Empire City has another crushing win ahead of Northern Derby

By Michael Guerin

Phil Williamson has trained enough good trotters to know the best ones can handle what normal horses can’t.

Which is why he fast worked his star filly Empire City three times in the last week heading into Friday night’s IRT Sires’ Stakes Trot Championship at Alexandra Park. It worked.

The southern filly with the human Lazarus of harness racing Ricky May in the sulky muscled her way to the lead from favourite Paramount Kiwi after 600m and after that the interest was in the placings and margins.

For those keeping score it was Father Barry a super second three-quarters of a length away with Paramount Kiwi another one and a quarter length away in third but they never looked like catching the Oamaru express.

It was a crushing win from Empire City, her seventh in 10 starts, and pay off for trainer Williamson believing in himself and his three-year-old to up the ante this week.

“A great trainer told me a few years ago to not be scared to work them harder heading into the big races, to get the most out of them,” says Williamson.

“I believe she is a special filly so I did that with her and she handled it. The good ones usually do, the really good ones always do.”

Empire City has now won a Northern Trotting Oaks and a Sires’ Stakes and will look to add the Northern Derby next Friday and she looks to be getting stronger as some of her key rivals are starting to feel the pinch.

But the emerging Father Barry could be a long-term watch as he was running second in a Group 2 at only his second start and is a horse with a future.

Favourite Muscle Mountain also won the night’s other major trot the H R Fisken And Sons Anzac Cup but not with the easy run in transit that Empire City had.

Muscle Mountain and fellow backmarker Oscar Bonavena were left chasing hard from their 15m handicaps before they tagged on and Muscle Mountain sat parked with Oscar on his back.

It mattered little as he crushed the leaders after a little home turn wobble and easily held out Oscar, who looks like a V8 not firing on all cylinders and running out of time to find the missing one.

It was comprehensive stuff from Muscle Mountain and if it wasn’t for Just Believe lying in wait in next Friday’s Rowe Cup it would surely be Muscle Mountain’s Cup to lose.

But after his last-start demolition of the Kiwis in the National Trot the best those in last night’s race can hope for is that by the time next Friday rolls around Just Believe has developed a fear of standing start tapes and gives them a big start.




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