One of the greatest greyhounds to ever grace the tracks of Ireland has run her last race following the news that Susie Sapphire has come in season and her owned Peter Comerford has decided to retire her from the track with immediate effect.
Owen McKenna confirmed the news yesterday afternoon, bringing one of the greatest careers of any racing greyhound in the history of the sport to an end.
Her displays through 2021 will ensure that she is forever remembered as she captured the Puppy Oaks, the Sporting Press Irish Oaks and the Boylesports Derby, while she returned this year to win the Bresbet Easter Cup, further cementing her status as one of the best ever.
A SLOW START
The well-bred daughter of Droopys Jet and Jetstream Lynx began her racing career at Newbridge in early March 2021, making little impression as she finished last.
She next appeared at Shelbourne Park a fortnight later and displayed a bit more promise, finishing second, before opening her account at third time of asking as she led early to win in 28.77 around Shelbourne.
Little did we know that she would win another eleven races at HQ in 2021. Once of the mark, her connections began targeting bigger tests and she next appeared in the Puppy Oaks. She overcame traffic to qualify in third in the opening round before going unbeaten through the remainder of the competition.
PUPPY OAKS AND IRISH OAKS SUCCESS
Posting a sizzling 2.02 sectional in the decider, she made every inch to see off a quality field in 28.44.
She was now starting to show the qualities that would later establish herself as a true superstar. The Sporting Press Irish Oaks was the obvious target.
Again, she made a slow start to the classic, suffering defeat in the opening round before improving through the classic. A wonderful 28.29 victory in the quarter finals gave notice to her rivals and, while she ran into a rampant Front Amani in the semi-finals, she was handed an ideal draw on the fence in the decider.
As she did in the Puppy Oaks decider, Susie Sapphire flashed from traps and dominated to earn her first classic success by our and a half lengths from Scooby Princess. She really was a tremendous Oaks champion but what would come next?
Fast forward two months and she reappeared in an open 550 a week ahead of the Derby.
Could they be planning a raid on the greatest competition of them all? She may have suffered defeat in that contest, finishing third to a certain Romeo Magico but she had shown enough to suggest the 550yd trip mightn’t cause her too much concern.
And so, a week later, she took her first steps into Derby company. For the next six weeks, Susie Sapphire was flawless. Showing astounding trapping ability, incredible early speed and the pace and determination to see off all comers, she was installed the 2-1 favourite for Derby glory on September 18th.
On the biggest stage of all, in front of the most boisterous crowd of her career, Susie Sapphire produced a career defining display. Rarely has a greyhound produced a more perfect display on the night that mattered.
Rocketing from the inside box, she was always in complete control. Singalong Sally gave chase and did close a little from the third turn but Susie Sapphire was to achieve her destiny. To a massive roar from the appreciative packed stands, Susie Sapphire hit the line three lengths clear in 29.18, becoming the fastest Derby final winner in history.
She also became the first bitch to win the Derby this century, the second youngest winner of all time, the first bitch to record the Oaks/ Derby double and the first winner to go unbeaten through the blue riband since College Causeway in 2009.
LIFTING THE GLOOM
But somehow all this seemed somewhat overshadowed by her other achievements.
Her mere presence, allied with her sheer brilliance and enthusiasm were infectious. After a year and a half of lockdowns, racing behind closed doors and some very tough times for those involved in greyhound racing, she almost singlehandedly lifted the gloom. Her arrival on the track scene was perfectly timed.
A CHERRY ON TOP
While the Derby victory was the pinnacle of her racing career, she returned in 2022 to put a cherry on top.
In claiming the Bresbet Easter Cup at odds of 1-3, she again lifted the spirits. In victory she became the first Derby champion this century to go on and win another classic.
She had four more starts, reaching the final of the Race of Champions a fortnight ago but, alas, she missed the start and found traffic before finishing out of the frame. That doesn’t matter, however. The most important thing is that she was fit as a fiddle until the end.
Speaking of his star performer yesterday, Owen McKenna said, “She is absolutely irreplaceable and I’ll be sad to see her go but she has a date with Droopys Sydney. She is going back to Peter’s and will be mated in the next week or two.
“It’ a pity. We were going to go to the Champion Stakes before the Derby but nature had other ideas. She actually broke ten days after the Derby last year. That was the first time she came in season and we were hoping she would be a twelve-month bitch but it seems she is a nine-month bitch.
“We can’t complain though, she really owes us nothing. I can promise you I won’t be falling out with Peter. It would be lovely if I could train a few of her progeny in the future. All you can hope is they’re half as good as herself. If that were the case, we’d be very lucky.”
ONE IN A MILLION
The on-line reaction to the news that Susie Sapphire is to be retired was incredible on Wednesday evening.
It’s clear she has a very special place in the heart of those that love our wonderful sport. We look forward to seeing Susie’s pups hit the track in the future but for the moment, we can cherish the memories.
Her displays through the 2021 Boylesports Derby will forever stay with me and on behalf of all involved in greyhound sport, I’d likely to say thank you Susie. You really were one in a million.
SUSIE SAPPHIRE'S RACING HIGHLIGHTS