LONDONDERRY trainer Anthony Azzopardi hopes his talented team of chasers can represent the locals well when they contest Saturday night’s heats of the Group One Paws Of Thunder at Wentworth Park.
Azzopardi will have four runners on a night where there are eight heats of the $100,00-to-the-winner series.
His first hope of making next Saturday’s final is Zipping Tarn, which will exit box two in the first qualifier. The daughter of Mantra Lad and Scarlett Girl is a winner of seven races from 23 starts but Azzopardi has conceded she will be facing a tough task against Dyna Villa (box four).
“She can’t let Dyna Villa get too far ahead of her, she can’t run the times that he can run. He is definitely the one to beat in the race,” he said.
”The draw helps her a lot, she needs the inside to be anywhere near them, but she is a really rough chance, we are going to have to rely on a lot of luck with her.”
On the other hand, Azzopardi believes the in-form Cosmic Angel (box eight) is a live chance in heat two. The white and black dog has won his past two at headquarters and appears well suited out wide.
“I am really happy with Cosmic Angel, he is starting to find really good form at the right time,” Azzopardi said. ”Box eight is not going to worry him, it is actually probably a bonus. I wouldn’t leave him without a chance, that’s for sure.
“If he is up near the front by the first turn, he’ll be very hard to hold out, he is very strong. I am quietly confident with him.
“He can come home in 11.56, that is very strong. I want him in front, but if he can park close behind them all then he will be hard to hold out, but he has got to do everything right.”
Despite being drawn awkwardly in box five in the fourth heat, My Boy Snoop proved just how talented he is last start, producing a phenomenal performance in the Gosford Cup consolation, running an airborne 29.27.
My Boy Snoop, a son of Where’s Pedro and Group One National Futurity winner Daydream, will meet an outstanding field which includes Brisbane Cup winner Kiss Me Ketut (box two), dual Group One winner Buckle Up Wes (box eight) and boom pup Winsome Mission (box seven).
“His only downfall is his early speed, but if he is within striking range then ‘the big Snoop’ will be flying home, that’s for sure,” Azzopardi said.
“He is a deadset flying machine. He hasn’t had a clear run at Wentworth Park yet but when he does people are really going to see what he can do. I just hope he gets a clear run one night down there, it would be nice if that night was tomorrow.”
It has been a long road back to the track for My Boy Snoop, which is lucky to be alive, let alone competing in the heats of a Group One.
“He was really ill, he had a twisted bowel and was on life support for a while. It was hard to get him going again but he is such a strong dog, he has come through it pretty good.
“I was at the vets every day with him, I don’t know what I would have done if we lost him, he is such a nice dog. He is a strong dog, he has a will to live, that’s the difference with him.
“I am very happy with how he has come back, it was touch and go there with him for a while, but he has come back very good.”
Azzopardi said his best chance of making it through to the final would be in race seven, arguably the best heat of the night. He will be represented by Shoulders (box six), which is a much better greyhound than his recent form reads and should be able to handle the tricky box draw.
“I am very happy with the box draw, he needs to be out wide to show his pace,” he said.
“He has been running with no luck at all and he has had niggling injuries which I am hoping we are on top of now. I am expecting him to show something tomorrow night, he has been smashing records in trials wherever I take him, he just hasn’t had the luck in races to get clear.”
His opposition are all terrific greyhounds. Silver Chief finalists Midnight Flynn (box one) and Dyna Double One (box seven) ooze class while Oakvale Destiny (box two), Silent Effective (box three) and The Meadows track record holder Allen Deed (box four) all command attention.
Despite the classy line-up, Azzopardi remains optimistic his charge, which has a flying best of 29.36 over the track and trip, is right in contention.
“He gets every chance to lead tomorrow night and if he leads he should hang on, if he doesn’t then I will be very disappointed. I know Oakvale Destiny and Allen Deed are very strong but I rate him as good as them.
“I know Allen Deed broke the record at The Meadows, but this is his home turf. He gets his chance and I really expect a result out of him. If he can get clear tomorrow night, I think he can match them, but it is a hard race.”
It would be a dream result if Azzopardi could qualify one, or more, through to the Paws Of Thunder final as he strives to emulate his success in 2011 with Fancy Will. The leading conditioner said the 2015 edition was an outstanding series and has highlighted who he will be keeping his eye on.
“When we won it with Fancy Will in 2011, it was one of the hottest races I have seen, but I think the series this year is double that, it is so strong.
“[Andrea] Dailly (who has more than 20 runners engaged on the 10-race card) has a strong hand through the series, they are going to be very hard to beat.
“Dyna Double One looks very exciting and I want to watch his career, but I hope I beat him tomorrow night. It will definitely test out how good my fellow is.
“This race deserves the best and they got the best so let’s see what happens.”
The first heat of the Group One Paws of Thunder is race one and is set to jump at 7.28pm.