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Emily’s Champion Puppy celebration

Emerging young Victorian trainer Emily Azzopardi celebrated her first feature victory in style on Thursday night in Adelaide, preparing the quinella in the Champion Puppy final (530m).

A former jockey and mother to 22-month old Noah, 23-year-old Azzopardi had three finalists in the age-restricted feature, littermates Angus Keeping (Box 1), Melissa Keeping (Box 4), and Monique Keeping (Box 5).

Courtesy of an impressive 30.71sec heat victory and drawing the rails, Angus Keeping started a warm $2.25 favourite, with Monique Keeping at $5.50 and Melissa Keeping the outsider of the Azzopardi trio at $12.

Emily had the $10,000 winner’s purse in her ‘keeping’- pardon the pun – a long way from home, as Angus Keeping and Monique Keeping cleared out from their rivals.

It was Monique Keeping that finished the better, drawing clear in the closing stages to defeat Angus Keeping by 1.75L in 30.74sec, with Melissa Keeping running fifth, missing third in a photo finish.

WATCH: MONIQUE KEEPING (B5) finished the better after a stirring duel with litter brother and kennelmate ANGUS KEEPING (B1) to win the Champion Puppy Final (530m) at Angle Park.

“It was nice for it to pan out and getting the quinella was even better,” Emily said.

“To be honest, when ‘Monique’ was camped outside ‘Angus’ around the first corner, we thought she had the race won.

“Not that Angus Keeping is weak; Monique Keeping has quite a strong finish. She doesn’t like pressure on her outside, but she loves to chase something, so the race worked out perfectly for her.

“Monique Keeping is the strongest, so the 530m was going to suit her if she got into a good spot but I just didn’t think from that box she would possie up where she did.

“We thought we were going to get the trifecta for a while.

“When the other two were out in front, we were watching ‘Melissa’ to see if she could run third. Her run was massive, but she just got a few too many knocks early in the race and got a bit tired.”

The victory was just reward for Emily and partner Matt Lanigan, who did the ‘hard yards’, making the 18-hour round trip to Adelaide three weeks running, including trialling.

It was Monique Keeping’s fifth win from 18 starts, with the three Fernando Bale x Caitlyn Keeping siblings, bred and raced by prominent NSW identities Charmaine Roberts and Shayne Stiff, boasting remarkably similar records.

Angus Keeping also has five wins, from 16 starts, while Melissa Keeping has won six from 17.

“They’re all very consistent,” Azzopardi said.

“Monique Keeping’s run-home times have always been really good, and I think she’ll be a nice bitch over at least 600m.

“Angus Keeping has taken a little bit longer to develop. He’s still finding his feet over ‘500’. He’s run 29.56sec at Sandown, but I think he can knock that down a bit.”

The Champion Puppy was Emily’s first feature success; however, she came within a neck of Group 1 glory in the National Derby in Sydney earlier this year with runner-up Slingshot Jonesy.

Monique Keeping races clear of Angus Keeping to give Emily Azzopardi the Champion Puppy quinella.

Images: Kurt Donsberg Photography

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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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