Anthony Azzopardi and fastest heat winner Adhana Rico will be ‘one out’ against the locals when they enter enemy territory in Friday night’s $116,335 Group 2 Sportsbet Geelong Gold Cup Final (520m).
All seven of Adhana Rico’s rivals for the $75,000 Cup winner’s purse are trained in the Geelong region and as fate would have it, the Rowsley raider has been handed the visitor’s draw – box 5 – continuing a nightmare run for Azzopardi.
It’s the third successive Victorian country cup where Azzopardi has prepared the quickest qualifier only to draw either five or six in the final.
Salad Dodger claimed heat honours at both Shepparton and Ballarat but then drew five and six respectively.
“Salad Dodger also broke the Temora record in the Cup heats and then drew five in the final!” Azzopardi added ruefully.
“Substantial had box four when he ran third in last year’s Geelong Cup as well.”
Adhana Rico, a regally related half-brother to 2020 Melbourne Cup and Shepparton Cup hero Hard Style Rico, heads into Friday night’s Cup in career best form, winning four of his past five starts.
The July ’20 son of Fernando Bale and Bella Rico found his way to Azzopardi’s kennel late last year, and after winning first-up for his new trainer – also at Geelong – the blueblood has only finished unplaced twice in 16 starts.
“How can I fault him? He’s only been out of the money twice since I’ve had him,” Azzopardi said.
WATCH: ADHANA RICO (B3) is the fastest qualifier for Friday night’s G2 Geelong Gold Cup Final (520m) after a dominant all-the-way heat victory, defeating AMRON DAN (B2) in a BON 29.75sec.
“His owner, Ibrahim Kama, is a mate of mine and works part-time for us.
“Ibrahim was training Adhana Rico and brought him to stay here for a couple of weeks, while he was working here. The dog was just jumping out of his skin and Ibrahim asked if I wanted to keep him here and train him.
“I always liked the dog and to be truthful, Ibrahim only has a small kennel, and I don’t think it really suited this dog. I tell Ibrahim the dog is going so well because it doesn’t have to look at his bad head all the time!” Azzopardi added with a laugh.
Adhana Rico continued his excellent run of form in last Friday’s heats, producing the standout performance in the first of seven run-offs, leading all-the-way in 29.75sec, his tenth win from 35 starts.
“He went super,” Azzopardi said.
“He’s really come of age and is going better than ever. He’s definitely got the ability to knock off a good race.
“I just wish he could begin like that all the time. He is hit and miss. He doesn’t play up in the boxes, it’s just the way he is.”
Adhana Rico sits on the third line of betting at $4.80 for his second appearance at Group level, having run sixth in the G2 Richmond Derby last month.
“If he begins like he did last week, he’ll take a power of beating,” Azzopardi said.
“But the box is a big letdown. From the box, we’re going to need luck.
“He needs to miss ‘the four’ (Mepunga Mustang). It wants to run up the track and my bloke wants to get to the rail.
“But if he can begin again, he’ll be running one, two or three, and he’ll be strong late. He’s won over ‘600’.
“We’re up against the locals too. The inside track at Geelong is very tricky and it does favour the local dogs. It’s not an easy track to get around. I didn’t have time to trial Salad Dodger at Geelong and that brought him undone in his heat when he was in a winning position.
“I’d love to win the race for the owner. It’s ripper prizemoney and he’s only young and just starting out, so it would be great to put some money in the bank for him!”