Reigning Healesville Cup hero Zambora Lou and comeback speedster Pirate Pete will spearhead champion trainer Jason Thompson’s raid on the inaugural Healesville Festival of Racing, which commences on Sunday with two outstanding Winter Cup heats (350m).
Thompson’s high-class duo both boast excellent Healesville records and it’s no surprise they’ll be targeting the bumper $800,000 prizemoney on offer during the festival, which culminates with the G2 Healesville Cup in September.
Zambora Lou, which has drawn box seven in the opening heat (Race 5 – 12.16pm) has won three from four over 350m, highlighted by last year’s G3 Healesville Cup.
Pirate Pete, who Thompson says is ideally drawn in box eight in the white hot second heat (Race 6 – 12.31pm), has won three from six up the straight with three second placings.
Pirate Pete, which broke Ballarat’s 450m record last November, has had four starts back after spending more than three months on the sidelines.
He won his first two after resuming at Healesville, clocking fast times of 19.24sec and 19.15sec respectively, but finished unplaced at his last two at Shepparton and Warrnambool.
“Pirate Pete tore a triangle muscle in a heat of the Australian Cup,” Thompson explained.
“It was a very bad injury so it’s a good effort to come back like he has. Before his last start at Warrnambool he trialled at Warragul in 22.24sec, so he hasn’t lost anything.
WATCH: Pirate Pete (1) scores a swashbuckling 19.15sec (Best) plunder at Healesville on June 6.
“His last two runs on the circle he’s blown the start. His last start at Warrnambool was very disappointing because he wants box eight but wasn’t able to take advantage of it.
“He didn’t miss the start but stumbled when he came out. If you watch the replay he came out with them and went down on his nose.
“He’s drawn eight again on Sunday so he’s drawn extremely well and he does like Healesville. He broke 19 seconds there in a race on Cup Day last year (18.94sec) when he was only a young dog.”
Zambora Lou is on a mission to defend his Healesville Cup crown and bounce back after being beaten at the track for the first time in last month’s Super Sprint final, when fourth at $1.60 to another Winter Cup aspirant in Hello George.
“Zambora Lou’s biggest downfall is that he’s hit and miss out of the boxes, and he needs to lead to show his best,” Thompson said.
“Box seven isn’t ideal for him – he wants to be close to the inside – but in saying that he does go well at Healesville and he’s a more than capable dog that’s been racing in these sorts of races for a long time.
“There’s only two heats but if the right dogs get through it will be a very good final.
“There’s a lot of good racing coming up at Healesville, so I’d say that we’ll keep Zambora Lou and Pirate Pete up there over the next two months.”
WATCH: Reigning Healesville Cup champ Zambora Lou sets the straight track alight in 19.17sec on June 6.
Zambora Lou with Jason Thompson after winning the 2020 Healesville Cup.