The David Greene-trained debutant Empress El made the best possible start to her racing career when she downed a handy field of maiden gallopers over 1200m at Tauranga on Sunday.
The El Roca three-year-old dented a few reputations when she produced a strong finishing burst to register a telling statement as Greene considers the possibility of a Group One target for her later in the season.
Settled in midfield by rider Sam Spratt, Empress El tackled the pacemaking duo of Ceasar and Ayreon with 300m to run, before drawing clear for an eye-catching one and a quarter-length victory.
Greene was hopeful rather than confident of a winning performance from his charge, but was keen to see her get to the races after she thrived following a handy run for third in a 950m trial on the Cambridge synthetic track earlier in the month.
“She is a horse that has really progressed quickly over the last couple of months and I did expect a good run although there were a couple in the race with big reputations,” he said.
“She got a little lost on the corner in her last trial, but when she had a target to chase she closed off nicely, so I was hoping for a similar run today.
“Sam said she felt very strong at the finish and is probably already looking for more ground, which suits our thinking as we have her nominated for the New Zealand 1000 Guineas (Group 1, 1600m) down at Riccarton and we would like to give her every opportunity to get there.
“They are only three once, so we will take a look around and see where we go next.
“If she was to win well next up then we would probably roll the dice and head to Christchurch with her.”
Greene currently has around 15 horses in work, with a number of them three-year-old fillies that he is very excited about.
“We have a good group of fillies on our hands and this one was basically the first cab off the rank from the team,” he said.
“Most of them are ready to step out over the next few weeks, but they are mainly staying types so you would expect to see them at their best when they can get up over more ground and the tracks have dried out a little.
“We’ve also got a few older ones including Justamaiz, who will have his season opener at Te Rapa next Friday.
“He has come up well and will most likely take a similar path as previous seasons, with the summer cup races being his main targets.”
Justamaiz has won six of his 32 career starts and took out the 2019 Group 3 Waikato Cup (2400m), while he also finished close up in third in last season’s Group 3 Wellington Cup (3200m).