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Kiwis strike a blow in Empire Rose

3 min read

Written by Paul Vettise

New Zealand's weight of expectation didn’t weigh Shillelagh (NZ) (Savabeel) down when she benefited from a James McDonald masterclass to storm to victory in the G1 Empire Rose St at Flemington on Saturday.

There have been slim spring pickings for the across the Tasman raiders, but they got a royal result with the Chris Waller-prepared 7-year-old, who 12 months ago to the day lifted the G1 Kennedy Mile title.

“A Kiwi trainer, a Kiwi jockey and Kiwi owners,” rider McDonald said.

“A Kiwi trainer, a Kiwi jockey and Kiwi owners.” – James McDonald.

Shillelagh is raced by her Hunterville breeder Christopher Grace and his wife Susanna, who have extensive bloodstock interests.

The former has been involved in racing for more than half a century and his commitment and dedication to the industry, and his community, was acknowledged in 2014 with a Queen’s Service Medal.

A former President and now Life Member of the Marton Jockey Club, Grace’s best horse before the emergence of Shillelagh was the G2 Wellington Cup winner Graphic (NZ) (Volksraad {GB}).

His current star settled toward the tail of the field and McDonald had to call on all his guile to weave a passage for the mare.

"It’s great how it worked out and she was always travelling beautifully.” – James McDonald.

“I’ll take a little bit of credit for that. It’s great how it worked out and she was always travelling beautifully,” he said. “We had to get a bit of luck and she just burst through.”

A Te Akau Graduate

Shillelagh began her racing life with the Te Akau operation and won five races for Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards before she relocated to Waller.

She won the G1 Kennedy Mile as well as the G3 Godolphin Crown last year and had finished fourth in both the G1 Epsom H., and the G1 Toorak ahead of her towering Empire Rose performance.

“It was a really good win and a brave ride to get through.” – Chris Waller.

“It was a really good win and a brave ride to get through,” Waller said.

“James went back and bided his time and I was closing my eyes with 300 metres to run and then the best came.

“I’m very fortunate to have such beautiful horses. The last week has been amazing and what a great sport we’re all involved in.”

The Tony McEvoy-trained Bring Me Roses (High Chaparral {IRE} finished runner-up while her stablemate trio Temple Of Bel (Bel Esprit) came from last to run seventh.

No luck for filly

The third member of the McEvoy trio Oohood (I Am Invincible) was shut out of the placings after being hemmed in all the way down the straight.

“Bring Me Roses likes Flemington and ran third in the Australian Guineas here and bring on the Matriarch for Temple Of Bel,” he said.

“Oohood never quite got the opportunities, she didn’t get the clear air she needed.”