History and Event Timeline for the Sapphire
1974 Race first run as the Sir Arthur Rylah Sapphire Classic on 7 February 1974 over 513m. Race is worth $1,450 to the winner, Bristol Sue
1976 Prizemoney increases to $3,600 to the winner
1986 1985 Melbourne Cup winner Sydney Dingaan becomes the only dog to take the Melbourne Cup – Sapphire Classic double
1987 Race distance decreased to 511m
1989 Race is run twice, in January as the Sandown Sapphire Classic, and in July as the Sandown Auction Classic
1990 Race is renamed the Sandown Sapphire Classic and moved to April. Prizemoney increases to $8,000 to the winner
1995 Prizemoney increases to $14,000 to the winner
1996 Race elevated to Group 3 status. Prizemoney increases to $15,000. Race distance increases to 515m following Sandown Park track reconstruction
1997 Race elevated to Group 2 status. Prizemoney increases to $30,000 to the winner. Legendary sire Token Prince takes out the race
1999 Ashlee Jeannine wins the race in 29.74 seconds – a race record
2000 Race elevated to Group 1 status. Prizemoney increases to $40,000 to the winner. Dutchy’s Angel equals Ashlee Jeannine’s race record 29.74
2002 Race is renamed the Sapphire Crown Classic and conditions changed to bitches only. The race is also moved to November and is included in Sandown’s Superdog series. Prizemoney increases to $50,000 to the winner
2003 AGRA Hall of Famer Bogie Leigh claims her third Group race win for the year in taking out the event by a race record 7.5 lengths
2004 Sandown introduces a $10,000 bonus to any bitch who can win the G1 Laurels Classic – G1 Sapphire Crown Classic double. After taking out the Laurels Classic by 7.25 lengths in 29.58, Paua To Burn completes the double after starting the Sapphire Crown Classic a $1.60 favourite
2005 After beginning well from the awkward box 5, Paua To Burn blitzes her rivals and defends her Sapphire Crown Classic title by a race record 10.25 lengths. The win was Paua To Burn’s fourth Group 1 victory
2006 Betty’s Angel wins her first Group 1, with litter sister Leprechaun Pace running third. Betty’s Angel would go on to win the Group 1 Schweppes Melbourne Cup, defeating another litter sister, Miss Mini Mouse.
2007 The final becomes a family affair with Que Sera Sera winning for Angela Langton and brother-in- law Robert Britton training both One Tree Hill and Tasman Queen into the placings
2008 Queen Lauryn overcomes a number of off-track issues to win her first Group 1 in dominant display from box 2.
2009 Victorian and Australian Greyhound of the Year Cindeen Shelby added another Group 1 trophy to the mantel piece with a convincing win in a fast 29.72 a race record.
2010 Race not run due to a change in the AGRA calendar and was held over to its new time slot in June 2011 replacing the Laurels which was moved to December.
2011 Evergreen sprinter Amakler Girl ($7.40) upstaged her younger rivals when as the oldest runner in the field, she jumped straight to the lead from box one and was never headed, she defeated fast-finishing favourite Tonneli Bale ($3.60) by 1¼ lengths in 29.70.
2012 Jason Thompson’s golden 2012 continued when Peggy May led all the way to claim the 2012 Group 1 Macro Meats Sapphire Crown. Showing her customary early speed, she led into the first turn and raced away down the back to win in race record time of 29.42.
2013 Xylia Allen confirmed her status as one of the most exciting greyhounds in the country when she sensationally won the Macro Meats Sapphire Crown in one of the runs of the year at Sandown Park she recorded 29.48 and ran down favourite Punch One Out.
2014 South Australian sprinter Oakvale Destiny became Jeff Britton’s first Sapphire winner, his brother Robert had won the event in 1990 with Ravello and partner Angela Langdon with Que Sera Sera in 2007.
2015 All distance Sandown star Lamia Bale was the brilliant winner in 2015 the versatile multi group winner proved way too good against her own sex in a race record time of 29.23.
2016 A fairytale was completed when Narralee staved off her rivals to take out the 2016 Group 1 Sapphire Crown. Narralee ($11.80) exploded out of box 2 to lead clearly from the wide running Shared Equity and favourite Folio Bale. As the trio battled for position down the back straight Narralee held her head. Folio Bale ($2.40) threatened danger turning for home but Narralee held on to win by a head in 29.47.
2017 Maja Mahi Mahi ($7.70) upstaged one of the best fields to ever contest the Group 1 Sapphire Crown (515m) with a tenacious victory. The black bitch was quickly into stride from box two and was able to punch up and hold the lead on the inside of dual group 1 winner Striker Light ($3.00) in the charge around the first turn. Down the back, the bonny bitch was once again challenged – this time by group 2 Laurels heroine Up Hill Jill ($4.20) (box five). However, coming off the back Maja Mahi Mahi slipped into top gear and despite rolling wide in the home straight, she was too strong for Up Hill Jill when scoring by half a length in 29.67.
2018 Harry Manolitsis was no stranger to Group 1 glory heading into the 2018 Sapphire Crown, having bred and raced 2016 Golden Easter Egg hero Moreira. But the Pearcedale owner/trainer received one of his greatest thrills in greyhound racing when lightly raced speedster Elevated was a brilliant all-the-way winner of the prestigious female Classic. Elevated was best to begin, taking her potentially awkward alley out of the equation, and after breaking clear of roughie Envy Heist ($25.60) approaching the home turn she increased her advantage in the home straight, defeating Angela Langton’s outsider Go Seek Heidi ($26.30) by 3.74 lengths in 29.29sec.
2019 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. 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. (515m), the middle leg of Sandown’s Group 1 triple header on Friday night.
2020 – Black Opium finally shed her bridesmaid tag with victory in the group 1 Sapphire Crown at Sandown Park. A firm favourite throughout the series, Black Opium was made to work hard for the win after only beginning fairly and settling third behind Aston Silk and Spring Fair through the first turn. Black Opium swept past Spring Fair down the back straight and set off in pursuit of her kennelmate, switching to the rails as they swung for home and powering to the line for a through for a ¾ length victory in 29.57, much to the relief of handler Seona Thompson.