Master trainer Bart Cummings was at Flemington on Saturday doing what he loves, winning feature races, and this time it was with promising filly Empress Rock in the Group Two Kewney Stakes.
The lightly-raced daughter of Fastnet Rock was bred and is raced by Cummings along with his long-time friend Dato Tan Chin Nam.
Sent out at $13, Empress Rock, ridden by Steven Arnold, was in the first three throughout and scored comfortably by 1-1/4 lengths from Assertive Eagle ($51) with Bliss Street ($21) three-quarters of a length away third.
“They (the Fastnet Rocks) seem to be very good up to a mile (1600m) and this one was pretty impressive today against the fillies and you’ve got to be in it to win it,” Cummings, who has now won the race twice since it was reduced to 1400m from 1600m in 2010, said.
Cummings won the 2010 edition with Faint Perfume and has also been successful with Tristalove (1994), Reganza (1990), Sun Sally (1978), Cap d’Antibes (1975), Sanderae (1971), Gay Poss (1970) and Lowland (1968).
“I’ve won it a few times before with some pretty nice horses but this one has got a good future,” he said.
“She will get a mile, I’m not sure about any further.
“He (Arnold) rode it well that bloke, not bad for an old bloke.”
Empress Rock had a 10-month layoff after running last to Sepoy in the 2011 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill at her second start.
A winner on debut at Warwick Farm over 1000m last March, the three-year-old had been placed in her two lead-ups to the Kewney, running third to Shopaholic over 1100m at Caulfield and second to Glows over 1200m at Moonee Valley.
Arnold has ridden Empress Rock just twice in her five-start career but has a healthy opinion of her.
“You only have to have a look at her (to see that) she has got class written all over her,” he said.
“She is a big, strong filly so you are always going to take a couple of runs to hit peak fitness, but she’s given me a good feel.
“I just wanted her to relax and she came back under me after half a furlong (100m) and she was always going to be hard to beat.
“She is a big powerful girl so I reckon seven furlongs (1400m) to a mile is probably her thing.”
Empress Rock is now likely to go to Sydney where her options are likely to include the Group One $600,000 Coolmore Classic (1500m) at Rosehill on March 24.
Shopaholic ($3.20 fav) disappointed in finishing only 11th while Soft Sand ($3.40) made up ground to finish fifth.