The Empire Rose Stakes is held at Flemington Racecourse on Derby Day, either in late October or in early November. It jumps alongside the Victoria Derby at a meeting that is the premier day of the Victoria Spring Carnival.
It is a weight-for-age race of 1600 metres that is restricted to fillies and mares three-years-old and above.
The prizemoney pool, as of 2020, is $1 million.
History of the Empire Rose Stakes
The Empire Rose Stakes is a newer race, having been run for the first time in 1988.
It is named for the champion mare Empire Rose that won the 1988 LKS MacKinnon Stakes, and then the Melbourne Cup just a few days later.
She did a good bit of racing in New Zealand before making her Australian debut at Rosehill in the 1986 Group 3 Premier Stakes in August of 1986. She ran 11th in that race and did not win in Australia until 13 September of that year, when she won an insignificant metro race. She ran the Melbourne Cup that year, possibly because New Zealand horses have the reputation as being good stayers. She finished fifth in that race and went home for more racing in New Zealand.
She came back on 3 November of 1987 for another Cup attempt and this time she ran second, within half a length of the winner, Kensei.
She again returned to New Zealand and returned to win the Group 1 LKS MacKinnon Stakes on 29 October, where she beat Kensei by almost four lengths. An interesting aspect to that race is that her starting price was $67, which seems bizarre, given that here was a horse that posted high finishes in the Melbourne Cup. She was good enough on that day to beat the legendary Vo Rogue.
Empire Rose returned to the Flemington turf on 1 November of 1988, three days after winning the MacKinnon Stakes, to win the Melbourne Cup, pushing Kensei to second with Tawrrific third.
For the final time, she returned to New Zealand and won a Group 3 race. Back to Australia for the spring racing season of 1989, she posted a third in the Cox Plate, a fifth in the MacKinnon Stakes and a 15th in the 1989 Melbourne Cup won by Tawrrific over Super Impose.
We offer all that background because honestly, it is hard to see why Empire Rose deserves to have a race named after her. She earned almost $2 million, but the bulk of that came from decent finishes and winning the Melbourne Cup. She made 48 starts for nine wins and eight placings, hardly the sort of record that deserves a race named after her, but it often seems as though the VRC will name races after horses in an almost whimsical fashion.
All that said, they did not name the race after her until 2018, 16 years after she had gone to that big paddock in the sky in 2002.
When the race made its debut in 1988, it was called the Honda Legend. It was the Hong Kong Bank Stakes for the year 1993. The name was changed to the Hardy Brothers Classic for 1994 through 2001. It became the Nestle Peters Classic for 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The longest serving name was the Myer Classic from 2005 through 2017.
The race has always been 1600 metres.
It was a Listed race from 1988 through 1994. It was raised to Group 3 in 1995, Group 2 in 1997 and achieved Group 1 status in 2004.
Race Venue of the Empire Rose Stakes
Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne is known around the world. It is an Australian cultural heritage site and is most famous for the Melbourne Cup. A distinguishing characteristic is the 1200-metre straight that extends about 600 metres beyond the course proper. Known as the “straight six,” the straight proves which sprinter can go from point A to Point B the quickest without needed to negotiate any turns.
Racing History of the Empire Rose Stakes
Although a newer race, the thing that fairly leaps off the page when the list of winners is examined is that no filly or mare has ever won the race twice.
There have been some championship calibre winners, including Miss Potential (2004), Typhoon Tracy (2009), Shoals (2017) and Melody Belle (2019).
Here is a closer look at the fillies and mares that have won the Empire Rose Stakes.
The first race was won by Concordance in 1988.
The race was a Listed race at that time, so it was contested by Listed horses. Concordance managed to win once at Group 3 level, when she won the STC N.E. Manion Cup in 1989. She ran second in the Group 2 Sandown Cup and the Group 2 Queen Of The South Stakes, in 1988 and 1989, respectively.
Echo Lass won the Empire Rose Stakes in 1989. She was New Zealand bred and outside the Empire Rose, then known as the Honda Legend, all she won was a Group 3 race in New Zealand, the ARC Ladies Mile.
Natural Wonder won in 1990, but outside of three wins in Listed races, she did little to etch her name in history.
The 1991 winner was Western Chorus, another underachiever, especially considering her lines, which included Nijinsky, Northern Dancer, Nearctic, Natalma and Bold Ruler. Bold Ruler blood was present on both sire and dam side, while the others are all on the sire side. Considering that those names are sprinkled throughout racing history as significant contributors to Thoroughbred DNA, Western Chorus must have been a disappointment to her connections.
Toorak Park Stud supplied 1992 winner Excited Angel. The most exciting thing about her, in our view, is that she made 61 starts, which instantly grants her credibility in our eyes. She won 12 times and placed another 16, winning a little above $800,000. She ran well in the 1992 Toorak Handicap to show respect to the stud that supported her, finishing second to New Zealand’s Ready to Explode. She posted second to Schillaci is the 1993 Group 1 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield. She returned for another try in 1993, running a distant second to Mingling Glances. She tried again in 1994 and was only a third of a length behind Alcove.
