Tonneli Is Graeme Bate’s Leading Lady In Sapphire Crown

will aim for her third Group race win in six weeks after recording the fastest time in tonight's heats of the $72,500 Group 1 Sapphire Crown at Park.

Trained by master mentor Graeme Bate, Tonneli Bale was sent to the boxes a $2.70 favourite on the back of two brilliant interstate Group race wins. Jumping only fairly from box 6, Tonneli Bale swept to the lead coming off the back straight and powered to the line four lengths clear of Garis Garis in a slick 29.60 seconds.

Bate has enjoyed a remarkable run with Tonneli Bale in this year's bitches classics having won the Group 2 Ladies Bracelet at Wentworth Park and the Group 2 Western Australian Oaks at Cannington. She also ran an unlucky second in the Group 1 Futurity at , and also reached the final of the Group 2 at Albion Park.

Despite again drawing box 6, Tonneli Bale is likely to start the favourite for the final.

Star Queensland youngster Queen Of Cyprus won on her Sandown Park debut, winning her heat in 29.75 seconds. Having won four of her past five starts at Brisbane's Albion Park – including her last three by a combined 28.75 lengths – Queen Of Cyprus was too strong in her heat, storming to the line to defeat Aston Elle by three quarters of a length.

Trainer Tony Brett is no stranger to success in this event, winning with Bogie Leigh in 2003 and with in 2008.

Also looking for repeat success is Jeff Britton, who caused one of the upsets of the night when Dream Chick ($17) defeated multiple Group race winner ($1.40) by three quarters of a length in 29.80 seconds. Dream Chick is the daughter of Britton's outstanding bitch who won this race in 2007. The win was just the third of Dream Chick's 18 race career.

Other heat winners included rising four year old Amakler Girl who was a reserve for this race in 2009, Rafferty Flyer who has now won six of her 12 starts at Sandown Park, and Miss Bel Air who overcame box four to win her heat and has again drawn the blue for the final. Aston Elle, owned by race sponsor of Macro Meats, will also contest this week's final as the fastest runner up.

The Macro Meats Sapphire Crown is one of the highlights of Sandown's feature race calendar. Since becoming a bitches only race in 2002, it has been won by some of the finest ladies to grace the track including Australian Greyhound Racing Hall of Fame inductees Bogie Leigh and Paua To Burn, Melbourne Cup winner Betty's Angel, and the brilliant Queen Lauryn.

The $72,500 Group 1 final will be run at Sandown Park on Thursday 9 June.

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