Last Empire digs in to win Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes
Last Empire proved her stamina with a gutsy success in the Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood.
Running over seven furlongs for the first time in the Group Three, Kevin Ryan’s mare was handy throughout before seeing off the late challenge of Onassis.
It was another northern raider, in John Quinn’s prolific winner Highfield Princess, who put the pace to the race.
She was widest of all in stall 17, but the five non-runners helped negate the draw somewhat – and Jason Hart rode her into an early lead.
Coming down the hill, Hart was able to get a breather into his mount – and with two furlongs to run, still looked comfortable in front, but Danny Tudhope had him in his sights on the winner.
The two had a good battle to the line. Just when it seemed Last Empire (16-1) had done enough, Onassis emerged to throw down one last challenge, before going down by half a length – with Highfield Princess a further neck away.
Ryan said of Last Empire: “She’s got the trip well there. If they’re going to get it, they’ll get it round here.
“She loved the soft ground, albeit a bit tacky today.
“The last run she ran very disappointingly, but she came back very heavily in season – so we just drew a line through it.”
The North Yorkshire trainer gave the five-year-old a break of more than two months, following her Haydock defeat last time.
He added: “We thought we’d not rush her back, just take our time and start again.
“She looked great today. Danny had a good draw – and you have to keep it, you have to believe you’re going to get the trip.
“We always had in our minds at the beginning of the season to go to Ascot for Champions Day and go for the six-furlong race, but these things might change.”
Onassis ran another fine race for Charlie Fellowes, and the Newmarket trainer was full of praise for his runner-up.
He said: “Onassis is so tough and ran a massive race.
“She got a dream run through from the back, but on that holding ground it’s harder to pick up.
“With (stablemate) Vadream, everything went wrong that could have gone wrong – and (jockey) Jamie (Spencer) said she had a really rough race.”