Saturday summary: Western Empire dominates Railway, locals star in The Gong

11 min read
Western Empire (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}) ignited the Perth Carnival with a powerhouse performance in the opening Group 1, while a home-town hero played a starring role in The Gong at Kembla Grange.

Cover image courtesy of Western Racepix

Race-Day Recap

Western Empire (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}) lived up to his hot favouritism with a runaway victory in the G1 Heineken 3 Railway S. at Ascot.

That completed a notable double for owner-breeder Bob Peters, trainers Grant and Alana Williams and jockey William Pike, who also teamed up to win the G2 Sky Racing WA Guineas with Treasured Star (Toronado {Ire}).

Count De Rupee (Real Impact {Jpn}) delivered a popular local triumph in the $1 million The Gong at Kembla Grange.

Zayydani (NZ) (Savabeel) has provided plenty of highlights in the first six months of Ben and JD Hayes’ training partnership, and she did it again in the Listed Sportsbet Ballarat Cup.

Narrowly beaten in last year’s G2 Auckland Breeders’ S., well-performed mare Showoroses (NZ) (Showcasing {GB}) went one better in 2021.

David Greene had a day to remember on his home track, saddling Justamaiz (NZ) (Guillotine {NZ}) and Judy’s Song (NZ) (Niagara) for a quinella in the G3 Franklin Auctions Counties Cup.

Two-year old colt Cusack and filly Bright Blue Sky were impressive on debut in the juvenile feature races on saturday with possible tickets to Queensland being booked by connections.

Western Empire a class above

Perth's G1 Railway S. has been run every year since 1887, and won by the likes of Northerly (Serheed {USA}) and Better Loosen Up (Loosen Up {USA}), but there has never been a favourite as short as the $1.60 on offer as Western Empire (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}) stepped out on to the Ascot track on Saturday afternoon.

But the latest star of Western Australian racing lived right up to those sky-high expectations, cruising around in fifth before beginning an ominous creep forward with 400 metres remaining in the first Group 1 race of the Perth carnival.

Western Empire (NZ) winning the Railway S. | Image courtesy of Western Racepix

The race was over as soon as jockey William Pike released the brakes in the straight, and Western Empire bounded away to win by 4l from Comfort Me (Playing God) and Kissonallforcheeks (Written Tycoon).

Trained by Grant and Alana Williams for the ever-present Perth owner-breeder Bob Peters, Western Empire has now had 12 starts for seven wins and four placings.

The Railway was his sixth black-type win, following on from the G2 Western Australian Derby, G3 Asian Beau S., Listed JC Roberts S., Listed Lex Piper S. and Listed Melvista S.

Big day for connections

Western Empire’s Railway S. heroics completed a big double at Ascot on Saturday for Peters, Williams and Pike, who also joined forces to win the G2 Sky Racing WA Guineas with Treasured Star (Toronado {Ire}).

Having only cleared maiden grade in late September, the exciting filly has now won three of her five starts and almost $350,000 in stakes.

Treasured Star winning the G2 WA Guineas | Image courtesy of Western Racepix

For Pike, the Guineas-Railway double marked his fourth and fifth wins on Saturday's Ascot card, having previously scored with Pure Devotion (So You Think {NZ}), Expressionist (Pierro) and Proconsent (Proart). Pure Devotion and Expressionist both also race in the distinctive Peters colours.

Local triumph in The Gong

The locals stole the show in Saturday’s $1 million The TAB Gong at Kembla Grange as Count De Rupee (Real Impact {Jpn}) powered to a popular victory for father-son training team Robert and Luke Price.

The talented 4-year-old went into the race on the back of a career-best performance in defeat in the $7.5 million Golden Eagle at Rosehill late last month, finishing second and only 0.2l behind I’m Thunderstruck (NZ) (Shocking).

Count De Rupee winning The TAB Gong | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

In front of a vocal home-town crowd, Count De Rupee made sure that Saturday was his day. Unleashed in the straight by apprentice jockey Brock Ryan, he rapidly reeled in the front-running Archedemus (Lope De Vega {Ire}) and forged clear to score by 1.3l.

The Gong was part of a treble of wins on Saturday for Ryan, who also won aboard The Guru (Rubick) and Divine Breath (Scissor Kick).

