By Todd Whelan
The Melbourne Cup is usually associated with thoroughbred racing, and a local man has won a big purse, without a jockey.
Rowsley greyhound trainer Anthony Azzopardi has fulfilled a lifelong dream taking out the prestigious Group 1 Melbourne Cup over 515-metres at Sandown Park (November 29) with his ever-consistent performer Whiskey Riot.
The former NSW turned Victorian trainer was near tears as he spoke to Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) moments after the reality of the achievement had sunk in.
“This is a whole family thing”, an emotional Azzopardi said.
“This is for my (late) father, I wish he was here but he’s not.
“But I know he’ll be watching down and I love him.”
Whiskey Riot ($5.30) was third pick in the market behind Jason Thompson’s superstar youngster Hooked on Scotch, made the most of an inside draw to lead and hung on despite the gallant efforts of roughie Western Envoy ($30), who finished close enough on the line to have the Azzopardi camp a little nervous.
“Unbelievable,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure if he won or not when they crossed the finish line.”
Hooked on Scotch ($1.90) was a half-length away third in a driving finish. The winner returned 29.44 seconds for the chase on a rain affected track.
The crowning glory of Whisky Riot’s success puts to an end a streak of Group One minor placings in the Adelaide Cup (2nd), Maturity Stakes (2nd), and TAB Top Gun (3rd).
The son of Fernando Bale and Ready to Riot, Whiskey Riot banked $435,000 for Azzopardi and his connections for his Melbourne Cup salute, taking his career tally to 17 wins from 35 starts and $620,000 in earnings. A feat some Melbourne Cup racehorse owners and trainers only dream about.
Enjoy a summer evening of great racing at the Ballarat Greyhounds –2019 VW Ballarat Cup on Saturday 14 December, gates open at 5.30 and entry is free. Dining packages available – www.ballarat.grv.org.au