A daring ride by James McDonald saw Group 1 winning mare Shillelagh whip her rivals in the Group 1 $500,000 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington today.
The Chris Waller trained Shillelagh was a Group 1 winner over the same course and distance last year against all comers in the $1m Kennedy Mile but today she proved to be the superior galloper against the fillies and the mares.
Shillelagh has been a consistent Group 1 performer over the last twelve months with two recent fourth placings in the $1m Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick and in the $500,000 Aquis Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield.
McDonald was content to settle Shillelagh ($6.50) near the tail of the field and then rode for luck in the straight.
The seven year old mare was still way out of contention at the 300m mark with a wall of horses in front of her but McDonald persevered with the inside and when the split came late, Shillelagh burst through and went on to record a decisive one and a quarter lengths win over Bring Me Roses ($41).
The consistent Lindsay Park trained filly Fundamentalist ($13) ran another mighty race for find third position just ahead of Bella Martini ($31).
The Darren Weir trained Amphitrite was sent out as the $4.20 favourite but was always well back in the pack and had trouble finding clear space in the straight to finish eleventh.
Waller was happy to find the winner’s stall with Shillelagh after finishing in the runner’s stall in the two previous races with Brimham Rocks in the Group 3 $300,000 Lexus Stakes (2500m) and with Zousain in the Group 1 $1m Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m).
“It was a good win and it must have been some brave ride through there,” Waller said.
“James just went back and bided his time. I closed my eyes at the 300m hoping for the best and the best came.”
“I have been the biggest shook of all today, running a couple of seconds, thought it was the end of the world on the back of last week and then thirty minutes later you are winning a Group 1 race.”