Crimson Vixen Chasing Sapphire Crown

SANDOWN Cup night has a special place in Norm McCullagh’s heart, his Hall of Fame stayer Bold Trease winning four successive Cups in the 1980s.

Adam Dobbin

21 May 2019

SANDOWN Cup night has a special place in Norm McCullagh’s heart.

In 1989 his Hall Of Fame stayer Bold Trease won his fourth successive Sandown Cup and etched his name as an all time great performer – regardless of code.

On Friday, McCullagh will make the five-hour trip from his Warrnambool base to Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs with the Group 1 Sapphire Crown his target, not the $175,000 to-the-winner stayer’s feature – now the richest in the world over the distance.

“Gee I wish we had that sort of money back in the late ‘80’s,” McCullagh laughed.

“Bold Trease won $8,000 for his first Sandown Cup and $10,000 for the next three.”

Crimson Vixen, purchased as a three month old pup, has given McCullagh great joy in the short time she’s been racing and heads into her biggest challenge boasting nine wins and five placings from only 16 starts.

“She’s only a baby and we had great hopes she’d do well in the Golden Easter Egg at Wentworth Park last month but illness came against her.

“She led in her heat [finishing second to Pindari Express in a blazing 29.41] and pulled really distressed and continuing in the series was not an option.

“We could not push her and it took a couple of weeks for her to get back on track.”

Following the Golden Easter Egg heat, Crimson Vixen contested the Warrnambool Cup and was hampered in the run to the line when third to Dyna Patty in the $47,000 to-the-winner decider on May 1.

“She led from box eight in her Sapphire Crown heat and won in 29.68. Her time was well shy of the best of the heats but it was her first outing over 515m for six weeks and she will be better for the final.

“That said, it’s a much tougher line-up this week … Neo Cleo will be punching for the lead early and, late, Zipping Bailey will be charging, and that’s just two of ‘em.

“She will need to lead clearly to win but you never know what might happen on the night.”

McCullagh has found success across the nation winning a Launceston Cup, Association Cup, two Warrnambool Cups and a Warrnambool Classic with Our Daisy but a Sapphire Crown would put the ‘icing on the cake’.

“We’d love to get back to Sydney for another race but we’ll take it one step at a time and just hope she gets through this with a clean bill of health.

“Local boys from the Timboon Football Club own Crimson Vixen and they will be there on the night to give her a cheer.”

If Group 1 glory comes McCullagh’s way, celebrations will be long and loud from the syndicate of owners and Norm’s long trek will seem shorter but a post 3am finish is assured with or without the $100,000 first prize safely banked.

The clock does not lie!