Empire Rose - A Tribute

In 1988, a towering mare with a great heart to match snatched victory in the Melbourne Cup from the fast finishing Natski. She was the first mare to win the prestigious event for 23 years and gave her young rider Tony Allan and her trainer Laurie Laxon the thrill of a lifetime.

Her two previous runs in the Cup at 4 years and 5 years of age produced a 5th and 2nd respectively. The chestnut mare had one more start in this race at 7 years of age but failed to stay the distance this time and was retired to stud.

Her race record shows 48 starts, 9 wins, 8 placings and stakes of $NZ 2,644,234. Her wins included the NZ Cup, Melbourne Cup, MacKinnon Stks and she was placed in the W.S. Cox Plate and New Zealand Oaks.

Empire Rose is by the all conquering Sir Tristram out Summer Fleur by Sovereign Edition out of Summerosa by Oakville out of Rose Meer by Able Seaman out of Lady Letty by Cimbrone out of Meer Rose..

Summer Fleur won 8 races including a Group 3 race to 2400m. Her dam Summerosa won 6 races including the Group 3 Waikato Cup. Rose Meer was unraced but produced the tough winter stayer and stakes winner Greek Meer. Lady Letty raced 3 times and produced Quite Able who won the Dunedin, Wellington and Manawatu Cups.

Meer Rose was unraced but produced Najmi who included the Great Northern Oaks in her 9 wins. Her other progeny were Sweet Wren (8 wins, Waikato RC Lady Norrie Stks, WRC Desert Gold Stks); Home Port (winner at 12f); Rose of Summer (Sth Australian Oaks). This female line descends from Locket (1872) by Thunderbolt, imported into NZ in 1880.

From a breeding perspective, Empire Rose was a product of the powerful Sir Tristram/Sovereign Edition "nick". Sovereign Edition was a grey horse foaled in Ireland in 1962 by Sovereign Path out of Latest Edition (half sister to Smokey Eyes) by Solferino out of Celestial Light by Donatello II. His 3rd dam Gleam is the 3rd dam of the sire Princely Gift.

His speed carried him to a mile and he won twice and placed 3 times from 19 starts. At stud, his genes outperformed his modest racetrack abilities, particularly through his daughters. Other horses bred on this cross include Gurner's Lane, a New Zealand bred gelding who won the Melbourne Cup in 1982. Gurner’s Lane’s full siblings Sovereign Red (6 Group 1 wins) and his sister Trichelle (VATC Marlboro Cup) also performed at the highest level.

Empire Rose had many quality ancestors repeated farther back in her genotype but the one that fascinates me most is Canterbury Pilgrim. She held numerous presences of this influential matron, 7 of them lying on x-chromosone paths. Swynford and Chaucer, both out of Canterbury Pilgrim, channel 6 lines through their daughters while a 7th female channel comes via Scapa Flow, the dam of Pharos. There are at least 24 Canterbury Pilgrim lines to nine generations. Canterbury Pilgrim descends tail-female from the wonder broodmare Prunella (1788).


Canterbury Pilgrim (1893-1917) was bred by the Duchess of Montrose and was a small horse with a horrendous temper. By Tristan out of Pilgrimage by The Palmer, Canterbury Pilgrim was known for her voracious appetite. Her sire Tristan passed on his bad temper to her but it never stopped him winning 29 races over varying distances from sprints to staying events. Tristan was a disappointing sire and eventually killed himself by bashing his head against a wall in a fit of temper. He is best remembered via his daughter Canterbury Pilgrim.

Pilgrimage was born in 1875 and was bred by Mr Cookson. She was a good racemare and won 6 races including the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas. She was also the dam of Jeddah (Derby) by Janissary, Loved One (3 wins) by See Saw, Knight of Malta by Galopin, Lourdes by Sefton, Mecca by Isonomy, Pilgrim's Progress by Isonomy and Shrine by Isonomy.

Canterbury Pilgrim placed only once in 5 starts as a two year old. She broke through for her maiden win first up as a three year old in the Oaks, wearing down Thais (winner 1,000 Guineas) to win by 2 lengths. She won 4 races altogether, the Oaks, Liverpool Summer Cup, Park Hill Stks and Jockey Club Cup. She produced 10 foals at stud for 7 winners including Gourd (Derby Gold Cup) by Persimmon; Glasconbury (Nassau Stks, Royal Post Stks, Newmarket Oaks Stks) by Isinglass; Swynford (8 wins incl. St Leger) by John O'Gaunt; Chaucer (8 wins incl. Gimcrack Stks) by St Simon. Chaucer and Swynford went on to become very influential sires and Chaucer became an influential broodmare sire.

