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Azzopardi’s Seaside Festival ‘Diamonds’

Anthony Azzopardi enjoys targeting Warrnambool’s annual Seaside Festival, notably winning the inaugural Summer Sizzle in 2019 with a talented young sprinter by the name of Whiskey Riot.

Whiskey Riot famously went on to win the Group 1 Melbourne Cup later that year, while Azzopardi returned in 2020 to complete back-to-back Summer Sizzle victories with Whiskey Riot’s younger half-brother Slick Riot.

Azzopardi is quick to point out that he in fact trained the quinella on both occasions.

Azzopardi wasn’t able to snare a ‘three-peat’ in 2021, with the well-fancied Aston Titan unplaced behind local Aston Minerva, prepared by the late Ray Drew.

“If I’m taking him up to Sydney for the Derby, Substantial needs to show me he’s back to his best.”

Two heats of the $10,000 to-the-winner Summer Sizzle will headline Saturday night’s Warrnambool card and Azzopardi’s chances of a third victory in the 390m feature lie with Diamond Ability.

A well-bred daughter of Azzopardi’s G1 Adelaide Cup and Paws Of Thunder winner Raw Ability, Diamond Ability has won five of her 15 starts, highlighted by the Pink Diamond Maiden Short Course series.

Diamond Ability will contest the second of two heats (Race 10 at 8.52pm), where much to her champion trainer’s chagrin, she’s drawn Box 7 for the third time in four starts.

“The poor little girl just keeps drawing Box 7,” Azzopardi said ruefully.

“I’m just hoping that with a couple of vacant boxes in the race she might get across. That’s the only reason I’m leaving her in.

WATCH: Diamond Ability (4) showed brilliant early speed in a runaway 25.04sec victory over 440m at Sale on December 19.

“But if Diamond Ability can qualify and then draw a box for the final she can win it.  Give her an inside box and she’s a very good sprinter.”

Azzopardi also has a leading contender in the heats of the Warrnambool Fencing Specialists Star series over 450m in Substantial, which has drawn ideally in Box 1 in the second of two heats (Race 8 at 8.16pm).

Azzopardi had hoped Substantial would be lining up in the G1 Silver Chief at The Meadows on Saturday, racing for $100,000 instead of the $2100 winner’s purse on offer at Warrnambool, but the winner of eight from 24 failed to fire in the Silver Chief heats.

Azzopardi is now optimistic ‘The Bool’ can provide a stepping stone to the G1 National Derby heats at Wentworth Park on January 14.

“Box 1 is perfect; he ticks all the boxes on Saturday,” he said.

“To be honest, his last two runs have been very disappointing.

“His run in the Silver Chief heats was just an ordinary run. I can’t put it down to anything; it was just an off-night.

“He’s raced at Warrnambool before, he’s trialled well there and he’s got his box, so there are no excuses.

“The only drama is that he can miss the kick a bit but he’s got good muster.

“If I’m taking him up to Sydney for the Derby, he needs to show me he’s back to his best.”

There’s great quality in the two Star heats, with Substantial taking on classy local Angus Rhode, trained by the legendary Norm McCullagh, while the first heat (Race 6 at 7.34pm) is headlined by three-time country cups winner and recent G1 Hobart Thousand placegetter Ferdinand Boy.

Substantial (6) winning a Melbourne Cup prelude at Sandown Park on November 11.

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About Gerard Guthrie - One of Australia's leading greyhound racing journalists since 2000 with the Greyhound Recorder and now with Greyhound Racing Victoria. Part-owner 2013 Group 1 Paws Of Thunder winner Sheikha. (The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of GRV)
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