'Hero, Legend, Dude': Brave Emperor has the World at his Feet

Brave Emperor with his regular travelling companion Louis Wicks | Racingfotos.com


With an increasing number of international stamps in his passport, the multiple Group winner Brave Emperor (Ire) (Sioux Nation) is fast becoming one of the most admirable horses in training.

Only twice in his 16 starts has the Archie Watson-trained four-year-old ever been out of the first three, but more impressive is that 10 of those runs have ended in victory – in five different countries, and counting. On Saturday, his 2024 debut resulted in a win in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup in Qatar, a local Group 2 staged during the HH The Amir Sword meeting. 

Brave Emperor, owned by the members of the Middleham Park Racing LX syndicate, held off the globally famous colours of Coolmore's Derrick Smith, carried by runner-up Cairo (Quality Road), with an equally renowned set of colours on the third horse, Godolphin's Real World (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}).

“I've run out of superlatives,” says Middleham Park Racing's Tom Palin of the horse who is a syndicator's dream. “I've described him in every which way I possibly can. Hero, legend, dude. I don't think we've ever quite had a horse like him, and I don't think many trainers or owners could ever dream of having a horse like him. He can go on good to firm or heavy, and he has won over five, six, seven, eight, and nine furlongs.”

This time last year, Brave Emperor recorded his first stakes success on his first foray outside the British Isles when winning the Listed Prix de la Californie at Cagnes-sur-Mer. He then set about clocking up points on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, winning a qualifying conditions race at Kempton before finishing second in the final leg of the series at Chelmsford in the Cardinal S.

The Run for the Roses was probably sensibly ruled out, but Brave Emperor and Archie Watson's travelling team continued the globetrotting a little closer to home, with victory in the G3 Grosser Preis der Wohnstatte Krefeld next on the horse's agenda, followed by third in the G3 Stockholms Stora Pris. Royal Ascot and his run out the back in the G3 Hampton Court S. was really the only blip in an otherwise exemplary season, and he recovered from that to win four of his five subsequent starts, including the G2 Premio Vittorio di Capua, G3 Prix Daphnis and G3 Grosser Preis der Landeshauptstadt Dusseldorf. Luke Morris has been Brave Emperor's regular partner in all bar three of this starts, and the pair could be off to Hong Kong next for the G1 FWD Champions Mile and a pop at superstar Golden Sixty (Aus).

“He's been invited out there at the end of April and that looks the route that we'll travel with him,” Palin confirms. ” It's a $2.5 million race. I think we probably have to finish about sixth or better to get our declaration fee back. And look, he's very versatile. We know Hong Kong can throw up varying ground states, so you wouldn't be going there terribly worried about whatever the underfoot conditions are. But obviously, it's a race Golden Sixty's made his own.”

He added, “That was a career best there on Saturday, so it feels a sensible race to be going for at this point. And we know he takes traveling very well. Obviously, it'd be a bit different because he's got the quarantine procedures to go through there for five days before and five days allowed on the track, so it'd be a bit longer than what he's used to, but if there's ever a horse you're just going to go, 'Look, he'll travel fine', it's him, isn't it?”

With Brave Emperor set to arrive back in the UK on Wednesday followed by a brief spell at Hillwood Stud, Palin outlines some of the key mile contests in Europe as possible targets after his potential Hong Kong voyage. The Prix d'Ispahan, Lockinge and Queen Anne S. are all under consideration during the first half of the European season. It's a bold call, but this is a horse who clearly thrives on his racing, as his 11 runs from January to November last year showed.

“I think he's just growing up with racing as well,” says Palin. “He's figuring out what the game's about. Obviously, Luke's been on board him for the vast majority of his career now and he feels he's getting faster, he's getting smarter about his racing, which is why I think even the [Prix de la] Foret, back a furlong at some point wouldn't be a bad thing with him. 

“Louis Wicks looks after him every day, he knows him inside out, and he says the horse is just so easy to do at home. That has to help with his consistency. He doesn't over-exert himself on a day-to-day basis.”

Palin insists that Brave Emperor's earnings, which have now exceeded £500,000, pale in comparison to the experience he's providing his loyal band of owners who have enjoyed some exciting foreign trips of their own. It also makes his yearling price tag of £19,000, when bought at Goffs UK by Rodrigo Goncalves and Robson Aguiar, look incredibly reasonable.

“We had 14 people over there in Doha on Saturday and they couldn't have looked after us any better,” he says. “Everybody had a fantastic time, and that's what it's all about, dinners and drinks with not just fellow owners, we've become friends, and all thanks to the wonderful Brave Emperor. That's the great thing about this game, you formulate great friendships. We have a couple of two-year-olds now with Archie and, sure enough, the money Brave Emperor's earned his owners has now paid for their shares in the others. They're rolling the dice again into them.”

Palin adds, “I can't take any credit really for any of the placement, it's all been Archie. He's placed him to a tee, superb. And obviously the team who travels him around – Louis has been great.”

Brave Emperor is a member of the first crop of Sioux Nation, Coolmore's son of Scat Daddy who has perhaps been a little overshadowed when it comes to recognition. He was of course in the same graduating year as Havana Grey (GB) and was behind him in both the first- and second-season sires' championships of the last two years. It's nip and tuck between the pair when it comes to comparing stakes performers, however. In 2023, Havana Grey's offspring were headed by the dual Group 1 winner Vandeek (GB), one of his 16 black-type winners overall, compared to 13 for Sioux Nation. But it is Sioux Nation who is ahead when it comes to Group winners, with nine on the board to Havana Grey's seven.

Thanks to the exploits of Brave Emperor, Sioux Nation currently heads the list of European third-crop sires by worldwide earnings at this early point in the year, and he has Matilda Picotte (Ire) flying the flag for him and Ireland in Saturday's G2 1351 Turf Sprint at the Saudi Cup meeting. She is also a Group 2 winner, in the Challenge S. at Newmarket, where she also won the Listed Bosra Sham S. and was third in the 1,000 Guineas. Her stakes wins are completed by the G3 Sceptre S. at Doncaster. 

Last year's G3 Acomb S. winner Indian Run (Ire) is a potential Classic challenger for this season, while in the TDN on Monday Kieran Lalor outlined plans to send Group 3 winner Ocean Jewel (Ire) to race in America for Al Shira'aa Farms.

Of course, Sioux Nation's achievements have not exactly gone under the radar, and his fee in 2024 of €27,500 is more than double his starting point at stud, but it will be interesting to follow his progress, especially if he can come up with horses as tough as Brave Emperor. The sire can't take sole credit for the 10-time winner, however. A first foal, Brave Emperor's 55-rated dam Roman Gal (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}) was nothing to write home about as a racehorse but she is a half-sister to the G1 Coronation Cup and G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagaradere runner-up Salouen (Ire) (Canford Cliffs {Ire}), and her granddam Asterita (GB) (Rainbow Quest) won the Lingfield Oaks Trial. Further back again the family includes some prolific black-type earners in champion miler Keltos (Fr) and his half-siblings Krataios (Fr), Loxias (Fr), Iridanos (GB) and Kavafi (Ire). Together the quintet notched 38 wins between them from 97 starts. That hardiness, with more than a dash of talent, is echoing down the line.


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