Eyeing the biggest win of her relatively brief training career, Emily Azzopardi rates rails runner Angus Keeping as clearly the best of her three chances in Thursday night’s Champion Puppy final (530m) at Angle Park.
Azzopardi, 23, and Group 1-winning partner Matt Lanigan made the eighteen-hour round trip from Rowsley to Adelaide for last Thursday’s heats of the $10,000 to-the-winner age-restricted feature and the expedition paid off.
Angus Keeping won his heat, while his Fernando Bale x Caitlyn Keeping litter sisters Melissa Keeping and Monique Keeping also advanced to the final after both ran second in their runoffs.
After a slick 29.56sec Sandown success at his previous start, Angus Keeping ($2.70) had to contend with Box 6 in his heat but showed great acceleration to find the rail early and then kept kicking strongly to score in 30.71sec, his fifth win at start 15.
“He definitely has the most ability of the three of them,” Azzopardi said.
“But he surprised me with how tough he was because most of his wins have been when he’s got out in front.
“I thought he might have been in trouble if Queen Of Scotch ($2.40F) led him, so it was good to see him hunt up on the inside and push past her. In his early days, he used to want to get off and go around the outside.
WATCH: ANGUS KEEPING (B6) made the long drive to Adelaide last Thursday worth it for trainer Emily Azzopardi when claiming his heat of the Champion Puppy series in 30.71sec.
“The two ‘girls’ were tough runs too. They were all a bit tardy away and they’re usually jump-to-the-front dogs.”
Angus Keeping will have the advantage of Box 1 for just the second time in his career in Thursday night’s final, which is Race 8 at 9.50pm.
The consistent Melissa Keeping, which has four wins and two seconds from her last six starts, and Monique Keeping are drawn alongside each other in Boxes 4 and 5, respectively.
“From Box 1 Angus Keeping is my best chance for sure,” Emily offered.
“Hopefully, he can begin a bit better this week, which he’ll need to.
“I don’t mind the way the girls are drawn either, with ‘Melissa’ (Box 4) inside ‘Monique’ (Box 5), because ‘Monique’ will go to the right and give ‘Melissa’ a bit of room.
“These are the first dogs we’ve had for Charmaine (Roberts) and ‘Stiffy’ (Shayne Stiff) and they’re rapt. It’s turned out really well, so hopefully we’ll get more of their dogs in the future.”
After arriving home at 6.15am on Friday, Matt Lanigan was once again on the road interstate on Sunday, this time to Temora, where On The Bit ran third in a heat of the lucrative Southern Stars series (457m).
“I’m starting to think he (Matt) doesn’t like being home!” Emily laughed.
“On The Bit just didn’t handle the track at Temora but it was worth a shot.”
Victorian raider ANGUS KEEPING made an impressive Angle Park debut in the Champion Puppy heats.
IMAGES: Kurt Donsberg Greyhound Photography