambora Lion has a smart 25.76sec PB to his credit.
“Fire Legend is desperate for the inside and is without doubt my best hope in this heat… However, Zambora Lion is very honest and is coming back to an age-restricted event. He’s been racing against strong fields in town and if there’s trouble, he could get a lucky run.”
Rising star Zambora Lou (Box 2) is Thompson’s sole representative in Heat 3 (Race 8 – 9.12pm).
Zambora Lou has won 10 races from 16 starts – most in blistering times! But he has to contend with another potential champion in Catch The Thief (Box 6), who recently won the G2 WA Derby (520m) at Cannington and was a G1 Vic Peters Classic finalist (520m) at Wentworth Park. He’s won 13 races from 23 starts.
“To draw box two is a bonus; he’s won his past two and is full of confidence. He’s got plenty of upside and is now getting the start right. Obviously Catch The Thief is exceptional, but it’s not a one-way street as there are some smart types in this field.”
The $25,000-to-the-winner G3 Warragul St Leger will be held on August 8 and if Thompson can get his ‘gang of five’ into the final, it certainly will be a training ‘royal flush’.
Pawnote: Thompson’s wife, Seona, landed the 2018 Warragul St Leger with Aston Kimetto.