Peters' looking for Railway silver lining

10 min read
Leading owner-breeders Bob and Sandra Peters are looking to Western Empire (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}) in Saturday’s Heineken 3 Railway S. to end 2021 on a high, after having endured a tumultuous year of heartbreak.

Image courtesy of Western Racepix

Peters, co-trainers Grant and Alana Williams and jockey William Pike are chasing four straight wins in the first of three Group 1s at Ascot in the $1 million 1600-metre feature.

The famed cerise and white colours have crossed the line first over the past three years, with Inspirational Girl (Reliable Man {GB}), Regal Power (Pierro) and Galaxy Star (Redoute’s Choice).

Gallery: Some of the Peters' horses

Western Empire was installed at $1.80 favourite after he drew gate three at Tuesday’s barrier draw. He is the shortest-priced favourite in the Railway in five decades, with Asian Beau (Beau Sovereign {NZ}) winning the race at $1.90 in 1979.

The Peters family have been racing thoroughbreds for nearly half a century, thus they are stoically accustomed to suffering disappointment and loss.

This year has been extraordinary with multiple fatalities and injuries befalling the couple’s brightest stars.

Tragedy strikes

Peters tragically lost their new shining light Truly Great (Dundeel {NZ}) from a suspected snakebite at their picturesque Keysbrook property in March.

Truly Great, a brilliant winner of the G1 Kingston Town Classic in December, was touted as Peters’ prime charge for this year’s Cox Plate.

The late Truly Great | Image courtesy of Western Racepix

Truly Great, an eight-time winner from 14 starts, was found dead in his paddock on the morning stable star Arcadia Queen (Pierro) was scratched from the All-Star Mile at Moonee Valley.

Some two months later tragedy struck again with five of Peters’ prized weanlings killed in a horror traffic accident near Kalgoorlie.

The youngsters were being transported from interstate studs to Peters’ property.

Peters retired the three-times Group 1 winner Arcadia Queen because of injury. She was sold to Arrowfield Stud for $3.2 million in a deal negotiated between Peters and Arrowfield in May, after being passed in at the Gold Coast Magic Millions sale for $3.4 million at auction.

Celebrity Queen (Redoute’s Choice), who dead-heated for first with Portland Sky (Deep Field) in the G1 Oakleigh Plate, was sold for $2.5 million at Inglis’ Chairman’s Sale in the same month.

Arcadia Queen when racing | Image courtesy of Sportpix

Star mare Inspirational Girl had her maiden Melbourne spring campaign thwarted by injury. The 6-year-old daughter of Reliable Man (GB) is recuperating in a paddock after having surgery to correct a breathing issue.

A winner of nine of her 13 starts, Inspirational Girl made her debut for trainer Danny O’Brien with a fifth in the G1 Memsie S. at Caulfield on August 28.

Injury and illness eliminated classy mares Spritely Star (Statue Of Liberty {USA}) and Magical Dream (Dream Ahead {USA}) out of the Railway.

Spritely Star, a brilliant winner of three of her six starts, was retired because of a knee injury following her successive wins at Northam and Ascot last month. Magical Dream, a last start Ascot winner in October, is still at Peters’ property undergoing veterinary treatment.

Superstorm (Sebring) was a beacon of light during the Melbourne spring carnival with his Group 2 win in the Feehan S. and his narrow defeat of fellow WA-owned galloper Icebath (NZ) (Sacred Falls {NZ}) in the G1 Cantala S. at Flemington on October 30.

Superstorm | Image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

“It’s most disappointing, but we are getting used to it,” Peters said. “To have Truly Great and the float accident within weeks of each-other is unbelievable.

“Injury and illness is an every day event in this game and you have to learn to live with it.”

Following in Regal Power's footsteps

Western Empire made an audacious return to racing with his barnstorming 2.1l win in the G3 Asian Beau S. (1400 metres) at Ascot on October 30.

The 4-year-old won the G2 WATC Derby (2400 metres) at his final 3-year-old start at Ascot in April. He won all three Derby lead-ups in the Listed Lex Piper (1600 metres), J C Roberts (1800 metres) and Melvista S. (2200 metres).

Western Empire (NZ) | Image courtesy of Western Racepix

Peters had considered sending Western Empire across to Melbourne to run in G1 Australian Guineas (1600 metres), but scrapped the plan after his third in the Challenge S. (1500 metres) at Ascot.

He is weighted on the minimum on 53kg under topweight Valour Road (Frost Giant {USA}) on 58kg, who ran 14th in last year’s G1 Winterbottom S. (1200 metres), but was elevated to the Railway, following his win in the G3 Hyperion S. (1600 metres) at Belmont last winter.

Peters has followed a similar strategy with Western Empire to 2019 Railway winner Regal Power.

Bob Peters | Image courtesy of Western Racepix

Regal Power won the Lex Piper, Melvista and WATC Derby as a 3-year-old before resuming in the Asian Beau, running second to Samizdat (Not A Single Doubt) in the handicap. Like Western Empire he ran second-up in the Railway.

Peters' past three Railway winners were all on the minimum weight, while his other two Railway winners Old Comrade (Old Spice) and Elite Belle (Canny Lad) carried 53.5kg in 2001 and 2014.

“We thought Regal Power must win the Asian Beau to qualify,” Peters said. “We took the risk knowing his ratings (94) could see him get balloted out of the Railway, but fortunately he snuck into the field.

