Following a double in the grey silks just a couple of days previous, Kevin sent out another Clipper prospect, only this time it was a little further afield. Last Empire was searching for pattern success and it finally came when she headed to Chantilly and took the 5f Prix De Bonneval.
Last Empire had been a late bloomer, only seeing the track once as a juvenile before thriving in 2019. After racking up three comfortable wins on the spin, she had confirmed herself as a very smart filly and would be stepping up to pattern company. The daughter of Pivotal did well in her first try, securing a fourth place finish and showing that she was well up to that level. Kevin knew she was good enough and it was also important for the future breeding career of Last Empire.
Although a good filly in her own right, Last Empire is a quality filly when the conditions become tough. The softer the going the more she thrives and this was something that dictated her race plans this season. Her first two runs of 2020 proved this where she travelled like a dream through the race but found the conditions just slightly too quick for her liking. Although unable to add to her black type haul, Last Empire had travelled like the best horse in those races which was a really positive sign.
It was clear that wherever the ground came up was going to be where Last Empire would go but unfortunately it would mean a drop in trip to the minimum 5f. She would tackle the Beverley Bullet and it was a fine effort to chase home the talented Dakota Gold. Last Empire would follow that up with another close runner up finish at Listed level when she ran in the 5 1/2f Arran Fillies sprint at Ayr. Both runs gained vital black type but it was clear that Last Empire would either appreciate tougher conditions over 5f or a step up to 6f.
After scouring all possible races, connections decided to go over the channel to France for the Prix De Bonneval. Yes it would over the sharp 5f but the terrible rainfall in France would mean the ground would be very testing. Due to restrictions Kevin would need to find a jockey over there and Last Empire would be partnered by the legend Olivier Peslier as the pair took on 8 rivals.
On her previous couple of runs, Last Empire was just outpaced early on and possibly got a little further back than ideal. This time out she had the conditions and looked the best horse in the race so it was important to be positive with her. Olivier bounced her out form the centre stall and immediately went forward. The field tracked over towards the stands side rail as Last Empire settled in just behind the leader, stablemate Magical Moment.
Clearly Last Empire was enjoying herself as she sat just off the pace. Despite conditions it was a nice gallop being set and Olivier just had to let his filly stride on. Last Empire would certainly do her best work in the latter stages so she had the perfect sit throughout the first half of the race.
Magical Moment took the field into the final couple furlongs as the race began to heat up. Olivier was always in the perfect position to strike when need and he shook the reins up to edge a little closer. Last Empire travelled powerfully into the contest and quickly the dimension of the race changed. The leaders came under pressure and struggled to shake off any challengers. Down the outside Last Empire moved through and joined the leaders 1 1/2f from home. Apart from her there was only Bavaria Baby who was travelling but the latter had a few lengths to make up and rivals to move through.
Olivier was exuding confidence and he asked Last Empire to quicken up as they bared down on the final furlong. The filly did exactly that and snatched the lead away with ease. It seemed as though she may be able to now coast in as the majority of her rivals were toiling in her wake. Bavaria Baby had now got daylight and. moved through to challenge. Olivier was giving his filly a hands and heels ride but felt the challenger coming up his inner. Suddenly Last Empire had been joined but Olivier quickly got lower in the saddle and gave the filly a back hander. Immediately Last Empire moved away again and Olivier allowed her to coast in the final 50 yards, evidently confident the race was won.
Last Empire really deserved to gain a win at this level and she did so with relative ease. Having travelled well, she then quickened up in tough conditions and was given a very easy time from the saddle. Olivier looked as though he could have pressed the button whenever he wanted and the winning margin of 1/2 length could have been greater. Last Empire is a very talented filly and she could have one more trip to France this year before her winter break. Conditions at this time of year are ideal and Last Empire could add to her haul. She has a nice programme to look forward to next year for fillies and connections will look far and wide to see Last Empire fulfil her max potential.