“After the Golden Eagle, I said I felt like crying because we got beaten – today I feel like crying because we won,” Ryan said. “Especially for the bosses, Robert and Luke. They are massive supporters of mine and they promote me as much as they can, give me every opportunity under the sun and it is so good to capitalise for them.

“This is the best memory of my racing career so far. Six years ago, I rode my first winner at Adaminaby at a non-TAB meeting. Here we are today winning a $1 million race on my home track.”

“This is the best memory of my racing career so far. Six years ago, I rode my first winner at Adaminaby at a non-TAB meeting. Here we are today winning a $1 million race on my home track.” - Brock Ryan

But Ryan’s big day was soured by a suspension for careless riding during The Gong, where an inward move near the 1400-metre mark caused Atishu (NZ) (Savabeel) to be steadied. His suspension begins on November 28 and will expire on December 9.

Count De Rupee was a $145,000 purchase from the draft of his breeders Arrowfield Stud at the 2019 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, where he was bought by Robert Price. From 15 starts, he has now recorded six wins and seven placings, earning more than $2.4 million in stakes.

“I really believe the world is his oyster over the next 12 months and two years, because he is only going to get better,” Luke Price said. “We’ll go where the big money is I suspect, so we’re going to look for an Everest ticket next year.”

Lindsay Park's pin-up girl delivers again

Zayydani (NZ) (Savabeel) holds a special place in the hearts of Lindsay Park trainers Ben and JD Hayes, and on Saturday she provided another outstanding result in the Listed Sportsbet Ballarat Cup.

Carrying the colours of her Kiwi owner-breeders, Trelawney Stud’s Brent and Cherry Taylor, Zayydani gave the Hayes team the very first win of their training partnership when she took out the Listed Tattersall’s Gold Crown at Eagle Farm in June.

Zayydani (NZ) winning the Listed Ballarat Cup

Bigger and better things followed earlier this month, as a spring campaign centred around the G2 Matriarch S. came to fruition in the fillies and mares' feature at Flemington on November 6.

The $500,000 Ballarat Cup proved to be a lucrative afterthought on Saturday as the 5-year-old dived through along the rail, edging out Yonkers (USA) (Medaglia D’Oro {USA}) and Vanna Girl (Husson {Arg}) in a three-way photo finish. Like in the Matriarch two weeks ago, she was ridden to victory by Luke Nolen.

Ben Hayes described Zayydani as a real stable favourite, alongside Mr Brightside (NZ) (Bullbars), who won six races in a row before a close fourth in the G1 Cantala S.

“This is such a big thrill,” Hayes said. “Well done to all the team. My brother JD, in Hong Kong, he’ll be thrilled.

“Along with Mr Brightside, she’s the pin-up of the stable. Mr Brightside is the pin-up boy, and she’s the pin-up girl. For her to come here and win and give the owners a win like that with such good prizemoney, it just shows what a champ she is.

"For her (Zayydani) to come here and win and give the owners a win like that with such good prizemoney, it just shows what a champ she is." - Ben Hayes

“This race was really an add-on. The Grand Final was the Matriarch, and she came through that so well that we thought we’d have a crack at the Ballarat Cup. Gee, she was impressive.”

Zayydani has now had 18 starts for six wins and five placings, earning just under $730,000 in stakes. But her value extends well beyond that, being a half-sister to the G1 Australian Guineas and Makybe Diva S. winner Grunt (NZ) (O’Reilly {NZ}). Her dam Ruqqaya (NZ) (Van Nistelrooy {USA}) is a half-sister to Cox Plate winner and sire Ocean Park (NZ).

Showoroses goes one better

A desperately close second in last year’s G2 Dunstan Feeds Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ S. was the starting point of a golden summer for Showoroses (NZ) (Showcasing {GB}), and victory in the same race on Saturday suggested the best could be yet to come.

Showoroses (NZ) winning the G2 Thoroughbred Breeders' S. | Image courtesy of NZ Racing Desk

The talented chestnut went into the fillies and mares’ feature 12 months ago as a $30 outsider and produced a massive performance, beaten by just 0.2l by the Group 1 winner Media Sensation (I Am Invincible). In her next two starts, the Joanne Surgenor-trained Showoroses recorded back-to-back Group 2 victories in the Cal Isuzu S. and Rich Hill Mile.

