Head The Charge pictured with Anthony Azzopardi 📷 Jason Mckeown

  • Wednesday, 13 Sep, 2023,
  • by Gerard Guthrie

Azzopardi’s Black Top ‘Charge’

With brilliant Kiwi import Big Daddy a notable absentee, Anthony Azzopardi has nominated in-form Head The Charge as his best chance in Friday night’s heats of the Group 2 Black Top (515m) at The Gardens in Newcastle.

Azzopardi has three runners in the five Black Top heats; Head The Charge (heat 2, box 2), Battle Royal (heat 3, box 6) and Shot Of Red (heat 4, box 1).

The ex-NSW trainer is chasing his second Black Top victory, having won the race with Uno Suzie in 2015 prior to relocating to Victoria.

Betting agrees with Azzopardi’s assessment of his trio’s prospects, with Head The Charge $2.50 favourite, while Battle Royal ($11) and Shot Of Red ($12) are both at double figures.

“Head The Charge is well-boxed and off his trial, if he can find the front early, he could really put a show on!”

After Big Daddy’s stunning victory in the Southern Stars at Goulburn in late July, Azzopardi immediately set his sights on the Black Top, but untimely thigh muscle and tibia injuries ruled the NZ recruit out.

“It is a shame, and he’ll miss the Million Dollar Chase too, so the Melbourne Cup is the goal now,” Azzopardi said.

With Big Daddy missing in action, Head The Charge, which like his Rowsley trainer started his career off in NSW, winning four of his first five starts for Cowra owner/breeders Paul and Pam Braddon, will lead Azzopardi’s Black Top ‘charge’.

Head The Charge, a son of Azzopardi’s 2019 Melbourne Cup winner Whiskey Riot, has won 10 of his 19 starts and three of his past five, including fast 29.33sec (BON) and 29.43sec efforts at Sandown Park.

“He’s my best chance,” Azzopardi said.

WATCH: HEAD THE CHARGE (B8) showed brilliant early speed before holding PROFESSOR SNITCH (B1) at bay in a slick 29.43sec at Sandown on August 31.

“Obviously, it’s a good field, but he’s well-boxed and off his trial, if he can find the front early, he could really put a show on!

“I trialled the three of them at The Gardens last Friday and they all went terrific. I gave them a post-to-post and they went phenomenally.

“Head The Charge is going really well. His last couple of wins at Sandown have been good and he’s beaten good dogs too.”

While Azzopardi is bullish about Head The Charge’s chances, he says Battle Royal and Shot Of Red are also drawn to advantage and capable of surprising.

Shot Of Red, another son of Whiskey Riot, showed enormous potential early in his career, but has been restricted to just 11 starts in 2023.


“Battle Royal has great early speed and I like him off an outside box,” he said.

“He’s coming off a really good win at Bendigo (23.62sec) but he needs to lead.

“Unfortunately, Shot Of Red has had a few injuries. It all started this time last year in the heats of the (G3) SA Derby when he tore his triangle muscle. He’s torn his back muscle as well.

“Have a look at his form before that; he was running 29.80sec at The Meadows.

“But he’s still going well, and I give him a chance. ‘The red’ is going to suit him and if they leave him alone in the first two or three hops, he can really put time on the board.”

Another big-name Victorian trainer targeting a second Black Top victory is Jason Thompson, who won the race with Penthouse in 2011.

Thompson has Umberto (heat 5, box 1), dominant all-the-way winner of the G1 Dapto Megastar last Thursday night, chasing back-to-back feature trophies.

Umberto, which also had box one in his sizzling 29.60sec Megastar triumph, is a prohibitive $1.18 favourite in the final Black Top heat.

Kennelmate Stealth (box 8), which also qualified for the Megastar Final, finishing eighth, will clash with Head The Charge in heat two, where he’s the $2.90 second elect.

Umberto winning the G1 Dapto Megastar 📷 courtesy Greyhound Racing NSW

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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