The Empire Strikes Back

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  • May 07, 2024
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NZ Racing Desk
6 May 2024
In a brilliant winning return to Perth racing, Western Empire revived memories of past glories when he outclassed his opponents in Sunday’s Gr.3 Northam Stakes (1300m).
Back in the familiar care of previous trainers Grant and Alana Williams, Western Empire put the writing on the wall at his previous start in The Joey (1200m) with a flashing first up third.
Starting a firm $2.20 favourite on the strength of that eye-catching Joey performance, Western Empire returned to his imposing best and gave jockey William Pike the second leg of a double.
Once Pike angled back inside of heels, Western Empire exploded clear in the straight and although he wanted to shift ground a little over the final stages he had the race shot to pieces and career win number eight was safely in his grasp. $101 outsider, Mood Swings, was Western Empire’s closest rival, 2-½ lengths away in second place while consistent Albany-based seven-year-old Red Can Man was another half-length away in third position.
Western Empire’s redemption win added to Grant and Alana Williams’ elite reputation with the master co-trainers reviving the fortunes of the six-year-old who couldn’t fire a shot in Melbourne.
In two campaigns for Danny O’Brien and John Leek Jr, Western Empire fared no better than finishing fifth in seven starts before the Williams’ bought him for $150,000 in the Inglis Digital Sale last October.
Western Empire, who was born at Haunui Farm and cared for on behalf of breeder Bob Peters, was a star for the Williams’ before departing for interstate and they were more than keen to have another crack at training the gelding when the opportunity presented.
In 2021 Western Empire was the star three-year-old of Perth racing when he claimed four straight feature races in a row including the Gr.2 WA Derby (2400m). Seven months later he was being spoken about as the next superstar star of WA racing after demolishing his rivals by four lengths in the Gr.1 Railway Stakes (1600m).
Grant Williams said he and partner, Alana, are thrilled to have a horse of Western Empire’s quality back in their stable.
“It was a no brainer and he’s probably the second best horse we’ve ever had,” Williams said. “We thought he might have a few problems , but there is nothing wrong with him.
“He’s in great nick and in a good space now.
“It’s just exciting as you don’t get a chance to train these horses very often.
“It’s really good to get him back in our care.”
Williams has not ruled out Western Empire going back to Melbourne in the spring, but the upcoming Belmont Sprint (1400m) and Hyperion Stakes (1600m) are target races.
“Hopefully we can keep him fit and healthy,” Williams said. “There are a couple of races for him now, definitely the 1400 and 1600m.
“We’ll make some plans and we might even go back to Melbourne.”
Pike said he felt fortunate to be able to wind the clock back on Western Empire.
“He already gave us great memories and nice times,” Pike said. “It’s good to get him back and do something similar.
“Hopefully we can reach those heights we got to last time.”

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