Superstar Black Opium might be the headline act in Sunday’s Group 3 Healesville Cup heats (350m) but champion trainer Jason Thompson says the dual Group 1 winner isn’t the pick of his four Cup contenders.
Thompson, who won the Healesville Cup in 2013 with El Brooklyn, has Zambora Smokey (heat 1, box 6), litter brother Zambora Lou (heat 3, box 2), Black Opium (heat 5, box 7) and Fire Legend (heat 8, box 3) engaged in the cut-throat Cup qualifiers.
Black Opium is the $3.30 second elect with TAB in her heat, behind $1.80 favourite Midnight Monarch, which boasts a perfect five from five record at Healesville.
Of Thompson’s other contenders, Zambora Smokey ($1.60) and Zambora Lou ($2) are both warm favourites, while Fire Legend is a $4 chance.
“It’s hard to say which one is the pick but it wouldn’t be her (Black Opium),” Thompson said candidly.
“When you put it in context, she’s three and a half, she’s getting towards the end of her career rather than the start and she’s never raced under 450m. But that’s not to say she can’t win.
“If there was a pick it would probably be Zambora Smokey. Zambora Smokey and Zambora Lou are second section dogs. They’re speed dogs and should be well-suited up the straight.
“I don’t mind Fire Legend either because he’s such a tough dog and a good chaser.”
Interestingly, none of the Thompson quartet has raced at Healesville previously but that’s of no concern, as all are very well-acquainted with the unique straight-track venue as part of the powerful kennel’s training regime.
“None of them have raced at Healesville before but they’ve all been there, probably half a dozen times,” Thompson explained.
“They all know their way around there and I think they’ve all drawn good. I’ve got no complaints about where they’ve drawn.
“Black Opium hasn’t done anything since she raced on that horrible track at Sandown (August 13). She’s been freshened up and it’s something different for her but she wouldn’t be there if she wasn’t ready to go. She’s drawn where she wants to be too.
“Logically she should be $3.50 or $4. If it was over ‘500’ she’d be odds-on but it’s 350m.
“Win, lose or draw it will be good for Black Opium and the others too. It’s a change for them and regardless of what happens on Sunday they can move on to whatever’s next but it would be nice to get one through to the final.”