Caption: Emily Azzopardi with Monique Keeping and Matt Lanigan with Angus Keeping after the pair quinellaed the Champion Puppy Final at Angle Park (Photo: KURT DONSBERG)

South Australian News with KURT DONSBERG

A footy slogan from the 90’s was ‘Kick a Vic’, but it was a Vic doing all the kicking at Angle Park recently, when Emily Azzopardi took out her first feature when she won the Champion Puppy Final.

Emily, and partner Matt Lanigan, made the trip to Adelaide three week in a row – including the week before the series to give their dogs a look at Angle Park – and it paid off.

The Champion Puppy is an age restricted race with a whelping date of July 1, 2020, (or after) the criteria to qualify and Matt thought the ‘Keeping’s’ would go alright.

The week before the series he brought Tiffany, Angus, Monique and Melissa over to trial and they all did enough to warrant a return the following week.

“They went well,” said Matt. “so we nominated all four and they all got starts in the heats.”

Tiffany missed a finals berth, but Melissa finished second in her heat and progressed through to the final, Angus showed plenty of race smarts from box six to somehow land on the rail after 80 metres and run away with a nice win and qualify, and Monique ran second in heat three which was won by Rushes Raw in the fastest time of all three heats and also got the nod for a start in the final.

The box draw was completed after the heats with Angus drawing the cherry, Melissa drawing four and Monique right next door in the yellow and black rug.

“Going into the final we were pretty confident Angus was our best chance based on the draw. His and Monique’s heat times were pretty similar but the dog in the three (Queen of Scotch) likes to head right at the jump so we thought we’d get plenty of running room to the first bend,” said a very happy Emily.

“We knew Monique would be strong in the run home but thought she was likely to find bother early from the middle draw. We thought with a bit of luck if she was somehow able to land herself outside or just behind whatever led that she would be right in it, and that’s just what she did.”

It turns out the dog that was leading, and then run down, by Monique was Angus who held on to second place giving the young Swan Hill-based trainer not only her first feature win, but the quinella as well.

Emily was really happy with all the dogs’ efforts – even Melissa who finished fifth.

“She had no luck at all. We were watching her run through the field and for a moment thought we might land the first three, but she had too much ground to make up after some early trouble. It was a really good run home though.”

The old motto of ‘“No rest for the wicked’ certainly applies to Matt and Emily who drove straight back to Victoria after the meeting and were working dogs early the next day with the ‘Keeping’s’ having a bit of a day off.

While Emily trains the dogs, they were bred and now raced by Charmaine Roberts – who is the current leading trainer in Dubbo – and Shayne Stiff.

“Matt has known ‘Stiffy’ for a while,” said Emily. “He had this litter at home that broke in alright and he thought they would go okay in Victoria. He contacted us about giving them a go and we were more than happy to take them on as he and Charmaine always breed nice ones so we were keen to build a partnership.”

“We are all rapt with what they are showing at such a young age and Matt and I have since been given other Keeping pups to train who also look to have bright futures.”


‘Alfie’ will probably be remembered as Sennachie’s brother, but look at his stats and he was a serious dog in his own right!

Bred by Bill Wudarczyk , he was raced in partnership with Kirin Corby with Bill on training duties.

Alfie was the first dog we saw from this now famous litter when he had his first run on October 29, 2019. And it was the first of his 33 career wins. Not only did he win, but littermates Gwydion and Bailey Rocks ran second and third and the litter announced itself.

Start 7 saw him win the SA leg of the Launching Pad with Bailey Rocks second and another littermate – Red Rock – third.

He went over to Melbourne but didn’t line up in the final due to ‘a bad case of the shits’ according to Bill.

Alfie won 12 of his first 14 starts, included in those was his first five starts at Murray Bridge where he also held the track record over the 530 metre trip (29:74) for a time.

In 2020 he won a heat of the Murray Bridge Cup in a flying 25:21, but had no luck in the final. He took out the Eastar Match Race Series at Angle Park in 29:54 and then won an Anniversary Cup heat in 29:39 the following week.

