Whiskey Riot’s Grand Career Comes To A Close

ALL good things must come to an end, as do great things, with Anthony Azzopardi announcing the retirement of his champion sprinter Whiskey Riot.

Adam Dobbin

10 April 2020

ALL good things must come to an end.

As do great things, with Anthony Azzopardi announcing the retirement of his champion sprinter Whiskey Riot.

“It’s time, he’s got nothing left to prove and deserves to go out a winner,” beamed a proud Azzopardi.

“I galloped him up our straight on Monday and he ripped a nail. It’s only superficial but it’s just enough to mean that his retirement has come a week early.”

A sparkling 29.44 Sandown Park winner last Thursday, Azzopardi nominated his Melbourne Cup hero for Thursday night’s Group 3 Easter Gift at Sandown Park which was to be his swansong to racing.

“Before the coronavirus hit the plan was to go to the Golden Easter Egg in Sydney and then finish up in the Harrison-Dawson at Sandown,” Azzopardi explained.

“I was never going to just put him around for the sake of it and with the way it’s worked out he gets to bow out a winner.

“For him to walk off the track that final time a winner means the world. I can’t say he’ll enjoy retirement because he just loves to race and is so competitive but he’ll have to get used to it now.”

Victorious at 22 of his 45 race starts with a further 15 placings and a whopping $812,295 in prize money, Whiskey Riot leaves behind a collection of racetrack memories for Azzopardi and owner-breeders Colin and Sandra Bermingham.

“I’ve been very blessed to have some great dogs over the years but he’s the best,” declared an emotional Azzopardi.

“To win 50 percent of his starts in that company tells you the competitor he is. And he went through his whole career injury free. Not a break, a tear or a crack anywhere, nothing.

“He’s just the perfect race dog but he’s a lot more than that; he’s just a special, special dog. At home he is just so relaxed. We never hear him bark except for race day; when he knew it was time to go he’d get off his bed and just let out one bark. But always just one. He just knew.”  

While Whiskey Riot’s crowning glory came in last year’s Group 1 Melbourne Cup with a determined victory over Western Envoy, the brindle flyer’s big race deeds were nothing short of outstanding throughout his illustrious career.

A 10-time group race finalist, the fashionably bred son of Fernando Bale and Ready To Riot finished in the money in eight of those.

Along with his heroic Melbourne Cup triumph, the blue blood tasted group 1 success in this year’s Temlee at The Meadows, a week before running a remarkable 29.47 in landing his heat of the Australian Cup, finishing a courageous third to his brother Fernando’s Riot in the final.

“It didn’t matter if you were trialling, racing or working him at home, he’d pour 100 percent into everything,” Azzopardi beamed.

“I’ll never forget when he was a pup I took him to Bendigo to trial on a bog track. He went 6.41, 11.10 – 23.65 … and I just stood there thinking there’s no way you should be able to do that. But he did. I rang Colin and Sandra straight after and said to them he’d be the best dog they’ve had. And they’ve had some good ones!”

And such was Whiskey Riot’s brilliance, it took sublime performances to see his colours lowered on the big stage.

A gallant second to Sennachie in last year’s Maturity Classic at The Meadows, Red, as he’s more affectionately known at home, ran out of his skin when narrowly beaten by Hooked On Scotch in an epic finish to last October’s Group 1 Adelaide Cup at Angle Park.

“It took another champion to beat him –  he was always right there,” Azzopardi said.

“The Melbourne Cup was the highlight of course but his runs winning at Sale early in his career stand out. I took him there for the Rising Stars series, he’d never been there, and he just went bang 24.57 and 24.55 to win the heat and final. That’s what he did. Got the job done.”

As the old saying goes when one door closes another one opens, with Whiskey Riot to now enter the stud scene at $2,200.

“We thought that was fair and reasonable for a Melbourne Cup winner with his bloodlines,” Azzopardi said.

“The DNA has been sent away but has been held up with the NZ borders closed but hopefully that’s sorted out in a few weeks.

“He’s a son of Fernando Bale out of Ready To Riot whose progeny have won close to $3 million dollars. I’m sure breeders will be keen to tap into the family.

“There’s been a lot of interest in him and even though we’re kicking off in the off season we’re in no hurry.

“He’s just a once in a lifetime greyhound and I’m blessed to be involved with him. He’s given us some fantastic memories.”