IN Racing
Western Empire after Melbourne crown
Western Empire may have conquered Western Australia, but he will be looking for his first Victorian scalp at Flemington on Saturday.
NZ Racing Desk | September 08, 2022
Western Empire. Photo: Western Race Pix

Western Empire may have conquered Western Australia, but he will be looking for his first Victorian scalp at Flemington on Saturday.

The Iffraaj gelding will contest the Gr.1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) after running fifth in the Gr.1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) last month.

It was his first run since runner-up in the Gr.1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) last December and trainer Danny O’Brien is expecting the New Zealand-bred to take plenty of improvement from that run.

“We drew wide (in the Memsie) and to put him in the race we had to go forward and used him up at both ends of the race,” O’Brien told

“He was still solid enough late in that race, but just first-up after 10 months, being that aggressive early might have taken a bit of an edge off him for late.”

Western Empire was dominant in Perth for former trainers Grant and Alana Williams last year, posting six consecutive stakes wins, including the Gr.2 WATC Derby (2400m), Gr.3 Asian Beau Stakes (1400m), and Gr.1 Railway Stakes (1600m).

Stablemate Inspirational Girl, who is also owned by Bob Peters, posted identical results in the Asian Beau Stakes, Railway Stakes, and Kingstown Town Classic, and O’Brien attributes their success to the patience of their owner.

“Bob is very patient with his horses,” O’Brien said. “A lot of them don’t do a lot of racing until they are late three-year-olds. 

“He has been very successful with four-year-olds like Inspirational Girl and Western Empire, who have won the Railway as four-year-olds.”

Inspirational Girl upset the apple cart when defeating Zaaki in the Gr.2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) in autumn, and O’Brien is hoping for more success from her this spring.

“She was great for us in the autumn. She beat Zaaki, albeit well suited in the weights that day in the Blamey,” O’Brien said.

“After she won that race she was looking for 2000m. We stayed at the mile for the All-Star Mile and Doncaster, but we are going to go straight to the 2000m with her this prep.

“She will be in the Turnbull (Gr.1, 2000m) next start and third-up she will go to the Caulfield Cup (Gr.1, 2400m).

“She is a Reliable Man mare out of a Zabeel mare, so we are expecting her to be better suited to 2000m and beyond.”

O’Brien has also been pleased with the progress of compatriots Showmanship and Callsign Mav this spring.

Showmanship was victorious first-up in the Gr.3 Show County Quality (1200m), while Callsign Mav was sixth when first-up in the Gr.1 Memsie Stakes (1400m).

“We were looking for a Soft5 or 6 for Showmanship and we got a beautiful surface at Randwick and he kicked the spring off with a nice win,” O’Brien said.

“We are hoping to see him on Saturday-week in the Sir Rupert Clarke (Gr.1, 1400m).

“Callsign Mav was good enough in the Memsie. He sat outside Snapdancer and he didn’t have the speed on the corner that she did.

“I seem him as a Toorak Handicap (Gr.1, 1600m) horse when he gets down in the handicaps a bit. He can definitely be placed and win a race over the spring.”

Western Empire Iffraaj Danny O’Brien Alana Williams Grant Williams Inspirational Girl Bob Peters Zaaki Reliable Man Zabeel Showmanship Callsign Mav Snapdancer