Colette takes million-dollar bonus
Colette landed a $1.6 million payday and an additional Group 1 to her name when she took the TAB Empire Rose Stakes (1600m), the first of Flemington's features on Penfolds Victoria Derby Day.
Already a Group 1 winner when taking the ATC Australian Oaks (2400m) last year, Colette was eligible for a $1 million bonus on top of the $600,000 first prize thanks to a new scheme launched earlier this year. The winners of 12 races for fillies and mares across Australia and New Zealand qualified for the bonus, which would see them pocket an extra $1 million if they could also land Australia's premier race for the females, the TAB Empire Rose Stakes.
Colette was eligible after her win in the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield two weeks ago and the James Cummings-trained mare took full advantage of a terrific Damien Oliver ride, sprinting through to beat Tasmanian darling Mystic Journey by a neck with a further head to another ATC Australian Oaks winner in Hungry Heart in third.
"That’s just about the ride of the season for mine," Cummings said. "She’s a proper racehorse, isn’t she?
“She got herself back together when it didn’t all work out for her after the Caulfield Cup and the guys had her in great shape a fortnight ago for the Tristarc.
“She had ‘follow me over a mile’ written all over her and a good track was no problem for her today and she weaved through them beautifully, let down like a serious Group 1 horse and I think she deserves all the accolades she gets."
Cummings also suggested that the Godolphin mare may not be done yet for the Melbourne Cup Carnival with next weekend's Group 1 Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) a possibility for Colette.
The success meant that Oliver equalled Bobbie Lewis' record as the most successful Group 1-winning rider during the Melbourne Cup Carnival with 24 victories.
"“It was great. I missed this mare last time unfortunately but I rode her earlier in the campaign and she was heading towards the Caulfield Cup. She didn’t quite get there but it was nice to get back on her today," he said.
“She’s a little darling, there is not much of her, but she has a tonne of heart and it was a great win.
She was off the bit most of the way, she didn’t really travel, but there was a strong tempo in the race and she just kept finding the line. She got a beautiful run through and it is nice when you are on one that is going quicker than the gaps. She got the split and she was great in the end.
“It has been great teaming up with Godolphin, it has really rejuvenated my career over the past 12 months and it is terrific to team up with a great team down here in Melbourne, Reg Fleming and Sean Keogh and all the rest of the team in Melbourne. And James has been really supportive of the team down here as well so it’s nice to reward them.”
Colette's win in the TAB Empire Rose Stakes, named for the giant New Zealand mare that won the 1988 Group 1 Melbourne Cup as well as the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes three days earlier, sees her join a classy honour roll that includes top mares like Shout The Bar (2020), Melody Belle (2019), Red Tracer (2013), Sacred Choice (2010), Typhoon Tracy (2009), Forensics (2008), Divine Madonna (2007), Lotteria (2005), Miss Potential (2004) and Bonanova (1998).