Cox Plate 2024 plans called off for Western Empire

Williams had his eyes fixed on the Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley later this year with Western Empire, but has shelved those plans for sprint races in Perth.

Western Empire ended his winter campaign on the weekend after finishing second to Let’s Galahvant in the Group 3 Strickland Stakes (2000m) at Belmont.

The six-year-old suffered his second straight defeat as odds on favourite with betting apps after his fourth to Magnificent Andy in the Group 3 Hyperion Stakes (1600m) a fortnight earlier.

Williams, who co trains with partner, Alana, believes Western Empire has the quality and capacity to contest sprint races and that will be his best trip going forward.

Western Empire sprinted strongly to win the Group 3 Northam Stakes (1300m) second-up this campaign and followed up again in the Group 3 Belmont Sprint (1400m).

With Melbourne plans off the table, Williams is ultra keen to give Western Empire the opportunity to impress in marquee sprint events at Ascot later in the year.

“He won’t be travelling,” Williams said to The Races WA.

“His form was too good in the short races, so now we’ll train him for a Winterbottom (1200m) and a Gold Rush (1400m).

“We’ll go back and keep him short; he blew them away in the 1300m (Northam Stakes) and blew them away in the 1400m ( Belmont Sprint).

“For some reason he’s dropped off the 1600m and 2000m.

“We’ll bring him in, give him two trials, give him two races, go bang, bang and give him a break.

“If he comes back like he did and there are no issues we can put him out again and save him for a Quokka.”

Western Empire won the 2021 Railway Stakes (1600m) for the Williams’ and was denied a Group 1 double in the Northerly Stakes (1800m) when a luckless second to stablemate, Regal Power.

A winner of nine races and $1.7 million in prizemoney, Western Empire is back in the care of the Williams training partnership after racing without success for a year in Melbourne.

The Winterbottom Stakes (1200m), Perth’s premier sprint race, is staged at Ascot on November 30.

The Gold Rush, a Group 3 race over 1400m on December 14, is worth $1.5 million.

The Quokka (1200m), founded in 2023 and at $5 million, Perth’s richest race, will be run in the autumn of 2025.

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