Versatile star Neo Cleo claimed her second Group 1 trophy and improved her perfect record for champion trainer Robert Britton to five from five with a gutsy victory in the Sapphire Crown Final (515m), the middle leg of Sandown’s Group 1 triple header on Friday night.
“I’ve taken over a really high class bitch so I can’t take a lot of credit; she’s just a wonderful bitch,” Robert Britton told GRV’s Molly Haines.
“She did it the hard way too. She didn’t get her own way but she worked hard and proved how good she is.”
Neo Cleo won the Group 1 Sale Cup over 650m last December and the daughter of Cosmic Rumble and Ruby Ha Ha made her first appearance for Britton on April 14 when clocking a smart 29.41sec at Sandown.
She then claimed a Group 3 double at Sandown at her next two starts, taking out the Easter Gift over 515m (29.39sec) and Race Callers Speed Star match race series over 595m (33.89sec).
Neo Cleo then reverted to sprinting for the heats of the $100,000 to-the-winner Sapphire and she produced the standout qualifying performance, leading all-the-way in a fast 29.23sec.
Despite drawing six for the Sapphire Final, Neo Cleo started $2.30 favourite, ahead of Crimson Vixen ($3.50) and Golden Easter Egg winner Zipping Bailey ($4.80).
Outsider Miss Innings ($40.40) led on the first turn with Neo Cleo negotiating traffic and a check in a tight run to the corner that saw fancied duo Zipping Bailey and Crimson Vixen out of play.
Neo Cleo joined Miss Innings approaching the home bend and powered clear to defeat another roughie in Go Seek Heidi ($40.50) by 1.11 lengths in 29.68sec, with Miss Innings holding on for third.
Neo Cleo boasts an impressive 50 per cent strike, having won 33 of her 66 starts, and while she’s approaching 3 ½ years of age, Britton is optimistic there’s more to come.
“At her age you can’t look too far in the future but she’s very, very sound, she chases hard and she jumps well,” Britton said.
“We’ll just take it one race at a time but I’d like to think she’s got a year ahead of her, especially for the owners, but let’s see.”
Neo Cleo’s litter brother Blackjack Neo, also trained by Britton, ran fifth in the Group 1 Harrison-Dawson earlier in the night.
Britton wasn’t able to complete a Group 1 box six double with champion stayer Tornado Tears, the $1.80 favourite, unable to defend his Sandown Cup crown, finishing seventh to upset winner Rajasthan.