Box five has done little to dampen Anthony Azzopardi’s enthusiasm about Melbourne Cup hero Whiskey Riot’s prospects in Saturday night’s Group 1 Temlee (525m) at The Meadows.
“He’s going better than when he won the Melbourne Cup,” said a bullish Azzopardi.
“Times don’t lie and I can only say what I’m seeing.
“It’s not the ideal draw but he could be going well enough to offset it.”
Whiskey Riot, a son of the great Fernando Bale, hasn’t been seen in action for more than a month, since finishing fourth as favourite in the Group 2 Warragul Cup on January 11.
Despite the awkward alley and lack of recent racing, Whiskey Riot is the $4 second elect in TAB’s Temlee market, behind $2.30 favourite Simon Told Helen (box 3), winner of the Group 1 Silver Chief and Group 3 Great Chase at The Meadows.
“I gave him a bit of a let-up because he’s got a pretty big campaign coming up,” Azzopardi explained.
“He’s had three trials at Warrnambool, Ballarat and The Meadows and all three have been exceptional. He’s also had a lot of work at home and I couldn’t be happier with him.
“I’ve kept him a bit fresh because he has to run a quick first section. I doubt he can lead Simon Told Helen but I’m hoping he’ll be right beside him putting the pressure on.
“His run-home times in his trials have been off the charts so if he’s sitting right behind the leader he’s a big chance. I just don’t want to give it too big a start.”
Azzopardi will also have runners in the other two Group 1 invitation races on the opening night of the Australian Cup Carnival.
Just Terms (box 4) is a $4.40 chance with TAB in the Zoom Top (725m), returning from NSW to Victoria, where she ran Group 1 placings late last year in the Topgun Stayers (second) and Bold Trease (third).
Queensland import Velocity Bettina (box 6), a daughter of Azzopardi’s former superstar sprinter Zambora Brockie, a Temlee invitee in 2016 and 2017, is a $17 outsider in the Rookie Rebel (600m), which will mark her Victorian debut.
“The draws are horrible for all three,” Azzopardi offered ruefully.
“Whiskey Riot is my best chance for sure, but I give Just Terms a nice chance. I’ve freshened her up a bit but she’s never going to jump in front. We know that.
“The young dog (Here’s Tears) will be hard to beat. How fast can they go?
“But you can never rule Just Terms out and if she’s running in the first two or three going out of the home straight the first time she’s definitely a chance.
“I really think the box has murdered Velocity Bettina. There’s too much pace underneath her. She’s hundreds to get across.
“If she’d drawn inside I would have been a bit more optimistic but there’s too many good dogs drawn inside her that will run the 600m flat out.
“She only knows Albion Park and Ipswich so it’s all new to her. She probably needed a few more weeks but hopefully she can surprise me.”