Brilliant speedster Zambora Smokey predictably stole the show as Jason Thompson claimed a double in Friday night’s heats of the Group 3 Warragul St Leger (460m).
Zambora Smokey (pictured) came into the heats of the $25,000 to-the-winner St Leger after finishing sixth to Australia’s number one sprinter Simon Told Helen in the Group 1 Maturity Classic last weekend.
Unbeaten in two previous Warragul appearances, including a near-record 25.37s performance last month, only .03s outside former Thompson-trained superstar Aston Dee Bee’s course record, Zambora Smokey stifled betting on the opening heat, starting at $1.20 from box two.
Kennelmate Taken ($7.20) was the only other runner at single figures.
The long odds-on favourite jumped straight to the front and after seeing off the challenge of Run And Carry ($11.10) he forged clear to record a commanding 2.14 length victory over Taken in a fast 25.54s.
It was Zambora Smokey’s 18th win from 26 starts and he’ll be chasing his second Group victory in next Saturday’s final, having won the Group 2 Warrnambool Cup in May when claiming Simon Told Helen’s scalp.
Jason Thompson then had another odds-on favourite drawn in box two in the second heat.
Fire Legend, which also came to Warragul via the Maturity, where he was runner-up to Simon Told Helen in a heat, started at $1.70, while Zambora
Smokey’s litter brother Zambora Lion was a $9 chance.
It was a tougher watch for favourite backers after Fire Legend was slow to begin but he quickly recovered and finished too strongly along the inside for leader Phantom Call ($4.80), scoring by .86 of a length in 25.68s, with Zambora Lion third.
It was Fire Legend’s second win from three 460m assignments at Warragul and 15th from 29 overall.
Thompson was chasing a clean-sweep in the third qualifier, where Zambora Lou, another brother to Zambora Smokey, remarkably also drawn in two, as were his previous two heat winners, was backed into $2.90 favouritism ahead of the drifting Catch The Thief ($3.10).
Trained by Matt Clark, Catch The Thief had been beaten in three starts – albeit all in Group 1 company – since returning from an undefeated Western Australian campaign, where he won five on end, highlighted by the Group 2 WA Derby.
Catch The Thief was best to begin from box six and made a welcome return to the winners list, accounting for Weblec Jet by 2.41 lengths in 25.62s, boosting his imposing record to 14 from 24, while Zambora Lou was never a factor.
GROUP 3 WARRAGUL ST LEGER FINAL
Saturday 8 August
1. ZIPPING SULLIVAN (Deb Coleman, Lara)
2. CATCH THE THIEF (Matt Clark, Briagalong)
3. ZAMBORA SMOKEY (Jason Thompson, Pearcedale)
4. FIRE LEGEND (Jason Thompson, Pearcedale)
5. PHANTOM CALL (Kylee Osborne, Rowsely)
6. MEPUNGA FELIX (Jeff Britton, Anakie)
7. TAKEN (Jason Thompson, Pearcedale)
8. WEBLEC JET (Jeff Britton, Anakie)
9. ZAMBORA LION (Jason Thompson, Pearcedale)
10. RUN AND CARRY (Matt Lanigan, Anakie)
HEAT 1: Zambora Smokey (2) defeats kennelmate Taken (6) and Mepunga Felix (1) in 25.54sec (Best).
HEAT 2: Fire Legend (2) defeats Phantom Call (1) and Zambora Lion (4) in 25.68sec.
HEAT 3: Catch The Thief (3) defeats Weblec Jet (3) and Zipping Sullivan (5) in 25.62sec.