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Colette claims a second G1 with brilliant Empire Rose victory

A missed opportunity was transformed into a brilliant G1 success by Colette when she added Saturday’s G1 Empire Rose Stakes to her record at Flemington.

On a day of spring success for Godolphin, Colette’s victory followed that of Willowy who may have earned a G1 VRC Oaks start with her win in the G2 Wakeful Stakes.

Trainer James Cummings had hoped to run Colette in the G1 Caulfield Cup, but a foot abscess spoiled that plan, prompting a switch to the G2 Tristarc Stakes, which she duly won.

The mare then showed the wisdom of that decision in the Empire Rose, storming home from near the tail of the field under an inspired ride from Damien Oliver to beat Mystic Journey and Hungry Heart.

For Cummings, it was his 29th G1 success, for Oliver his 124th and it took Colette’s earnings to more than AU$5.8 million.

“That’s right up there, isn’t it,” a delighted Cummings said after the race.

“We felt like she was building to something special and had the Caulfield Cup on our minds, but when that wasn’t unfolding she freshened up for the Tristarc and that set her up beautifully for today.

“It’s with a great amount of satisfaction that we represent His Highness Sheikh Mohammed on a big day like Derby day and be hitting the boards so successfully.”

For Oliver, the win provoked deep emotion.

“It was nice to get back on her. She’s been such a good filly and deserved to win such a great race. When you ride them like that and you get a result, it’s fantastic,’ he said, with tears welling in his eyes.

“It’s been a great team effort. It’s been lovely to work with them and great to reward the team with a big win here on Derby day.”

Cummings will now consider a start in next Saturday’s G1 LKS Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington.

Also under consideration is a start in Thursday’s G1 VRC Oaks for Willowy who burst into the spotlight with a barnstorming win in the G2 Wakeful Stakes.

Willowy showed a glimpse of what could be a sparkling future at just her fifth career start by finishing over Daisies and Douceur. 

“She’s a gorgeous filly. She’s certainly coming along in leaps and bounds in a short amount of time,” Cummings said.

“If she pulls up absolutely bouncy then it is a consideration to back her up on Thursday.”

Willowy impressed her rider Jye McNeil, who thought she could make even further improvement.

“She was in a position at the 600m from where I was hoping to really get to work and get her motivated,” he said.

“But it wasn’t until she got to the outside and swapped legs that we saw her go. I like her style.”

Cummings is convinced Willowy would get a strong 2,500m if she runs in the Oaks.

“The winner of the (ATC) Oaks last year was by Kermadec and the winner of The Metropolitan was by Kermadec,” he said, referring to Montefilia.

Cummings was almost back in the winner’s stall shortly after when Alegron (Brett Prebble) skipped clear after a tough run in the G1 VRC Derby before being caught by Hitotsu (John Allen).

Proven G1 winner Cascadian also produced a typically strong effort to run third to Superstorm and Icebath in the G1 Cantala Stakes (1,600m).