Big-hearted sprinter Fernando’s Riot emerged from the shadows of his illustrious litter brother, Whiskey Riot, to claim the Group 1 TAB Australian Cup final (525m) at The Meadows tonight.
Trained by ‘man of the moment’ Anthony Azzopardi, Fernando’s Riot was considered a second-string to his sibling who was all the rage for the prestigious race and was chasing his third G1 victory.
But in a surprise result, Fernando’s Riot took out the $300,000 first prize.
“I knew ‘Whiskey’ was gone when he stumbled a bit and couldn’t get across,” Azzopardi told Molly Haines on 7mate’s Thrill of the Chase. “But when I saw my little fella (Fernando’s Riot) sitting second, and he’d run down such a strong dog last week; my heart, I tell ya.”
“He’s always been in the shadow of ‘Whiskey’, but for him to win an Australian Cup… If you told me months ago he’d win an Australian Cup, I’d say you’re kidding. But he’s all heart.”
“The owners are first-time owners, it’s going to be huge,” he added.
And when asked by Haines what makes training greyhounds so special, Azzopardi replied: “It’s the thrill of it… I get up every morning and these dogs put a smile on your face… I’m so lucky to train these animals… I could have the worst day in the world; I just go to my kennel, it’s my zone.”
Owned by Annalise Roberts in Chifley, NSW, Fernando’s Riot ($12.60) claimed tearaway leader Hardaway Winnie ($7.00) within the shadows of the post to score by a quarter of a length, with Whiskey Riot ($2.70F) one and a half lengths away third in 29.72sec.
Bred by Colin Bermingham in Schofields, NSW, Fernando’s Riot (Jan ’17 Fernando Bale x Ready To Riot) notched his 17th win from 42 starts and catapulted his stakes to $392,715.
It was the second occasion the ‘brothers in arms’ have locked horns at G1 level, with Whiskey Riot finishing second and Fernando’s Riot eighth in last year’s Adelaide Cup won by megastar Hooked On Scotch.
Fernando’s Riot is the first greyhound to claim the Australian Cup from Box 6 since immortal sprinter Brett Lee in 2001.
Pawnote: Azzopardi had an amazing three-week Australian Cup Carnival. He won the G1 Temlee with Whiskey Riot and the G1 Zoom Top with Just Terms on ‘Night One’. He then won heats of the G1 Australian Cup with Whiskey Riot and Fernando’s Riot, and finished an unlucky second with Just Terms in a heat of the G1 Fanta Bale Super Stayers on ‘Night Two’. And tonight, he finished first and third in the Australian Cup, and third in the Super Stayers with Just Terms.