Racing

Remember the name, Azzopardi

Young Perth rider opens his Kranji acount on Drone

Until late last week, they were talking.

Over early morning coffee and soft-boiled eggs or on the trains to and from Kranji, the ardent racing fans were asking: "Who is this Joseph Azzo whatever?"

They didn't even know his name. But they had noticed he had just one ride on Friday and they reckoned Drone- his mount in the fourth event - was a healthy hope.

But who was this jockey?

Vlad Duric had ridden Drone in his last start and they remembered they had lost a pretty packet when the raging $9 favourite could manage only fourth behind Time To Rock.

Most were eager to recoup their losses and Drone looked like he could win that 1,200m Polytrack race.

But they fretted. Who was this guy Azzopardi?

Well, now they know.

Joseph Azzopardi is a jockey from Perth in Western Australia. And, more importantly, they now know that he can ride.

They saw it when he booted home Drone in what was his only ride on Friday night. And they would have noted that it was a good ride.

Azzopardi and Drone were drawn the outermost gate - or the BKE, as some like to call it - in that capacity field of 12 and that was a concern, especially over the sprint trip.

Well, they shouldn't have worried.

Azzopardi was no desperado.

He knew what he was doing and he was more than happy to follow the pace set by John Sundradas on a horse with a similar-sounding name, Ladrone.

So, there he stayed in second spot. Into the stretch and he summoned on Drone to go.

Taking the bit, the chestnut went after Ladrone, cut him off at the 300m mark and, bar the shouting, the race was over there and then.

Granted, Benny Woodworth on Lim's Knight tried to play party pooper but Azzopardi would have nothing of the sort.

Riding hands and heels while showing good action with the persuader, he urged Drone to the line and, in the process, opened his Kranji account.

The next three months of his contract should whiz by in a flash.

But for those still eager to know more about this young rider, well here's the nitty-gritty.

Joseph Azzopardi is a young 23-year-old of Maltese descent from Down Under.

He's ridden close to 390 winners in Perth, including 15 in Melbourne, where he was stationed for a stint in 2014 and 2015.

It was, while riding in the "Eastern states" that Azzopardi rode his most memorable race. That was in the Victoria Derby of 2015. He finished third.

Always among the top five in Perth, it was a tough decision for him to move over - even for just three months.

But the opportunity to ride overseas was too great and here he is.

More relieved than elated at his Kranji breakthrough on Drone, Azzopardi said: "I was never in doubt once he got across. My only concern was the wide gate.

"But, in the straight, I was very confident, and he worked to the line good. It feels much better now that I've got that first winner out of the way."

He added: "I'm really enjoying my stay in Singapore, and hopefully, it's onwards and upwards from now."

HORSE RACING