Trainer Ken Keys has adopted a different spring campaign with Spanish Reef who returned to winning form in the Ladies’ Day Vase at Caulfield.
In the past two years Keys has tried winning his hometown Cranbourne Cup with the mare, but this campaign he has altered his sights to the Group One Empire Rose Stakes at Flemington on November 2.
Ridden by Mark Zahra, Spanish Reef ($11) scored by a length from the $2.60 favourite Rondinella with Fidelia ($3.40) in third place.
Keys said as Spanish Reef had got older it had taken a little longer to get the mare back into race trim.
But he said the stable saw the signs with her last-start fourth in the Stocks Stakes at The Valley last month that she was nearing her peak.
“She’s an older mare and we’re not rushing to have her 100 per cent all the time for the mile plus,” Keys said.
“We’ve been really happy with her progress and those couple of runs, she needed them.”
A $12,000 purchase, Saturday’s victory took Spanish Reef’s earning to in excess of $700,000.
Keys hopes to increase the bank at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup carnival with the mare contesting the Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) and backing up to the Matriarch Stakes (2000m) the following week.
“I think she’s a genuine 2000-metre horse and if the Empire Rose wasn’t there, she’d go straight to the Matriarch,” Keys said.