“That was his best win in my opinion” said Bill “and his fastest time he ever went around Angle Park”. It was actually the sixth fastest time for 2020.

“After that something just changed in him,” said Bill. “He got very nervous and he just wasn’t the same dog. I still can’t put my finger on it but he was just different.”

His results reflected it too. He didn’t win for another 8 months, but Bill only raced him sparingly going around just 13 times and gave him a 3-month break.

And when he came back it was the Alfie of old winning over the 395m at Murray Bridge in a best of the day 22:17. He continued to do well up at ‘the Bridge’ while Angle Park was redeveloped and after another short break Alfie returned to headquarters – and it didn’t go well.

“Alfie and Bailey were in the same race. It was his one and only run over the 342m and he was injured and Bailey was also injured. It was terrible,” said Bill.

But again, he came back and won first up and would go on to win four races as a 5-year-old – including a 30:40 win over Jack’s Well – with his last win on Bill’s ‘21st’ birthday

His last race wasn’t ideal with what Bill described as ‘a high hamstring injury’ ending his race.

“He’s absolutely fine now,” said Bill. “He could go around again without any problems, but we’ve made the decision to retire him and we’re happy with that”

“He’s had all his vet work done and is now with my friend Peter Luxton who will foster him with his family.”

“He’s been a great dog for all of us – Kirin, myself and Shirley Veling – who caught him nearly every race – and we’ve been so lucky to be part of this fantastic litter!”

Alfie calls it a day after 92 starts with 33 wins (18 in best of the day times) and 33 minor placings with a touch under 90 large in the bank.

Enjoy retirement Alfie – you’ve been a champion to watch!


And it’s not who you might think!

He’s On Fire was sent up to ex-pat South Aussie trainer Kevin Murnane to target the Thunderbolt at Grafton – the world’s richest short course race with $75,000 to the winner of the 350m event – after the pair had a reasonably successful stint with “He’s All Purpose” in last year’s National Straight Track Final.

He’s On Fire – or ‘Juddy’ as he’s known around the traps – has tremendous early speed and is as reliable as they come out of the boxes, so there was some confidence he could make the final of the Thunderbolt, but he absolutely blew the start in his heat and his campaign was over almost as soon as it began.

While everyone was a little disappointed, the decision was made to leave Juddy in Queensland and have a shot at The Lightning – another short course series, this time at Albion Park … and the real He’s On Fire turned up.

He led his heat before drifting a bit on the home turn to finish second and qualify for the final in the fastest of the three heats – and was one of two dogs who broke 19 seconds in the heat runs.

The box draw saw him land in box six and caretaker trainer Kevin Murnane wasn’t fazed: “With his early speed I was confident, very confident, he could lead and with a run at Albion under his belt I knew he’d be better second up.”

And better he was. A sub-seven second first split saw Juddy highballing out in front with Borneo Bandit breathing down his neck.

“He drifted off a little on the home turn again but it wasn’t as much as the heat,” said Kev. “And he corrected himself a lot earlier and straighten up a lot sooner which won him the race. His first split of 6:99 was flying and he’s improved three lengths on his run too.”

“I was really pleased for Tim, but more for the dog. I knew he had it in him.”

Owner Tim Richards was all praise for his dog and long-time friend Kevin Murnane. “We were both a bit down after the Thunderbolt, but that’s dog racing. We dusted ourselves off and went around again and here we are.”

“Kev has done a marvellous job with Juddy. He and partner Janine treat all their dogs like family and Juddy settled in great. Happy dogs are fast dogs, and fast dogs win races,” said Tim. “It’s a credit to Kev and Janine.”

“He’s back with us now and the condition he came back in was amazing,” said Tim.

The proof was in the pudding too when Juddy had his first run back at Murray Bridge winning by six lengths in a best of the night 21:91 over the 395m.