Riding Thompson's Gravy Train in Traralgon Cup heats

You could say champion Pearcedale trainer Jason Thompson has ‘unleashed’ with ‘attitude’ early in 2024.

Unleash Collinda with handler Luke Thompson
Unleash Collinda with handler Luke Thompson Picture: Clint Anderson

Okay, excuse the pun, but the Thompson 'gravy train' isn't stopping – and it's running express all the way!

Thompson won last week's Group 2 Warragul Cup with Tim Zoo.

And now he's chasing his second Traralgon Cup in three years after Unleash Collinda ($2.50EF – 24.68sec) and Got Attitude ($4.40 – 24.81sec) produced the fastest and second-fastest times in heats of the Group 2 Sportsbet Traralgon Cup (450m) on Friday night.

Thompson won the 2022 Traralgon Cup with Typhoon Sammy.

Unleash Collinda ($2.50EF) carries a 'local flavour' into the final – being bred and owned by Steph Tyler at Boisdale.

Unleash Collinda (Box 8) and Got Attitude (Box 1) are the 'bookends' following the box draw.

Meanwhile, master Rowsley trainer Anthony Azzopardi also qualified two finalists for the $55,000 to-the-winner Traralgon Cup on Australia Day (January 26).

Pass The Buck ($2.40) clocked a slick 24.82sec, while Salad Dodger ($4.30) – who was sixth in last year's final – finished second (beaten 1.5L) to Ducati Roy in 24.83sec.

He receives yet another chance to claim a country cup – at his sixth attempt, including finishing the 'bridesmaid' on three occasions.

Unleash Collinda is also a triple track record holder – Geelong 400m (21.995sec), Healesville 300m (16.057sec) and Healesville (18.641sec) – and has won 41 races from 70 starts.

Got Attitude, a winner of 16 races from 36 starts, has 'got on with the job' after finishing runner-up in last month's G1 Hobart Thousand. He was also second in last year's Listed Prospector (Bendigo) and Pink Diamond Rookie Sprinter (Warragul) and a finalist in last week's G2 Warragul Cup.

A champion in the making, Pass The Buck – a winner of 10 races from only 14 starts – has already contested last year's $1m Phoenix (6th) and G3 Great Chase (6th), and last week's G2 Warragul Cup (5th).

Salad Dodger – a winner of 27 races from 60 starts – is now a seven-time Group race finalist. He was runner-up in the G2 Bendigo Cup and 2022 Warragul St Leger, and third in the G3 SA Derby – all in 2022.

Here's what Azzopardi had to say following the box draw for the final: "On first look Got Attitude will be hard to beat. He has early speed and the 'red' box which is a great combination.

"Pass The Buck was a bit lost tonight as it was his first look at the track, so I've got no doubt he'll improve next week."

"I like Salad Dodger near the fence, so box three is pretty good for him and I'm very proud that he's made a second Traralgon Cup.

"Pass The Buck was a bit lost tonight as it was his first look at the track, so I've got no doubt he'll improve next week. Box six next week is not ideal but he will go straight, so he's got that in his favour."

Other Traralgon Cup heat highlights were:

Hoddles Creek's Maria Barber and Paul Jones will also launch a dual challenge in the final. Maria caused a major upset when Mighty Moose ($15.80) scored in 25.07sec, while Paul prepares Burn Along ($6.20) – sixth in last week's G2 Warragul Cup – who was beaten a 'lip' by Pass The Buck.

Tasmanian star Ducati Roy ($6.90) – trained by Michael Sherriff – displayed his class semaphoring a smart 24.83sec in accounting for Salad Dodger. He finished third in last month's G1 Hobart Thousand.

Local speedster Black Viper ($22.00) – prepared by Matt Clark at Briagolong – caused the biggest boilover when he 'struck' in 25.20sec. The last Gippsland-trained Traralgon Cup winner was Jesaulenko in 2017.

Pawnote: There's hardly any separating Pass The Buck and Unleash Collinda – both $3.20 equal favourites – and Got Attitude ($3.30) in what should be a riveting final.