Box one has been very kind to champion Victorian trainer Jason Thompson in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Golden Easter Egg Final, which will be run at Sydney’s Wentworth Park on Saturday night.
Thompson is one of only four trainers (all Victorians) to have won NSW’s flagship event twice in its rich 30-year history and both winners – Don’t Knocka Him (2012) and Moreira (2016) – have worn the red vest to victory.
Thompson is optimistic the rails alley will again provide a decisive advantage in the $250,000 to-the-winner sprint for Black Opium, which is trained by his wife Seona.
While Black Opium, the $3.50 second elect in TAB’s market, has won both her heat (29.84sec) and semi-final (30.04sec) off box eight, Thompson wanted to draw inside for the decider and his wish was granted.
“Earlier in her career, Black Opium possibly preferred being on the outside of dogs but we wanted the red with her in this race,” Jason Thompson said.
“She’s had two starts at Wentworth Park from the pink and hasn’t handled it, even though she’s won both times.
“Her semi-final win was very good, although it was out of character with the way she normally races because she either leads or races on the speed. She did plenty wrong but still found the line.
“I reckon the red is where she needed to be to give her every chance to win the race. She’s just got to take advantage of it like she did in the heat of the Australian Cup.”
The winner of 13 of 20 starts, Black Opium, a daughter of Thompson’s 2013 Melbourne Cup hero Black Magic Opal, has been knocking on the door of a ‘major’, having finished runner-up in both the Melbourne Cup, at just her eighth start, and Australian Cup.
“She’s been thereabouts and she’s probably ready now,” Thompson said.
“She was so very young in the Melbourne Cup – she wasn’t 20 months old – but she’s been on the big stage now and shown she can handle everything that goes with it.”
Victorians have won the last nine editions of the Easter Egg and TAB’s market indicates that domination could well continue with Black Opium joined by last year’s beaten favourite Miss Splendamiro ($4.60) and fastest semi winner Blue Striker ($6.50).
Former Victorian Federal Lilly, which is now trained in NSW, is the $3 favourite.
“I’m probably a bit biased but I think $3.50 is a bit generous,” said Thompson.
“I would’ve thought she’d be a bit tighter – probably around $2.50. I’d expect a dog with her credentials off box one would start favourite nine times out of ten.
“We’ve had two reds in the Easter Egg and they’ve both won. It’s such a big advantage in these big races.”