The black dog, trained in Victoria by Anthony Azzopardi, jumped well from box four and raced into second behind local hope High Eden Frost (Banjo Boy x Zardae Feb ’15) in the early stages before slipping into top gear down the back straight, charging clear to score in an airborne 29.50.
Fellow Victorian Aston Dee Bee (Barcia Bale x Aston Elle Apr ’15) rocketed home to grab second, with High Eden Frost a gallant third.
Azzopardi said he rated his kennel star a chance heading into the $75,000 final, but conceded he knew it would be a tough challenge up against a cracking field including group 1 winners Worm Burner and Striker Light as well as Sandown Speed Star winner Bewildering.
“I thought his heat run was very good, but I didn’t go there with high expectations – we went there knowing we had a chance but just wanting to enjoy the night and the result was beautiful,” Azzopardi told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“It was an amazing final. You could run the race ten times and get ten different results – it was the best betting race I’ve seen.”
The win was particularly special given it was the first group 1 win for Azzopardi and his wife Kylee Osborne as owners, having received Raw Ability as a gift when he was a puppy.
“Words can’t describe what that moment was like. I got a bit emotional because we own him and have had him since he was a pup – to see the little fella grow up into a race dog is really special.
“It’s an amazing feeling and I really want to thank Jackie Davis. We helped Jackie a fair bit when we were in Sydney, checking dogs, and she wanted to give me a pup out of the litter to say thanks.
“At first I wasn’t sure if we were going to take him because I had a couple of pups at the time and I didn’t really want anymore, but she came and delivered him to us.
“It was the best gift I have received in my life.”
Raw Ability has now faced the starter 25 times, amassing 13 wins and five placings for $125,000 in prize money earnings. Azzopardi explained he has always looked like being a star.
“He’s always been special. When I took him to The Meadows as a 15-month old pup he ran a FFA time when I slipped him box to box.
“Before I ever raced him I put him up against Zambora Brockie in a trial because I just wanted to see what he could do – and Zambora Brockie only beat him a length and a half.
“I knew then I had a serious dog.”
Azzopardi is hopeful Raw Ability can continue his hot run of form now that he has broken his group 1 maiden.
“He has a group 1 to his name now – it’s funny how sometimes when you get that first one things seem to fall into place,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to what’s next for him – I got a phone call on [Saturday] morning and it was a late invitation for the Topgun so hopefully he makes the final eight.
“It’s going to be a race full of the best dogs in the country, but he has a 100 per cent record at The Meadows so I think that race will suit him down to the ground.”
Azzopardi could have two in the race, with last year’s Group 1 Melbourne Cup winner Ando’s Mac (El Grand Senor x Brook’s Doll Jun ’14) also receiving an early invitation.
The fawn flash is in great form, winning a Prelude of the 2017 Melbourne Cup at Sandown Park on Thursday night, setting a personal best 29.29 over the 515m trip.
“I’ll be very disappointed if he doesn’t get a run in the Topgun – he won the Melbourne Cup and the Warragul Cup and his run on Thursday was second to none.
“It was probably one of the best runs of his career – he isn’t the fastest dog I’ve had, but he is a very smart race dog and he knows how to win.”