Friendship has been cooking for years

Caption: Aston Titan’s win the 2021 Casino Cup was another success for the old Riverstone mates, Robert Cooke (left) and Anthony Azzopardi. (Photo: Lisa Vanderstok)


YOU can take the boy out of Riverstone, but you cannot take Riverstone out of the boy.

Many years ago this outer Sydney suburb produced a couple of likely lads named Anthony Azzopardi and Robert Cooke.

The youngsters developed a friendship that continues today based on their mutual love of greyhound racing.

Azzopardi is a national star with a lavish Victorian property and a host of Group 1 victories from superstar race dogs.

Cooke is a Group 1 winner who keeps churning out quality race dogs from his base just outside Casino.

Every year, Anthony heads north for a few weeks of R and R, spending it relaxing at the Cooke home with Bob and his wife Tammy.

Late in 2021 nothing had changed except that Covid had stopped Anthony heading north the year before. Azzopardi made a rush visit, a working holiday of sorts. He and Cookie had a Casino Cup to win.

And win they did with Aston Titan, a royally bred son of Fernando Bale-Fantastic Dotty owned by Ray Borda.

\”We\’ve known each other since we were in our twenties,\” Cooke said.

\”Anthony sent Aston Titan up to us three weeks before the Cup and he settled in perfectly. It gave us time to give him a couple of trials around Casino and from then on it was up to him.\”

Azzopardi was realistic about Aston Titan.

\”He realised he is not right up to races like the Melbourne Cup, but he\’s a good beginner and a railer which is perfect for Casino,\” Cooke said.

Aston Titan is a classy galloper though having been a finalist at Group level in the Healesville Cup and Bob Payne Sprint before landing the Group 3 Casino Cup.

“What a great result,” Azzopardi said. “I had eyed off this race for a while because I thought he’d be suited at Casino and we got the result. It’s great when things fall into place.

“And a big thanks to Cookie (Bob Cooke). He looks after the dogs I send up here fantastic. You couldn’t ask for more.”

Anthony flew north on the day before the Cup final and headed home the following Saturday, admitting he needed a break from the celebrations.

\”Mark Duclos and Tim Newbold were at Casino for the Cup and we all had plenty of time to celebrate the win,\” Cooke said.

\”What a lovely dog he is too. He settled in so well.

\”And, when he went home at his next start he won at The Meadows in the best of the night. I made sure Anthony knew the Cooke polish had not worn off yet.\”



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