Anthony Azzopardi has achieved just about everything greyhound racing has to offer since moving to Victoria in 2016 and he celebrated another major accolade when Whiskey Riot was named 2019/20 Victorian Greyhound of the Year.
Azzopardi relocated from NSW to test himself in Australia’s greyhound racing capital and says the depth of competition makes Melbourne Cup hero Whiskey Riot’s achievement even more satisfying.
“It’s quite an achievement by the dog,” said Azzopardi at Sunday’s announcement.
“The best dogs are down here in Victoria – it’s very hard racing – and to have a top dog to win this (Greyhound and Sprinter of the Year) you’ve got to be mighty proud.”
Azzopardi’s sense of pride was echoed by owner/breeder Sandra Camden-Bermingham.
“We were just blown away; to be honest I’m even tearing up now,” she told GRV’s Molly Haines.
“We were absolutely thrilled with the news and so happy for him to get the accolades he deserves and also for Anthony, Kylie and Kayla because of all the effort they put in to make him such an incredible performer.
“He was super-consistent throughout his career and he’s given us some absolutely amazing moments of joy and celebration. We couldn’t be prouder of him.”
A son of 2015/16 Victorian GOTY and Hall of Fame inductee, Fernando Bale, Whiskey Riot won 11 of his 24 starts during the July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 eligibility period.
The undisputed highlight came in the Melbourne Cup, while he was a two-time winner at Group 1 level, also defeating the best sprinters in the land in the Temlee invitational.
Whiskey Riot was denied a third Group 1 trophy by the barest of margins in the Adelaide Cup, when edged out by fellow Victorian Hooked On Scotch, while he also ran second in the Maturity and third in the Topgun and Australian Cup.
Two wins and seven minor placings from 10 appearances in Group finals underlined Whiskey Riot’s consistency at the elite level; however there was absolutely no doubt about his standout moment arriving on the sport’s greatest stage, Melbourne Cup night.
“Most definitely,” Azzopardi said.
“It’s the greatest race in the world. It’s one of those races everybody aims for and I’m very proud he won it, especially this dog.
“I’m very close to the dog and for him to win a Melbourne Cup he’s certainly fulfilled my dreams.”
As was the case with the previous GOTY, Orson Allen, Whiskey Riot claimed the award in retirement, having gone out on a winning note on April 2 at Sandown, fittingly the scene of his career-defining Melbourne Cup triumph.
“It was a hard decision but I was relieved,” Azzopardi said.
“I think he deserved to go out as a winner – he went the Best of Night. It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending than that.”
Whiskey Riot brought an end to the Wheeler family’s four-year GOTY domination via Fernando Bale, Fanta Bale (2017/17 and 17/18) and Orson Allen (18/19).
The Victorian Greyhound of the Year is based on performances during the racing year (July 1-June 30) as adjudged by the Victorian GOTY Panel.
Whiskey Riot took out the prestigious award from (in no particular order) Sennachie and Simon Told Helen.