Former Kiwi galloper Heavenly Emperor (NZ) (Echoes of Heaven) recorded a tough on-pace victory at Caulfield on Saturday when successful in the Le Pine Funerals Handicap (1600m).
The four-year-old gelding has won five races and in excess of A$250,000 in prizemoney since joining trainer Stephen Brown, having commenced his career in New Zealand where he was placed in three of five starts for Cambridge trainer Tony Pike.
Winning Jockey Mitch Aitken was forced to push forward after finding himself trapped three-wide early and fended off Thought Of That in the home straight.
“We were posted deep at the mile start and it was that split-second decision whether to go forward or not,” Aitken said. “That’s what we did (went forward) and it panned out well.
“Last week it was a couple of weeks between runs and he blew out a bit. That probably just topped him off that run. Today he was fit and ready to go. He was a bit of a handful before the start but that’s when it is game on. From the 600 I thought he was going to come back underneath me because we had to do so much work but he’s very tough.”
Brown, who is based at Seymour, wasn’t particularly pleased to see his charge push forward, but by halfway through the card it was evident that near the pace was the place to be.
“I wasn’t very happy but it was the right move in the end,” Brown said. “You had to be forward.
“I told the owners beforehand that he’ll run 1-2-3 and back him each-way. I wasn’t that confident because he got clipped the other day and he didn’t come up how I like him, but he is very fit and he’s been working well.
“I want to give him another 1600m or 1700m run then step him up to 2000m after that. We did take the crossover noseband off him. I don’t think he was a fan of it. That might have made a difference, too.”
A half-brother to Group Three winner Kali (NZ) (Darci Brahma) and Group Two placed Royal Dominance (NZ) (Shinko King), both trained by Pike, Heavenly Emperor is out of the unraced St Petersburg mare Race Empress.