Recent Bendigo Cup winner Alpha Zulu is favourite to break Jason Thompson’s surprising hometown cup hoodoo in the $87,000 Group 2 Sportsbet Cranbourne Cup (515m) at Sandown Park on Thursday night.
Remarkably, the Cranbourne Cup, which wasn't held in 2022 and has been transferred to Sandown this year due to the current track closure, is the only Victorian country cup to have eluded the champion Pearcedale trainer.
Brilliant youngster Alpha Zulu (Box 2), winner of 14 of his 19 starts, is Sportsbet's $2.45 favourite to claim back-to-back cups after brilliantly winning the G2 Sportsbet Bendigo Cup (425m) earlier in October.
Alpha Zulu's high-profile ownership group features Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown, media identity Steve Crawley and Thompson's wife Seona.
Thompson also has a 'second stringer' in Navarino (Box 6), a $26 outsider.
Brooke Ennis also qualified two finalists, with powerhouse dual G1 winner Amron Boy (Box 7) the fastest of last Thursday's seven heat winners, his 29.11sec qualifying effort edging out Alpha Zulu's 29.15sec.
Ennis' second contender is G1 Maturity Classic winner Launch Code (Box 3).
Despite an unfavourable outside draw, Amron Boy is the $5 second elect, with Launch Code $9.50.
Peter and Natalie Presutto also have two finalists, with 'super mum' Idolize (Box 1) continuing her amazing return to racing after producing a litter of pups to former superstar Shima Shine, while Exalted (Box 4) claimed his fifth win from his last six starts to advance to his first Group event.
Idolize, whose first Group victory came almost two years ago, in the G2 Laurels in December 2021, is $6, with Exalted $26.
The only heat winner not coming from the Thompson, Ennis or Presutto kennels was Big Energy (Box 8), trained by Jackie Greenough, which has the fastest PB of the finalists – a near-record 28.93sec – and shares the second line of betting at $5.
Fred Rose (Box 5), prepared by Jeff Chignell, qualified as the fastest runner-up after being edged out by Alpha Zulu, his 29.152sec effort in defeat quicker than five heat winners and he's also a single figure chance at $8.
The Cranbourne Cup Final is race 8 at 9.34pm on Thursday.