Mingling Glances, the 1993 winner of the race, shared lines with Western Chorus. She was pretty good that year, winning the MVRC BMW Plate and the VATC Tristarc Stakes. The following year, she was sent to Japan. She received some chances to run Group 1 races, and she was a close second in the 1993 Group 2 Surround Stakes at Warwick Farm, Racing NSW.
Aunty Mary was the 1995 winner. She shared lines with Mingling Glances and Western Chorus. We mention her for two reasons in addition to winning the Empire Rose Stakes. One, she made 75 starts and two, this was the first year the race was run as a Group 3 event. She had won the Group 2 Villiers in 1994. She posted a close second to Pharaoh in the 1995 Doncaster Handicap.
The U.S.A. sent us Rose Of Portland and she was sent to Australia in autumn of 1994. She won the Empire Rose Stakes in 1996, when it was known as the Group 3 Hardy Brothers Classic. She only raced 10 times, but she won five of those and finished second in two other races. She did have some famous parents. Her mum was Rose Of Kingston, a good mare that won three Group 1 races as a three-year-old and more as a four-year-old. Her 10 wins and nine placings from 26 starts indicates she was a more than handy type.
Rose Of Portland’s sire was the famous U.S. Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. He was so good that he was ranked ninth on the Blood Horse list of top 20 racehorses of the 20th century.
In 1997, a horse name Prairie won and like most of the others we have examined thus far, she might have been considered a disappointment given her lines. Her sire was Canny Lad, her grandsire Bletchingly, her great-grandsire Biscay and her great-great-grandsire Star Kingdom.
The first notable name we came across in the winners’ list is New Zealand’s Bonanova from 1998. She earned over $1 million from 31 jumps, eight wins and five placings. She won at Group 1 level with her victory in the Emirates Stakes. She won the Group 3 Winter Stakes in Queensland twice.
Her first good result was a second to Only A Lady in the 1997 Group 1 Flight Stakes at Rosehill. She posted a second to Camino Rose in the Coolmore Classic at Rosehill in 1999, and a second to Intergaze a month later in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes at Rosehill. In April of 2000, she ran second to Al Mansour in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes.
Noircir was the quintessential handy type when she won in 1999. She won a race at Group 2 level, but when they put her in some Group 1 races, she was at the end of the pack.
Miss Zoe, the winner in 2002, was a pretty good galloper. She won the first year the race was known as the Nestle Peters Classic. She won a maiden in 1999, and then waited until May of 2001 before she won again. She won the Group 2 Emancipation Stakes at Randwick in April of 2002. She earned almost $900,000, but it was more a case of determination than talent, as she made 48 jumps.
The John Hawkes trained Zanna won the race as the Nestle Peters Classic in 2003. It was the best win for this mare than made 17 jumps for six wins and one placing.
Miss Potential was the winner in the next year, 2004, the first year the race was run at Group 1 level.
She was a popular horse with the public and her win in Empire Rose Stakes was her best result. She won over $1 million. She came back from a spiral fracture in her near-side cannon bone. They had her off her feet, strung up to the ceiling for 15 weeks, so when she came back to racing, the public adored her.
Divine Madonna took the post in 2007.
She won four Group 1 races all together, with the other three being the 2006 Emirates Stakes, the 2007 Queen Of The Turf Stakes and the 2007 Toorak Handicap. She won over $2 million form 26 jumps for eight wins and seven placings.
The top horse on the Empire Rose Stakes winners list was 2009’s Typhoon Tracy. She won six Group 1 races for trainer Peter Moody, with two of those coming in consecutive years when she won the C F Orr Stakes in 2010 and 2011. She began her career with five consecutive wins, culminating with the 2009 Coolmore Classic at Rosehill. She won five more consecutively beginning with the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes, the Empire Rose Stakes (then the Meyer Classic), the C F Orr Stakes, the Futurity Stakes and the Queen Of The Turf Stakes. Her final win and final race was the 2011 C F Orr Stakes. Typhoon Tracy won over $2.4 million.
The winners from 2010 through 2016 were mostly of the class we have been describing throughout, but 2017 gave us Shoals.
Shoals managed to pull down over $2.5 million from just 15 jumps. Her other Group 1 wins were the Surround Stakes in 2018 and the Robert Sangster Stakes that same year. In that race, she beat four shorter-priced horses, including top mares Catchy and Quilista. She ran the first edition of The Everest, but she finished 11th of 12.
A good mare named Shillelagh was the 2018 winner. Her other win at Group 1 level was the 2017 Cantala Stakes. She beat Tom Melbourne in that race. The Empire Rose Stakes was her last win, although she just missed in the 2019 Australia Cup to Harlem.
Melody Belle, the 2019 winner, did most of her winning in her homeland of New Zealand.
Our 2020 winner was Shout The Bar. She is still racing as of mid-2021 and she has already won over $1.1 million from 13 race jumps. Did you know TattsBet has merged with TAB.
The Empire Rose Stakes did not attract the top mares in its early days. Not until it achieved Group 1 status in 2004 did some of the better class start participating. The list of winners still has some notable names in it and it would appear that the quality of the fields has improved, forming a trend we hope to see continue.
|Year||Empire Rose Stakes|
|2020||Shout The Bar|
|2016||I Am A Star|
|1996||Rose Of Portland|