It’s hard not to be impressed by Joe Azzopardi.

In a world of show ponies and egotists, Azzopardi is respectful and understated.

They are character traits which have made him so personable and popular with his peers and supporters.

Throw in that he is an accomplished jockey and he is a young man who is heading places.

So it came as no surprise that after winning his first major race, which happened to be on international soil, he was more concerned about not letting down his friends and supporters.

Azzopardi won acclaim when he teamed up with Australian Hall Of Fame trainer Lee Freedman and outsider Sun Marshal to win the $1 million Singapore Derby (1800m) last Sunday.

Celebrations were rightly on a big high after the milestone, but such is Azzopardi’s nature and personality, he was just as anxious to get in contact and pay respect to his horde of well-wishers.

“I’m still pinching myself and it hasn’t sunk in,” Azzopardi told Tabradio.

“I’ve watched the race 15 times and will probably watch it another 15 times.

“The support I have received from everyone back home is unbelievable.

“My phone hasn’t stopped.

“I haven’t got back to all of them because there is so many.

“But I will work on that for anyone who has sent me a message.”

Azzopardi’s maiden Group One triumph was more than just personal satisfaction, it also went a long way towards restoring his credibility and reputation as a rider.

Azzopardi commenced his three-month stint in Singapore earlier in the year in fine style, booting home several winners, but four weeks into his stretch he copped a setback.

The visiting Australian hoop copped the wrath of stewards and was suspended for a month after being found guilty of foul riding on Inpower at Kranji

Azzopardi put his hand up and accepted responsibility, but admits the stain of the suspension hit him hard.

“It was a real kick in the guts,” Azzopardi said.

“No one’s fault but my own.

“It definitely was a setback and things weren’t looking great.

“But then I got my license extended and that was a good result.”

Azzopardi’s Singapore Derby success validated his decision to leave Perth and test his riding skills on the international stage.

Before leaving home his best wins came in the Group 3 WA Champion Fillies Stakes (2017) and the Group 3 Gimcrack Stakes (2018)

It was a gutsy and courageous move by Azzopardi, who could easily have accepted a comfortable and successful lifestyle at home.

He believes a stint overseas and being out of your comfort zone will only improve and assist his personal and professional development.

“I like racing over here, it’s only twice a week so it’s pretty laid back,” Azzopardi said.

“I manage myself, there are no managers or anything like that.

“I do a lot of networking and I’m always on the phone.

“Even dealing with people like Mr Freedman, Cliff Brown and Mark Walker, they’re all world class trainers.

“It’s good to associate with these types of people.

“You learn a lot from them and that was my goal coming here.

“To have a good experience and learn what I can, because I will be coming home one day.”

Julio Santarelli