With COVID-19 border restrictions forcing a relocation from its usual home of Pukekohe, the 2021 edition of the Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ S. at Te Rapa on Saturday saw Showoroses right back on top of her game.

She swooped to the front at the top of the straight and repelled all challengers, edging out Our Alley Cat (NZ) (Atlante) by 0.1l, with the favourite Two Illicit (NZ) (Jimmy Choux {NZ}) another 1.5l away in third.

“I had to work a little bit hard early, and when that other horse came up alongside me, I thought we were all out,” jockey Opie Bosson said. “To her credit, she dug in and had a real go.

“I had to work a little bit hard early, and when that other horse came up alongside me, I thought we were all out. To her (Showoroses) credit, she dug in and had a real go." - Opie Bosson

“I thought we might have got outside the leader a little easier, and I had to niggle her to get up there, but she just travelled beautifully from then. She really fought hard and got off the canvas to win well.”

The win continued a remarkable run of form for Bosson, who missed a large chunk of the spring due to Auckland’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Since relocating to a temporary Waikato base, Bosson has racked up six stakes wins so far in November alone – Noverre (NZ) (Savabeel) in the G1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas, The Perfect Pink (NZ) (Savabeel) in the G1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas, Showoroses in the Breeders’ S., Markus Aurelius (NZ) (Ghibellines) in the G2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile, Summer Monsoon (Stratum) in the G3 Stewards’ S., and the Listed FastTrack 2YO S. earlier on Saturday afternoon with impressive filly Bright Blue Sky (Fastnet Rock).

Showoroses, meanwhile, has won five of her 16 starts and more than NZ$257,000 in stakes for owner-breeders Peter and Sherin Walker. Her dam is Rodrigo Rose (Rodrigo De Triano {USA}), who won the G3 Cuddle S. and placed in the G1 Easter H. and New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ S.

Greene saddles Cup quinella

The relocation of Saturday’s G3 Franklin Auctions Counties Cup to Te Rapa set up a dream day for local trainer David Greene.

Traditionally run at Pukekohe Park in south Auckland, the staying feature was moved due to COVID-19 restrictions around the Auckland border. Greene made the most of the bonus home-track advantage, saddling Justamaiz (NZ) (Guillotine {NZ}) and Judy’s Song (NZ) (Niagara) for a superb quinella.

Justamaiz (NZ) winning the G3 Counties Cup | Image courtesy of NZ Racing Desk

The pair surged over the top of the favourite Cheaperthandivorce (NZ) (Savabeel) in the straight, with Justamaiz edging ahead of his stablemate in the closing stages to score by 0.5l. Judy’s Song finished 1l clear of Cheaperthandivorce.

Making Saturday’s result even more special, Greene Thoroughbreds also bred and part-owns Justamaiz. The 7-year-old gelding has now had 35 starts for eight wins, four placings and NZ$281,010 in stakes.

“I actually went into a little panic when I saw Justamaiz range up,” Greene admitted. “I thought he would just run away, but then I saw something challenging on his inside. I thought, ‘Jeez, we could get beaten,’ but then I realised it was mine as well. I think Judy’s Song has gone an enormous run at her first try at this grade.

“Just as those good jockeys seem to do, Michael McNab (jockey, Justamaiz) just had great timing and ranged into it at just the right moment.” - David Greene

“Just as those good jockeys seem to do, Michael McNab (jockey, Justamaiz) just had great timing and ranged into it at just the right moment.

“The horse has really come of age with his racing manners, and we provide a lot of winners for Michael, so that combo is working well together.

“We haven’t really seen Justamaiz win in that fashion in this grade in the past – he is normally rolling along and fighting them off. It was a good performance, and he could come back here and try and win the Waikato Cup again next month.”

Saturday Summary
Western Empire
William Pike
Treasured Star
Count De Rupee
Justamaiz
David Greene
Showoroses
Opie Bosson
Zayydani
Ben Hayes
Te Rapa
Kembla Grange
Ballarat
Ascot