“A lot of our Derby winners didn’t come back as well as we had thought they might, but he did. Hopefully this fellow can follow suit.

“A lot of our Derby winners didn’t come back as well as we had thought they might, but he (Regal Power) did. Hopefully this fellow (Western Empire) can follow suit." - Bob Peters

“I decided not to run Regal Power in this year’s Railway because he would have had to carry too much weight.

“We had a shot at the Asian Beau to get Western Empire into the Railway and he won quite well. He had a lightweight (54kg) in the Asian Beau and has a light weight in the Railway.”

Family reputation

Western Empire’s dam Western Jewel (Jeune {GB}) won the 2011 Perth Cup for Peters and Grant Williams. Western Jewel produced five foals to race for four winners, including Western Temple (Dream Ahead {USA}) who won a Bunbury S. and Coolgardie Cup.

Western Temple | Image courtesy of Western Racepix

Peters owns two unraced full brothers to Western Empire in Western Knight (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}) and Western Power (Iffraaj {GB}).

“We bred Western Jewel and she has been a great broodmare to us,” Peters said. “She is a bit slow to get into foal this season. Because Iffraaj does not shuttle anymore she has gone to Toronado.

“Western Power is living up to the family reputation. He is giving us a few problems with the barriers. He doesn’t like noises so getting him into the barriers is causing a problem.

“Western Empire threw away races early because he was a bit wayward. It took a while for his brain to click in. He was booked to fly to Melbourne for the Australian Guineas. Because he did not win the Challenge S. I kept him here and he raced in the WATC Derby.

"He (Western Empire) was booked to fly to Melbourne for the Australian Guineas. Because he did not win the Challenge S. I kept him here and he raced in the WATC Derby." - Bob Peters

“I went to Iffraaj with Western Jewel because I was looking to breed a middle-distance horse and he had thrown a few derby winners.”

History a possibility

Peters tries not to think too much about chasing a historic fourth straight Railway win.

According to official records the only owner (prior to Peters) to claim a Railway hat-trick were Smith and Co with wins by Hermit (1889), Wandering Willie (1890) and Will O’The Whisp (1891).

“It is unlikely this could happen in the modern era,” Peters said. “I think the Railway is the hardest race in WA to win.

“I think the Railway is the hardest race in WA to win." - Bob Peters

“It took us a long time to win our first Railway (Old Comrade) and we have had a lot of runners in it. It took us over a decade until Elite Belle won it the next time. There is a lot of expectation when a horse is so short in the market.”

Peters is banking primarily on Treasured Star (Toronado {Ire}) to give him a repeat of 2019 with the filly running as the $2.30 favourite in the Sky Racing WA Guineas (1600 metres).

Peters won the Railway-Guineas double with Regal Power and Arcadia Queen in 2019. Peters also has the $20 chance Devoted (Xtravagant {NZ}) in the classic.

Treasured Star | Image courtesy of Western Racepix

Treasured Star was luckless at her last start in the fillies-only Burgess Queen S. (1400 metres), before finishing fifth to Buzzoom (Safeguard) on November 2.

She was heavily bumped soon after the start and disappointing for a clear passage before being severely checked at the 150-metre mark.

Treasured Star overshadows It’sarayday (Winning Rupert), who won the colts and geldings' Fairetha S. (1600 metres) on October 30, in betting at $4.

Treasured Star has won an 1100-metre maiden at Northam and a Class 3 H. at Ascot from her four starts.

“A lot of people have a high expectation,” Peters said. “From my view she has not done a lot as yet. I like to see them perform in the feature races first.”

“A lot of people have a high expectation. From my view she (Treasured Star) has not done a lot as yet. I like to see them perform in the feature races first.” - Bob Peters

Her dam Treasured Gift (Big Brown {USA}) has produced two foals to race for two winners with her other winner being Treasured Prize (Pierro).

Devoted, who launched his campaign with a Northam maiden win last month, was claiming ground inside the final 150 metres, from last position into the corner, finishing a 2l fifth in the Fairetha.

Last Saturday’s WA Champion Fillies' S.-winning jockey Kyra Yuill (Searchin’ Roc’s) replaces William Pike (Treasured Star) on Devoted, who is having only his fourth start.

Devoted’s dam Morning Mist (Anabaa {USA}) has produced three winners from her six foals.

Peters sold Treasured Gift a few years ago and this year sold Morning Mist.

“Treasured Gift had an injury and didn’t race, but she was a really good type and I thought I would keep her,” Peters said. “I got three of her daughters so I decided to sell her.”

“Treasured Gift had an injury and didn’t race, but she was a really good type and I thought I would keep her. I got three of her daughters so I decided to sell her.” - Bob Peters

Peters has three unraced full brothers to Devoted.

“I always wanted to buy a horse by Xtravagant’s sire Pentire and was the under-bidder on him when he went to auction,” Peters said.

“I was doing the bidding on the telephone. May be if I was at the Sale I would have kept going and bought him.

“I followed his career and by a co-incidence, I had a telephone call telling me he was going to be syndicated as a stallion. So I bought a share in him. He is producing really good types, so hopefully he has a future.”

Bob and Sandra Peters
Western Empire
Grant and Alana Williams
William Pike
Asian Beau
Regal Power