When Anthony Azzopardi scanned through the fields for Sunday’s Gold 98.3 FM Sale Cup heats (650m) he thought the Group 1 Final was being run five nights early.
Azzopardi’s Cup contender Bomb Proof was drawn in a star-studded fourth heat, where he’ll face Christo Bale, brilliant winner of the Sale Distance Championship last weekend, WA star Zack Monelli and Run Like Jess.
“That’s the final, isn’t it?” Azzopardi quipped.
“It’s unbelievable. When I saw the field I thought they’ve decided to miss the heats and go straight into the final.
“I knew we weren’t going to be racing against maidens but I was hoping they might have been spread out a bit more.”
The box draw was also no help to Azzopardi, with Bomb Proof to exit four.
The well-bred son of champion sire Collision is $8 in TAB’s market, with Christo Bale the $2.40 favourite ahead of Run Like Jess at $3.10.
While Bomb Proof is a query at the 650m, with his only previous assignment over 600m coming back in July when he ran fourth at Dapto, Azzopardi cannot fault his preparation.
“He’s been well set-up for the race. I couldn’t be happier with him,” said Azzopardi.
“He’s had a great campaign for his first 650m and I believe he will run it but I just don’t think he’s got the class of some of his opposition.
“I was hoping to draw inside and he’s drawn in the guts so nothing much has gone our way.
“But I’m not saying he’ll be a pushover. When you focus on his opposition you tend to forget how good he’s been going. He ran 30.50-odd at Ballarat over 545m, which isn’t walking, and flew in a 600m I gave him at The Meadows.
“He went well when I gave him a box-to-box at Sale the other day and he’s a dog that needs a look at a track.
“He is strong but he needs to be in front – and I don’t think he’s got the speed to lead – or be right there, camped behind them.”
The winner of seven of his 16 starts, Bomb Proof started his career in NSW with Andy and Jodie Lord, with whom Azzopardi has enjoyed a successful association.
Azzopardi guided Bomb Proof’s dam Uno Suzie to Group glory for the Lords in the Black Top and Canberra Cup in 2015 and she’s recently been mated with Anthony’s 2019 Melbourne Cup winner Whiskey Riot.
“Bomb Proof’s first two starts when he came to Victoria were pretty ordinary,” Azzopardi explained.
“He was a bit timid around other dogs so I put him with the pre-trainers – dogs he could beat – and his confidence grew and he just took off.”
*Photo taken by Daniel Thorogood