JUST three days into February Anthony Azzopardi claimed his second Group 1 event at Wentworth Park in 2018 when lightly-raced bitch Blue Sky Riot was a dominant winner of the Ladbrokes National Futurity last Saturday night.
Azzopardi, who relocated from Londonderry to Bacchus Marsh in Victoria after winning the 2015 Wentworth Park Trainers Premiership, also won the Paws Of Thunder in January with Raw Ability.
Blue Sky Riot is one of four members of the February ’16 Barcia Bale – Ready To Riot litter in Azzopardi’s kennel, although he surprisingly rates the Futurity heroine as the slowest of the quartet.
“I’ve got three girls and a boy from the litter and Blue Sky Riot is the slowest, but she’s won a Group 1 and also made a Group 2 (Sandown Laurels),” Azzopardi laughed.
“La Bella Riot is the best of the four. She can really motor and could be anything but her claim to fame at this stage is a fast win at Bendigo!”
Azzopardi targeted the Futurity with Blue Sky Riot and sisters La Bella Riot and Mystic Riot, however Blue Sky Riot was the only one to qualify for the final after running an unlucky heat second to fellow Victorian Slingshot Gypsy, beaten three-quarters of a length in 30.19 at her Wentworth Park debut.
After once again drawing box four for the $75,000 to-the-winner final, Blue Sky Riot was on the second line of betting at $3.50 behind heat conqueror Slingshot Gypsy and local Poco Dorado, both at $3.20.
Slingshot Gyspy began brilliantly from box eight, while Blue Sky Riot moved into second on the first turn, as the two front-runners broke away from their rivals.
While Blue Sky Riot wasn’t able to navigate a passage past Slingshot Gypsy one week earlier, she made no mistakes when it mattered most, charging to the lead approaching the home turn and dashing clear to score by 2.25 lengths in 30.04, her fifth win from 12 starts.
“The Futurity was always on the calendar for the three of them. Blue Sky Riot has just kept improving, so I decided to give her a crack at it,” Azzopardi said.
“In the heat she tried to go underneath Slingshot Gypsy, which she’d never done before in her life. I thought, ‘Of all the times to try to go underneath!’ She eventually switched to the outside, but the post beat her.
“It was a gutsy win and the plan now is to bring her back up to Sydney for the heats of the (Group 2) Richmond Oaks on March 2. She’s been around Richmond plenty of times because Michelle Sultana pre-trains all our dogs up there and she does a great job.”
While Azzopardi is no stranger to Group 1 glory, the Futurity triumph was especially satisfying due to his close relationship with owner/breeders Colin Bermingham and Sandra Camden-Bermingham.
“Colin rang me out of the blue and asked me to train the mother (Ready To Riot),” Azzopardi explained.
“We had a lot of success with her and then I trained three dogs from her first litter to Fabregas; Black Sky Riot, Master Riot and Gravel Rash Riot. They were faster than the Barcia Bale litter and really should have gone places but injuries murdered them.
“Ready To Riot had a third litter to Fernando Bale and a few weeks ago we whelped her fourth litter, which was by Brett Lee. There were six boys and one girl and I call them the magnificent seven!
“It was great to win a feature race for Colin and Sandra. They really deserve it. We’re very close friends and we’ve had a lot of success, but nothing like this. I’m so happy that they’ve owned and bred a Group 1 winner.”