by Mick Floyd
Black Opium has one paw on that elusive group 1 title after a scintillating victory in her Sapphire Crown heat at Sandown Park tonight.
The three-time group 1 runner up took full advantage of vacant box each side of her to lead all of the way to defeat Origami Angel by nine and a half lengths.
“She did everything right,” said handler Seona Thompson.
“She did everything right last week, but she’s even exceeded that and gone a bit better.”
Her winning time of 29.204 was 1/1000th of a second faster than the time she ran when she was the fastest qualifier for the 2018 TAB Melbourne Cup.
“When she was coming back from her spell she was trialling really well and I said to Jason (her husband) I think she might have come back better.
“She’s different now, she’s a different dog to what she was then, different in herself. She’s very mature and knows what racing is all about now.”
Black Opium has now won over $450,000 in prize money – an Australian record for a greyhound without a feature race win. Despite drawing box 4 for the final, she has been installed the $1.80 favourite to claim the $50,000 first prize with tab.com.au
The first heat of the night went to Talulah Bale who powered fast Nangar Diva to score by three lengths in 29.52. Trained by Heather Collins who won the race with Lamia Bale in 2015, Talulah Bale is the daughter of Xylia Allen who also won the race in 2013.
Madilia Maggie won the second heat in 29.41 for John Connor, defeating Chart Topper who will give Robin Moore his first runner in a group 1 final.
With Black Opium winning the third heat it was over toe Spring Fair to claim the night’s final run off for Anthony Azzopardi, leading all of the way to defeat Aston Silk by 4.5 lengths in 29.63, giving Melbourne Cup winning trainers Azzopardi and Thompson two runners apiece in the final.
The $71,000 group 1 Sapphire Crown will be run on Thursday 14 May. Click here for the latest market from tab.com.au
The Sapphire Crown is the first of three group 1 races to be run over three consecutive weeks at Sandown Park, and the favourites for the two other series also turned in impressive performances.
Harrison-Dawson favourite Tiggerlong Tonk capitalised on drawing box 1 for just the third time in his 36 start career as the Easter Gift winner untroubled in recording a 3.5 length victory in 29.26, while RSN Sandown Cup favourite Mister Harlewood remains undefeated in four starts over the stayer’s journey, winning by 1¼ lengths in 41.66.
Click here for full results.
SAPPHIRE CROWN HEAT REPLAYS
Sapphire Crown heat 1: Talulah Bale (6) defeats Nangar Diva (5)
Sapphire Crown heat 2: Madalia Maggie (2) defeats Chart Topper (4)
Sapphire Crown heat 3: Black Opium (3) defeats Origami Angel (5)
Sapphire Crown heat 4: Spring Fair (5) defeated Aston Silk (3)