EXPLICIT is an odds-on favourite in Saturday night’s Shepparton Cup final. 📷 Clint Anderson

  • Friday, 22 Mar, 2024,
  • by Peter Quilty

Shepparton Cup ‘fantastic five’ for Thompson?

Champion Pearcedale trainer Jason Thompson’s country cups ‘gravy train’ doesn’t look like stopping… In fact, it should be ‘express’ all the way in the $83,000 Group 2 CKH Painting Shepparton Cup (450m) – Race 10, 8.41pm – on Saturday night.

Thompson will be in the ‘driver’s seat’ hurtling towards an unprecedented fantastic fifth Shepparton Cup courtesy of sensational sprinters Flying Zulu (Box 8), Explicit (Box 1) and Got Attitude (Box 2) in the $55,000 to-the-winner final. All three won their heats last Monday in 24.63sec (Best), 24.70sec and 25.04sec respectively.

Explicit (Sportsbet’s $1.85F), Flying Zulu ($2.35) or Got Attitude ($26) could also incredibly provide Thompson with a third G2 country cup this year.

He’s already won the Warragul Cup (Tim Zoo) on January 13 and Traralgon Cup (Unleash Collinda) on January 26. (Explicit was runner-up to Fernando Phil in the Horsham Cup on March 8.)

Thompson’s Shepparton Cup winners are Head Honcho (1993), Whisky Assassin (2004), Hanify’s Impact (2008) and Aston Bolero (2016).

Thompson has also had the following runners-up – Unleash Collinda (2023), Catch The Thief (2021) and Ronan Izmir (2013); and third placegetters – El Brooklyn (2012), Aston Galilee (2011) and Skaise (2009).

In the past 20 years, Thompson has had 22 Shepparton Cup finalists – including Explicit (Box 1), Got Attitude (Box 2) and Flying Zulu (Box 8) in this year’s final.

“Whether he finds a length or two, or finds nothing, I was a bit taken aback by his heat performance.”

He also quinellaed the race with Head Honcho and Tranquil Flame – the dam of another Thompson luminary, Awesome Assassin – in 1993.

His wife, Seona, finished runner-up with Bewildering in 2017.

Flying Zulu (7 wins from 10 starts), who is undefeated in four starts at Shepparton, made an amazing return to racing after a four-month hiatus with a near-record heat win.

He hadn’t been ‘behind the boxes’ since finishing eighth in a heat of last year’s G1 Melbourne Cup on November 25.

“He had 10 weeks off due to a hock injury and then suffered a mishap in a trial, which cost him another three weeks,” Thompson said.

“Then leading into his Shepparton Cup heat, he’d only trialled at Healesville (300m) and Shepparton (390m), so there was no way he would have been fully wound up.”

Amazingly, Flying Zulu was only 0.04sec (around three-quarters of a length) off the 24.59sec track record set by Rejuvenate in the 2023 Shepparton Classic.

WATCH: “Flying Zulu is flying… What a return!” FLYING ZULU (B6) clocks a near-record Shepparton Cup heat victory.

“He’s just a fast dog,” an effusive Thompson added. “Whether he finds a length or two, or finds nothing, I was a bit taken aback by his heat performance. But nothing he does really surprises me.

“I’m also very happy with his box draw; my first preference would have been ‘one’ and second ‘eight’.”

But it’s G1 Temlee and G3 Great Chase winner Explicit (13 from 17), who was around one length slower than Flying Zulu in the Shepparton Cup heats, holding slight favouritism for the final.

And that’s largely on the basis he’s ‘four from four’ exiting Box 1. He’s also undefeated in two starts at Shepparton.

“We wanted box one for him… He’s got a great record from the ‘red’ alley,” Thompson exclaimed.

“He missed the start in the Horsham Cup final and it proved costly.”

Got Attitude (17 from 40) is the far less favoured of Thompson’s terrific triumvirate in betting. However, he’s won five races from six starts at Shepparton and is a six-time Group race finalist – including runner-up in last year’s G1 Hobart Thousand.


“His first couple of steps are generally to the right, so that should help Explicit,” Thompson advised.

“Any dog that’s in a race can win it. But if my other two get clear runs, he can’t beat them. But he’s very honest and his race record proves that.”

Thompson offered the following explanation for his 2024 country cups ‘juggernaut’: “If you haven’t got the right dogs, it’s hard to figure in these types of races. We’re very lucky at the moment; we’ve got some handy dogs.”

Meanwhile, Avalon’s Michelle Mallia is vying for a second country cup with Fernando Phil (Box 7) in 15 days. She’s also after a second Shepparton Cup, having won with Blackalls Boss in 2012.

Fresh from his Horsham Cup heroics, Fernando Phil (9 from 26) finished second (beaten 1.75L) to Smooth Plane in a Shepparton Cup heat.

Fernando Phil ($12) ‘flies under the radar’, but it should be duly noted he’s also contested a G1 Australian Cup and G1 Silver Chief.

Mallia finished eighth last year with Matt’s Hope and fourth with Zoom Out in 2018.

Flying Zulu after registering the fastest Shepparton Cup heat time in a near-record 24.63sec. 📷 Clint Anderson

Zoom Out is the dam of Fernando Phil – named in honour of Mallia’s father-in-law Phil Magri, who passed away when Fernando Phil was only nine months old.

Fernando Phil is part-owned by Magri’s sons, Ronnie and Kevin.

Anakie’s Tom Dailly will launch a two-pronged challenge in the final with Shima Shadow (Box 5) and Smooth Plane (Box 6).

Both won their heats in 24.73sec and 24.87sec respectively. Subsequently they are quoted as $10 and $26 chances.

Late last year, Smooth Plane (10 from 29) won the G3 Provincial Plate, finished third in the G3 Great Chase and was a G1 Silver Chief finalist.

Shima Shadow (20 from 48) is a six-time Group race finalist – including the 2023 G1 Hobart Thousand and the recent G2 Horsham Cup.

Dailly is chasing his third Shepparton Cup. He saluted with Star Of Mine (1999) and Knockabout Wok (2002).

He finished seventh last year with Indy Fido.

Dailly quinellaed the race with Knockabout Wok and Fitler Bale in 2002.

His wife, Andrea, finished third with Shima Song in 2016. Shima Song is the dam of Shima Shadow.

Gippsland speedsters Here Comes Artie (Box 4) – prepared at Maffra by Des Douch – and West On Strobe (Box 3) – trained by Lyn Smith at Nambrok – also qualified for the final.

Both finished second in their respective heat – Here Comes Artie was beaten a ‘whisker’ by Shima Shadow and West On Strobe went down to Explicit by 5L.

Here Comes Artie (12 from 40) is rated a $17 chance, while West On Strobe (15 from 65) is the rank outsider at $101. Both are making their Group race final debuts.

Peter QuiltyPeter Quilty

Peter Quilty

Peter Quilty has more than three decades of experience as assistant editor of Victorian Greyhound Weekly. He was editor of GRV monthly magazine The Adviser (2001-09) and owner/publisher of Australian Greyhound Monthly. He also served on the selection panel for the inaugural GRV ‘Hall of Fame’ inductees and for several years was an adjudicator on the Victorian GOTY. He’s also published greyhound racing yearbooks and wrote the ‘Bold Trease’ video script.

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