Anthony Azzopardi will take aim at back-to-back victories in the Group 2 CKH Painting Shepparton Cup (450m) on Saturday, after record-breaking speedster Salad Dodger set a scorching pace in Monday night’s heats.
After springing a surprise in the 2022 Shepparton Cup Final with $15 outsider Substantial, Azzopardi set about defending the title with Salad Dodger, which made his debut at the track in the second of four heats.
In a determined chasing display, Salad Dodger ($4.80) ran down last start G2 Horsham Cup placegetter Matt’s Hope ($3F) in the final bounds, clocking a Best Of Night 24.93sec.
Salad Dodger headed to Shepparton after running second to She’s A Pearl in the G3 Temora Cup in track record time, having broken the record himself when upsetting the NSW superstar in the heats.
It was the second time this year Salad Dodger has set a record, only to surrender it in a matter of days, having also briefly held Traralgon’s 450m benchmark in January.
WATCH: SALAD DODGER (B2) claimed time honours in Monday night’s G2 Shepparton Cup heats, running down MATT’S HOPE (B1) in a driving finish, clocking a fast 24.93sec at his Shepparton debut.
The son of Rowsley-based Azzopardi’s 2019 Melbourne Cup hero Whiskey Riot and Winsome Sandy will be striving to add something more permanent to his resume in Saturday night’s $47,000 to-the-winner Cup Final.
The winner of 16 from 41 will be chasing a deserved feature race success in his third appearance in a Victorian country cup decider.
He was runner-up in the Bendigo Cup last October and sixth in the Traralgon Cup in January, while he also finished second in last year’s G3 Warragul St. Leger and third in the G3 SA Derby.
Other highlights from Monday night’s Cup heats were:
- Sale trainer Chris Tilley claimed a ‘family’ heat double, courtesy of litter brothers Fire Hose and Always A Thrill. The Aussie Infrared x Okawa In Black siblings both exited box one in their heat victories, having contested the recent G3 Temora Cup Final, as did fastest qualifier Salad Dodger.
- Lektra Heckler continued his unbeaten run for young Pearcedale trainer Jake Loverso, when leading all-the-way in the opening heat, upsetting straight track supremo Unleash Collinda. It was Lektra Heckler’s seventh straight win for 27-year-old Loverso.
- David Geall will take aim at his second Shepparton Cup victory in three years after series favourite, recent G1 Australian Cup hero Fernando Mick, snuck through to the final, courtesy of his second placing in the final heat. Geall won the 2021 Shepparton Cup with Ferdinand Boy.
Photos by Clint Anderson
GROUP 2 SHEPPARTON CUP HEAT WINNERS
(fastest to slowest)
24.93sec Salad Dodger
24.96sec Lektra Heckler
25.12sec Fire Hose
25.15sec Always A Thrill
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