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Empire Rose

Empire Rose (foaled 1985 in New Zealand) was one of the most popular Thoroughbred mares to race in New Zealand and Australia. She was a gigantic chestnut, only just fitting into the barrier stalls in Melbourne.

Trained by Laurie Laxon, one of New Zealand's foremost trainers,[1] at the Laurie Laxon Racing Stables in the Waikato, Empire Rose raced 48 times for nine wins and eight placings for NZ$2,644,234 (AUD$1.95 million)[2]. Among her major successes were the 1987 New Zealand Cup, the 1988 LKS Mackinnon Stakes, the 1988 Melbourne Cup and the 1989 Trentham Stakes. [3]

Empire Rose was by the champion New Zealand sire, Sir Tristram (IRE), from Summer Fleur by Sovereign Edition (IRE), and was expected to perform well like other Sir Tristram progeny. She showed promise when fifth in 1986 Melbourne Cup and was second in a bumpy finish to the cup in 1987.

In 1988, Empire Rose won the Mackinnon Stakes on Saturday 29 October, then made her third attempt at the "two-miler" on the following Tuesday. Young rider Tony Allan had the mare handily placed all the way and she led the big field around the home turn. Despite a flashing finish from Natski, Empire Rose refused to give in and had her head in front on the line. Natski's rump was actually ahead of hers and she was given a rousing reception for her win, the first mare to win the race for 23 years since the New Zealander Light Fingers triumphed.

During her racing career, Empire Rose was often ridden in training work by Sheila Laxon, the then wife of trainer Laurie Laxon. [4] Sheila Laxon went on to become a very successful licensed trainer in her own right. She trained another grand New Zealand mare, Ethereal, to win the 2001 Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double, the first time a female trainer had won a Melbourne Cup. It was also only the third time a mare had ever won the cups double, the other winners being the New Zealand horses Rivette (1939) and Let's Elope (1991).

As a seven-year-old the following year Empire Rose struggled to 15th in the Melbourne Cup won by Tawrrific, and was retired to stud.

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