To use a boxing analogy, Jason Thompson was on the ropes after the first six heats of the Group 1 Sportsbet Melbourne Cup (515m) at Sandown Park last Saturday night.
Thompson's quest for an unprecedented fourth Melbourne Cup crown had taken several body blows, with favourites Alpha Zulu, litter brother Flying Zulu, Rocket Riot and Postman Pat all failing to qualify, while Navarino was only beaten a half-length when runner-up in his heat.
"When Flying Zulu went amiss you know you're in for a torrid night," Thompson said.
"It was just a matter of how quick Flying Zulu was going to go. Was he going to run in the 29.00s or break 29?
"With Alpha Zulu and Postman Pat, you try to be positive, but you just can't win from box eight at Sandown with a speed dog. Fabs Vegetable won from box eight, but he came out last.""He's got a massive motor, so it was very pleasing to see him show what he's capable of."
Thompson may have been down for the count, but champions don't throw in the towel.
The Pearcedale powerhouse came out swinging in heat seven, courtesy of exciting youngster Tim Zoo, named after world boxing champion Tim Tszyu.
A son of Aussie Infrared that only turned two last month, Tim Zoo is raced by the Derek Syndicate, which includes Thompson's four children, Group 1-winning jockey Ben, Luke, Holly and Sophie, along with Tristan Lynch, Ken Bailey and Mathew Hovey.
Tim Zoo was the least fancied of Thompson's seven heat runners – G1 Topgun hero Transponderfinished unplaced in the final heat – starting at $9.50 in the penultimate qualifier.
Drawn in box six, Tim Zoo sped to the front, running 5.02sec early, before gapping his rivals in the back straight and increasing his lead in the home stretch, scoring by 10.5 lengths in a flying 29.07sec, his eighth win at start 16.
It was the second fastest heat time, eclipsed only by the near-record 28.91sec performance from Big Energy, another son of Aussie Infrared.
"It didn't surprise me, but he had a bad draw and when you've had five go around before him without having any luck at all, you're just hoping," Thompson said.
"With the law of averages, with plenty of runners, you hope one will get a bit of luck, or in Tim Zoo's case, make their own luck.
"He's got a massive motor, so it was very pleasing to see him show what he's capable of.
"That was the first time in his 16 starts he's gone straight to the front. He'd shown early speed in plenty of trials, but until they do it in a race, they can't do it.
"The track definitely got slower as the night went on, with showers for the whole night, so if he'd gone around in race six or seven he might've broken '29' too.
"He ran 29.23sec at Sandown at his first look there on an ordinary track, so I knew he could run what he did, but it's very pleasing to see him step up in a heat of the Melbourne Cup."
Thompson's heat night misfortune returned for the Cup draw; with only boxes one and seven remaining, Tim Zoo finds himself in the latter for his second appearance in a Group event, having finished second to kennelmate Explicit in the G3 Great Chase last month.
Tim Zoo is the $4.40 second elect behind $1.80 favourite Big Energy.
"He's gone from six to seven, so it's really no difference," Thompson said.
"He can definitely win, but box seven makes it harder.
"He's going to need a lot of luck, but at least we know we've got a dog that can run the first split to put himself in the race from virtually the same draw.
"He's only 25 months old too, so he's the baby of the field. I think he brings some X factor. We're hoping he can repeat last week's run or maybe he can go better? We don't know."
Should Tim Zoo beat his Cup final opponents to the punch, Thompson would rewrite history as the first trainer to celebrate four Melbourne Cup victories.
His previous wins came with Light Of Fire (1994), Got A Moment (2012) and Black Magic Opal (2013), while wife Seona was victorious with Aston Dee Bee (2017).