"Special" Devine Empress Laurels Bound

Kayla Cottrell is hoping to round out a memorable 2021 when Devine Empress takes her place in the heats of the Group 2 Laurels at Sandown Sunday.

Mick Floyd

9 December 2021

KAYLA Cottrell is hoping to round out a memorable 2021 when unbeaten sprinter Devine Empress takes her place in the heats of the group 2 Laurels at Sandown Park on Sunday.

A daughter of Launching Pad winner Suffragette, Devine Empress made a stunning Sandown Park debut on Monday winning by 11 1/2 lengths in a slick 29.23.

The win made it four career wins from as many starts with a combined winning margin of over 29 lengths.

“She’s a nice bitch, very nice,” said Cottrell.

“We broke her in, so it’s pretty special really. She showed potential from the first time breaking in and we knew she was special.”

Devine Empress’ Sandown debut was her first attempt at 500m. Despite a moderate getaway, she still ran 5.05 to the first mark before running home in 10.51 – a feat made all the more impressive given it was her first start in six weeks.

“She had a little injury – nothing major – but we didn’t want to rush her. We knew how much she had underneath her.

“She was all at sea when she first went there for a trial and I rang dad (Dave Knocker) and said there’s plenty of improvement in her.

“I decided to put her in on Monday and that way she’s had a trial and has a 500m under her belt going into the Laurels.”

Despite Devine Empress – ‘Dollars’ as she’s know at home – not turning two until the day after the Laurels final, Cottrell has no hesitation in taking on the country’s premier young bitches.

“She’s eligible for it so you have to have a crack at it. She’s a bitch that is suited to Sandown and her first 500m was super. She’ll improve off that so you’ve got to have a crack at the race with a bitch like her.”

A Laurels victory would round out a remarkable 2021 for 19-year-old Cottrell.

She won her first feature event, the Listed Maidment Memorial with Fernando Cazz in January before winning the Rookie Rebel at group 1 level a month later.

She has now won 53 races from 116 starts for the calendar year – at a phenomenal strike rate of 45% – and is a chance to build on that figure with two recent additions to the kennel.

Former New South Wales sprinter Robbie Rotten will make his debut for the kennel at Ballarat on Wednesday night, while South Australian Compton Redeemer will make his city debut at Sandown Park on Thursday night.

“The funny thing is he’s a giveaway, a very special giveaway,” said Cottrell of Robbie Rotten, a winner at 10 of his 24 starts.

“(Owner) Deon Hanson approached me, it’s just a change up for him. He’s three now so his best racing is now.

“We’ve taken our time with him, he’s been up to Ballarat and trialled super so he’s going nicely, he’s a nice dog.”

For Compton Redeemer meanwhile, Thursday’s gallop could be a precursor to a tilt at the Group 1 Silver Chief at The Meadows.

“He’s in at Sandown on Thursday for his first 500m. He’s trialled there and gives every indication he’ll get 500m, you can see it in his races.

“He hits the line really well and I think he’ll be good over two turns in town. He can miss it a little bit but does hit the ground running so as long as he gets a clear run and gets around safe we’ll go from there.”