Token Prince: five Group finals in a short career
It was the peak achievement of his short but spectacular career. When the undefeated NSW sprinter Token Prince (Malawi's Prince x True Temptation) scored a strong two and a half lengths victory in the final of the 1997 Sapphire Crown Classic at Sandown Park, downing Royal Currency and Midnight Fool, the black dog looked to have the racing world at his paws.
His victory in the Sapphire Classic took his racing record to six starts for six wins, and while the speedster had certainly been favoured by good box draws, with five of his wins coming from box one, no one was in any doubt as to Token Prince's enormous ability. Yet, just six months later, his career on the racetrack would come to a premature end.
Token Prince was whelped in September 1995 and, aged 17 months, his NSW South Coast trainer Mick Abbott earmarked the Group 3 Vince Curry Memorial Maiden over 512 metres at Ipswich as his first racing assignment.
Held over three rounds, with heats, semi-final and final, Token Prince proved himself a class above his rivals.
He drew perfectly in box one for his heat and first race start, on March 2 1997. Token Prince won by two and half lengths in a reasonable 30.38. A week later, in his semi-final, he again exited box one and simply careered away to score by nine lengths from Colour Blaze in a sizzling 29.95, easily the best of the night.
In the final, Token Prince again drew perfectly in box one and speared the lids at the start to lead by almost two lengths into the first bend. As often happened at Ipswich, there was trouble at the first bend and three greyhounds fell. Token Prince simply continued to rocket away from his opponents and went on to score by just over four lengths in a blistering 29.94 and collect the $15,000 first prize money.
Trainer Mick Abbott then trekked from Ipswich to Sandown Park to contest the heats of the Group 2 Sapphire Crown Classic, held a mere three days after his victory in the Vince Curry.
Having his first look at the course, Token Prince was once more favoured by the box draw. Carrying the red rug, he scored a strong three lengths victory over Royal Currency, running a solid 30.31.
No doubt greatly freshened by the week's break, Token Prince came out of box four for his Sapphire Crown semi-final on April 3. The poor box meant nothing to him as he jumped quickly and put panels of fencing between him and his rivals, running home 10 lengths in advance of Diamond Twice and stopping the clock at 29.93, the best of the meeting.
Drawn in box one, again, for the final on April 10, Token Prince picked up $30,000 for annexing the Sapphire Crown Classic.
Abbott now gave his charge a well-earned rest. He brought him back for a tilt at the Group 2 Peter Mosman Memorial, run over 520 metres at Wentworth Park.
He was surprisingly beaten in his non-betting qualifying heat and was only first reserve for the first of the five semi-finals, run on May 31.
Sadly, the Lismore dual distance record holder Major Fox, a winner of 10 of 13 race starts, broke down in winning his heat and never raced again. Ironically, the scratching of Major Fox allowed Token Prince to make his way into the semi-final, drawing well in box two.
Token Prince made the most of his reprieve, beginning fairly and sitting behind the speedy Murphy's Benji before asserting his superiority in the back straight and pulling away for an easy win over Halcyon Days in 30.38, a time that proved to be the fastest of the night.
Token Prince again drew box two for the Peter Mosman Memorial final, opposed by some smart chasers including Sally's Title and the Queenslander Wine Glass.
Bigbad Trent outpaced Wine Glass into the first turn with Token Prince handy. Wine Glass worked hard to get past Bigbad Trent, but she looked to be only in front on sufferance as Token Prince was camped on her heels. The big black dog then made a complete mess of trying to get around Wine Glass, checking off her heels on two or three occasions. All this trouble allowed the rank outsider William Wallace to storm home and score from Wine Glass and an unlucky Sally's Title. Token Prince was fourth, just a length and a half away.
After his first defeat in eight race starts, Abbott gave his charge another break before contesting the Group 3 Young Star Classic series at Wentworth Park. For his heat, run on July 26, Token Prince again drew box one and downed the smart Kellbrett Jeanie by four and a half lengths in 30.36.
The final featured the undefeated Bobniak, who had won all six of his race starts, and the much-lauded and also undefeated Victorian Fraud, a winner of all four of his outings.
Token Prince drew poorly in box five and could finish only fifth, behind Bobniak, who downed Fraud by just three-quarters of a length.
Two weeks later, Token Prince bounced back, scoring by almost eight lengths at Wentworth Park in a fourth grade event and running 30.21, the best of the night.
Given a two-month break, Token Prince resumed on October 18 in a heat of the Group 2 Vic Peters Memorial Classic. Drawn in box seven, the widest alley he would draw in his short career, Token Prince once again clashed with Fraud (box six). The Victorian began well and held Token Prince at bay, going on to score by just over four lengths.
Sadly, Token Prince broke his hock in the Vic Peters final, finishing a brave sixth behind the still-undefeated Bobniak.
Token Prince retired to stud with a record of nine wins and one second from just 13 race starts. He was a finalist in five Group events, winning two. His average winning margin was an impressive 5.5 lengths.
His stud career was spectacular with more than 4,000 offspring, many succeeding at Group level, before he died in August 2009, aged almost 14 years old.