Last Empire upset more-fancied rivals when winning the G3 Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes for fillies and mares over 1400m at Goodwood on Wednesday.
Sent off a 16/1 shot, the Kevin Ryan-trained five-year-old led approaching the final furlong and fought hard to repel the closing Onassis (15/2) and pace-setting Highfield Princess (9/2). Just a half-length and a neck separated the front three as they crossed the winning line.
Jockey Danny Tudhope and trainer Kevin Ryan were both enjoying a fifth Qatar Goodwood Festival winner.
Ryan said: “I spoke to Steve Parkin [of Clipper Logistics, owner] this morning and he was very confident that Last Empire would get the trip. If you are going to get it, you are going to get it around here.
“Last Empire loves soft ground and, although her last run was very disappointing, she came back very heavily in season, so we brought her back, got her nice and fresh, and started again.
“She looked great again today and Danny gave her a great ride. When you have a good draw here, you have to keep it and you have to believe they are going to get the trip, you can't ride them without doubt.
“I am delighted for everyone involved with Clipper. They are great supporters of the yard and it's nice to repay them with a big winner.
“We were always aiming for the sprint on Champions Day because we felt that she would likely get her ground there and the stiff six furlongs will suit her. I would say that will still be on the agenda.”
Last Empire wins the Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes, picture Goodwood Racecourse
Tudhope said: “Maybe we have been getting the trip wrong with her. It's her first time over seven furlongs and she travelled nice.
“I was always confident. She was travelling good two-and-a-half furlongs out and picked up well.
“The ground is drying out. It's hard work but she loves this sort of stuff and handles it better than most of them."
Onassis’ trainer Charlie Fellowes said: “She is such a wonderfully tough filly. She looks like she got a dream run through but on this ground, it has got quite holding and sticky, and it’s difficult to come from the back.
“The other filly [Vadream, 7th] – everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong for her. They are two wonderful fillies and I am gutted for the team at home, they deserve so badly to win a big race like this. Cheryl my head girl rides these two fillies every day.
“All options are open for Onassis. She is pretty straightforward and could travel if we wanted her too. She goes on any ground, she has very good form on soft ground, but she has form on quick ground as well, her win in France last year was on rattling quick ground. We could stretch to a mile around a bend if we wanted to and that brings in America. Equally, we could go to France as I have always wanted to run her in the Foret on really soft ground on Arc weekend.”
Haley Turner added: “Onassis ran a blinder. She got a dream run through, which you don’t get often here. She deserves that Group 3 win.”
Jason Hart said of the third: “I thought Highfield Princess ran a stormer. I'm not saying I would have won, but I would have liked a better draw. I thought I would have given them a right race.
“She was rated 57 last year and now she has finished third in a Group 3 - she's a credit to everyone.”
2.25pm Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes (Group 3)
1 Last Empire (Clipper Logistics) Kevin Ryan 5-9-03 Danny Tudhope 16/1
2 Onassis (Triermore Stud & The Hon P Stanley) Charlie Fellowes 4-9-03 Hayley Turner 15/2
3 Highfield Princess (Trainers House Enterprises Ltd) John Quinn 4-9-03 Jason Hart 9/2
12 ran 10/3 fav Bounce The Blues (8th)
Kevin Ryan - 5th Qatar Goodwood Festival winner
Danny Tudhope - 5th Qatar Goodwood Festival winner
The going changed to Soft, Good to Soft in places following this race.
First try at 7 furlongs = Group 3 honours! Fabulous performance from Last Empire in the Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes for @kevinryanracing , Danny Tudhope and @ClipperPlc pic.twitter.com/fjjLbXQmhy— Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) July 28, 2021