A spur of the moment decision has Ashlee Terry dreaming of a second Sapphire Crown victory when exciting sprinter Burn Like Fire lines up in a heat of the group 1 Sapphire Crown on Thursday night.
Burn Like Fire, owned and bred by Terry, has carved out an impressive career around the provincial circuit having won 23 of her 35 career starts, including a recent run of eight consecutive victories. However Thursday night represents a massive challenge for the daughter of El Grand Senor, and not just because of the quality of her opposition.
“She’s never been over 500m,” said Terry.
“In fact, before a couple of weeks ago, she’d never actually been around two turns before so it’s all very different for her. She’s had two post-to-post trials at Sandown Park – her first trial was so terrible I had to change the way that I prepared her a little bit.
“She improved a lot the next time, and she’s such a competitor I’m hoping that in a racing environment she’ll improve again.”
The Sapphire Crown holds special significance for Terry. At this time 12 months ago she broke through for her first group 1 victory, putting the polish on Maja Mahi Mahi to land in the $145,000 feature. The win was a life changing experience for the 27 year old.
“We never really race at Sandown or the Meadows and we still don’t that often, so to actually win a group race at a track like that – it’s what everyone hopes to do,” she continued.
“It was very overwhelming. We thought she was well drawn and that she could run a place, but I never thought she would win the race. The days afterwards were probably a little bit different, it was pretty full on but we just enjoyed it. Black Mumbo won as well on the night and we’re good friends with Anthony Karabitsakos (Black Mumbo’s trainer who also claimed his first group 1 in the Harrison-Dawson) and his family. It was one of those nights that we won’t ever forget. The race is a little bit sentimental to us now.”
As well as a significant financial windfall, victory at the highest level of the sport has given Terry the confidence take on such races in the future.
“We do try and protect ours a little bit and I try to put them in races that are maybe a little bit easier than what they’re capable of. So I think the thing I most took out of it was that sometimes you’ve got to give it a go if you’re ever going to win one. You’ve got to have the right dog of course, but you have to not be so worried about entering.”
Indeed, it was her experience in 2017 that helped Terry to decide to tackle the Sapphire Crown with Burn Like Fire.
“I compare them very similarly to be honest. We hadn’t raced Maja Mahi Mahi over 500m before the series and I wasn’t too impressed with her trial before the Sapphire. I ended up entering her and it worked out for the best, so that’s where I can hold on to a little bit of hope because they’re very similar types – they’re quick early and they can run good sectionals.
“There is a little bit of speed in the race but I am hoping that Burn Like Fire can lead. Her first two sections are very, very fast – she holds sectional records over shorter distances – but she’d want to pinch a pretty big break on dogs like Wynburn Cutie, Dyna Patty and Ella Enchanted. They’re very, very strong dogs and I just hope I can get out in front and get a bit of luck.”
The Sapphire Crown is Australia’s richest race for female greyhounds. Its honour roll boasts some of the greatest names to grace the track, including Australian Hall of Famers Bogie Leigh and Paua To Burn, Melbourne Cup winner Betty’s Angel, and multiple group 1 winners Cindeen Shelby, Queen Lauryn and Xylia Allen.
Four Sapphire Crown heats will be run on Thursday night with the winner and runner up progressing to the final on Thursday 24 May. The Sapphire Crown is one of three group 1 finals to be decided on the night, including the world’s richest race for stayers, the $250,000 RSN Sandown Cup, and Harrison-Dawson for the country’s best male greyhounds.
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