Chaucer mares crossed well with Phalaris to produce a superb "nick" which included Fairway, Colorado, Pharos, Fair Isle, Caerleon, Warden of the Marches, Sickle, Pharamond. He was also sire of the dams of Hyperion, Colombo, and Hunter's Moon to name three. Chaucer was leading Broodmare Sire twice. Canterbury Pilgrim also produced Harry of Hereford, brother to Swynford and sire of Annette K (grandam of the large hearted sire War Admiral); Pilgrim's Way; Nun's Veiling; The Tabard; Wife of Bath; St Victorine.

Swynford sired the racemares Ferry (1,000 Guineas); Keysoe (4 wins incl. St Leger, Nassau Stks, Newmarket Oaks); Bettina (1,000 Guineas); Tranquil (8 wins incl.1,000 Guineas, St Leger); Saucy Sue (8 wins incl. 1,000 Guineas, Oaks). Swynford bred the sires Hainault, a half brother to Phalaris; Blandford; Sansovino, a half brother to Selene’s dam Serenissima; St Germans; Schiavoni. Swynford was leading Broodmare Sire in 1932.

Many superior racehorses, sires and broodmares have reinforcing lines of their tail female lineage. For instance, Sir Tristram descends from the marvellous broodmare Selene and has a reinforcing Selene presence via his sire Sir Ivor. Probing a bit deeper shows that Sir Ivor descends from the number 8 family tracing back to the Regulus Mare (born 17?) and Isolt carries the same family via Perth, broodmare sire of Rose Prince.

Looking at Empire Rose, she descends from the same family 8 Regulus Mare that Sir Ivor does. Just another important ingredient in the genetic mix. Also significant are the many lines of the number 1 family that Canterbury Pilgrim belongs to. This is the Prunella family and Empire Rose carries family members Gas, Marchetta, Loved One Neil Gow, Roxelane, Lady Lightfoot (twice) within her 8 generation pedigree. With further searching, others may be uncovered as well.

This giant imposing mare, a darling of the New Zealand crowds wherever she raced, probably carried a “large heart” courtesy of Canterbury Pilgrim.. While her dam line breeding wise wasn't outstanding, it seemed to carry a certain quality awaiting the spark to ignite it. Each dam back to Sweet Rose had an injection of Canterbury Pilgrim from their consorts.

Empire Rose has a similar pedigree to the top sire Grosvenor. Her 3rd dam Rose Meer (Able seaman – Lady Letty ex Meer Rose) is a ľ genetic sister to Grosvenor’s 4th dam Sweet Wren (Able Seaman – Meer Rose). Grosvenor is by Sir Tristram and also carries Bobsleigh and Donatello II.

Empire Rose’s career highlights from Another Great Decade of New Zealand Racing by Jack Glengarry.
At three years:
3rd First Trelawney Maiden 1200m Matamata ridden by J. Hayes 9/8/85
3rd Grogan Park Maiden 1200m Matamata ridden by D Walsh 6/9/85
1st Orere Stud Maiden 1600m Matamata ridden by W. Robinson 31/10/85
1st Kalgoorlie Graduation 1600m Te Rapa ridden by W. Robinson 16/11/85
2nd New Zealand Oaks 2400m Trentham ridden by G. Childs 20/12/86
At four years:
1st 3YO & Upwards Hcp 2000m STC ridden by J. Marshall 13/9/86
2nd The Dalgety 2500m VRC ridden by J. Marshall 1/11/86
At five years:
1st Lion Brown NZ Cup Trial 2100m Te Rapa ridden by W. Robinson 26/10/87
2nd Foster’s Melbourne Cup 3200m VRC ridden by T. Allan 3/11/87
1st Lion Brown NZ Cup 3200m Riccarton ridden by T. Allan 14/11/87
1st Sovereign Lodge Stud Cup 2200m Awapuni ridden by T. Allan 16/1/88
2nd Summer Hcp 2200m Trentham ridden by T. Allan 25/1/88
At six years:
3rd Ferndale Dairies Cup 2100m Egmont ridden by T. Allan 19/10/88
1st Occidental MacKinnon Stakes 2000m VRC ridden by T. Allan 29/10/88
1st Foster’s Melbourne Cup 3200m VRC ridden by T. Allan 1/11/88
1st Mobil Trentham Stakes 2400m Trentham ridden by T. Allan 21/1/89
At seven years:
3rd W. S. Cox Plate 2040m MVRC ridden by T. Allan 28/10/89
Retired after her Melbourne Cup run 7/11/89.

Goodbye Rosie on behalf of all your fans and thank you for your wonderful courage, heart and contribution to thoroughbred racing. Rest in peace.