Melbourne Cup hero Whiskey Riot might have had his colours lowered in the Group 2 Ballarat Cup heats but trainer Anthony Azzopardi is upbeat about finishing 2019 with back-to-back Cup celebrations on his home-track.
A shock heat defeat has done little to dampen Azzopardi’s enthusiasm about winning the Ballarat Cup for the second time in three years on Saturday night.
Azzopardi won the race in 2016 with Zambora Brockie, which also came to Ballarat via the Melbourne Cup, where he was the beaten favourite.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Whiskey Riot pings the lids and leads,” Azzopardi said.
“Everyone is saying the three (Crimson Vixen) will lead and she might lead but if she does my bloke will be breathing down her neck.
“She won’t lead by three or four like some people seem to think.
“I’m not too worried about box seven. I’d probably prefer him to be out there with all the pace heading to the fence.”
After claiming a thrilling Melbourne Cup triumph, where he edged out another Ballarat Cup finalist in Western Envoy, Whiskey Riot was upset at $1.70 by Snags McKenzie in his Cup heat, edged out in a slick 25.08s.
“He came out good but his brother (kennelmate Fernando’s Riot) came out a little bit better and shifted off, which was a bit unexpected,” Azzopardi explained.
“It mightn’t have looked too bad but my other bloke was holding him up. All honours to the winner but I was happy with his run and the main thing was to get through to the final.”
Whiskey Riot is the $3.50 second elect in TAB’s market, behind fastest qualifier La Grand Quality, the $2.80 favourite.
However, Azzopardi isn’t second-guessing his decision to host the boom NSW youngster and trainer Darryl Thomas.
“If Darryl doesn’t win a big race with La Grand Quality I might try and take the dog off him!” Azzopardi laughed.
“I’ll be honest and I’ve just won a Melbourne Cup and I would love to win another Ballarat Cup but if I don’t win it then I really hope Darryl does.
“It’s Darryl’s first crack at a big one and he’s doing the hard yards, away from home. I know what that’s like.
“I’ve seen the way Darryl looks after the animal – he absolutely loves the
dog – and I wouldn’t hesitate to give him my best dog to mind.”
Win, lose or draw at Ballarat, a deserved let-up is on the cards for Whiskey Riot after remarkably missing a place just once in his last 15 starts, the majority of which have been in elite company, dating back to July.
In addition to winning the Melbourne Cup, Whiskey Riot has also run minor placings in the Topgun, Adelaide Cup, Maturity Classic and Sandown Shootout.
“I’ll give him a bit of a break after Saturday and bring him back for either the Paws Of Thunder or Warragul Cup, but most likely the Paws Of Thunder.”
WATCH: Snags McKenzie (B1) defeat Whiskey Riot (B4) in their VW Ballarat Cup heat.