Fresh from one of the most satisfying days he’s experienced on a race track, trainer Grant Williams has outlined ambitious plans for outstanding Northam Stakes winner, Western Empire.

The short term has been locked away with the Belmont Sprint (1400m), Hyperion Stakes (1600m) and Strickland Stakes (2000m) a trio of Group 3 races on the radar for Western Empire.

The 2000m Strickland Stakes shapes as the pivotal race for Western Empire with Williams aiming for a coveted start in the prestigious Cox Plate (2040m) this spring in Melbourne.

“He’ll go to the Belmont Sprint, the Hyperion is there and obviously the Strickland Stakes,” Williams said on Tabradio.

“We take every race at a time, but obviously it’s a bit hard not to get too excited.

“I think the 2000 metre (Strickland Stakes) race this prep will be the most important because there is a good race over there in Melbourne that we’ve had one crack at and that didn’t really payoff.

“Will (William Pike) and I have unfinished business and if the horse was fit and healthy I’d hope to go to the Strickland and that would be a good guide that the 2000m is still a good option for him.

“Then we would maybe take him east for the spring.

“The main thing is the horse is always fit and healthy, he pulled up really good from yesterday (Sunday) and we’ll take one race at a time.

“But, these are pretty special animals and definitely good enough to go over there and be competitive.

“If all the boxes are ticked then we would be mad not to do it.”

Williams said he rates Western Empire as the second best horse he and partner, co-trainer, Alana, have ever trained behind Arcadia Queen.

Arcadia Queen was a three-time Group 1 winner for the Williams, claiming the Northerly Stakes (1800m) at Ascot before the Caulfield Stakes (2000m) and Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) in Melbourne.

The star Pierro mare ran fifth behind Sir Dragonet for Team Williams and Pike in the 2020 edition of the Cox Plate.

Western Empire won the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) in 2021 and ran an unlucky second in the Northerly Stakes before campaigning unsuccessfully in Melbourne.

The Belmont Sprint, the first leg of Perth’s winter weight-for-age series, is run on May 18, the Hyperion Stakes on June 1 and the Strickland Stakes on June 15.

The Cox Plate at Moonee Valley is set for October 26.

Williams also indicated Keshi Boom, Alsephina and Casino Seventeen are in line to join Western Empire on an interstate trip.

Keshi Boom is unbeaten in four career starts and has not raced since taking out the Champion Fillies Stakes (1600m), the second leg of a feature three-year-old double after the Burgess Queen Stakes (1400m).

Alsephina ran second to Bustler in last year’s Railway Stakes and Casino Seventeen is the reigning Perth Cup (2400m) champion.

Julio Santarelli