• Saturday, 19 Mar, 2022,
  • by Gerard Guthrie

Substantial surprise in Shepparton Cup

Most of the pre-race talk leading into Saturday night’s Group 2 CKH Painting Shepparton Cup final (450m) centred on new track record holder, boom youngster Mr. Audacious, and defending champion Ferdinand Boy.

And understandably so.

But Anthony Azzopardi and his regally bred outsider Substantial were reading from a different script.

While Substantial qualified for his first Group event with an upset heat win over superstar Bendigo Cup winner Paua Of Buddy, he was a $15 roughie from Box 7 in the $47,000 to-the-winner Cup final.

At just his sixth start, Mr. Audacious (Box 6) started $3.60 favourite, courtesy of his sensational 24.66sec heat victory, ahead of Warragul Cup winner Robbie Rotten (Box 8) at $4.10 and country cups king Ferdinand Boy (Box 3) $4.70.

Idolize ($9.30) flew out to lead, with Mr. Audacious looming ominously in second; however, the rising star’s inexperience told when attempting to navigate a passage past Idolize and Substantial pounced, charging around the outside.

Final standings

? SUBSTANTIAL (Anthony Azzopardi)
? ROBBIE ROTTEN (Kaylah Cottrell)
? DREAM WIZARD (Melanie Lithgow)
? 24.77sec

Substantial sprinted clear to defeat Robbie Rotten by 3.5 lengths in a flying 24.77sec, just .02sec outside Ferdinand Boy’s 24.75sec race record and former track record.

Azzopardi admitted he harboured serious concerns about the wide draw but said the near-record time was no surprise.

“I’ll be honest, Box 7 was a bit of a downer for us, but he’s always had the potential, as you can see with all his fast wins,” Azzopardi said to James Van de Maat.

“He’s been airborne, this dog. He’s been absolutely airborne.

Feature race winners

“I said to Darren (Puleio, part-owner/breeder) the other day that I’m telling you, this dog can take the Cup out, as long as he draws inside. He didn’t draw the inside, but he still took it out!

“I did something a little bit different with him this week. I did a bit of box work with him. I thought he had to come out a lot better than last week and he hit the lids and I was quite pleased about that.

“I saw him on the outside and I thought these two (Idolize and Mr. Audacious) might get tangled up here and they did. They got tangled up and he got the fly, but that’s racing!”

Substantial is bred in the purple, being a son of super sire Barcia Bale and On The Runway, a litter sister to G1 winners Poke The Bear and Out Of Range.

“It’s more a thrill for me to win for Darren and Mick and the Puleio family,” Azzopardi said.

“They’re giving me some really nice dogs now and to win a Group race with them is very exciting.”

Substantial has now won 11 of his 29 starts, including four from six at Shepparton, with the Cup triumph boosting his earnings just shy of $100,000.

Azzopardi said Substantial will remain on a country cups path, with his next target the G2 Ballarat Cup next month.

Photos by Clint Anderson

Gerard GuthrieGerard Guthrie

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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