EMPYREAN BACK IN WINNING TRIM
Empyrean took a step closer towards the $200,000 Christian Cullen New Zealand Derby on April 23 after winning a conditioning grass track race in the Beaton/Spicer/Nicholson Moble Pace at Motukarara on April 6.
Leading driver Dexter Dunn said the Christian Cullen colt blew hard after his first-up run when beaten into second at Invercargill by Christian Ruler on March 26, but stripped a fitter horse at Motukarara.
Photo: Empyrean is cruising as he holds False Promise and Rowlon The Dream over the closing stages at Motukarara on April 6.
“He liked it on the grass and is back on track hopefully,” he said.
After settling three back on the outer on a moderate early pace, Dexter moved Empyrean up in the open over the final 1000m, giving fellow three-year-old Ohoka Texas a one out one back trail, then put a winning break on his rivals turning for home.
Empyrean, who picked up a virus following his good second to Gold Ace in the $260,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 3YO Pace at Auckland on New Year’s Eve, ran to the line with ears pricked an easy winner on Wednesday.
False Promise finished on well from back on the inner for second, ahead of Rowlon The Dream and My Mei.
Jim Wakefield, who also with wife Susan, bred Empyrean from their former top racemare Sparks A Flyin, explained Empyrean was quite sick after contesting a Victoria Derby Heat in late January.
“When he was in Australia, the vet was quite worried about him. He stayed on for another couple of weeks after the others came home,” he said.
Photo: Susan and Jim Wakefield are joined by co-sponsor Ken Spicer, as Jack Trainor holds Empyrean following his Motukarara victory.
Wednesday’s win was welcome good news for the Wakefields, who had their Sumner home extensively damaged in the February 22 earthquake. They have been unable to live in the house since the 6.3 magnitude shake.
“We were at home when it struck and were thrown around like rag dolls,” Mr Wakfield said.
The Wakefields suffered a few bruises from the ordeal.
Empyrean’s return to winning form took his record to eight wins and four placings from 16 starts for $94,185 in stakes.
A tardy beginning caught up with stablemate Highview Chasue towards the finish of the 1-3 wins Ellesmere Registration Fillies and Mares Pace.
After tangling early, the Elsu filly swept up wide from the 650m to challenge into the straight but battled over the final 150 metres, finishing fourth to front-running winner Kleen N Shine, who held a late charge from Eaglehurst and Uweehumma.
“She was a bit funny at the start. She went good afterwards but I just pulled out a bit too soon,” Dexter said.
Double Happy, after settling in midfield early, was strung up in traffic over the final 800m of the Morrison’s Saddlery & Feed Hambone Pace. He failed to work clear, finishing a luckless ninth.
By Jeff Scott