Champion trainer Jason Thompson is chasing his third Group 1 Sapphire Crown (515m) at Sandown Park on Thursday night. He won with Peggy May in 2012 and Black Opium in 2020.
And now it’s 2020 runner-up, Aston Silk, who the Pearcedale-based Thompson hopes is the ‘silk department’ in her second tilt at the $100,000 to-the-winner final.
Last year, Aston Silk ($9.30) attempted to lead from go to whoa but was collared by her megastar kennelmate Black Opium ($1.80F) entering the home straight, before going down by three-quarters of a length in 29.57sec.
Aston Silk (Apr ’18 Black Magic Opal x Aston Selena) had contested two G1 finals within her first 16 starts. She was also a 2020 National Futurity finalist.
But it’s taken her another 36 starts to reach a third G1. Mind you, she’s recorded 10 wins, nine seconds and four thirds in that time!
Thompson believes this year’s Sapphire Crown has more depth than the 2020 edition but maintains Aston Silk is “definitely going as well as this time last year”.
“She had no luck at her previous two starts prior to finishing second in a heat,” Thompson said. “She’s probably not far off retiring, but her form is good.
“I would have preferred her drawn in a bit, but I still think she’ll be competitive. But Qwara Bale and Shima Classic are the ones to beat.
“However, it would surprise me if she won; something would have to go wrong with the two favourites. She’s not a world-beater but is a very honest race performer.”
Aston Silk ($15.40) was second all-the-way in a heat, beaten 0.9L by frontrunning ‘banana bender’ Crazy Cool ($8.70) in 29.60sec.
Fastest qualifier in a slick 29.28sec, Qwara Bale (Box 6) is TAB’s $2.50 favourite, ahead of kennelmate Shima Classic (Box 3) and Crazy Cool (Box 1) at $4.60, while Aston Silk (Box 8) is rated a $13 chance.
WATCH: Aston Silk (5) finishes a close second to kennelmate and megastar Black Opium (4) in last year’s G1 Sapphire Crown final.
The Sapphire Crown final is Race 6 at 7.49pm.
Meanwhile, Thompson is one of four trainers vying for a G1 double on Thursday night. He also has Equalizer and Catch The Thief in the $100,000 to-the-winner Harrison-Dawson final (515m).
Equalizer ($8.60) powered home for second in a heat, albeit 6.4L in arrears of Tiggerlong Tonk in a sizzling 29.10sec, while Catch The Thief ($4.50) proved too strong over the latter stages for Fernando Bluey ($2.60F), scoring by 0.8L in 29.52sec.
“Equalizer will be last out of the boxes, but sometimes that’s helped him,” Thompson said. “It’s his style of racing and he’ll know what to do.
“He’ll dive across to the ‘fence’ and could be the dog that’s last and is charging up the inside. I’m hoping he gets a dream run on the first turn.”
Meanwhile, Thompson is satisfied with Catch The Thief’s progression off a limited preparation.
“That was his first race at Sandown since last year’s Melbourne Cup series in November and the run would have done him the world of good.
“I don’t mind him drawn in the middle but if he’s going to figure in the race, he needs to begin. He just needs to get the start right.
“Obviously Shima Shine and Tiggerlong Tonk are the two to beat, and you have to respect them wherever they’re drawn – and I think they’ve drawn well.”
Fastest qualifier in a mind-boggling 29.00sec, Shima Shine (Box 2) is TAB’s $2.40 favourite to land his third G1, ahead of 11-time G1 finalist Tiggerlong Tonk (Box 8) at $3.70. Equalizer (Box 4) and Catch The Thief (Box 5) are both quoted at $14.
The Harrison-Dawson is Race 8 at 8.34pm.
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